At Stonemen, we love dreamers, artists, creatives and anyone who draws their purpose from the natural world. They are our kindred spirits. It’s the stories they create, and the stories they find in the greater world around them, that inspire us and contribute to our own creativity and connection to the planet. Every now and then we get the opportunity to collaborate with some of them, and Sara and Rich Combs, the photographers behind our gorgeous new print Joshua Tree, are two such people.
Originally from Connecticut, but having lived and worked in the tech hub of San Francisco for nearly a decade, in 2013 Sara and Rich gave up their full time web-design jobs, packed their life into a van, became freelancers, and struck out onto the road in search of a new purpose and new way of being: “Movement in general has always been something that opens our minds and gets us thinking creatively, so we felt that there was no better way to begin this new phase of our lives.”
Road trips are synonymous with great American stories of evolution and personal discovery: From Kerouac’s classic beat novel On the Road, to the hitchhiking odyssey of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Tom Robbins, to Simon and Garfunkel's great song of longing: America. There’s something liberating and mind clearing about the slap of tires on tarmac, miles rolling out behind a vehicle in motion, landscape spreading out in all directions, promising possibility and change.
They made their way across the country stopping at national parks along the way, and as they journeyed they visited Joshua Tree National Park, situated in the Mojave desert of Southern California. Joshua Tree is known for its particular and transformative energy. It’s a place known to draw people to it, pilgrims seeking change, emotionally and creatively and without them intending it, this wild desert landscape worked its magic on Sara and Rich. “We just couldn’t stop thinking about it...we felt creatively inspired, and wanted to be a part of [it]...The open horizon, rock formations, goofy Joshua Trees, and creative community that we found here stuck in our mind…”
A sense of reverence for the land and a persistent feeling of hope comes through in their photos: in the hyper-neon smears of pink wiped across the desert sky at sunset, the towering cacti seeming to scrape away the illusion of separation between land and deep space, to reveal a thick carpet of stars peering through a waft of white cloud. It’s little wonder they moved there as soon as they got back from their travels. “When we returned to California, we headed straight back to Joshua Tree...for our creative health. We craved a project that was our own, to work with our hands, and to have complete creative freedom.”
Tapping back into an early joy of home renovation that they had enjoyed as high-school sweethearts, helping Rich’s parents renovate their home, in Joshua Tree Sara and Rich set about transforming a late 1940’s property they purchased. Building off their early experiences from their teens and teaching themselves the finer points of interior design, they have built a new life and a home in the Mojave: “Living rurally after many years of city living has given us endless inspiration—in the plants, animals, and open spaces we’ve found here in the desert.” What began as their own place transformation and space to retreat, has become The Joshua Tree House, where they host other creative spirits looking to find inspiration and magic in the spectacular Mojave desert.
From the other side of the world, in Byron Bay, in a landscape that is as lush and wet as the Mojave is stark and arid, we feel a connection to the love Sara and Rich have for Joshua Tree: the sense of place, the creative satisfaction that comes with their life on their land. And we share other similarities: both Byron Bay and Joshua Tree have formed in the furnace of volcanic activity, both have an almost supernatural pull on people that calls them in and changes them. As we look at the image of that winding road leading through Joshua Tree that has found a home in the Stonemen catalogue, we feel that same sense of possibility and pending transformation. We too experienced that pull.
And this is what makes Sara and Rich Combs kindred spirits to the Stonemen family; we know that if you let yourself be drawn wherever adventure calls you, if you take the bold leap out of your old skin: magic awaits you.