Caleb Erskine Shares #mymexicali

Caleb Erskine Shares #mymexicali

Jul 2, 2017

Like his big sister Carly, Caleb Erskine was born into the #MexicaliTribe and grew up with the company. Along with their eldest brother, Chauncey, they were part of the “family” in the family business founded by their parents, Pete and Kim Erskine.

“My parents made Mexicali Blues a reflection of their values, a way to make the life they wanted to live,” Caleb says admiringly. “And it’s been an amazing part of my life, too. But when I graduated from high school, I didn’t want to go work for the company. I wanted to take the appreciation for traditional cultures and crafts and the love of travel I learned from my parents and follow their example in a different way. Like my parents, I wanted to make something myself.”

What Caleb has made is his own business handcrafting innovative, portable yurts: traditional circular tents developed by nomadic cultures. Yurts are low-impact living spaces that can be easily taken down and transported to a new location. There’s a lot of current interest in this ancient, sustainable housing solution and by following his heart, Caleb has found himself on the cutting edge of a significant trend.

Caleb was captivated by yurts and the low-impact lifestyle and close connections with loved ones that they encourage.

“I jumped in and built two yurts right out of high school,” he says. “I had no idea how, really. I just taught myself. I sold the first two yurts I built to finance a trip to Asia. But even as I traveled I was still thinking about yurts. I found an organic farm in the north of Thailand and I wanted to live that kind of life for a while, so I asked the farmer for permission to build a bamboo yurt on his land.”

The farmer didn’t speak English so Caleb showed him photos of the structure he wished to build. The farmer took him to a big brake of bamboo at the edge of his property where they asked permission for their project from the spirits that governed the farmland. “The spirits said yes,” Caleb says, “And the farmer gave me a bow saw and I purchased a machete. I got right down to cutting lattice and roof poles from the bamboo and damming the river with sticks and mud to raise the water level enough to immerse them. I bound the poles together, plunged them in the water, and left them there for two weeks to cure the wood and clear off any bugs.”

While he waited for his natural raw materials to be ready, Caleb built a circular platform of river stones for the yurt. As he worked, he thought about building community while building this home. “I got the idea to teach a yurt-building workshop using my bamboo yurt as the study project,” he explains. “I’d met this French tattoo artist on the farm and he helped me make a poster for the workshop and we put posters up all over the village of Pai.”

Almost 50 villagers came out to the farm to pitch in. “We erected the yurt out of locally sourced materials, ran electricity to it and threw an enormous party,” Caleb recalls with a joyous laugh. “It was a total labor of love.”

“Topher Mallory, the CEO of Mexicali Blues, has been an enormous influence on me,” Caleb explains. “He has an incredible business mind and an unbelievable work ethic. He’s always reading and improving his skills, and he has taught me to be a go-getter and to grind it out for what I really want.”

But more than any other influence, Caleb found the courage to create his own opportunities from watching his parents.

“It’s all possible because of my upbringing,” he says. “I was just 18 years old when I started this but I had spent my whole life seeing my parents make good things happen and have faith in their abilities and the world. Without them, I never would have been able to say: Let’s go. I’m going to give this my best.”

“My Mexicali moment came when I was able to combine my love of yurts with my love of Mexicali Blues,” Caleb says. “Last summer, the stores wanted to create a way to really interact with Mexicali products and services. My parents asked me if I could make a yurt that could travel between store locations and house yoga, henna tattoos, meditation, singing bowls and more. Our first Mexicali Oasis was at the Old Port Festival and we had a line out the door and up the street! It was so special and so meaningful for me. Everyone in a yurt is looking at each other and equal in that space, and I loved seeing the Mexicali Tribe in that space and I could see how much they loved being in that space.”

Caleb’s career in yurt-building comes from a constellation of Mexicali moments—watching his parents work so hard to establish and grow their business, seeing how they prioritized time together and travel and built both into their business model, and always being grateful, mindful and giving back. Making a life of what you love is, after all, what Mexicali Blues is all about, and Caleb is carrying that tradition with him to California. “Like my yurts, the #MexicaliTribe makes you feel at home anywhere in the world,” he says.


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