Every time I design a new collection, I begin with some sort of central inspiration point. Usually it’s something simple – a mood, or a style, or a particular print idea that gets stuck in my head. With our upcoming Wanderlust collection, the inspiration point was the idea of serendipity.
Last winter I had been half-listening to a radio program talking about the value of being open to unexpected good fortune, and it got me thinking. There was a time in my life when I made a serious practice of this: of listening carefully, and paying close attention to everything that came my way. It’s actually kind of a skill, and one that I worked at regularly. But somewhere over the past several years, amidst the flurry of family building and house buying and business starting, I stopped paying such close attention. I’m very grateful for the life I have, but I’ve gotten much more focused and task-oriented, and a little less attentive to the unexpected but precious little joys that the universe sends my way. So I started to think about the times when I was very attuned to these little serendipities, and I found myself remembering one bittersweet summer when I was able to give myself over to this idea completely.
The story began the summer of 1998, when I had agreed to house sit for my dad and step-mom while they traveled in Europe for a month. I was in an odd place in my life at the time: I was trying to get over a bad breakup and not healing gracefully, and I had just quit my first “real” job, and was sketchy on what my next steps should be. A month of contemplation in Pacific Grove, CA seemed like just the right thing. And it was good. I didn’t know anyone there at the time (I had been living in Minneapolis), so I spent 4 weeks thinking, journaling, listening to the universe, walking the dog and making jam from everything I could get at the farm stands outside Watsonville. I thought about what I wanted my life to look like, and who I wanted to be, and I felt a sense of clarity for the first time in a while. The week before I was to leave I happened to see a cute little Cabriolet for sale, and decided on a whim to buy it and drive home to Minneapolis rather than fly. Yes, I was much more spontaneous back then. This was kind of a big deal for me: it was the first car I had bought, and it was my entire life savings (which, to be fair, wasn’t much). I thought I was being very responsible by taking the car to a recommended mechanic and making sure it was in good condition. Which, I was assured, it was.
A few days later, I was on the road, off on my one-woman adventure across America. Or half way across, anyway. According to my calculations, I would be home in four days. But that wasn’t to be. I made it as far as Williams, Arizona before the car broke down. Due to the, ahem, foreign nature of my car, there were no parts readily available, so I spent 3 days exploring the area. I rented a car and visited the Grand Canyon, wandered around American Indian ruins, and gazed at the lovely painted desert. It was a minor set-back, but I had time, and I got a really nice mini Arizona vacation out of the deal. A few days and some radiator hoses later, the car was finished and I hopped in and headed East, ready to be home. I made it about 15 minutes out of town before the engine overheated again. Sitting on the side of the road at dusk, hazards blinking, I started to really question whether this car was such a great idea. Eventually, a couple pulled over, and the husband – a former NASA engineer – assured me that I could make it the 1/2 hour drive to Flagstaff – they’d follow me in to make sure I made it okay. The next morning, I took the car to a mechanic, and got the devastating news that I’d fried the engine on my 1/2 hour trek up the mountain. A replacement engine would take an extra 10 days, and and cost almost as much as I’d paid for the car.
At this point, present-day ‘me’ would have aborted the mission, trashed the car, bought a plane ticket and flown home in despair. But this is where that serendipity thing came in. I decided to fix the car. That night, I took myself out to an I’ll-be-in-debt-forever-so-might-as-well-start-now dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and poured out my tale of woe to the sympathetic waiter. Who, it turned out, was also a florist. The next morning, I woke up to a gigantic bouquet of flowers waiting for me at the hotel front desk, and the news that some friends of a friend of my mother’s were visiting Minneapolis from (surprise!) Flagstaff, and I was welcome to stay in their (gorgeous) home in the picturesque hills. Thus began my amazing 10 day adventure in Flagstaff and vicinity. What really should have been a very bad turn of events turned out to be an amazing and kind of life-changing experience that enriched me in ways I can’t quite express. The memories and the impressions of that time made a deep and lasting impression on me.
So all of that was in my head when I decided to base a collection on that trip. I remembered the photos I took as I drove through the countryside, and thought they would be great inspiration for prints, so I dug around in the attic until I found them. It turns out that what I remember as gorgeous images of the desert landscape were mostly photos of telephone poles and grass:
Ah, pre-digital photography. So I improvised a bit. But I was able to draw from all of those impressions of moody skies, dusky mauve and coral mountains, grazing horses and desert landscapes. And the result is our new collection, Wanderlust!