Meet Alison Carroll, entrepreneur, Mojave Desert dweller, and our next #FREDAGIRL. Hailing from Princeton, New Jersey, Alison began her career with a culinary internship in Spain which eventually led to a position on the California Olive Oil Council, where her taste and knowledge of olive oil was learned. Out of the desert, Alison and her husband Jay created Wonder Valley, a collection of handcrafted local pottery, apparel, and their infamous olive oil. We got an inside peak at the gal behind the olive oil to learn more about her journey and life with Jay & Lefty.
We love the experience that you are creating with Wonder Valley. Walk us through your journey to now. What was your inspiration for Wonder Valley? How has the business and brand changed over the last few years?
Wonder Valley is a real place, it’s a far-out high desert town – if you can even call it a town about 30 miles east of Joshua Tree. It’s hotter, flatter and less populated that nearby desert towns, with a harsh landscape peppered with sun-bleached homestead cabins, creosote, and tumbleweeds. The way the sun sets and casts a purple light on the Buillon mountain range is pretty extraordinary. It’s a blank canvas out there, endless space for infinite imagination. We felt a magnetic pull to this desert, so we left our house in LA, sold most of our belongings and got to work building our home by hand. Our new lifestyle prioritized health and creative growth, a balance of studio work and manual labor, weeding out the excess. This fueled the vision of Wonder Valley – ‘Grandeur in Simplified Living’, and olive oil was the perfect first product, it’s universal, healthy, simple, utilitarian and it elevates daily life – and I had a background as the marketing director of the CA olive oil council. From there, we created a supporting collection of health and home goods, but the focus has always been our California extra virgin olive oil. Recently, we have used our olive oil as an ingredient in a new unisex daily face oil for its numerous health benefits and nourishing properties for all skin types. More of that to come.
What is your first memory of visiting Joshua Tree? Has your perspective of the land changed since living there?
I first came to Joshua Tree alone in August of 2012. It was 110 degrees and I didn’t see another person for my first trip into the park, I think the park rangers had even abandoned their post. I had never experienced such an extreme and polarizing place before, nor such unique light like that which exists here. It felt otherworldly. Now, Joshua Tree has been my full-time home the past two years and a lot has shifted in my perspective. I feel overwhelmingly in tune with natural rhythms out here; the lunar phases, seasonal shifts in plant life and animal activity, and the subtleties between different desert regions. My initial attitude was to focus on the vastness of this desert, the negative space and the barren landscape. But now, this place feels so alive to me, and incredibly abundant. I think this quote from desert patron Edward Abbey says it best:
“Water, water, water….There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, ensuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”
What’s something that used to challenge you, but doesn’t anymore? What challenges you now?
Before, needing permission to thrive and succeed.
Now, fortifying my intuition, focusing on gut instinct and not fear or doubt.
Who on the guest list for your dream dinner party in Joshua Tree?
Elliot Coleman of Four Seasons farm to brings the produce for Francis Mallman and I to cook for David Lynch, Carl Aubock IV, Frances McDormand and Amy Schumer. Oh and Willie Nelson on the campfire tunes.
When do you feel the most free?
When I’m living in the present – out in nature, on the road, doing things with my hands.
Words to live by.
“Where you’ve been is good and gone, and all you keep’s the getting there” – Townes van Zandt