As the sun set over the dusky Santa Monica mountain tops in Southern California, and the October evening stars began to bloom, musician Devendra Banhart strummed his guitar and sang a song about Topanga Canyon on a small makeshift stage to an intimate, rapt crowd sprawled on a grassy knoll. A sense of community hung in the air as people who had previously been strangers sat blanket-to-blanket and enjoyed the descending night together. It was the perfect end to the first day of Mercado Sagrado, a bi-annual fair celebrating “the Canyon spirit”—featuring handmade goods, healthy food, healing arts, and music—hosted and curated by Topanga residents Carly Jo Morgan, a jewelry designer and artist, and photographer Heather Culp.
Earlier in the day (and on the following one) people from all over Los Angeles milled around the woodsy yard of the private residence where the market was held, browsing the wares of more than 40 vendors, which included handmade indigo-dyed jumpsuits from Maria Calderon, medicinal plants and tonic herbs from Sun Potion, and vintage sartorial gems from Prism of Threads. Happy attendees could be seen sharing Polaroids from Radiant Human filled with the vibrant colors of their auras, sitting mindfully in a dodecahedron sound bath, and reveling in chef Stephen McCarty of Sukhavati’s delicious raw vegan cheesecakes, mini works of edible art. There is something special happening in Topanga Canyon and Mercado Sagrado is only beginning to capture and build upon it. With the premiere market an inspiring success and spring’s event already in the works, we caught up with the women behind Mercado Sagrado to find out more about their connection to Topanga, their beautifully conscious lifestyle, and what makes Mercado Sagrado so very special.
How long have you lived in Topanga?
Carly: Three and a half years.
Heather: A little more than a year now.
Why did you move here?
Carly: My husband Matthew and I left New York looking for somewhere that felt remote and peaceful. We first moved to Southern California’s Joshua Tree desert, which was way too isolated. It turned out Topanga was exactly what we wanted.
Heather: My boyfriend and I moved out of Brooklyn a few years back to live off the grid in an earthship in Taos, New Mexico. It was amazing and we loved it but it was a little too far away from city life to sustain. We visited Topanga Canyon and it felt like the perfect middle ground between Brooklyn and Taos.
What does “the Canyon spirit” mean to you?
The essence of an artistic community with a focus on health and well-being and a hint of eccentricity.
What inspired you to launch Mercado Sagrado?
We’ve both always been interested in creating and supporting creative community. Carly recently closed her gallery The Sacred Door and for her it’s a continuation of that. We like that at the Mercado people can come and perhaps buy something beautiful and handmade or just hang out and maybe make some new friends. It is also exciting to build a platform in which we can introduce an experience of self-exploration through partnerships with people such as Jane Anne Thomas of House of the Standing Moon, a seer who gives animal totem readings, and aura photographer Christina Lonsdale of Radiant Human.
The history of Topanga seems to be an important element of what you’re doing. Can you describe its significance and how you incorporated that aspect into the market?
Mercado Sagrado is re-connecting with elements of the ’60s and ’70s when Topanga was a cultural hub. We hope to progress with our own language, building on that heritage. We are most concerned with our attendees’ experience and live music really helps foster community. Linda Perhacs, who performed Saturday night, was an important musician of the ’60s who has always been based in the Canyon. She immediately came to mind for the Mercado. She’s a lovely person and really mirrors what the Mercado is all about. She is friends with Devendra Banhart and because he’s a more recent Canyon resident it made sense to have them both share their music at the inaugural Mercado Sagrado.
What do you look for when curating participants?
For products we focus on one-of-a-kind items—artists who produce handmade goods or collectors and dealers of unique vintage clothing and antiques. Being able to have an interaction with the maker creates an awareness of what production entails and a respect for it, rather than purchasing things that feel disposable.
For the experiential side of Mercado, being aware that this is a time in which self exploration is becoming more commonplace—Russell Simmons just released a book on Transcendental Meditation and there is an aura emoticon after all!—we feel it’s important to support and promote those who we see emerging as leaders and teachers.
We select food vendors who use local, organic, and non-GMO ingredients and approach food as medicine—we want everything to be nourishing and delicious! We were thrilled to gain support from Suja. We love their juice and they are one of the only juice brands that is truly 100 percent organic, non-gmo, and cold pressed.
What did you come home with from Mercado Sagrado?
Carly: Amazing Sun Potion products, an aura portrait, a gorgeous walnut bowl from Arrows & Eskers, Fairy Wash face wash and Firefly face cream by Scents of Awe, and a soft sculpture from Elena Stonaker.
Heather: A bracelet from Takara, One Fine Stay’s journal ’Guestbook’, which is inspiring my upcoming trip to London, chocolate from Wild Omen, a beautiful Sam Roberts hat for my boyfriend, a planter from BK Ceramics, and also lots of Sun Potion!
Tell me about one vendor you think illuminates what Mercado Sagrado is all about.
Carly: Ceramicist Rob Doran. There’s such a huge revival movement of ceramics right now and so many people are doing the same thing, but his work is unique and so much of his personality shines through it.
Heather: House of the Standing Moon. I recently had a reading in the Canyon with Jane Anne and it was revelatory. She provides a unique experience that initiates a higher conversation leaving you feeling connected and inspired.
Now that the premiere Mercado Sagrado has happened, describe the vibe in three words.
Inspiring, communal, and, naturally, sacred!