Today Holiday Market begins in Eugene. We had planned on having this be our last year at the Holiday Market, but Jeff and I finally decided we were ready to let the market go. (I mentioned that in our giveaway over the weekend, for those of you who saw it.) We really are ready, though it took awhile for us to come to that decision. We’ve been selling at the Saturday Market and the Holiday Market in Eugene for over ten years now, before Jeff and I were married in 2008, and from the very beginning of our business. As I looked through pictures for this post, it was fun looking back at how our booth looked over the years and how much it changed, but the one above felt like just the right one to share.
The weekly market was such a huge part of our lives for so long. I still remember the very first days we set up our booth in the early spring rain, Jeff with some hand carved necklaces and me with my drawings on greeting cards. I remember how excited we were over our very first trades with other artists and farmers. It was a wonderful trading community that we were grateful for and we traded for clothes for our family, shoes, farm fresh food, plants for our garden, and beautiful artwork. I remember napping behind our booth when I was pregnant with Bracken and carrying him around all day when he was a baby. We met so many amazing people at the market. People who we saw weekly and people who were traveling and just passing through. We loved connecting with so many creative spirits and made such dear friends over the years.
And if you have ever sold at a weekly market, you have an idea of how much work it is. We would pack up our car on Fridays and spend the day preparing, leave early Saturday mornings to drive to town, set up our booth, be there all day, tear down our booth at five and load it back in our car. Then we would get home late after the long drive and sometimes unload part of our car that night or unload it all on Sunday. Sundays we were exhausted and spent the day getting everything put away and organized for the following week. Doing the weekly market took three days that Jeff wasn’t able to work full days in his shop (and everything he makes takes many steps to finish, he needed a longer stretch of time.) It was challenging for him to have his work flow interrupted so often, he wasn’t able to make as much as he wanted to or get as much time in his shop as he needed. Some weeks it was all he could do to make up what he sold the week before.
In the beginning, when we first started doing the market, our life was different. We didn’t have any festivals then, for one thing, and we had more space for a weekly market. When we started selling at festivals, we really enjoyed it. Our festival schedule got busier each year, and not only did we enjoy doing the fairs and festivals more, they were also much more profitable for us. Jeff and I knew that was the direction we both wanted to go with our business. It was challenging for Jeff to build up stock for festivals when he was so busy simply keeping up with what he had sold at the market. As our business changed and the market landscape felt different to us, we knew someday that we wanted to stop doing the market, but we weren’t sure when that time would be. Market got better for us year by year, which made it harder to give up. On those slow days though, it was hard to justify going when we could have been home working, filling orders, and making stuff instead (and building up stock for our next festival.) But the good days were too good to justify not going. So we stuck with it.
But to be honest, at that point Jeff and I were burned out with doing the market and had been for awhile. Though our brains were telling us to go, go, go, our bodies were telling us something different. For so long Jeff and I felt like we were at a constant run and could hardly catch our breath before the next market day came around. There were times I felt like we were hamsters on a wheel (a little cliche using that example, but it came to mind), working harder and harder and faster and faster, but not able to get enough work time in before it was Friday and time to pack up our car again. I found myself saying “too much” far too often. Our schedule felt like too much, our running around felt like too much, …doing the weekly market just felt like too much.
Not only was our festival season growing, but so were online orders and wholesale orders, and I really wanted and needed more time to put into our online shop. As a two person business we came to realize that doing the market on top of traveling to festivals, filling wholesale orders, and selling online was more than we could do. With our festival season this year, it became harder and harder to make it to market for the minimum number of days we had to go to be able to do the Holiday Market and when they increased the minimum number of days, we knew it wasn’t going to be possible for us anymore. Jeff and I actually felt relieved when we realized that because the stress had been taking it’s toll on us and both of our bodies were seriously calling out for some self-care (and slowing down to catch our breath!) We simply couldn’t sustain the levels of daily stress that we had been carrying before, we didn’t have the energy to do so any longer because it was too exhausting. At some point you can’t keep putting off the self-care because you realize- if I don’t take care of myself now, then when?
When Jeff and I finally made the decision to let go of Holiday Market this year, it was not a sad decision for us, but a happy one. (When you can make more money in a few days at a single festival than you can in two exhausting months of a local holiday market, it makes the decision much easier.) Even though we knew that money would be more tight for us during the holiday season, since we didn’t have time to apply for any holiday festivals this year, we were sure it was the right decision for us because it felt so right and it was time. We know it’s the best choice for the long term of our business (and for our well being) and we’re grateful to be shifting our focus to the aspects of our business we love most. What we have on our plate is still a lot to manage, but instead of scrambling from week to week, Jeff works in his shop filling online orders, occasional wholesale orders, and preparing for the next festival on our schedule. Jeff is an artist and doesn’t want to feel like a machine. When you make art for a living, and not just as a hobby, you do have to work hard to make a living at it. But letting go of the market is giving us more room to breathe and it’s easier for him to get the work space he needs to be making things, and at a pace that is (most of the time) more sustainable and manageable. Our schedule still feels so full, but we’re slowly finding more balance.
I was surprised by how hard it was for me to write this post, I kept putting it off because there was so much to say I hardly knew where to start (thus why it was so quiet here this week), but the words came rushing out (and hopefully I made it cohesive.) We’re grateful for the opportunity market gave us to start our own business and shape it over the years, for all we learned during that time, for our local customers who supported us there, and for all the amazing people we met and connected with there. To all our market friends- though we won’t have a booth there any longer, we’ll be sure to visit!
So, with that we say goodbye to the market, and we welcome this new chapter in our lives. It feels so good to say that.
[Edited to add: though the decision was a happy one for us because we were so relieved to take a deep breath, we are sad we won’t be seeing our friends at market each week! Thank you, friends, for your kind messages and well wishes, I was so touched by them. I’ve been teary and emotional reading your words tonight. We’ll plan a visit soon. Lots of love to you all!]