Saturday, December 10, 2011

the saturday market

When I was growing up in Eugene, our next door neighbor was Jim Brady. You might remember Jim. He had a booth at the Saturday Market, and later, the 5th Street Market, where he sold gorgeous handcrafted wood products for the home. He joined together different types of woods so the end effect looked like stripes. You see this kind of work everywhere now. I’ve even seen it in department stores. But in the late seventies, Jim was the pioneer, and his stunning craftsmanship was coveted by many.

Jim’s daughter was my best friend so inevitably, I was in and out of their home multiple times every day. If we stayed off the roof, and managed not to have an argument for more than a day or two (a nearly impossible task for two headstrong little girls), we got to accompany her dad to the Saturday Market.

Arriving early so Jim could set up his booth and set out his wares, we’d wander aimlessly around the grounds, watching the day unfold. The jester bounced his bells in our direction as he danced a sweet dance, surrounded by even sweeter-smelling smoke. Peanuts’ Lucy nodded and smiled as she set up her booth, ready to dispense her advice, for a price. And everywhere, the market was coming alive, as vendors unpacked and placed their goods on display, hoping for a bustling day at the Market.

In the gooey, garlicky pizza by the slice, in the sweet, sharp tang of lemons in the lemonade, and in bicycle grease and essential oils; as the day unfolded, the good smells of summer and Eugene were everywhere in the Saturday Market.

When my mother got a new Jenn-Air stove, a novelty in those days, she ruminated about the uncovered grill sitting in the middle of the kitchen countertop. Soon after, Jim showed up with a custom striped wood cover made just for my mom. It perched perfectly on top of the grill for all the years we lived in Eugene, whenever the grill wasn’t in use.

We lost touch with the Bradys when we moved to the Midwest when I was in high school. I finally reconnected with the family some years ago, when I was planning my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Sadly, we found, Jim had passed away in 2004. But his touch is everywhere in my parent’s kitchen, and in my kitchen, too. They have the wooden knife block and a cutting board and I have the Jenn Air grill cover. Yep, it’s mine now. I don’t have the built in stove-top grill, but it fits nicely on top of two of the burners.  And it’s still in excellent condition. It’s a beautiful piece handcrafted by a wonderful man- and a wonderful neighbor.

And that’s what the Saturday Market is. It’s your neighbors. Your friends. Members of your community creating something that’s meaningful to them, and selling it at the Saturday Market because they know it will be valuable to you, too. The Market remains unique because all of the artisans and artists have to handcraft their wares, and be approved by a board. Whether you want a handmade leather cuff, a piece of thrown pottery, or a painting, you can find it at the Market. The Saturday Market also has world-class people watching. Even if you just want to window-shop and have lunch, you can hardly go wrong with choices ranging from Lebanese to Guatemalan to Polish to Southern barbecue, and gorgeous dark chocolate caramels.

The artisans at the Portland Saturday Market welcome visitors throughout the year on Saturdays and Sundays and from December 19-23 you can visit from 11-5 each day for the Festival of the Last Minute. The Eugene Saturday Market has already shut down, taking its annual hiatus until April, but the Holiday Market is open every weekend from 10-6 daily through Christmas Eve, when they shut down at 4 pm.

Portland Saturday Market
108 West Burnside, Portland, OR 97209

Eugene Holiday Market
@ the Lane County Fairgrounds, 13th & Jefferson, in Eugene, Oregon