Small Room Collective

Lauren and Travis live full-time in a ’63 Airstream Globetrotter.  Their Airstream is unique in that it serves double-time as both their home and a mobile mercantile and gallery space.  Lauren and Travis are passionate about curating a shop that reflects the places they visit, echoes of the road, and their overall aesthetic.  Be sure to find out more on their website and through the interview with Lauren below.

Photo above (C) 2015 Jennifer Olson

Meet Discerning & Articulate Lauren:

How did your road life come to be?  Which came first – the airstream or Small Room Collective?

Oh the road. The road was first. Then Small Room, then the airstream. We began traveling full time in 2011 for my other job as a nurse. A travel nursing opportunity came up in Phoenix, and since Travis was able to take his design work on the road, we decided to get a little crazy. We packed up in a week, sold most of our stuff and left some items that we didn’t want to part with in my parent’s attic, and set sail with little more than clothes, our computers, our vacuum, our car and our dog George. In my spare time, I began selling vintage clothing at markets under the moniker Grand Abandon, and continued small writing endeavors that I had done on the side in Austin–mainly reviews/musings on music, which all helped us connect with both makers/artists and bands/labels.

Photo (C) 2015 Daniel Silverman
Photo (C) 2015 Daniel Silverman

Nearly a year later we were in LA where I was working my 3rd travel nursing contract. We started thinking of pop-up ideas involving all the cool people we were meeting through traveling–what if we could do something temporary but also substantial, incorporating all sorts of great little elements? By the time we left LA, we had really started researching and looking for a trailer. And by the time we got Bob(our ’63 Airstream Globetrotter), Small Room Collective had about 15 artists/brands aboard and about 2 months of events planned spanning from Austin to coastal Oregon.

Why did you start the Small Room Collective?

Really, we just had an idea born out of things that we loved and were already doing, and we just developed it to be a sustainable lifestyle for us. We knew we wanted to incorporate travel, a shop/showroom, music and an event aspect, revolving around independent “makers and shakers”–artists, designers, musicians, brands, venues–that we would meet on the road. We’d then take a slice of each city inhabited in either a product we’d sell or an experience we had, and be able to form this sort of common thread. That’s what a small room symbolizes to me–this shared experience with other people.

Photo (C) 2015 Daniel Silverman
Photo (C) 2015 Daniel Silverman

Sometimes our most transformative experiences can be amongst people who we don’t really know, but find a common ground with. And we wanted to create that with Small Room. I also love how everything can be so elevated in a small space. Small house shows come to mind. Standing around with other people, and sharing in this distinct moment, the music being so close to your face and ears. Taking something in together as individuals, that closeness. There’s something to there being an objective thing existing at all that can gather strangers in the first place. That is truly great to me. There is just nothing like that.

While seemingly simpler, it can be difficult to share art and craft in our digital social age (there is so much noise).  How have you balanced online and in person sales?

There is so much noise, and trends, and numbers. It can be overwhelming at times. I had an English teacher who would talk about tone in writing a lot. Of finding your personal voice, so that if someone read something you wrote they’d be able to say: ‘I know who wrote this.’ And I think all that means is finding the truest place in you and letting that be the thing that speaks. And I think that is what we try to do to balance it all. I don’t know if that relates, but somehow in my head it does. We do end up selling a lot more in person than online, I think because we have George working the crowd.

What goes into curation of the shop? Has the aesthetic developed over time?

We mostly now curate work by people we meet on the road, and it’s always changing and growing. We blend old with new, and try to balance the smallness of the space by keeping it clean and light. Overall, I like things to be simple, but with a sneaky bit of wayside somewhere in there. I am drawn to neutrals, but also love repetitive, bold pattern. Classic pieces, staples of Americana and the Southwest, mod and mid-century design, objects with warmth made from elements of nature or representive of nature, maps, lo-fi production, anything inspired or reminiscent of the road are all represented. And the common factor is that all these things are made by people we have met somewhere along the road, or gathered in places we have traveled through.

Photo (C) 2015 Jennifer Olson
Photo (C) 2015 Jennifer Olson
Photo (C) 2015 Ryan Kulp
Photo (C) 2015 Ryan Kulp

You and your husband, Travis, live and work in tight quarters full time on the road.  How do you find alone time?

Photo (C) 2015 Kate Sands
Photo (C) 2015 Kate Sands

You are always a step away from outside. Time alone is built in in that regard. We really do enjoy each others company, but both of us have different projects going and also other lines of work, and we enjoy our solitude as much as the next fellow, so we just naturally find time to hang solo.

One of the perks of living in a small space and traveling all the time, is you really find yourself exploring, and whether we do that alone or together sometimes we just are quiet, even though we are in the company of each other.

What have you learned about Travis that you might not have without this endeavor?

He’s a handyman for the ages, and an incredible problem solver. Likes to do weird impersonation spin-off comedy behind the wheel.

Did it take you time to figure out what pace worked for your travels? [changing locations, markets, events, etc]

Our first summer I scheduled Spokane to Chicago in 4 days. I’d like to say I learned from that, but this summer I schedule Denver to Louisville in 1.5. But overall, it didn’t take us long to realize you can really enjoy the journey so much more when you take it slow. I plan a few months in advance for the most part, so that we know the road map and can mentally prepare for all the variables.

Have you found the road community welcoming?

Absolutely! Some of the most welcoming. I am convinced there would be no way to do this life without being open to others. Shout out to malimish mila for my road community welcome necklace.

Take a photo of your five must have items for airstream travel.

Photo (C) 2015 Lauren Hardy
Photo (C) 2015 Lauren Hardy

Boots, blanket, iphone, my boys, and the open road (represented by my road community welcome necklace)

Where are you now [January 7, 2015] and where will you be in one month?

Fresyes, CA and somewhere in southern California/Arizona/West Texas on our way to Austin for SXSW.





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