Joan Tessler is truly following her bliss at the Open Air Market

Joan Tessler was raised in a New Jersey suburb. After she graduated from college in Boston (English major), she traveled to Europe, where she found temporary work. Upon returning to America, with family help, Tessler got a job as an assistant editor at Harper & Row Publishers in New York City. She worked there for six years.

When the company offered her “a dream job as assistant to the editor of Harpers Magazine,” Tessler was at a personal crossroads. She decided to turn down the job and embark on a quest for the meaning of life.

Tessler journeyed to San Francisco, where she stumbled upon a teacher versed in the inner teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, meditation and the science of breath. In exchange for room and board, she volunteered her editing experience and began a foray into the spiritual world.

After her mentor died, Tessler continued studying. She spent time in Asia (including Israel, where she volunteered on a kibbutz for three months) and also in Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

These trips led to an interest in buying local handicrafts. When Tessler returned to San Francisco, she and her partner opened a store featuring international goods. The store was voted “Best in the Bay” for many years running and was profiled in several guidebooks to the city, including Frommers.

Injuries from a serious auto accident led Tessler to San Diego seeking a warmer climate in which to heal. She now makes jewelry, and with her partner, manages the Del Mar Open Air Market.

What brought you to Del Mar?

I came to Del Mar in 2000 with my partner, a refugee from the beautiful, but colder and rainier, Northern California.

What makes this town special to you?

To quote Bob Angello, one of the landowners who hosts the Del Mar Open Air Market, “It never rains in Del Mar!”

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would like to see an ice cream shop, a chocolate shop and more parking, along with better signage pointing the way to the farmers market. The market is a focal point, especially these days, for the many towns that sponsor them.

Who or what inspires you?

My partner, Tony Stendardo, inspires me by his free expression of happiness. Also, a beautiful song, poem, tree, sky, land or seascape. I must also mention the customers who appreciate our work, and whose compliments encourage and inspire us.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I’d invite living and deceased relatives, including my mom, dad, brother and sister, aunts, uncles and cousins — and an impartial judge, like King Solomon, to arbitrate (just in case!).

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

I’m reading (works by) the great poet, Rumi.

What is your most-prized possession?

The creativity I’ve been blessed with, which has enabled me to express myself as an artist, along with the opportunity to share it with other people.

What do you do for fun?

I like to walk/be in nature, and of course, design and make jewelry.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

It’s our transition from city-store owners to individual artisans; from representing hundreds of international artists of all mediums to presenting our own work in an open-air environment. I see our former store as a touchstone. It opened a window to new opportunities, to evolve as human beings, to express our individuality as artists,, and to become managers of the Del Mar Open Air Market, www.delmar Now we create opportunities for other artisans, as well, to present their work to the community.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Love your neighbor, but tend your own garden!