On Saturdays and Sundays, the downtown area goes through a drastic change. An alleyway along Ashland Creek called Calle Guanajuato, usually reserved for outdoor dining for restaurants such as Sesame and Greenleaf, morphs into a bustling outdoor shopping area, showcasing some of Southern Oregon's finest handmade treasures.
Sometimes you have to know where to look, but you can always find something cool at the Lithia Artisans Market. There are dragon-themed, handmade pens, wooden bowls shaped like large heads of coral, hats made from recycled sweaters.
"Some rocks rock," says Dan Clark, a 62-year-old builder of fine sterling silver and crafter of, well, awesome rocks. At first glance, he looks like an average man with an average stand and some average rocks, but if you take the time to talk to him, you'll realize that there's more than meets the eye with his store, Pine Tree Jewelry.
What: Lithia Artisans Market
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays
Where: Calle Guanajuato, behind Plaza shops
Along with crafting excellent necklaces, earrings and bracelets, Clark has a love for rocks. Not your ho-hum pieces of gravel, but rocks that so stunningly resemble a panorama view of Crater Lake that it's almost as if someone took a snapshot and embedded it in stone. If you ask nicely, he might show you a polished slice of Oregon's national rock, the thunder egg, shaped like a coral reef, or another one of his awe-inspiring rocks from his collections. "The more you move your eyes, the less you see," says Clark with a glint in his own eyes.
If shopping isn't really your style, come for the free music. "They always have musicians here, and I think that it's the best part," says Aaron Ree, 30, a musician himself. With coffee cups in tote, he and his girlfriend, Rebecca Del Forge, and their two dogs, Koa and Bella, took advantage of a lazy Saturday morning to stroll the market — along with a large bevy of other people. People are one of the most interesting parts of the market, says Richard Burrows, of Pendragon Crafts.
"The Lithia Artisans Market is full of people who have found their passion," he says. Burrows, 79, makes pens in all colors, shapes and sizes, with many different designs. One even clicks into place the same way you would load a rifle, and has a bullet bronzed into the butt of it.
"My pens repel grumpy people because only the nicest people stop by," he says with a childlike grin. And it's true. Here, in the winding alleyway nestled behind Ashland's downtown promenade, it's hard to imagine that you can be anything but happy here.
Amelia Covert Zeve is an Ashland High School student and freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.