Remember when you were a kid and you had that feeling that something exciting was about to happen? You weren’t sure what and you weren’t sure when, but it was out there, coming around the bend. Do you still feel that? Or have you buried it? Have your day-to-day rounds worn you down so you no longer look forward to that magic something? “What’s in your heart that you won’t listen to? Speak not a word, hear how it talks to you.” That’s from the song “Something’s Coming.” Well, we’re off to find out what’s coming around the bend and we’d like to share the fun. Here’s a special delivery just for you.
People are curious as cats. But cautious, too, which makes the Internet a great place to explore. You can find new people and places, peep into new worlds, all from the comfort of your covers.
But what if you could take your cozy bed, spin it around, and find yourself in the places you’ve been searching out online? Imagine waking up to a beach or a mountain lying just past your sock feet. It’d be so unexpected. Because, of course, you’ve been in your bed before. And, of course, you’ve been on a trip before. But you’ve never been in your bed on a trip before.
Most of the beach-beyond-my-bed photos on Instagram include attractive young people. But those kids aren’t the only adventurous ones. Given a chance, I believe most of us would like to have adventures throughout our lives. My husband and I are in our 50s and we certainly want that for ourselves.
In 2011 we bought a 1995 Sportsmobile—a sky blue, 4-wheel-drive camper van with a pop top, solar panels, propane heater, running water, and more. We stripped everything out and customized it to our liking with a black interior, with wall pouches instead of cabinets, and instead of fold-out seats a dedicated queen-sized bed covered in cowhide, fresh sheets, warm blankets, and two pillows each. We took the Sportsmobile out for weekends, then weeks, then eventually for two five-week trips, and two summers. We had great adventures. We found we slept better in the van than anywhere else. Like many do, we became our best selves when we lived simple.
With that in mind, we made a decision three years ago to sell our gallery property in Mississippi and most of our belongings. We spent a summer farming in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, spent two-and-a-half years as artists-in-residence at Green Mountain College in Vermont, then decided we wanted to focus full-time on our art business and adventures. So last November we left our cozy dorm room, put our belongings in my parents’ basement, and set off as full-time van-lifers.
The Sportsmobile is perfect as a living space, but as full-time artists, we also need a place to work. Our 15-year-old Yukon XL suburban would’ve cost $75,000 to replace—a ridiculous amount given you can’t work in it…or much else. So after searching around for a trailer or a second Sportsmobile (each with its own drawbacks), we found the perfect vehicle—a 2009 bread truck with only 30,000 miles on it for $21,000. Wondering if we had gone crazy, we drove round-trip from Vermont to Pennsylvania to buy it, and then round-trip from Vermont to North Carolina to have it converted at Ujoint Offroad.
If our gamble pays off this big white box truck will be just what we need for a second vehicle—a traveling studio van. So far we’ve added 4-wheel drive, a huge roof rack with plenty of solar power, a huge patio, an awning, a tall view from 10-feet off the ground, cool lighting, and—get this—a wood stove. Next month we’ll add a big side window, nerf bars, and a bike rack on back, plus a hot shower, screened doors, storage, and lots more. But one thing at a time.
This week we’re off test running the four-wheel drive, breaking in the woodstove, and making art under the new lights on its maiden voyage in the Pisgah National Forest. Stay tuned for that big adventure. While we’re off in the woods, here’s hoping you get creative and get outdoors, too. Life is amazing if you make it that way.
When you make furniture from salvaged wood you need a good supply. Marc got his stash by tearing down old buildings in the Mississippi Delta in the 80s. The reclaimed cypress has character…gorgeous grains, circular sawmarks, nail holes, textured edges, and age. If Marc needs to re-stock he can’t go to a big box store. He’s got to battle bees, snakes, poison ivy, and rusty nails to take down an old barn. It’s more work than you might think. What looks like a lot of lumber on a building turns out to be a thin skin around a whole lot of air. Take a look at our movie for two minutes of barnwood fun.
That old barn would've been nothing but a scrap heap in the field, but now it's found new life as furniture in people's homes. Marc transformed the barn wood into tables, bookcases, cabinets, picture frames, a wine safe, and more. Here's a look at some of what that barn became. If you want in on the fun, holler and he'll make something just for you. It's what we do.
If you had one minute to sum up what you do...what the heck would you say?
Ready, set, go!
Years ago Marc and I had regular jobs. He worked on tow boats, in refineries, supervised in a cookie-baking factory, managed at a meat-packing plant, and worked for minimum wage on night shift in a bubblegum factory. I've worked at a wilderness school, in a nursing home, in a post office, in a newspaper office, and on magazines. Interesting ways to make a living, yes, but who wouldn't rather work for themselves? Make their own stuff?
First you've got to figure out what you love and find time to explore it on the side. For me, it was making photos. I worked in darkrooms, took a class, experimented with different techniques. For Marc it was making furniture so he began making primitive pieces for his own home.
Then, at some point, you've got to make the leap. Marc cashed in his savings, bought up all the old buildings and used lumber he could find in the Delta, and spent years salvaging rare material. I left my magazine job in New Hampshire and headed South to freelance and write a novel.
There was no telling what would happen...but great things did. Marc came to the reading I gave from The Book of Love. One week later we bought a house together in Taylor, a little artist community outside of the college town of Oxford, Mississippi. Then we started having art shows. I learned to paint. We bought a gallery and, well, the rest is history...or our story anyway and it's a good one. What your story will be is up to you. All I can say is...if we can do it, you can, too.
If you were an art farmer, like us, you'd wake up in your little cabin with the rooster crowing and drink coffee in bed while the cars passed by on their way to regular jobs. You'd eat fresh eggs from your chickens and homemade bread from your oven and run the dog up a country road past horses and cows and goats. Your "job" would be to paint and make jewelry in your studio in an old house at the crossroads of a little town while your husband made furniture from salvaged wood in his workshop out back. Cool people from all over the world would visit, buy your things, and make you part of their homes. You wouldn't be rich in money, perhaps, but you'd be rich. So how do you make that happen? Well, you gotta start somewhere.