This weekend was incredible. We had a full house of close to 30 people in the shop, wrapping and shipping out Issue Six. We had people from all over New England, New York, and even as far as Minnesota.
There was, as always, an abundance of incredible food (thank you, Julia and Andrea) and life-changing conversation. Even though I have experienced it with each issue, I was again in awe that most everyone that comes to these things seems to be deeply moved.
During the week leading up to the event, Mike and I had several interactions with folks in town explaining what exactly it was we were doing over the weekend. We explained that we spend weeks preparing food (most of which is local or grown ourselves) and cleaning the shop, building tables, etc. The day before the party, we rent a truck to haul all the magazines, mailers, and other supplies to the shop. 30 volunteers drive and fly in from around the country to help us wrap each copy of the magazine in brown paper, adhere a hand-wax-sealed trade card to the outside, and insert it in a mailer with white pine shavings to go out to readers around the world. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, friends!)
We feast. We share work, stories, and songs.
When we finished wrapping on Saturday afternoon, the shop brimmed with folks of all ages using hand tools to create items of beauty. The sound of convivial hand work gave me goosebumps and made me think back on the seed idea for this little magazine four years ago. As we sang together around the campfire on Saturday night, I realized I’ve never felt a deeper sense of home and calling.
This is the kind of thing mainstream American business doesn’t understand.
This party every six months is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and I would love to see it continue. So far, the number of pre-orders and subscriptions for each packing party rises higher and higher. We have a clear idea of the capacity of volunteers we can host, and to be honest, we are already getting close to the maximum amount of magazines we can wrap and ship in two days.
Mike and I talk about the relentless growth of this business often and desperately want things to stay the way they are. We don’t want this thing to get so big that we can’t handle this stuff ourselves. At times, it brings me to a place of crisis, and ends up occupying my dreams. It brings me back to the very question that brought me out to rural Maine in the first place: “What kind of life do I want to live?”
I don’t want to live in front of a screen juggling emails and logistics or negotiating rates with distribution centers… blah, blah, blah. I just want to make a little magazine about stuff I love and send out it to the handful of folks that feel it brings value to their lives. Yvon Chouinard has said something about business that has always stuck with me, and that is the idea that there are two kinds of growth: fat growth and strength growth. We want our business to be strong and durable, not swollen and unmanageable.
How does a business intentionally slow their growth? Is there even precedent for that? We can’t cut back on marketing because we don’t even do any marketing! We don’t do ads, rarely do woodworking events, and never follow (or read) any of the “how to grow your business” literature. The only thing we participate in is Instagram. So, maybe that’s an area to cut back.
In reality, it’s weekends like this that highlight what M&T is all about: communal work, deep conversation, joyful feasting, and hearty song. It’s about people growing in skill and self-confidence and appreciation and respect for others. I just want to live in a world with more of that and want M&T to be a means to cultivate it.
What kind of business is this anyway?