In mid-October of 2016 I finished the first of five pre-Christmas craft shows that I had signed up for. As any crafter worth her salt will tell you, the pre-Christmas sales period that runs from October through mid-December can be one of the most lucrative sales periods of the year if you hit it right. I typically sign up for a bunch of shows, throw mugs like mad, worry that I’m not going to have enough inventory, consider quitting my job to become a dental hygienist, and finally breathe a huge sigh of relief and take a large chunk of change to the bank around the 15th of December.

The October show took place over four days- I set up on Wednesday afternoon and spent Thursday through Sunday sitting in the same chair, smiling at passersby and answering the same three questions over and over again. I always try to prepare for shows by considering what I think I’ll sell and making replacement inventory beforehand (for example, if I anticipate selling 6 bud vases, I’ll throw and bisque six extra bud vases so they’re ready to be glazed in the colors I need after the show) but at this particular show I sold about twice as many mugs as I anticipated. This meant that on Sunday night (after selling all day, packing up the show, and then driving home and unloading all of my inventory) I sat down at the wheel and started throwing more mugs. I managed to dry them quickly and even got some of them glazed and fired in time to sell at my next show.

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about creating spaciousness in one’s life: living frugally in order to be able to work limited hours and enjoy the work that you do. This is the time of year where that attitude can fly right out the window- where I’ll work ten days in a row without really taking a day off, where I occasionally struggle to relax even during “off” hours, and where I start thinking that if I can just make it through a few more days at this pace I might be able to find some time to breathe. Then I’ll typically have a couple of “down” days, set up for my next show, and start the process all over again.

I’m not complaining- if I’m doing a mad dash at the end of the year it means that things are selling well, and it enables me to save enough money to ride out the slow season inherent in this and many other self-employment style jobs. The fact that my work naturally has an off season means that when December 15th rolls around I can wash and fold my show tablecloths, file my quarterly sales taxes, spend limited hours focusing on new, fun ideas in the studio, and spend the holidays hanging out with my family.

Because I sell handmade, giftable items, my “season” naturally ends around Christmas and doesn’t pick up again until March or April. If your job has a slow season it might take place during a different time of year, but the opportunities presented by a large chunk of time off from work are the same. I like to think of that period as an opportunity to do things I might not normally have time or energy for; in the past, I’ve spent time developing new work in the studio or traveling internationally.  

You could also spend time doing volunteer work, participating an unpaid internship that allows you to gain skills or qualifications that you want or need, taking a class, training for an event, or working on a new business venture that might not ever end up being remunerative.

During the year I often feel like I don’t have enough attention for all of the big things I want to accomplish, and I spend a lot of time contemplating and preparing for the project or projects that I most want to focus on during my slow season. For example, earlier this year I decided I wanted to spend this time taking an international trip and training for an Olympic distance triathlon. The triathlon training has been in progress for many months (though it’s ramping up now that I’m 8 weeks out from the big day) and this week I returned from a trip to Nicaragua that I spent quite a bit of time planning and preparing for during late January and early February. My partner and I rode horses through an intentional community outside Granada, kayaked through a mangrove estuary in a protected national reserve, practiced our Spanish, swam in the pacific ocean, saw a turtle hatchling site, and ate authentic Nicaraguan food cooked by a local family.  (I also managed to find gyms in two of the three cities we visited so as not to miss too many days of training.)

What do you do during your off-season, or simply your off hours? What large adventure do you want to manifest this year?

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