It's time to pull over and either switch drivers, or put it in park.
This post is let you know that our paper goods line U.S.HWY89 by RedCamper, that we have had for 10 years now, is up for sale. Unlike previous iterations of this brand (totes and laptop bags), I'd like to see this creation move on and flourish under someone else's vision as I think it's still got legs, just not mine. It's been a wonderful ride, filled with incredible views, and meetings and experiences. So many laughs. Many inappropriate. As we focused more and more on our Picnic Supply line, Deliciousness, in the last 6 years, it became more and more difficult to devote energy to the paper goods side of the business. It's time for me to release this chapter of my life.
If it does not sell, it will cease operations as inventory is depleted, or by the end of 2019, which ever comes first. Contact me directly if you are interested in either purchasing this line, or any of the remaining inventory. Website will show what we have in currently in stock. firstname.lastname@example.org Wholesalers, I can send you a list. Just ask.
So as to make a nod to the heritage of this line and all it has achieved..read on if you are interested in learning. If not, well..this is where you stop reading. :)
Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.
When I started U.S.HWY89 by RedCamper it was just .. RedCamper. Another iteration of the ever evolving products/art project that have been the body and soul of this business / endeavor. For those that haven't been along on this journey..a quick refresher. Jump ahead if you already know all this.
I started RedCamper in 2004 with the inheritance of my globetrotting grandparents 35mm travel slides. I had just recently returned from South Africa where I bought a purse made of wired together beer caps, and the mound of rescued, discarded slides from my grandparents passing looked like amicable material for a similar, but different, idea. I worked in a creative field in a non-creative capacity and was so thirsty to Make again. The first 35mm slide handbag was born after months of trial and error. The first model was crudely made with jewelers wire and a drill, the next several prototypes were made of clear table cloth material from the fabric shop pressed with a seal-a-meal machine. The final product was a result of a deep dive into professional manufacturing, partnering with a waterbed maker who made custom aluminum tools and dies, and used radio frequency welding with atmospheric pressure added to the alternating shiny and frosted vinyl panels to create sheets of sealed slides that were then die stamped into shapes that were shipped back to me. Those sheets were then hand sewed on a 1925 shoe making machine. The later part of this process of evolution was wholly possible due to my then partners expertise in both manufacturing methods and sewing skills. (Thank you Mike.)
As I prepared to leave my position with an exploding advertising company, one of my first sales of my new product was to Nick Goosen who bought bags for his leading ladies in his directorial debut, Grandma's Boy. Doris Roberts, Linda Cardellini and Shirley Jones. It was thrilling. (Thank you Nick) Given this boost of confidence I left my career and launched the bags at Pool Tradeshow in Las Vegas with my friend Carolyn in April of 2006 to a tremendous flop (a single order..I did get a lot of press and a resulting fashion spread in art & fashion magazine Synthesis, but just one single order for 3 bags that the shop never actually followed through with. It was crushing) I tried again at the California Gift show in August of 2006, with a better booth and more professional sales materials to a modest increase in orders. The handbags were highly curated collections of slides placed in a specific order to tell a story on someone's, anyones, physical and spiritual adventures around the world. A couple years after launch I needed a laptop bag and had come across some dead stock vintage car uphostery in a warehouse in Phoenix, Arizona. Using that material, a strip of the vinyl encased slides, and hardware harvested from outdated airline seatbelts, thanks to a family connection at the FAA, the worlds first recycled travel laptop bag was born.
In the creation of these handcrafted pieces I would sort through thousands of amateur snapshots..no longer my own families as I had begun to buy others memories. Sometimes, often times, there were REAL AMAZINGLY GREAT shots that I knew wouldn't get the light they deserved in the context of 28 other slides. (Not including the naked lady slide) Those images were set aside and soon became what is now U.S.HWY89 by RedCamper.
Taking those precious shots and first infusing my grandfathers cheeky sense of humor, and then later my own reflective and romantic inclinations written in my new partners handwriting, the greeting card line, and then the postcard line respectively, were born into the RedCamper collection.
Turns out it's way easier to sell a $4 card, than a $150 quirky open style purse and soon most of my efforts turned to this line.
In 2009 I launched 10 cards, most without text, at the Denver Modernism show alongside the totes and the laptop bags. In between people trying to buy my vintage style Kmart and Target purchased furniture used for props, and others buying two handbags after 8 drinks (thank god for alchohol) the cards started getting traction.
Two years later, and many graphic (thank you Ross) and joke writing refinements later (thank you whiskey), I took the still tiny collection to New York City for the annual National Stationery Show. Myself, my right hand man Mark who had come to me a couple years earlier as an intern from the local industrial design school, my new partner Ross, and 6 red vintage suitcases loaded with cards and fake wood wallpaper headed naively to the center of the stationery business. We landed with an ill prepared plan of scavenging vintage furniture at thrift stores with a friends borrowed range rover (thank you Steve) to create not just a tradeshow booth, but an EXPERIENCE. We envisioned a vintage hotel room complete with traveling photojournalist (Ross) typing madly away on his fathers college typewriter, cards tastefully displayed as hotel art behind him. With a day to complete the booth building task we wove around Manhattan and Brooklyn double parking, desperately trying to find pieces from the 1970's. Turns out NYC doesn't have as much outdated furniture as Denver, Colo. Somehow we pulled it off with a single piece, a night table, a white rotary phone I paid way too much money for at an antique shop, an IKEA desk (that we spray painted in the parking lot) 2 lamps and a rug. We opened the next morning with our wood paneled, too small shag carpeted, scattered luggage and totes and laptop bags, and 21 greeting cards on the wall with a click clacking performance of differentness. It worked.
Ross click clacking.
Mark being cool.
We did all right. My high expectations and paralyzing at times self-doubt and fear of publicity, and my desire to not let my team down, made me think at the time I had failed again. But in fact, through the efforts of this team we landed 20+ accounts, our first card rep, the attention of a national licensing company we ended up doing business with for several years, and discussions with the just launched Shinola that I will forever regret passing the opportunity of working together with. U.S.HWY89 by RedCamper was off to a great start.
We even found we were "on trend" with the vintage slides when we stumbled on this incredible window display of a projector and slides for Anthropologie.
Our 2nd year at the show, 2012, we aimed even higher at creating a branded experience. A campsite. Right in the middle of the Javits Center. Mark and I shipped off our first wooden crate filled with fake grass, 2 custom picnic tables Mark built, trees, lanterns, a painted backdrop of a trailer and woods by the wildly talented Lisa Kowalski, (thank you Lisa) vintage lawn chairs, the ever present red suitcases and a taxidermied squirrel that ended up exploding in maggots later and causing me to pay back sales taxes on when I got audited by the state years down the road. Not to forget the "sonic branding", my talented friend Ryan (thank you Ryan) made a looping soundtrack of the sounds of camping from day to night, birds chirping, wind in the pine trees, crickets, fire crackling, owls hooting..it was awesome to watch the crowd look to the ceiling as they walked near our booth. This time we had 48 card designs, 3 t-shirts, luggage tags, totes and laptop bags. We got even more accounts, accounts I had always wanted with the totes, several Modern Art Museum gift shops, and through our association with Recycled Greetings, our licensor, we were the take away "mail home a card" at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. At the time we were in hundreds of locations with this relationship, every carwash in America I think, as well as big box retailers such as Target and Walmart. We also were featured in Nordstroms, under our own line. It was exciting and I started to learn to loosen up a little. But things internally were shifting. As happens, mixing business with romance was proving to be difficult and to make matters even more complicated, later that year I accidentally, intentionally, started the next passion project, Deliciousness, by RedCamper Picnic Supply unknowingly creating a monster. :)
Rolling into the 3rd year, 2013, we changed it up again to a living room experience trying to bring in the concept of food to our existing and new customers. This was fairly unsuccessful. ;) We also brought 82 greeting cards, the new line of 11 inspirational postcards hand lettered by Ross, and two letterpress printed journals, a blank Road Notes Journal and a beautifully done Camping Journal conceived by the 3 of us and executed graphically by Ross. Outside of our last jar of Whiskey Peach Deliciousness being stolen from the booth WHILE we were there, the show helped us continue our growth of expanding relationships, wholesale, card representatives and licensing. But internally it became harder and harder to keep it all going. It was a tenuous time personally and professionally and the stress of a crumbling romantic relationship and the hardship of managing 2 businesses, one of which had 3 distinctly different product lines, started to become too much. It was time to change gears, take a leap and focus. I ceased operations of all laptop bags, totes and luggage tags and I soon after closed my virtual design agency, Part+Parcel (that actually paid the bills), to focus full time on RedCamper and try to bolster that which was important to me, rebuilding my relationship and continuing to build RedCamper paper and gourmet foods lines into my and my peoples full time living.
Our last showing at the National Stationery Show in 2014 Mark and I stuck with the living room theme. We were working almost exclusively on Deliciousness at this point which had quickly blossomed into a full time job requiring farmers markets, demos at many local gourmet grocers and Whole Foods as will as spending hundreds of hours in the kitchen actually producing hand crafted preserves. We were both exhausted. Ross was no longer involved. Somehow we were still able to create a handful of new designs and a calendar and brought to the show 97 card designs, 13 postcards, the notebooks, box sets, t-shirts and that beautiful calendar. Frankly, I don't remember much about this show other than being real tired. We had a fun trap door in our booth that lead to a secret room to rest. That was nice.
I couldn't even take a good photo of the booth apparently.
From 2015-2019 I've added a design or two, even inking my own handwriting on new postcards but it's honestly been real tough. Mark moved on to greater things in 2016 after 6 years with RedCamper, 6 years and 5+ product lines. With the loss of my original team and an addition of a labor intensive monster U.S.HWY89 suffered for lack of attention. My new team members tried valiantly to reignite the flame, even donating found slides and initiating slide shows to brain storm new designs, and despite the cessation of new designs.. loyal stores have kept ordering the classics. (Thank you Sabrina. Thank you Marz. Thank you all you past and present stores and distributers in US and Canada. ) The card stand still gets a giggling, snorting group around it when I take it to local shows, and orders still come in for singles or dozens of favorite cards designs, and I thank you all for this.
The growth and success of U.S.HWY89 by RedCamper was wholly through the combined love of vintage photography, travel and family. Originally for me the inspiration and original images came from my blood family, but then quickly it morphed into my RedCamper family creating a journey together. But like life, all road trips are fraught with bumps and eventually come to an end and new trips to new destinations happen. I think this pickup truck is ready for new owners to replace the tires, give her an oil change and get rolling again.. or perhaps she just needs to be parked in a field somewhere where sunflowers can grow through the floorboards and mice can move their families in. Either way is ok with me. I have a lot of great photos and memories of the trip.
It's all bitter sweet for certain. I love that kid from Pinecone Boys and Poser like he was my own weirdo son. Package still makes me laugh, Everything Sucks is still so perfect, Nate & Ed might be my cleverest line ever and Way too Fast..well..life really is. Too Short too. Thank you everyone for all the laughs over the years and with this release I hope to make space for my next creative expression. "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." -Andre Gide
If you do happen to know of anyone who might be interested in a well loved, 10 year old ride that just needs a tune up and some gas in the engine, send them my way. email@example.com