Today, October 30th, is the last day of the Lithia Artisans Market outdoor season. Ashland Creek babbles gently along the granite stream bed. Fiery red and orange colored leaves drop to the grass floor of the park. All things are readying for the cold of Winter, the time of hibernation. We meander through our American Autumn anxious for inspiration, that spark of consciousness that lifts us up and puts us in a better place.
We are living in exciting times. Change is the theme of 2011. Dictatorships are falling, wars are coming to end points, people worldwide are marching in the streets demanding society do a better job of taking care of one another. There is a paradigm shift of consciousness that is more pressing now than at any time I can remember in my 46 years on this planet. It feels like we are on the cusp of something big. Do you feel it?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver
Many people are calling the recent movement of people the beginnings of a peaceful revolution. I tend to agree with this assumption. Something has to give in the way we share the Earths precious resources, and act as stewards of our planet and the people who live on it. This is nothing new, we have been grappling with these ideas for decades.
Time warp back to 1968. Love and peace, the Vietnam War — the “hippie” lifestyle expressed itself as a protest against the war, but also as a reaction to our culture of consumption, inequality, and greed. Many of those pioneers wanted to check out of the main stream, seeing “the system” as too corrupt to continue participating. “Turn on, tune in, drop out!”, was the cry of a generation. “Turn on” was a call to higher consciousness. “Tune in” asked us to better understand our basic connection with the world we inhabit. And “drop out” referred to getting back to the basics of farming, crafting, home made music, and self-sufficient models of interacting with each other and the land we occupy. That was just a little over 40 years ago. People were asking many of the same questions then that they are today.
In 1969 our own iconic festival, the Oregon Country Fair, was conceived. The renaissance of the American Art and Craft Movement began in conjunction with the protests of the era, but never ceased. It kept truckin’ along getting stronger every year. We have come full circle, only today the gap between rich and poor has gotten exponentially worse, and we spend more on wars than ever before. What models are working, which are not?
Now, let’s come back to 2011. We are again at a point where massive discontent is expressing itself in the form of protests both within our own country and the world over. However, with all the strife, there are models of living that are working and will continue to work better the more we support them. People taking care of people on a local level works. Local economies can thrive in tough economic times by supporting each other in our chosen work. Work should make us happy, work should leave us feeling content rather than drained, work should bring us joy, and work should pay the bills.
Over the past two years I have had the privilege of interviewing 18 of the talented artisans who participate at the Lithia Artisans Market. Each of their stories is as unique as their art or craft. If you have enjoyed reading these stories, here is an excellent opportunity to connect with them and see the art they create. Most of the artisans I have interviewed will be at the annual Lithia Artisans Christmas Faire. A total of 48 artisans are participating in this years event. The Christmas Faire is open Friday through Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, and will also feature live music and food. The event takes place at the Historic Ashland Armory on the corner of Oak and B Streets, two blocks down from the plaza.
Between now and Thanksgiving the artisans will be hard at work preparing for the Christmas season. Artisans make it a point to be stocked with interesting new items made especially for this show. In a recent interview with Catherine McElroy, she excitedly announced that she will be showing her new children’s book for the very first time at this years show. Her new book, It’s An Absolutely Perfect Day For…, is an alphabet book designed for the child in each of us, filled with whimsical illustrations and amusing alliterations.
Recent conversations with artisan friends have focused on the excitement many are feeling about the changes we are all witnessing around the globe. Often, however, they feel like they themselves are not doing enough to help make the changes happen. I have to remind them that there is nothing more revolutionary than making beautiful items with your own two hands, taking them to your local market, and selling them to the members of your community. That is as pure a model of free enterprise as I can imagine, and one I would like us all to consider when we are making decisions on how to spend our dollars.
Whether we are buying veggies from our local farmer, beads from our local lapidary artisan, a dress from our local seamstress, or stoneware from our local potter, it is our opportunity as consumers to be mindful of where our money flows. This is a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship. By supporting the folks who produce wonderful things in our community, we are doing our part to support the world in which we want to live.
The artisan model is not the only solution to the problems we confront as we move through our shared future, but maybe it provides part of the answer. Self-sufficient, green, decentralized forms of production foster independence, stewardship, and personal growth on many levels. There are many changes that will need to be embraced if we are to come out of our economic downturn stronger than we went into it. However, I believe that it starts in our own back yards, in our own artist studio, at our own local market, and it emanates out from there.
This Holiday Season support local, it matters!
For more information about the Lithia Artisans Christmas Faire, including the live music lineup, go to lithiaartisansmarket.wordpress.com, or follow us on facebook at facebook.com/lithiaartisansmarket.