{Featured Artist: Julie Ellis of Rais Case}

Before starting Rais Case you were an art teacher. Do you remember the moment that you decided to leave the classroom and pursue Rais Case full time? What was making that decision like?

In the fall of 2013 I opened a small shop in Del Mar with Mr. B’s. It was the first time I had a storefront for Rais Case and the experience was so cool. But, after a month of both teaching and working to run a brick and mortar shop, I realized I couldn’t do both and keep my sanity.

To be honest, the money in teaching at that point but my heart was in making stuff. So one day I mustered up the courage to approach my principal to talk things through. I told her about my feelings and asked for advice. She told me, “You can always come back to teaching.” And that was pretty much it! I ended up finishing out the semester and leaving the classroom in January of 2014.

I realize that I was lucky to have a principal who was so supportive. Because my instincts were telling me to do it at the same time my head was asking if it was the smart thing to do. It obviously worked out because here I am, years later with a business and brand bigger than I ever could have imagined!

Your style has evolved since you first started Rais Case. Tell us about that evolution.

The style changes pretty much based on when I find inspiration and there is no set calendar for releasing new collections. I am really curious when it comes to design so when I find something I love, I just run with it! My ultimate (and maybe selfish goal) is to be able to travel around the world for inspiration and sourcing. I am dying to go to Panama and Morocco – so I am sure you’ll see collections inspired by those places soon enough!

How do you source your materials?

My leather is sourced from Argentina and I work with a company in Los Angeles to get it. The rest can come from anywhere really. I have gone up to the Pendleton mill in Washington; which was really cool because I got to see the process first hand – and in a 100-year-old factory! But the mud cloth I recently used was found at the Long Beach flee market. I had to scour the internet for the vintage fabrics; finding consistent quality was hard.

What do you love the most about running your own business?

I love the flexibility! Being a working mama of two littles means that my days sometimes need to revolve around what and how they are doing. So, being able to come in super early, late at night or just work from home is a huge bonus.  I also love not having to answer to anyone – I was never good at that.

What are the biggest challenges about running your own business?

That flexibility I just talked about? Yeah, that can also be a huge challenge because sometimes there isn’t the structure or boundaries you need.

I really don’t think that I could do this without being in a collective space. I get so much from being connected to the other artists in my shop, from being connected to the community – it helps create this grounding balance that keeps everything in check and helps get me through the challenges.

You’re always collaborating with other artists. How do those projects come together?

I have always just felt drawn to other artists. As an artist, there is so much to learn from people who work in different mediums and have a different process than you. So, when I get really inspired, I try to connect with them. From there, it’s really just about building a creative relationship and dreaming up fun things!

What is your ultimate goal for Rais Case?

That is a moving target! I definitely had set some lofty ones but have been humbled by having kids. So right now, I am focusing on doing what feels right.  The shop has the potential to be a great community space so, I am working towards that. But in general, my goals are pretty simple: be creative, be happy, be a good mom. Sometimes I want to do more or change things and it’s important to remember that everything about Rais Case is working and that it’s great! So it’s also about working remember that and stayed focused through it all.