Background and History of the Eugene Saturday Market
By: Olga Kozinskiy
Every Saturday, from April through November, vendors present their handmade or homegrown products at the Eugene Saturday Market. This will be the markets 42nd year running. Located in the city center on two square blocks of Municipal Park, the market presents an aura of sights, sounds and smells. There are about 600 members and the market is able to sell about 200 vendor spaces on a given Saturday. There are new members every year and the vendors change about 25 percent every two years.
“We really do our best to welcome the new people because we think it really adds to what the market has to offer,” said Beth Little, General Manager of the Eugene Saturday Market.
The Saturday Market in Eugene is the longest running, weekly street market in the country. The city of Eugene owns name Saturday Market in the State of Oregon and welcomes other markets to use the name, for instance the Portland Saturday Market, as long as every booth is selling hand crafted items made by the person who made them, points out Little.
On market days, the vendors arrive as early as 4:30 a.m., to set up their own individual booths. Then, customers and visitors begin to appear around 10 a.m. Throughout the day, the Market is bustling with activity. People browse, buy, sell, trade, exchange information, meet friends, enjoy food and listen to play music. The market provides entertainment for all ages, incomes and lifestyles. It is close to the city’s transportation center, the Eugene Station and valet bike parking is available. Car traffic flows through the area but the streets are controlled on Market days. The market features 17 food booths in the international food court and a performance stage. It goes on at the same time as its sister market, the Lane County Farmers Market. However, it is a different organization run by different board of directors.
“It’s a real goal for us not to keep it historical, even though there is obviously the flavor of the 70s there, because it started in the 70s but its really important for us to reflect modern artistic trends and to attract the younger folks too and I think we have,” said Little.
In the early 1970s there was a large number of local art being made which created a big interest in buying and using local crafts. This became clear by the growing success of annual Christmas craft sales. Downtown Eugene was also in need of revitalization. This initially inspired the idea for a Saturday Market. As a result, letters proposing the idea and asking for support were written to the Mayor and members of the City Council.
The Mayor selected a committee who eventually made a proposal and suggested a site. After some objections from downtown businesses the proposal was accepted and the news about the new Saturday Market was spreading about town.
The Saturday Market first opened on May 9, 1970, with a volunteer coordinator and 29 vendors. Each vendor was charged $1 to cover expenses. After reviewing the first Saturday of the market, the City Council extended permission for use of the site through the summer. In September, despite objection from some of the downtown businesses, City Council extended permission until December 25. Since then, the Market has relocated twice and now remains at its current location at the Park Blocks at 8th & Oak.
“When the market first started years back, there were fears that it would hurt the local businesses but as the decades went on, the local businesses started to love the Saturday Market,” said Little, “Over the decades the support of the Saturday market has strengthened.”
Click here for a complete history of the Saturday Market.
Beth Little also writes a weekly newsletter about the Market.
Q & A with Jeff Wilson, Member of the Eugene Saturday Market
By: Olga Kozinskiy
1. What is it you do exactly and how did you start out making your art?
I do a lot of different things. I do small carvings that become necklaces: Tree of Life, Goddesses, symbols etc. I also do a lot of stone inlay in wood: Turquoise, Malachite, Lapis, Inlaid in wood pendants, etc.
2. When and how did you become a member of the Saturday Market?
I think it was four years ago. I was working at the time delivering rural mail and newspapers and barely breaking-even financially. I used to do my art 30-years-ago and one day my new wife found a piece of scrimshaw I did way back then. (Scrimshaw is etching in ivory.) When she saw that, she said that I should be doing that, so I quit both jobs and jumped out into doing that. It was difficult as we didn’t have supplies or income at first, but it’s been a steady climb since and we live very simply.
3. What would you say motivates you the most to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?
Everything I make ends up as a gift for someone, either the person who buys it, or who they give it to. That’s a pretty cool job. I love my work, my inspiration comes from Nature and my customers joy.
4. What are the goals that you want to accomplish most in your art work?
Touching folk’s souls with joy and reminding them what is at the heart of it all.
5. Do you have any people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in, what you are committed to in your artwork?
My Uncle Lee, he was part Indian, hunter, trapper, just a totally real guy, no BS. Other than that, most of my major influences came from previous lives.
6. Is there a specific project(s) that you are currently working on? Can you tell me about it?
I have so many in the works. A big one is a sign for a business in the shape of a feather that will say “Owl Feather Freelancing.” I’m working on a dwarf smoking pipe carved in Myrtlewood with a Tree of Life all over it and a whole bunch of Tree of Life’s in awesome woods. Also, some wooded spoons and Kitchen large carved stirring paddles with love knots carved in them. We call them Love Paddles.
7. How do you think the Saturday Market has influenced downtown Eugene, its culture, etc. ?
Major. Lot’s of folks make a point of going there when they visit Eugene.
More on Jeff Wilson click here
Amy Palatnick, Mini Profile
By: Olga Kozinskiy
Amy Palatnick is a potter who spends much of her time on the wheel. She learned pottery while she was in college, and later did an apprenticeship for a year in Texas. The Eugene Saturday Market and a potters’ co-op at Maude Kerns Art Center called Club Mud were Palatnick’s main motivations for moving up to Eugene in 1993.
Upon moving to Eugene, Palatnick immediately began selling at the Holiday Market. Later, in 1996 she got a booth on the park blocks at the Saturday Market. For Palatnick, the Saturday Market is what defines Eugene and its culture more than any other local institution.
“The color, abundance, food, art, music, the laid-back feeling of the people who go there, the park-like setting, the fountain, the connection to the farmer’s market, “ she said, “There is a wonderful feeling of abundance at the market. It’s one of those ‘don’t-miss’ experiences for any visitor.”
Palatnick’s main motivation to keep making her pottery is her customers.
“I believe my pots help to add brightness, beauty and happiness to people’s daily lives,” she said. “Recently, I had a customer tell me, ‘for some mysterious reason, your pottery makes me happy,’ For me, there’s nothing that beats functional art.”
Palatnick says that there are many rewarding aspects in making pottery. She enjoys working with the clay in its wet form, using skills that she has built over 21 years to make a piece of artwork within minutes. Palatnick also enjoys the challenges of creating new glazes and forms.
“Pottery is a medium that really cannot be fully mastered–there is always a horizon that holds more information, more possibility,” said Palatnick, “There are so many different clay bodies, glazes and glazing techniques, types of pots to make, firing techniques. Even though I’ve been making pots for decades, in a way I feel like I’m starting fresh every day.”
Palatnicks inspirations in her pottery making was her teacher Thanh Binh (“Tea”) Duong.
“He is a master potter, the best I have ever seen, and he challenged and helped me to push my own edges, both technically and artistically.”
Palatnick’s current work involves making bathroom sinks. She says a friend of hers installed one a few years ago and she is excited to install one of her own.
“They are a great challenge for me. I’m excited about moving into larger-scale pots.”
Palatnick also wants to create a line of funerary urns for both people and pets. Her main goal, however, is to get recognition in her field of artwork.
“I have been so (relatively) successful at the Saturday Market that I haven’t needed to expand out into the larger art community, which has kept me from becoming known beyond our little town.,” she said, “I would like to have a name in the pottery world. Most of my beliefs, and who I am, come from a more quiet place when I am working alone in my studio.”
Michael DiBitetto Profile
By: Olga Kozinskiy
Wind chimes hang by the front door as the wind blows it back and forth. Vibrations and the whistling of a passing train and a semi truck are heard. The smell of paint comes from one end of studio number 201. Prints of vibrant landscapes with bright colors and high contrast between lights and darks hang on the walls. Michael DiBitetto, 52, is in his studio working on a print.
For DiBitetto, art has always been something he was good at. As a child, he took up various art classes and his parents were always supportive of creativity. Even in high school, DiBitetto was designing diagrams and illustrations for his classmates in science labs. Art proved to be his talent and this eventually led to print making.
“I was always more of a two dimensional guy,” he says, “Even when I worked on a landscaping truck in high school and college I did illustrations of people and portraits of peoples pomeranians and dachshunds.”
DiBitetto was born in Bronx, NY and moved to Long Island when he was six. He grew up in Nassau County. DiBitetto attended the Nassau Community College which at that time was the largest community college in United States. One year, he got a scholarship there for his printmaking.
“I was recognized for my profession there. It was a good reinforcement. You know the universe is telling you something when you get a scholarship.”
Later DiBitetto attended New Paltz College in New York to continue is interest in print making. After graduating college in 1984, DiBitetto stayed in Long Island for a while longer, where he held various delivery jobs handling art work and doing delivery work for art shows and museums.
“I had a van and I was savvy enough to drive at all hours, which eventually burned me out.”
In 1994, DiBitetto decided to move to Eugene. Now, he wants to find challenges for himself that are outside his usual work. In DiBitetto’s last 16 years living in Eugene and as a member of the Eugene Saturday Market, he has found that people have a real relation to the land and realized that he does too.
“I kind of came out to Eugene before I actually moved here and I found it to be beautiful and mysterious with the fog, the sun, the light, clouds and even the wetness too, which makes it very magical with the moss,” says DiBitetto, “The big trees and big mountains are also interesting to me, although I didn’t grow up with them, so it’s still a novelty to me on that level.”
DiBitetto has also been challenging himself to work with different genres. Currently, he is creating prints in groups of three: three flowers, three cityscapes from Portland, three separate prints of horses.
“Threes a good number,” says DiBitetto, “I think that two would not be enough, five might be too much but three, if you hang them, there’s going to be a little bit more recognition because there’s something in the middle of the other two.”
DiBitetto enjoys going to events such as the Blue Grass Jam to hang out and take photos there to have reference material for future prints. He is also excited for the Shoji Show at the Japanese Garden in Portland that will take place this year from July 23 to Sep. 5, 2011. The show is juried and decided by the chairman. DiBitetto first participated in the show last year.
“They’ve kind of latched on to my output so I’m going to have to keep that going,” he says, “Having done the show, I know what to expect a little bit more and maybe I can give them a little bit more.”
DiBitetto has been inspired by settings such as Spencer’s Butte and Mt. Pisgah. He also enjoys taking pictures of the top of mountains from an airplane.
“That one, with the big tree up there for example,” he says pointing at a large print hanging above the couch.
DiBitetto also enjoys taking photos and making prints of the Oregon Country Fair and the Oregon Coast.
“I have a couple galleries on the coast and I feel so inclined to keep up with them, so I do things like this…” he says pointing to a print, “This is one of Bandon Beach.”
DiBitetto’s art is mainly influenced by Japanese art, particularly by an artist named Yozo Hamaguchi. As a child, DiBitetto always preferred drawing over painting. Later, he tended to gravitate towards print making.
“Anybody who has ever done anything creative often will see things in other artist that gets them excited,” says DiBitetto. “There are some qualities that my work project… somebody once said they never get tired of it because it always looks different to them which I found very interesting.”
DiBitetto’s other influences include ancient art from Germany and Italy. Recently, he saw an art show at a museum in Arizona about the baroque painters in Naples. Since then, he has gravitated towards baroque style himself.
“My most recent piece, right over there,” he says pointing to another print hanging above the couch. “It’s very dramatic by high contrast between lights and darks and a lot of hard lines. That’s kind of like what baroque is like: shadow manifestations.”
DiBitetto’s main goal in his art is just too keep at it.
“Being an artist is not so much what I do but kind of more like what I am,” he says, “The things that I really love to do is challenge myself with new genres.”
Photo’s from the Saturday Market: