ARTIST INTERVIEW: Emily & Adam Harteau of Our Open Road
The Harteaus, to put it simply, are a family that lives in a van. Together, Emily, Adam, Colette, and Sierra make Our Open Road.
Departing California in October 2012, they have traveled overland in their VW Westfalia from California to the tip of South America, enjoying the spoils of slow travel. Their two “ambassadors of love & joy” are their daughters. Colette, their oldest daughter, was 21 months when they set out, and their youngest daughter, Sierra was born on an island in southern Brazil in June 2014. Her dual citizenship was the best gift they could think of.
The rich traditions of craft they have encountered on there journey are so inspiring that they felt compelled to create a way to support the artisans they encounter. From the Amazon basin in Bolivia and Peru to highland communities from across the Andes, each piece they collect tells a story of tradition, beauty and craft.
They will be joining the holiday fair for the first time next weekend in the Home and Lifestyle section. We spoke to them about their journeys, physical and creative.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get where you are?
Trading a comfortable life in Los Angeles for a life on the road in a van with a kid (now two!) was certainly a risk, and one without certain reward.
When 5 months into what we planned to be a 1-year long voyage, as we were departing Colombia entering Ecuador, we had 8 weeks to reach Tierra del Fuego before the weather would make it improbable to safely reach the tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina. We knew we were (are!) on the journey of a lifetime and rushing to check off places visited seemed very unlike the purpose of our departure. So we opened to the possibilities set before us, decided to embrace a future unknown and the rewards of slow travel. That was the decision that changed it all! We did not have the finances to stay on the road longer, but felt confident that with our hearts open and heads together, we could figure out some way to support our life on the road, so when we mulled over the idea for 24 Hour Bazaar- we knew we had found our winner!
It is a beautiful combination of our combined passions- Adam & I work together to develop products with artisans and select works that move us. Every purchase requires an emotional response. Living on the road away from trends we connect to pieces that tell a story. To host fair-trade flash sales has allowed us to support the local traditions of craft that we encounter, while allowing us to remain nomadic. After 3.5 years of this richly rewarding work, we have seen the direct impact purchase make in these rural communities. 24 Hour Bazaar is a flash sale of curated, fair trade, artisan goods that we gather along the roads less travelled, and host when in craft rich regions. Items include rugs, textiles, blankets, clothing, hats, jewelry, ceramics and vary according to our location. We have worked with communities in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia- from highland communities in the Andes, to rural Amazonian villages, our one-of-a-kind offerings available for a limited time, from the incredible makers hands, and ship worldwide directly to our customers’ door.
Where do you see your work going in the next couple of years?
In the next couple of years, we envision overlanding in other continents, which will surely open new doors! There is a long list of places we have previously traveled to that we would like to revisit, as well as an even longer list of places we have yet to visit & dream of. It sends a tingle of excitement to imagine the rich craft traditions that we have yet to encounter. The thrilling part of this work is multifaceted: the hunt of meeting the artisans which are often in remote locations, learning about the process of each makers individual work, and selecting the pieces which we feel will impact others as much as they do us.
What are your most important artistic tools?
Our VW Westfalia and perpetual wanderlust are the top two. They allow us to explore the roads less traveled and encounter artisans in their rural homes. A good camera, ability to communicate in Spanish (Quechua and Aymara would also be very helpful!), a computer and internet are also indispensible to our (rug) hunting and (textile) gathering.
What is so special about making art NOW, in our hectic digital age?
We relish being able to span two disparate worlds. The world of the past, of hand spun alpaca & plant dyed wool, of hand-cut reeds laboriously woven into delicate baskets. In many cases, the artisans we support are the last of their lineage, preserving the centuries old traditions of dying arts is a blessing to facilitate. And through the marvels of the digital age, we are able to share exquisite crafts with the world at large, to connect rural artisans with the global consumer.
How are you inspired by the environment around you, how does home/city/nature you live in, affect your work?
Living on the road and in the world, Adam & I find ourselves able to listen to our intuition without the hectic energy that comes from city living. The open road is our ultimate inspiration. It allows us to talk easily as miles bump by, our greatest ideas are born when we are cruising down the road, conversation is flowing, ideas are tossed around without fear of judgment, easy silence between, with time to mull over each corner of the project. The balance of work and play has bought us our freedom, a gift we deeply relish.
What do you hope to share with those who purchase your art and bring it intimately into their lives?
Energy is not just a new-age hippy ideal. The energy of the things that we surround ourselves with effect our lives. The handcrafted items we offer will wear beautifully with age, becoming heirloom pieces. The mark of the artisan in their one-of-a-kind works carries their intent and vision. Inviting a piece from Our Open Road into your home supports the maker and story of each piece.