How My Life Joined Ani's - Heidi's Journey

Ani and Heidi in 1999In 1995, ready to quit my job waiting tables, I planned to head out on the open road to see what I could see of the USA. With a map and calendar in hand I launched a grand cross-country road trip plan featuring five Ani shows down the east coast. 

I took my entire life savings, paid my bills four months in advance, turned the rest into travelers’ checks (it was 1995 after all!) and planned to be gone for four months. To kick it all off, I did a practice trip from my home in Burlington, VT to Brunswick, ME and back to Burlington catching the first two Ani shows.

My “real” journey kicked off with Ani’s 25th birthday show at Smith College in Northampton, MA and on down the road to two nights at Irving Plaza in NYC. At one of these early shows I consulted the tour schedule at the merch table, fished my already well-worn personal itinerary out from my purse and, much to my pleasant surprise, learned that much of my solo road trip matched up with Ani’s path west. I chatted with Rebecca who was selling merch, hit it off with her over these few shows, and was invited to help set up a couple days later in New Haven, CT. It was my first day behind the table. Little did I know I was on the brink of an even bigger adventure and decades behind merch tables across continents!

Though I stuck pretty close to my original road plan (naturally, I shifted here and there by a day or two!), I managed to catch 23 shows in six weeks.

I’m fairly certain the Universe was conspiring to link our lives.

Well, hindsight is 20-20 on this the time it felt just like a series of odd coincidences. Like that time, before we had hardly exchanged a sentence, that Ani grabbed the table next to mine at a coffee shop in Walla Walla, WA, or, a couple days later when the tour bus pulled into a random gas station en route to Seattle and the crew rolled in as I was checking out. Needless to say we were very surprised to see each other’s familiar faces. 

It started to seem more like our paths were destined to merge when, just a couple weeks later while rolling up route 1 in CA, I sought out a patch of fresh Pacific Ocean to dip my toes in and...there they were, the whole gang, sitting on the very same beach dipping their own toes.

Ani and Heidi 2017The next time the bus went out, I was on it. Shortly thereafter I was ordained as the very official “Mistress of Merch.” Duties are many and varied...including down the line, custom RBR ceramics!

Speaking of ceramics, I discovered my love for clay during a high school art class in Woodbury, CT. As soon as I put my first ball of clay on the wheel, I knew I had found my passion and that I would spend my life as a potter. Since then, I have been committed to my clay work and always told myself I’d tour until I could support myself with my art.

Well, by the time that possibility drew closer to a reality, I couldn’t bear to part with my Ani life. This project allows me to bring my parallel life paths together, literally bringing two of my life’s loves to the (merch) table.

View the Heidi Kunkel Collection here.