Interview with Parks Project Co-Founder Keith Eshleman Discussing Steven Harrington Tee Collaboration

Parks Project Co-Founder Keith Eshleman discusses their recent tee collaboration with artist Steven Harrington, the importance of preserving our national parks, and why it's important to get off the grid sometimes:

DIANE: First off, the mission behind Parks Project is such a necessary and admirable cause. I myself have gone to a few national parks with my family, but our trip to the Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming really struck a chord with me. How did the you and Sevag come up with the idea to start the Parks Project, and to have it as a wearable lifestyle brand?

KEITH: Glad to hear you are getting out, nice! We are fortunate to be representing some of America’s most amazing icons. So many people have amazing and unique experiences in these places and it’s our responsibility to create a favorite tee of someone’s favorite place. If we take it way back, the original vision was to get friends around volunteering in our parks so we could make a difference and support our favorite places.  We got out as a group, did work, felt good about it, and would celebrate after a day’s hard work with a cold one or two. Then from our experience in apparel, we thought it would be cool if people could wear this cause, so the project evolved into t-shirts.  Now, we think it has come full circle because we are still driving volunteer events but using apparel as a way to tell stories that need support across all our favorite national parks. We are connecting people to parks. And, if our craft of trying to make your favorite tee of your favorite place works, then we think that's full circle too.

You both have surely logged a trillion hours spent outdoors. I’m sure there are a bunch that come to mind, but what has been the most serene experience (and where) during one of your hiking adventures?

“It’s hard to say and I can’t choose one, but I love spending time in Muir Woods as it’s my backyard where I grew up just over the hill in Mill Valley. The Redwoods are just spectacular, and as a kid I used to run around that area pretending it was the Ewok Village from Star Wars. Having grown up, I look at the park generationally too now; I want to be sure my son and daughter are able to experience the park the way I did. And I really dig the project we have running up there. We have learned how many of the redwoods are having a hard time propagating in the park because non-native species are stealing ‘real estate’ in the park. That means many redwood seeds aren’t making it to the ground because some of the Scottish bloom and other shrubs blossom earlier in the year and catch the redwood seeds before they have a chance, bummer. So our project there is to support the nursery where they get seedlings going to plant in the park. The tee graphic has redwoods next to one another to tell that story. We also hosted a volunteer day months ago up there and got involved first hand. We would like to think that this is a way for us to make an impact for the long-term sustainability of the park.”



I actually had someone at university buy me a copy of Henry Miller’s novel, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, but still have it on my bucket list to finish. How did this tee collaboration with artist/illustrator Steven Harrington come about for Parks Project? And specifically, how does Harrington’s work tie in with the Henry Miller Memorial Library? 

“Yes! We have been throwing around the idea of art for parks for a while. It’s awesome to connect creatives with a park. And here, we talked for a bit and wanted to come up with a story with how we could support the park. The Henry Miller Library is a place both of us have been, a total gem. They support artist programs in the park and it seemed like the best nonprofit to give back to in this situation.”


I’ve always enjoyed Steven Harrington’s art. – With regards to these shirt designs, what was the creative process like? 

“We spoke a lot about where our happy place is, just so happens we both do time up in Big Sur to live it up and bask in simplicity. Really not much art direction, we both were like, just lose yourself in Big Sur and translate that into a graphic. These were actually three oil paintings, and we scanned them in to put them on tees. Massive thanks to Sir Harrington for collaborating with us. It was very organic, we had the connection.”


Where do you feel most SUSPEND-ed (ie. lost track of time, etc.)

“Sure, I think one of the reasons we are all retreating back to nature is that the digital era has really impacted our lives. Getting off the grid, into wilderness, and lost can really help someone find themselves. We take quarterly retreats to parks to be sure we keep getting lost so we can be found.  If it’s the desert environment of Joshua Tree, the Redwoods of Olympic National Park, or a trip to the Channel Islands – it’s all there just waiting for us. Have to suspend the fast paced life to live it!”


How can SUSPEND get involved with the mission behind Parks Project? I see that there are volunteer days to help clean up the basin area at Topanga Park –– Could we possibly help sponsor or promote one of the upcoming volunteer trail days that would take place in Los Angeles in collaboration with Parks Project?

“Yes, absolutely thanks for asking. We would love to have you all join us for a volunteer day. We can choose a project that’s more hands on like trail work (involves pick axes and such), or take on a softer task that involves habitat restoration, removing nonnative plants.”


CONTEST: Follow @SUSPENDMAG on Twitter and Instagram for a chance to win one of the exclusive Parks Project collaborative tees with artist Steven Harrington. Like this photo on Instagram by Tuesday, June 14th for a chance to win. Winner will be selected at random and contacted via Instagram. One entry per person. Valid only in the United States. 


Interview by Diane Abapo

Follow Parks Project on Instagram at @parksproject


Diane Abapo Founder and Editor-in-Chief at SUSPEND Magazine.