Sunday, January 7, 2018

Giving Away Art

Last night I attended the memorial for Lotte Streisinger, which was of course lovely and a warm group of friends, family, and acquaintances. As always, we learned things about her we will try to remember; they fill in the gaps and although it is too late to let her know, they increase our love and admiration of the person, and are gifts to us as we mourn.

My recent history with Lotte is mostly a repeating scene. I would spot her at the Market, heading off with her walker to set what I now understand was a frequent routine: taking a basket to fill with the beauty and bounty of fresh food and whatever else she needed from what we offer at her legacy market. She didn't shop for crafts much, as we all have to collect fewer things in our later years, unless we have a way to pass them on efficiently. But invariably I was with a customer or otherwise involved in my own routine, which on Saturdays is compressed to what absolutely has to be done in a fairly strict time frame. When it is my time to go get food, I have to do it then. So I'd try to keep an eye on her travels, and work it in to say a quick hello. Often I would run after her (she moved fast for a slow walker) and often she'd be leaving as I arrived at her car. I'd vow to do better the next time. Sometimes I didn't want to bother her.

At Holiday Market on what was her last visit, I ran after her and stuffed a tote bag into her basket. I said "It's a present. I don't think you have enough presents." I figured she'd pass it on to someone or at least enjoy it. She so loved other people's creations. Other artisans have told me she would stop and look at their displays and smile. She was a great appreciator. I often characterize what we do at the Market as the artist/appreciator direct relationship. She of course was extremely good at both roles, and has inspired me to collect many works, mostly earrings and bowls of which I have far too many. Need is not the operating value: it's connection. I want the crafter to know I value them, and want them to keep working, and my cash is a path to their success. I refuse discounts and tell them, "Make money."

Alas, I never collected a piece of her pottery. I remember what was surely the last time she came, with a minimal display of pots, and I don't know my reason for not buying one. I'm good at excuses, so I'm sure it was something lame like I have too much stuff or too many bills, or I just didn't think it through. But when I had an essay published in an anthology, (Winter Tales II: Women on the Art of Aging) I gave her a copy of the book and she gifted me a copy of her book. So I have a precious object, and am satisfied, but of course I have my regrets.

She actually invited me over for tea at that time. It was years ago, before I broke my foot, and maybe that was part of my excuse litany for why I did not go. I know I was intimidated, not knowing how friendly and gregarious she was, and I know I have kept it on my list of things to do, as I really wanted to connect with her about the Market in a deeper way, but I didn't follow through. Lesson number 3487 in how making excuses hobbles my life. Sigh.

Now I know she would have made us tea or even maybe a whiskey and we would have had the most wonderful time telling stories and filling me with what I know in my heart is what built me and fed me all of these decades. Her vision for how we live as artisans and humans who love beauty and nature, birds and plants, who closely observe and understand what is real and how we must protect it, her vision was manifested through her careful and diligent work. I was afraid I would cry, but now I know I would have laughed.

When I found out that she is the reason we have John Rose glass work in the Hult, and a bronze umbrella and the flying people at the airport, and a collection of small and profoundly attractive works instead of some expensive and pronounced sculpture, a key piece of my awareness of her legacy emerged. She really is why we have our 4x4s and our 8x8s at the Market and not a department store, why our town has so many craftspeople and so many lives built around us, and why I am here and have thrived here.

Yes, she did this in community and not all by herself, but she brought that vision and calmly set it in place. Her daughters gave the Market a box of her archives and I went through some of it yesterday. We saw some of it at the memorial. She kept in scrapbooks every newspaper reference, every opinion piece, and every photo published about the Market in the beginning. It's quite a treasure. I was dumbstruck how many of the original issues are still our issues almost 50 years later, and how so many of the ways we do things were set in place then, in 1970 to 75, before I got there. I know that her guidance is why. She watched over us.

When it was needed, she went public with letters to the editor. One of the last ones pled to not change the Markets, and it was in reference to our present situation. It made me cry. As the person who has self-appointed to carry this legacy of hers, I felt helpless and knew that I would not be able to make it so. I've worked for years now, decades really, to hold on to our essence and move it forward intact. Every change gets my scrutiny and often I despair that we can't know what the longterm effects of our changes will be. Did we blow it when we got this or that policy or fee? Did we make the right choice about that person or that situation? We can't get it right each time.

I have a collection of little stories about how her strength brought us through. I should maybe have told one or two of them last night, but it was the time to tell real, personal information about her and I didn't have enough. I may have told some of them in here, and maybe along with our 50th I will put together some type of history of how her legacy has butressed us as we have moved through our hardest times.

One of my stories has a dark humor to it. I'll tell it here but you have to promise to laugh. The short version is that I co-sell with the farmers at Tuesday Market, and I take a smaller more flexible display for the shorter day. I try to fit in small spaces so I can locate among them, as I like the friendships and the continuity of that, and I sell tote bags, which people need there. So one morning I was setting up and my whole entire display fell over. I had spread it too wide and the bags and hats are heavy, so with a great metallic crash, it fell flat on the sidewalk in the somewhat narrow aisle. In my horror I looked up, and here came Lotte with her walker. A minute or two of difference, and the headlines would have read "Longtime Member and Officer of Saturday Market Wipes Out Founder."

I know, not funny, but no one did get hurt and I certainly learned a lesson about physics and professionalism, which as a seasoned member I still needed a refresher course about. I thought making a sort-of funny cautionary tale about it was kind of how I do things. Make mistakes, write about them. Maybe she would have laughed with me. I was way too embarrassed at the time to discuss it. But at our tea, we could have...while she encouraged me to put some more berries on my stoneware plate and poured me a little more tea into my handmade cup. It's a dream sequence now.

I know Lotte will stay with me. During Holiday Market, when we had a table display for her, I would run in there and put another little comment in the book. Not enough of them, though. On Sunday nights I went and put away the flowers in a cool place so they'd last, and I took home my copy of her book, and her photo in its frame. I put her in my kitchen for the week and burned a handmade beeswax candle for her. I kept her company that way, singing, washing dishes, just thinking of her and the Market and my life there, and just loving her in a sweet and pure way. She deserved a gentle departure, which I think she experienced.

I should have told that last night, but I try to fight the urge to make things about me. All of my stories are always more about me than about other people. I don't think she was like that. In the notebooks she didn't editorialize. She turned outward where I turn inward. She modeled that for me. The stories others told were about that, particularly those of her grandchildren. Her history shows that. She did what she did for the community and for the world, not for herself, though she lived a life in which she was rich with time and love.

And that is why what she gave us will be a living testament for her for as long as we exist. We come to the Market to take the products of our inward turnings and turn them out. We turn out. The appreciators turn out, and people's needs are met, in all the ways the central plaza promenade and market work for communities around the world. She brought us that and it was exactly what we all wanted, and thank goodness our town took that and ran with it, and continues to.

You can see how many ways that could have happened differently. The quirks of Eugene and surrounding areas are directly from all of the little self-expressions that we feel free to bring out here. It's warmth and life and makes for a lively downtown and an ever-expanding universe of love and peace. We are way more than a Market. She was way more than a potter.

She gave away her heart, and last night many many pieces of her art were piled on a table and all of us politely pawed through them and took a few home to love. They have a life of their own, mostly quick studies, paintings, not all of them skillful, not all of them finished or polished or frameable or even important. What was important was the giving. What was important was the sharing. May we all remember what generosity really is.

May we never cease being inspired by Lotte. I will hold her dear. I will carry her forward as hard as I can. I will fight using the tools she used, write using her words, draw from her inspirations. I miss her so much. And next time I get the chance, I will put Lotte in the center of the table and try to channel what I think she might want said and done about our Market. I will need your help. Someday we will all depart, and the treasure we have been given is far too valuable to let fall.

I look through my kitchen window where I see the same birds Lotte saw, and drew, and shared with her grandchildren and children and us. I see the huge maple tree that I drew and printed on the tote bag I gave her, which one of her daughters is now using. I feel her loss and I know my gain.

Ahh life! So brief, so ephemeral, so full. Now I shall call my 91-year old mother, and treasure her as the other nonagenarian who made me. I feel so very lucky. And I'm glad it isn't sunny, because I need to be sad today. Plus, I feel some Jell-O Art coming through...maybe a tribute. Maybe just some playtime with art, in my kitchen, finished off with a carefully arranged exquisite snack on pottery with the fingerprints of people I love, maybe tuna salad without pepper, with whatever is in the kitchen that might look lovely with it. I will repeat her words: "Let's just see what happens!"

Friday, December 22, 2017

Breaking Pots

I'm supposed to be tired, and I do have to go to bed early, so I thought I'd wait and write next week, though a friend today urged me to do it despite my fear of repetition. Repeat it better, she said. She talked about what we needed now, those of us still traumatized and grieving for the progressive society we thought we were building. We're afraid, and we're tired of fighting all the time, when we thought we were feeling rather safe, and on the right track to a world we were happy to live in, one working toward real and solid equality and justice.

It was surprisingly easy to derail us, shockingly swift, and though we have been valiant, the damage has run deep in everyone I know. Damage or denial, or both. Defiance, and determination to hold onto what we built, what we loved, and the resistance has been strengthening, and the safety probably imagined to begin with. Perhaps we were lulled, and I'm cynical enough to believe everything was calculated and that those far, far more cynical than I prepared well for what seemed so swift a denoument.

But it ain't over, and that arc of history (edit: the moral universe) bends toward justice, and that pendulum is going to swing like hell and I still have heart. What she was saying we needed was that. Heart and soul, which is what we get when we gather, and why we come.

So I sat down to read and rest, and the first thing I read was an article about teaching writing, which said that too few programs make service to the community a central tenet of writing. This was so close to my conversation with my friend about this place where I write, that I put down the book and came here to all of you. Tomorrow will be a heart-wrencher, a busy Saturday, always our best days at Holiday Market, and in the morning the Auction with Percussive Interludes, aka the Pottery Smash. It starts at 8:30, and you are invited if you like. It's not public, but it isn't private either, and if you know us, you can come.

We are the Kareng Fund, and the Saturday Market. Three potters do the work: Frank Gosar, Jon King, and Alex Lanham (former potter), with assistance from quite a few who stepped up "organically" as we say, to take on duties to make it happen. It's an auction of seconds, surplus, and donated goods from mostly potters, but also many others, with the proceeds going into the Kareng Fund to give grants to artisans in crisis. The Fund has been going since about 2002, when it grew from hat-passing to an actual bank account and from there to a 501c3. I serve on the Board, with eight other kind souls who try to make good decisions about what we can do to help people who need it, and who try to raise money to grow the fund and give more grants. None of us are super-great fundraiser type people. Asking for money is hard to do when you are shy and kind of poor and a down-to-earth hermit. Not all of us are that, but it does go along with the typical artisan personality.

So the Smash developed. The first year it grew out of boredom and was very literally potters bowling their pots down the aisle. Pots break when you do that, of course. It completely horrified those of us whose work doesn't break when you drop it, as we didn't understand breakage. We felt loss. It took some time to work through that to feel release. Over the decade and more of the Pottery Smash, fewer and fewer items are broken, but we can count on a few people to toss that stuff into the specially-built cage for it. No bid for this bowl? Jon will pretend to let it slip off his upraised hand, with a glimmer of glee in his eyes. Like this one? Oh well, it has a big crack in it, so CRASH!

There are so many crucial steps in ceramics, seconds are a given. There is no shortage of them. As a bowl collector myself, I keep a box of shards in the shed for my eventual mosaic whatever. All the favorite pieces break if you use them. You can't really fight it. It's built into the art form.

And loss? Just the other side of gain. Have/Lose. Like death, we pretend it won't happen, but that never stops it for long. Like most inevitability, the grace comes with acceptance. Sigh. Lotte died, slipped away, although we loved her hard and tried to let her know that. Had to happen. She gave us as much as she had to give, and set a wonderful example of how to make an artisan life.

We say she was our founder, but everyone, I hope, knows that Lotte didn't do it alone. Saturday Market isn't about ownership, and never was. A group of people around a table ate homemade food on homemade dishes and decided to make their work close to their homes. They put their efforts toward something direct, from their hands to ours, put their minds to working out how it could be best accomplished, what would last and be fair and what we would want to live with. They worked by consensus, a concept also homegrown and refined here in our region, though an ancient model made hippie style from new roots during that same fertile time a half-century ago now. It basically means you come to agreement before you move forward.

Eugene didn't like The Market at first, like people didn't like the Smash. People who made businesses the conventional way were resentful at the easy ownership of each artist, who merely had to bring their work and join in, with little overhead investment and no bankers, no buildings, and what looked like no rules and no taxes. It was self-governance, and it took time and dedication, but the foundation was built on something ephemeral: community. It took a community of artisans to make it happen, and a community of appreciators to complete the circle. Thus it was born and thus it happens today, seemingly effortless and profoundly full of determination, resistance, love, loss, and face-to-face equality. It costs more now. It isn't easy and never was, but it has always been fun and that won't change.

We have breakage. We had a two-day complaint fest on Facebook this week, which was witnessed by about a hundred people perhaps, where we looked within and found we didn't see quite the same things. I found it damaging, but at the same time, I had no trouble showing up today and sitting with my goods once more, saying hello to those I didn't agree with, working together once more to do what we do. I'm not afraid to work on consensus. I have great confidence that when everyone gets in the same room and starts to work on a problem together, a solution will be found, and it will be elegant. It might take more than one meeting, and there might be more than one problem. But after four decades of working in community like that, I know it can be done. I also know what prevents it from working, and what destroys it.

But those are subjects for other posts, because what is up tomorrow is sweet and kind. Enthusiastic appreciators bid happily against each other, siblings and partners and fast friends, and everyone feels like they win. We usually raise enough for at least a grant or two, and with the Basket Raffle the next day, we usually raise enough for several grants, and at the same time during Holiday Market we give several. Oddly, over the years of granting, the amount in the fund stays rather constant, growing slowly, and the 80-some grants keep amounting to more and more given out. It's magic, like the money comes out of the air somehow. It flows through and gets where it need to go, helps the ones who need it the most.

Tears will be shed amongst the happiness tomorrow. Someone who is here today will not be here next year, and we remember many who were with us until they weren't. It's a big family, enclosing thousands if you count everyone, and thousands more in the outer ripples. It's rather astonishing that it works as well as it does. We all pay in what we have, what we can, and the sharing happens and the people who we pay to do what we can't do ourselves, do that, and everyone gives what they bring and takes what they need. It goes around and comes around again.

My neighbor brought over some cookies and asked me what I will do for Christmas, and really, this is what I do. Holiday Market is my holiday. Maybe I'll see my son and his wife, or maybe we'll do it next week, and on the day of Christmas I'll cook something and sit and read and watch a movie, happily in my solitude, feed the birds, listen to music. Write in my journal. Look out the window. The day after I will go and get the rest of my booth and bring it home for the winter.

I'll be happy to be alone, because I will have spent the last three days right in the middle of our community. It's got everything. It's diverse, it's lively, there are people who give and those who need, people who laugh and some who cry, people with kids and those without. Broken legs, new babies, dementia, funny stories, horrible embarrassments, tender hugs. We have it all. It spreads out over us. It's what we built because it's what we need. It's abundance and joy.

This is what we have that no tyranny can destroy. We laugh in the face of the desperate selfishness and greed that we can hardly imagine. That's not the world we're making. That's not the story we're writing. That's not what's going to happen. I know it, and you know it too. We're better than that. We might feel helpless and discouraged, but there are a lot of us, and we're not as susceptible to their devious techniques and mind-bending as they think. We might flounder individually some or a lot, but in community, we will not fail. We bring our hearts, and our hands, and we are good at it.

See you in the morning. If you miss it, see you in the spring. See you on Impeachment Day. See you in the funny papers. Have a lovely Christmas, and a wonderful year. Keep giving, and keep bringing it to the commons. Those things are ancient, and they will not be destroyed. Break a pot, save the world.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Let's Fall in Love, Rewritten















Let's make Jell-O,
Why shouldn't we make Jell-O?
Republicans screwed us, they took us to hell,
Why shouldn't we jell?

Let's all eat cake,
Thanks for all that Dana can make,
We've got Dave's cookies, we've got Pad Thai,
And we can get high!

Dance, while we still have our health care,
Smile, while you still have your teeth.
Play, while you pay off your mortgage,
You won't get tax relief.

Let's shift our eyes,
And notice we live in paradise,
Here we have love, here it is mellow,
And we always have Jell-O!

If you know me you know that for me, Jell-O is not the stuff you can mix with water and eat when you're in the hospital,it's my metaphor for sacred joy. Jell-O Art is my vehicle for fun, my glamour, my saving grace, and all winter after we close our retail season, I sing and write parody songs and scripts for the Radar Angels performance, and fill my living room and kitchen with strange and wonderful creations made with the transparent, brilliantly colored and sometimes jiggly substance that the uninitiated eat. It feeds me, but not in conventional ways. And on the advent of spring, sometimes on Opening Day of Saturday Market, high holy day as it is, we have the Jell-O Art Show, and it is glorious and Joy Incarnate. And, bowing, I am Your Queen of it. Humbly.

But it's only December, and this was quite a week in politics, and it's the Holidays. So after reading the paper this morning and before heading off to my day of retail at the Holiday Market, I spent a little time yelling obscenities, a little time lecturing myself, and by the time I was slogging through puddles at the Fairgrounds, I was composing songs.

My lecture was about letting politics get to me...I paid way too much attention to the tax debacle and was way too scared by the zombies who think they are in charge. I'm quite terrified of what those people are doing. It puts me in this state I call the matrix fantasy which is the cynical feeling that no matter what, I am enslaved and playing whatever game they want me to play, powerless and complicit and doomed, so doomed. I've felt it since the Kennedy assassinations, really, so it began when I was 13. When it began I was too young to know what I was doing, but I worked on my resilient qualities, taught myself to escape into trees, books, and creativity, and cultivated my joy.

I had a traumatic childhood, as did many of us, and I feel for you if you are as unhealed about it as I am. Holidays are particularly bad for me, so this year I vowed a drama-free six weeks. I decided I would limit TV, mute all the commercials, and do whatever I had to do to avoid laying my feelings on someone else, most particularly those who are close to me. I get hypervigilant about my particular conditions, and I know my patterns and weak spots really well by now, so avoidance works and if I stay low and don't get too vulnerable, I am always hopeful that I will not fall into those dramatic patterns. My lecture involved restricting my social interactions, not allowing myself to be too vulnerable, not eating the things I know make me sick, not doing the things I know make me sad and helpless and anxious.

Yeah, wish me luck. All that is pretty incompatible with selling one's creations in the public marketplace. Being at Holiday Market is like having an open house of the heart. I am lucky enough to see all of the people I love (who live nearby at least) and I treasure our short but deep conversations and check-ins. I thrive on the warmth in the room, with so many people I know and have worked with so long. I eat well, and I'm proud of my work and how popular it is. I have reams of observations and stories about what goes on there, and I do love it. But it does make me vulnerable and there are a lot of people there who get my heart strings twanging and it's not always harmonic.

But today, people from the very first were SO KIND! Everyone, from the start, was sweet and nice to me, appreciative, welcoming, generous, loving, and wonderful. I have experienced this before when things in the big world got bleak. Each time, like after the election, after the financial crisis, after 911, or after significant deaths in our community, each time people came out, spread love, and managed to salvage some peace and some joy from the wreckage. Determined, deliberate, and making a statement. That is how the people are among whom we live.

At one point, and this was tragic with a side of comical, I was over buying sweet potatoes and the fire alarm went off over at the Farmers' Market. A loud voice said to Evacuate, to Leave the Building!! Repeatedly, with a very loud alarm and flashing lights! People began to comply but I literally ran back to my booth on the complete opposite side of the building, and thank goodness this was not happening on the craft side. However, the alarm and flashing lights were loud and bright enough to be intrusive, and that's when things got comical. Sadly for the farmers, it shut them down, but for us, we shut the doors and Pickles and Peppers kept playing, everyone gathered in the aisles, hoping against hope that the sprinklers would not come on, and it was kind of like Shopping While the Titanic Went Down. People kept shopping, people were laughing at ourselves, and all of the stories came out, of the time the ceiling fell in in Holiday Hall, which was during the big snow, and remember how booths were empty so other people moved into them for the day, and remember when we sold outside, and on and on.... It was a party. I guess it was hard to play clarinet but it was once in a lifetime, and a good story is always going to be a good story.

I felt terrible for the farmers, who were having a great day because the Fix it Fair was really fabulous and brought lots of people in. I think it did shut them down, though I'm pretty sure they didn't get deluged with water because there was actually no fire, just a teense of smoke from some soldering that I suppose no one thought would be a problem. I know it was hard on them, traumatic maybe, and I do care very much about that. Some day they'll laugh but probably not tomorrow.

It healed me, though, because there was one part of my day today (but only one!) that was hard. I was having a really great visit with someone who recently left the farmers' market, and our friendly conversation actually turned into a fight! He started trashing Saturday Market, repeating all of these mythical things that some of them think about us, which I won't of course tell you, because they aren't true, but I was kind of laughing and trying to tell him that no, that's what we say about them...and it would have been funny except it was ugly instead. He was hating us. He was holding resentments he had held for over a decade, because I know he had them then and it was the last time I actually had a conversation with him. I had forgotten why I avoided him. He hates us. He blames us for everything that isn't working for the farmers, or didn't work at some point, or hating us for everything we are and do. He really had it stored up.

Fortunately we were interrupted by some shocked customers and I told him we'd have to finish our conversation some other time, because I honestly feel that we do. We have to have it out until we both understand that those myths held by all of us about the "others" are not true and are in our way. And they're hurting us. They're not going to be helpful as we move together into our mutual and connected futures. And they're similar to other myths that other groups are operating within. It reminded me about the perils of division and irrational thinking and blaming and holding others responsible for things we ourselves need to work on and fix, and how we are really going to have to do that in concert. We really will. We can't split our town or our country or our world into two halves and operate separately. Anyone promoting that is putting us into the matrix fantasy and I simply will not accept living there. It's not the world I am willing to co-create.

So. It has been decided that I am vulnerable and will not get away with trying to pretend I am not. I will have to struggle through the holidays and the politics and the realities of aging and death and so will you, and we are stuck with doing it together. We cannot separate from each other, we can't separate from our myths and delusions, and we are going to have to work with them. We are here and it is now. Feel your grief and your fears, and so will I, but we will also bring them on down to the community gathering place and spread them around a little. It will help us all to do that.

That farmer and I may not get around to another maybe less ugly conversation, but at least we had the lovely one before we started to disagree, to remind us that sometimes we like each other. Us laughing and partying while the farmers had a hard time today will hopefully result in more of us supporting them tomorrow to get past it. (By the way, the sweet potatoes I got were amazing!) People buying or not buying things today will be just like them buying or not buying things for the rest of the month and then again for the rest of my life, and I'll love it and be bothered by it as it comes. It's the life I chose.

And I chose it here, and I made it here, because of all of you, so if I isolate and don't write and try to protect my tenderness, I won't do it very much until something makes me break through and sing and dance and wear Jell-O on my head. Because that is how it is. That's the joy I want, and that's the joy I make. Thank you for doing your part!




Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday is Sunday For a Bit

First weekend of Holiday Market and all went well. It's a big set-up...takes about 12 hours to get it all in place for me. Then each weekend it's two or three hours in and out on the first and last days, though we get to do the load-in on a load-in day, generally. I guess I need to work harder on simplifying. Since I live so close, I can do it in two loads, but if I could get it down to one, that would save an hour each way. Sundays are pretty tough with that at the end. But I'm still home by around 8:00 and that isn't bad, only a twelve-hour workday. Easier than a Park Blocks Saturday. Not quite exhausting, if I take care of myself.

Emotional exhaustion is a tough reality of HM. People come to gather and bring with them all their anxiety, and we catch up on the previous year. Sometimes that is really hard, both for them and for us. At my age it's health issues mostly, people suffering terribly from conditions that come with aging, accidents, and grief. Many of them don't come, and we feel their absence. I try to be so gentle when they do peek in...try hard to ask the right questions and give the good listening if I can. I miss the Empathy Tent. Seeing it on the blocks lets me know that good listening is a moment away if I need it. Last year they set up at the Farmers. I hope they find space this week. I need a place to send people.

When sales get going faster, I will commit the sins of turning away and giving short shrift to the pains of others. I had to counsel myself on the walk home Saturday night, and fortunately my sweet brother called me and heard me out. I got way too many tales of woe on Saturday. I feel compelled to at least try to help. I get confused about my limits to do that, and had to tell myself to not be so open to receive right now. I need a balanced place to stand so I can give the public the warm experience they want, the direct artist-appreciator relationship they come for, and the right level of intimacy...not too close, not too distant. Caring and appreciative, grateful, but not desperate...I love selling my crafts, but it isn't for the money. It's for the whole life experience. It's what I do, have learned to do, have focused on, and what sustains me in so many ways. My heart and soul are in it.

What I sell is personal...the hats that declare aspects of who we are, or who we want to be, or just what we want to laugh about. It isn't always positive for people. I well remember one man who thought my hats were rude and disrespectful, and said as much. I told him it was okay, that he didn't have to like my work, and it was fine for him to have that opinion, but he still came back two weeks later to apologize. That intimacy has its costs. It can feel invasive for the customer, probably often, if I can't contain my complaining or whatever form my distress takes: tiredness, boredom, anxiety, restlessness, hurry to leave and get back home where things are quiet and under control. I can't be needy, and I can't be cold. I have to serve, and be available, but not oppressive or demanding. I have to do my best. 

There was a big shift for me this week, with the news that the land swap ruling wasn't completed. A new level of uncertainty has entered, a new wrinkle of what the city and county will do. It's anyone's guess. Attention may shift back to City Hall block or even the EWEB building, which narrowly failed to become the next location for City Hall. The Riverfront development is the New Shiny. You can be sure that many people are seeing a big glittery gathering place with a new, improved version of the Farmer's Market over there...that's inevitable. There are plenty of people stuck with the paradigm of what is new is better. I am not one of them!

The important thing to know about Saturday Market is that we have members who are bringing forward a legacy from our founders that is best left intact. The founding tenets, which include Rain or Shine, outdoors, in the center of the city, easily accessible, one day a week, and most importantly, Maker is the Seller,  are easily eroded and not something we want to let go of. You might argue that those things are still possible in or next to some kind of building, some kind of Public Market, but that doesn't work for me.

As a development concept, we saw that already at 5th Street. Many of our crafters were lured over there to help build it and many failed with the demands of being there every day, enduring the slow times, the rent increases, and the additional costs of being indoors. They were jettisoned when the commercial businesses came in who could afford to pay people to sell for them. Think about how long it has been since you saw crafts over there, or artisans selling them. A building would be that same pattern, over the next one or two decades, and then you would find that the longest-running continuous hand-crafted market in the nation would be gone. That development concept would replace us.

We've tried indoors. Holiday Market obviously works. Circle of Hands was one example of how it can work, for awhile, when people join together to staff it, put in the hours for the maintenance work, and pitch in for the costs. It worked for a long time, and I resisted it, but finally joined at the end, which was pretty tough on everyone in the collective. That model is nothing like what we can do with Saturday Market, where we all retain control of our own businesses, have a volunteer force to hire the staff we need, set our own fees, decide what we will do to build and maintain our opportunities. We don't want to pay for air-conditioning or heat year-round. We don't want to try to work through the winter retailing, when we need to be working on refreshing our own lives, setting new art directions, or focusing on other activities important to us. We have it worked out and dialed in. So, change from without is not interesting to us, however well-meaning.

I'm probably going to be repeating myself a lot, as I know I have been, on this issue. The Farmers asked for site improvements, and have for over a decade, and I am not in opposition to them getting their needs met, in the way they choose as an organization to do that. If they want to sell year-round, as they apparently do with their Winter Market, that's fine. If they want to collectively pay for shelter and amenities, more power to them. I do part ways with them at several points, and would advise my organization to do so, but nothing is decided yet so it isn't time to argue about the details. My line is drawn where other entities make decisions for the organization I have participated in building, Saturday Market. We, the members, will make the decisions about our future.

Let's hope those decisions can be made wisely and for the mutual benefit of not only our members but for the larger context of "members" which include the public who gather and the City who hosts us in the Park Blocks. We know we don't own the land. It's like the OCF. We invest in the land, we feel ownership of our little spaces, we steward the land, but when decisions are made, we are included by our participation and our ability to articulate our needs as crafters and independent business owners. We are key stakeholders, and in the best case scenario, our needs are met and any improvements are designed to fit with them, enhance us, and won't break anything. We build our Market carefully. We meet every month, year round, to make decisions in group process and we are good at it. We've dedicated ourselves to building and maintaining consensus and a deep knowledge of our culture and our strengths. Plus, by doing that, we have become experts in event planning and management, and we know well what lies behind our decisions and what will be the effects of them. I can talk for hours on the subject, and I'm not the only one. I've sold on the Park Blocks for 35 years! Before that I sold on the Butterfly. I started in 1975, and it's probably the main reason I live here, bought a home, raised a son, settled down here. It's my lifeline and the way I have prospered. And I am one of many who can say that, powerful small business leaders who have earned respect.

We aren't all risk takers, though there is a level of insecurity for the self-employed in some ways. Changing the basic conditions of our operations will have costs that will land on the most vulnerable of us. Decisions from the top, from developers or well-meaning supporters who don't understand our basic needs will make us lose members, staff, and resources. We can't move to the Riverfront. I would most likely be forced to quit, and that would decimate my sustainable "retirement plan."  We can't move, period. We are where we belong. That should not be in anyone's discussion. Saturday Market didn't bring it up, didn't ask for it, and I believe we have the consensus that we don't want it. If the Farmers want to move, that is their right and we wouldn't fight them. But if the City started up a competing craft market over there, well, that would be a disservice, and we would have to say so. No decisions about us, without us, and honor and respect for what we have built. That's not a lot to ask, and I know our community can see it that way.

I have faith in us, Eugene. We are a smart and savvy town, and we won't sell ourselves out, even for that 2021 eight days of dollars. We can see our big picture. While I would not claim to be a visionary, I know some. Certainly our future won't include being a cultural backwater or any kind of stagnant community. We're not opposed to change or growth in certain sustainable, thoughtful forms. We can build upon what we have and the Market is a great model for being new and different every day, while still being dependably consistent and able to embrace what comes.

I walked around Holiday Market and saw many new members who looked a lot like me when I arrived: young, enthusiastic, immersed in creativity and with the energy to make things happen. We are not stuck in the Seventies. We bring a model of what is meaningful and deep. Just look at the event calendars and see how many craft markets there are now, all around town. Those are full of artisans of all kinds! We are a thriving center of creative people who have the energy and means to make their own jobs, make our community secure and fascinating, and to keep us grounded and able to navigate whatever the future is.

That is what I see that tempers my fears. Things are happening worldwide that are terrifying and demoralizing, and they're trying to encroach on us. They fail to get a handhold here. We are a sensible town. We are going to do things our way. We support each other and we know what matters. I am deeply thankful for us, and for my day off today to think about these things.

 I hope to see everyone on the day after Thanksgiving, or in December if you can make it. Please know I saw you and care for you, even if we didn't get sufficient time to review and re-establish that. I'm open, though I may be trying to hide that a little while I stand ready to serve in the back of my booth. I'm dancing, even if I don't join you in front of the stage. I'm here. I like having you next to me.

Let's have a great season. Now, that pile of dishes and that day off. There are pies to make!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Change of Seasons



I got the leaves raked and the gutters cleaned in our little morning sun break. I also raked the leaves of a few neighbors who hadn’t gotten to theirs. I’m not doing it as an altruistic act, though it feels good, but because I want their leaves for my compost. I’ve gotten leaves from the city in the past, and it’s a great program, but they bring too many and sometimes they’re full of walnuts, which brings me too many squirrels, and I prefer to know where my leaves are coming from. Plus, raking leaves is one of the best chores there is, and even in the drizzle I love it. When it gets really stormy sometimes I go out and clear the street gutters so we don’t get flooding. I’m not bragging, but there are lots of neighborly people and I like to try to be one. Once when I returned from a vacation my neighbors who were feeding my cat had filled my fridge with bread, milk, and fresh food for me and my toddler, so I have been schooled in generosity.

I personally am not naturally a very generous person. Coming from deprivation, it’s been a challenge to believe in abundance and enough caring to go around, so over the decades I’ve taken a lot of lessons in it. It still takes an effort, with the attendant effort in believing I am also worthy to receive, and can be graceful and say thank you without all that damn Catholic guilt. I live in a wonderful neighborhood, so it’s my duty to make it more wonderful every chance I get.


At the Market our neighborships are hidden but key to our survival. Even if you are walled off in your little 8x8 you need other people to watch for the many spontaneous happenings that might affect you. There isn’t a lot of shoplifting because we gang up fast if someone tries it. One person will call Security, everyone will notice the person so they can be described or photographed, and we’ll back each other up as needed. Most potential hazards are dealt with by whomever notices them, even picking up garbage. We work together in weather, in promoting sales, in directing customers to our competition if that’s what they’re looking for. We share information, tips on lifting, stuff we’ve run across that might help someone else. It’s the most non-competitive group I’ve ever been in. We do feel like family or a village. Even though the constellation of booths is changed a little every week, we welcome each other and usually get close. We buy each other’s crafts and food. Mutual support is highly valued, as it takes all of us to make it work.



My booth is up against the fountain and I don’t actually have a fourth corner. Since I mostly use umbrellas and a flexible setup, I don’t need it, and have learned to work with the shape and maximize my space. The curve also provides me a little space behind that I use to store my bike and trailer and tubs so all of my booth space is open for customers. I like to bring people in out of the aisle, so traffic can flow, so we all can be in the shade, and so they don’t feel pushed down the row if the aisles get crowded. This mainly works because my neighbor, Raven, is open to a fluid border between us. Sometimes I sit or stand in what is technically his space, or we sit together in the back. When my relatives came he let them sit down right in the way of everything because they are old and wanted to be close by. He also stores his cart in the back space, though in his corner space he doesn’t have any. We do that with the cooperation of the person on his other side, who doesn’t need the back space.

When it rains, I have to bring a pop-up, as umbrellas are not workable (not that I haven’t tried.) Those booths are heavy, hard to put up, and I don’t like the uniform look when every booth looks the same. Plus if you bring a booth you have to bring weights. Our policy is 25 pounds per leg. For a biker, the added weight of 75 pounds of sand is daunting, so I have to leave some stock home. That works okay as rainy days work better if I pull stuff in a bit and put it closer together so it stays dry.
But Raven, who used to bike, is now walking his cart and he can’t bring weight bags, so we fasten our booths together and share. It’s strong enough if not technically in compliance. Our booths won’t blow over the way we do it. I bring a different grid setup so I can rest the fourth corner on a grid and fasten to it. We also use a little gutter between our booths to channel the rain to the back so we have lots of dry-ish space in the middle. That way we really can come to sell in the rain. So I’ll be there tomorrow.

Both of us are getting older, and he has a year or two on me and more injuries, so he has actually started skipping a time or two. I’ve considered it, but so far the lure of the gathering is enough to get me up and out with rain gear and fortitude. The maybe twenty percent of us members who are reaching our bodily limits for outdoor selling are all looking to have things be easier, little by little, so we can continue. Not having a regular wage has a few drawbacks, like less in savings and not much of a retirement fund. No employer kicks in any benefits for us. Until Obama most of us didn’t have health insurance.

I feel pretty good about my situation, with my mortgage paid off and my craft dialed in so I can probably continue to make it unless something dire happens. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to bike or print. I figure if I keep doing it, that’s my best chance. That’s what all my elders say: keep doing the things you want to do and you’ll maintain that capacity. That’s my plan, as thin as it is.
But I need things to stay easy-ish and not get harder. I can get downtown from my west-side house. I wouldn’t be able to get all the way to the Riverfront, for instance, or to sell someplace uphill from me. I do have a car, but getting things in and out of it, and schlepping them with a handcart, is twice the lifting at least, and much more walking than I do now. I’m typical in that I have compromised upper and lower body parts. Most craftspeople develop repetitive motion problems, and most aging people do as well. Parts wear out. The harder you work the earlier it seems to happen, all depending on your luck and genetics. I’ve had good genes and luck, but it’s a hard day. Don’t get any of us started on our complaints; everyone has something. Nowdays even young people do, as we’ve forgotten how to really keep active and properly aligned in many cases.


But at this end of the 2017 season I’m still hale and hearty and ready for two wettish weeks and lots of warm interactions as we finish out on the blocks. There is that stressful city plan that, as of this moment, still calls for the Park Blocks to close this spring for a year and a half. The City hasn’t said much about that. They’ve indicated that we’ll get another year of building the LQC interventions to change the culture of the Park, and I expect them to formally say that on November 29th at the City Council worksession when they report on the summer. We’ve told them that we need to stay open, and we think they heard us, but I wouldn’t say our confidence in our site is really in place.

Now that the deck is finally finished, it makes sense to use it, and it never made sense to level the Parks and start over as the PPS plan advises, but the City hasn’t said they won’t do that. Building on the programs of last summer is smart, to see if more people will hear about them and participate. My assessment is that the culture of the Park changed radically when people stopped living in it. There was an ownership going on that made me uncomfortable when I used it.

Of course I feel my own sense of ownership after 34 years in the Park Blocks. I’ve logged a lot of hours in my two days a week for so many years. I don’t actually remember when the farmers started selling on Tuesdays, but I know I’ve done over a decade of co-selling with them. I’ve made friends with the Park Host, Daniel, and we talk about all kinds of issues about the Park. He keeps me informed on little things I’m interested in, which for me range from site issues like the walls and fountain to the groups and activities there, as well as whatever we can figure out about our possible futures. He’s a really good guy and I think he’s been a big part of keeping some safety there. I know one Tuesday when I had a flat on my trailer, I could leave it all there while I went home to get my car, without fearing that I would come back and find it gone.

It’s safe there now. People use the tables and chairs, and sometimes those people look odd or maybe passing through, but I have found everyone to be friendly and there isn’t anything like we had last year, when things were way too wild. The implementations of the LQC process have worked. I’m thankful that the City tried so many things and found some success with many. I wish I could attend the lighting event but I’ll be setting up for Holiday Market. I hope there are a few things this winter that I can participate in.

I really, really hope the Park does not close. I can’t imagine the sensibility of putting all this energy into it and then derailing it by closing it and stopping it all, including the life I have built there. I do want what the community wants, unless it is that. Moving Saturday Market out, to some interim location, and then back in (or not), would derail me and probably kill the magic. I know my neighborhood of cooperation would disappear, and since it wouldn’t be easier, I might too. We know we have anywhere from a quarter to a half of our members who would not follow that plan. I hope the City listens when we say that.

We’ve grown into that park like an orchard, now bearing fruit. We need to know that we can maintain our lives there, and reap the benefits of our decades of investments. We need certainty.
I will be listening intently to the City staff when they report to Council. I’ll be open, but cautious. I saw how the deck played out, so I have no illusions that closing the park would be a brief interval that we would fully recover from. It would not. The Park Blocks have to stay open for us. That’s all I’ll say for now, but I’ll be saying more on the subject. Rain or shine,  we’re the Oldest Continuous Weekly Handcrafted Market in the Nation. That’s legacy brought forward, and worth preserving, like the beautiful downtown Park Blocks.

Monday, October 23, 2017

On the Horns

This isn't the first time I have felt caught upon the horns of a moral dilemma. As usual, it has taken me a long time to accept the framing of others, to really look at my behaviors and my excuses, and to peel back the layers to the essential truth. Making a way forward is a whole other task, and I am not quite there yet.

But it's time to admit to myself that I accept my complicity in what amounts to hurtful acts against other cultures, by using images in my art that were inspired, taken, or that I did not generate myself. As a self-taught artist and crafter for over forty years, I had to learn somehow, and in the beginning I traced many signs and lettering fonts so that I could use them. Copyrighted or not, I took them for my own purposes and gradually learned where to draw the lines. Many times I refused to take what clearly wasn't original to me, but other times I wanted it too much. I made my rationalizations and excuses and kept moving.

I can think of lots of examples way back to the beginning. I knew at some point that copyright laws allowed use when the image was altered by 10% or more (or that's what I told myself) and often I used what was said to be in public domain. Those Dover books all seemed open to borrowing. The better an artist's images were, the more they lent themselves to being stolen. Until my own creations were copied, I didn't really see the harm.

The Fish Tie shirt was the first really impactful theft I experienced, with my partner in Fibergraphics, Mike Martin. He had the idea to put a fish
All original art, mine or Mike's, or Rich Sherman's.
on a shirt like a necktie, with the tail as the knot. It was one of many shirt designs we came up with at the beginning of our shirt business, in about 1984. It took off when I wore one to a small trade show in Denver and connected with a top-level sales rep who saw the potential. He got us orders from National Parks, Alaska resorts, and many, many stores in California, Alaska, Hawaii, and other states. The shirt was wildly popular and we were able to found our business upon it. We sold a ton of them. Some savvy businessmen saw our shirt, said to themselves that it was a million-dollar idea, and proceeded to make a line of polyester fish ties that did make a million dollars: for them, not us.

This was the Fish Tie Phenomenon of 1986. There was nothing illegal about what they did, but even though we followed quickly with a line of neckties, our experience was compromised. We discovered other tie-makers who had been doing fish, and they didn't get rich either. We made other products, and mistakes in other ways that didn't help, but the shirts still sold well for awhile, and we didn't legally pursue the several ripoffs of our designs that followed. Copyright protection is one thing; pursuing damages in court is quite another. We learned our best strategy was to keep moving with other innovative designs.

I "invented" the Pocket-O-Slugs shirt with the fake tuxedo shirt in mind. You have to remember that printed t-shirts only came on the market in the late 70's and early 80's. Our business was really a trendsetter by its very existence. My line of things in pockets was pretty popular too, and there were probably a dozen different ones and a lot of other tie ones as well. We had a great time with them, and it was big business for a few years. We sold to the Nature Company, Made in Oregon, science museums and gift shops all over, and had a team of sales reps and a number of employees. Mike's line of Fractal images was probably the first set of fractal t-shirts made, which carried us forward into the early 90's, when our business folded for a lot of reasons we won't get into here.

The point is that I felt the issue of infringement from both sides. I stole and was stolen from. I learned how common it was to not own your creative property, and this was before the internet. Once products went online, I gave up thinking I could protect my designs from theft. This is a part of the life of every artist now, and not a pleasant part. But it is only a tangential part of our current dilemma of cultural images.

Here's a photo of the first (and I think only) successful design chosen by the Sauna that I drew. I submitted others but they didn't have what was needed for the Sauna shirt collectors. This one is clearly derivative of Art-Deco style and is pretty original, though to me it shows my lack of formal art training. By then I had been making my own silkscreened work for a decade or so and technically I knew what I was doing, more or less. Mike and I produced a few together, and then Brad's designs became the norm and I became "only" the printer. I printed almost all of the Sauna shirts and accessories for a couple of decades, until my body started to complain and we changed our arrangement somewhat. I still printed some of the items, but let go of the bulk of the garments, and made the bags and hats. This past year was the first one that I printed no Sauna merchandise, but they went back to the flamingo icon and we're still family. I noticed, but probably only a few other people were aware of the end of my era. It had nothing to do with the imagery, but was solely a physical and health decision on my part. But it provides me a convenient break in tradition to re-think things.

I love my clients. Almost all my custom printing work is with clients I've had forever. I print what they ask me to print, whether or not I love it, find it appropriate, or care about the image. It's business. I provide a service. But I do get to make choices, as a self-employed craftsperson. I choose to not print sexist or mean slogans, don't do scatological, don't print cusswords or nasty things...unless I want to. I wouldn't print a racist stereotype, or a hateful slogan. And yet...

Things have shifted in our culture regarding what is racist and hateful. Many of us are only now catching up to what has always been true about using images from other cultures. Like I resented the theft of our fish tie, other people have been hurt by my actions. It doesn't fall into the category of complimentary admiration, like flattery. That old saw falls flat now. Imitation isn't right now. Authenticity is what we want in art, and in our lives.

So when this all came up heavily last year, I gave myself a year to consider my position. I love my clients, and want to do what I have always done for them, give them quality and dependability and value when I apply my skills to their projects. I'm still not ready to cut them off completely from our longstanding relationships. This isn't about the Sauna, as they aren't currently using any borrowed images and I'm not currently printing for them. This is about me, and where I draw my lines.

I've said no to lots of printing requests. All I'm willing to say at this moment is that I'll say no to more of them. I won't take on any new work that involves appropriated images that have now been identified as hurtful. I'm moving into semi-retirement anyway, so it won't be a sacrifice. I'm not going to suffer over this. So it isn't nobel, and it isn't commendable. I just had to say it though, in some kind of public way.

Because I haven't apologized for my part. I've still been making excuses, and listening to the people who excused me from responsibility. I'm hired to do work. I'm not hired to make moral judgements. But like all business owners, I do make those judgements, and I need to be more sensitive about it.

So there it is. I'm sorry I am complicit in putting forward products that people feel are damaging. I've failed to meet my own moral standards because of my ignorance and my clinging to old thinking that used to be sufficient. It isn't sufficient now. My excuses and rationalizations are just that. I can do better. I will do better.

It's a big issue, cultural appropriation, for my hippie culture, and there is a spectrum of opinions that goes from censorship through artistic license and freedom back and forth through millenia and we don't know what will settle out to be the common truth that we will all aspire to tell. It's a conversation we're having, and we're not through with it yet. I believe all participants should have the time to examine their own parts and make their own decisions, particularly when they have invested their lives in making art and building their skills and livelihoods. Their decisions are their own and I will not push them, though I may enter the discussions. Sometimes a course is obvious and sometimes it is not. I'm not going to impose my catholic, binary tendencies on such a nuanced question.

I am going to submit to my own, embedded Catholic tendencies for right action, purity of motive, striving to be morally sound and fair and working toward justice. I won't be pure enough for some, and I'll look prim and puritanical to others. I have to find the ground I can stand on, and I may bow to one wind or another in my personal process. I'm intensely loyal and care deeply about my relationships, but I also care deeply about ethics and honesty and have to live with myself.

But I am sorry. I have used what may be sacred African images in my art (that I stole from photographs), I have used photographs taken by others, I have used iconic images that were most likely stolen originally by collectors or at least not compensated for by me. I have profited from these things. It isn't a simple right or wrong situation about a single instance of misuse. I have put in my "artistic contribution" to alter these images as required by law. I have also not done that at times.

I was commissioned to do this shirt by the first Craft Committee (I think) and was proud to do it. I may have peaked as a t-shirt artist in 1989, though I am still printing shirts.I have tried to stop purchasing and using the toxic PVC-based ink that made these multicolor designs possible and printable. I pretty much stick to one-color waterbase ink, and technology has definitely passed me by with the digital possibilities most artists access now.



And when it comes to my crimes against the Oregon Country Fair, I'm not going to apologize yet. My membership goes back forty years plus. I have a whole list of things I've done starting from sneaking in, but I don't think it makes me a bad person who should be banned from participation or even leadership. Some of these things I should not confess!


Pictured are some shirts I may or may not have printed...when it comes to rationalization I am a master. I have always felt that working with the logo adds to the wealth of culture that we do generate as original to our Fair, and all my images have intended to enhance or assist us in working within our complexities for greater understanding. I've tried to add to the fun. I put them here to make the point that no one with decades of participation has a pristine moral record and there will always be nuances that can add up to either treasure or trash, depending on interpretation. I will always defend turning the sacred upside down to look at the underside, to see what we can learn from greater objectivity.

I don't do those things now, though I still feel I have the right to make original art. I redrew and donated the Elders design this year; my version has on the back "Just a place in the shade...and a pass." so you know how old it is (pre-wristbands.) I sell/sold these after hours and had many versions of shirts that I thought helped interpret our quirk and add to our fun as a family. Most of them are treasured; many of them forgotten; some misunderstood (like the 30th anniversary one.) I hope my admissions don't make you think badly of me, but remember that art is supposed to affect us. It's supposed to make us work. And it has been something I have fully immersed in and made a life around, so apologizing for it is futile.

I try as hard as I can to work in a positive, affirming way to promote the Fair as morally and protectively as I can. I'm not a saint. I will get some things wrong, be critical of some things I don't know enough about, and be as messy as the next person in my process for deciding my course of actions and what I say. That's a given.

But I will try harder. That is what I can do. If you point out to me something I need to hear, I will honor you with my attempts to not be defensive, to not give excuses. I will do my best. That is all I can promise.

That's the way I want my life to go. I want to make those improvements that are at hand, and try to correct my course whenever I can. I don't expect a reward at the end. I doubt there are reparations that I can make at this point that would be meaningful. I will sit at the table as long as I can, even when it makes me squirm. I will try to help create safe space for all of us so that we can continue to build our lives as we have together for so long. Thank you for listening. And thanks for buying my stuff.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Service

Finally attended a fairly satisfying meeting last night, which seems to be a growing trend for me as my year turns from a lot of chaos to a little less. Volunteering way too much for the last year and more, I often was in despair that my constructive energy was too little and not clean enough of my own self-interest to be really helpful. Anyone who volunteers confronts the endless well of need and while we see how many good people are trying, and how hard they are working, more people slip into the well of need and more good people are injured, discouraged, and find themselves too busy or too wounded to keep working.

The political and economic reality is indeed grim as our time tightens and conditions degrade. If you read you know how hard social progress toward equality and justice can become, derailed by desperate survival and emotional overwhelm and actual greedy and evil people who derail us on purpose. The easiest thing is to stop trying, stop working, and retreat to what makes us feel better and more protected, focusing more on our own needs and tasks and letting the bigger chips fall where they may. I am constantly encouraged to give things up, to walk away, told that "someone else" will pick up what I am doing and the implication is that they would do a better job of it, as they have less investment, less energy on the line, and don't care as much for the results I am convinced are worth working for.

In my small universe, my self-interest is built in, as I volunteer for four membership organizations and have been paying a lot of attention to the City and its plans. Those organizations (Saturday Market, Oregon Country Fair, the Kareng Fund, and the Radar Angels) occupy different levels of my commitment (more or less descending order there.) Radar Angels is almost all about fun: singing, dancing, being joyful about Jell-O Art, and putting on our main fundraiser for Maude Kerns Art Center around April Fools Day. As the Queen, I don't do much until it comes time to write and promote the show, except this year I mounted a parade entry and Sunday Streets display of 30 years of  Jell-O Art, which took a couple of weeks of effort and some stellar participation from a lovely group of good people who marched in the parade with me. Indi Stern does far more than I do to keep the Angels going and other people do too...I am a persona who gets to do what I want and most of the year I only spread smiles and click likes on posts by David Gibbs, the Knight of the Realm of  Gelatinaceae (that's my realm) who has more energy for the art part right now than I do. So we can set that service aside as not having a huge impact on my time except for the three months I am in my Saturday Market offseason. The Sunday Streets piece was one of the ways I tried to support the City this year, to turn around the Park Blocks and downtown and preserve our city center for public use. I'll write other posts about that, and have. See my other blog, Gelatinaceae.

Kareng Fund also runs itself with a dedicated group of amazing souls, who far outshine me in FB page, which I will update soon as we are entering our fundraising season. I am very proud of this emergency relief fund for self-employed artisans, and I take no credit for starting it but am dedicated to supporting it, so yeah, not dropping that part of my service.
compassion and gentleness and I mostly take the minutes and handle some of the duties of an officer. My particular officer niche is in the words area...as a writer, I love grammar and spelling and keeping accurate records so I collect all the paper archives and track legal stuff and sometimes run the meetings to a degree, and of course do my best to participate in our fundraisers, which you can find out more about on our

I'll set aside Saturday Market for today. I am an officer, the Secretary, which lest you have sexist thoughts, is not a clerical position though I do a lot of typing and filing and other writerly and traditionally sexist tasks. It is all about standing up for Duty of Care, and maintaining the integrity of the organization. My self-interest is that it function well and not cause me a lot of overwork, as I have other things to do! Making and selling my craft, showing up every Saturday and Tuesday that I can, and putting a positive face out to the community as a member of this unbelievably valuable organization are bigger parts of how I participate, but as an older person I am happy to be able to carry the legacy forward and help the rest of the dedicated members and stupendous staff keep the whole basket thriving. I take it all very seriously and in fact I have based my life upon it in many ways. Walking away from any of that doesn't seem possible to consider. Even the most serious burnout does not deter me, apparently, because as I come out the other side of a difficult time, I can see how close I came to a negative view. We had some hard times. I depended heavily on a number of other people to pitch in too, and we came through with a new staff, a very solid team, and we are rising up so fast I get giddy. There are still plenty of challenges, but the atmosphere has changed.

Last night after Craft Committee met, a Coordinator and I struggled with that silly window shade that takes a particular amount of skill to lower, and I thought to myself that if that were in the SM office, we are now at the point in our rise that we would buy a new one. It struck me as a simple metaphor for an attitude shift in problem-solving that SM has worked through...let's make everything we can easier and more efficient, starting with the small things and working through to the bigger ones. I'm not complaining about OCF's office staff at all. I actually don't care about the window shade as I only have to deal with it twice a month at most, but it's more about the way we are able to approach things that need to be fixed, in the larger arenas of OCF functions. After last night I feel that OCF has made that same shift, although the turning peach has a much more ponderous path than the basket and it takes a lot longer to measure results and sift through the details of change at OCF than it does at the smaller though equal Market. (We do also have the value of not throwing out things until they have completely been used up, and that shade does still have functional uses...but maybe we don't take it to the new office when we get one.)


A nonprofit membership organization is now a rare and beautiful anomaly as efficiency and simplicity may not be realistic goals for a large group of equal members. Finding consensus and parity are more important; gathering the multitude of voices and forging a way forward to solve problems is not simple and making it simple generally short circuits some of the consensus-building process. It can't be top-down. It has to be roots-up. Every little person has to feel the power of working together and dedicate themselves to that process. We don't shed our self-interest, as we are all far too invested to do that. We shape our self-interest into forms that will serve all of us. We are charged with bringing our tiny pieces of the whole to the forum and working together to articulate them, before we even get to defining the fixable problems and working on solutions for them.

You can feel, from your own life, how many big concerns there are and how one has to look at them in smaller pieces to even stay stable. You give $20 to your neighbor who works with the houseless and you try to shop well and live sustainably and recycle and care. People are forced by time and economics to limit what they can give, and find a balance so they don't get depleted. This has been on the forefront for people in my political universe as we try to fight dismantling social progress and hold onto our sanity and sense of hope. I have found places in my life where I can be effective and lots where I cannot do enough, or anything sometimes. But working as a volunteer Scribe and committee member for OCF has been a place where I can see the direct results of my diligence.

Our committee has not been the best at productive meetings and it has taken years for us to feel powerful in making decisions and doing work that is helpful. I've only been doing it for a small portion of the decades of the Craft Committee, but I brought my skills in good faith and offered them. Working in the future has not been something within our grasp, generally, as we mostly applied what bandaids we could and tried to carefully take apart the issues and find the parts we could work on. We listened to other crafters and tried to provide helpful suggestions on navigating the structure and policies. Decades of policy-making has resulted in some gaps and stumbling blocks in process, not that this is anyone's fault, but taking policy apart and looking at each word has been effective, so a group of us met for several years now and did that with craft policy. We were tasked with compiling it in one place and we did that, which for me was actually rather joyful as I adore organizing and writing clear sentences, which I did with the help of others who care about that. While this is a task that will never be finished, we got to a place where we had something tangible, some tools, which we were able to give to the larger organization for the benefit of the 1000 artisans, the many coordinators, all the crew people, and the wonderful staff and Board, and the future.

It was a gratifying moment and we had a large group last night to witness it. We had representatives of maybe five crews, some of their coordinators, three Board members, one candidate, at least nine artisans, and some of these were the same people. We represented as broad a swath of those interested in craft issues as you can cram into a meeting room. We took our Duty of Care seriously and we worked to identify our concerns, our possible solutions, the exact sticking points, and with transparent process as a goal, we worked to suggest some small changes that will ease some larger concerns. It was a small step in a tiny segment of a big effort to keep that peach alive.

There was a lot on our agenda and we addressed most of it. We were honest and could laugh and see both the big pictures, the realities, and the small details, holding it all in mind and all united in the same goal of making incremental progress toward equality for all members and Fairness. Any conversation you have about OCF will include this goal. This is why people serve the OCF.

We each have our own Fair. That means there are thousands of them, many thousands, and all are cherished and held dear. We all are challenged by giving validity to the many thousands that differ significantly from our own. Your needs are not necessarily my immediacy, and my concerns are not necessarily on your radar. What discourages me about the organization is the limited view of service to it that some people seem to hold.

I will say that invariably, once they get involved at the end of the table that works on policy, process, and consensus-building, their smaller interests tend to fall away into the greater goal of making things Fair. Mostly people who come into service with a limited agenda get the education they need, if they are open to it. It has been a struggle to get boothpeople into the policy-making system, to even get some of us to see how we can be useful or heard. Board members like Sue Theolass and Lucy Kingsley and Justin Honea have worked really hard to listen to others, to ask questions, and to find out what is really different about the crafter experience, the food artisan experience, and the experience of the person who works mostly pre-Fair and maybe doesn't even see the boothpeople in their true light. They've worked to bring out not what is different, but what is the same, and how we all work for each other for our mutual goal symbolized by the round, juicy peach. There has to be enough abundance for all. There has to be a balance between order and spontaneity and everyone's Fair has to be the work of everyone together. There isn't a better way to do it, and it will never be easy.

That old us vs. them is a bugaboo that will always be part of human experience but building consensus means we work through that. One of my dreams is to never hear it again. We find our common ground, we hear about what other people feel, we take our problems apart and we work through the details with our good faith and our dedication and we take our small steps toward better functioning. We bring our skills, whatever they are, and we give them.

It's service. It is actually not about what you need or want, except that you get to throw that into the mix. If there is a way to get what you need and want, you may find a path in that direction, but rarely do you get to have it without the consensus. We are not top-down, and may we never be. Ours is the greater challenge of working for the common good, and we in our community are so damn lucky that we get our little universe to do that kind of work. I cannot imagine how I would be able to tolerate the present greater world without the comfort of my smaller universe where I can see results from my work. Our endless well of need at OCF does not compare to the one we all must live with. Ours has a bottom, and we're nowhere near it. We have resources, we have incredibly dedicated individuals, and we have a complex, deeply developed legacy of problem-solving skills. It is alive in us, and we have the huge gift of our children, who have been paying attention, who have been nurtured, and who are always stepping up to pitch in and help with their energy and joy. We have people of every age, all the ages. There's no division there.

It's election time for OCF. You must vote. If you get the benefit of Fair, you have to accept part of the responsibility. And as you know, you must be an informed voter. Watch the candidate forum, please. Ask yourself about the skills these people bring, and how interested they are in serving all of us in our goal for equality and Fairness. Do they get the true meaning of volunteering, that you do it as its own reward, no matter the cost? Do they bring a narrow agenda, or are they looking at all of the concerns of all of the Fair? Will they serve me, or only you? Are they open to learning? Can they handle the humble role of participatory democracy, of the kind of self-effacing leadership we need?

I like many of the Board-level volunteers. I hear many of them understanding the Duty of Care, the real leadership role they play. I was at first dismayed by the candidates forum, but gradually came around to the realization that willingness to be open to learning was going to help me decide. I know Lucy and Justin have what it takes. I heard Diane Albino indicate that she has heard our desire to be thought of as artisans, not vendors. We do not vend...it is way more complex than that, our Right Livelihood and our lifetime investment in Fair. She has been open to listening.

Two candidates came to the Craft universe to find out about us. George Braddock is a boothperson, and I know people fear he is a one-issue person but that is a groundless fear. Watch him speak, look at his skill level. He has said so many wise things during this controversy that show his openness, his willingness to make personal sacrifice for the greater good, and his huge understanding of service. His whole life has been an unselfish dedication to help those who need help. He has supported dozens of artists and craftspeople, helped empower thousands of differently-abled folks. He suffers misjudgement with grace. I sincerely hope he is elected so we can move along in the process of healing the damage of the past year, and so he can continue to give to the organization with his huge heart and deep soul. Please vote for him.

I will give a loud shoutout to candidate Laurel Georger. She came last night and she did not campaign. She took zero time for herself, but spent the meeting taking notes, listening hard to all of the complicated issues we were navigating, and she adopted throughout a respectful attitude of learning. She didn't interrupt to ask questions, but I expect she will when there is time. She understood that we had a packed agenda and no time to bring anyone up to speed. She knew the importance of what we were doing. I hadn't met her before but I know she is about the age of my son and their friend groups intersect, so I had some expectations of her...I figured she was smart, maybe kind of nerdy (which is a great quality in service) and after the meeting I threw her the logical question, "Why should I vote for you?"

She gave a great answer. She said she has been going to Board meetings, to Path Planning, and she came to learn more about Craft Committee and what we do. She talked about her service and her openness to learning. There it was, and she didn't sound political. There was nothing about power. There was nothing about needs. She said she had time to give and the desire to work hard. That's what I want. She got my vote.

You make your own choices when you vote. You have your own reasons, and you get to follow them through. Just please know that it does matter who you choose, and how you evaluate them. Take it seriously. My actual future depends on OCF, and maybe yours does too. For so many reasons, we need the peach, we need each other, and we need the hope that together we will continue to identify and meet the needs of our community, our place in the state (political and geographical), and our role and tasks in the universe. We want this opportunity to live right and work with people we value.

It's a little thing, this vote, this event, this bit of stuff we do. Yet, it is our metaphor, it is what feeds us. We want it juicy. We want a healthy tree with lots of branches and fruit for everyone. We want to be in it and of it and taste it and savor it. Our little lives are the best we've got, our wealth, so let's turn our pockets inside out and share our gifts and tokens and never stop sharing.

I am so grateful for it, for these people I get to work with and witness. A huge thanks! I will now mail my ballot in. Forgive me for missing the meeting after my 14-hour day at Market. I do what I can. Do what you can as well. You don't do it for yourself, but sometimes you will feel the benefits.