We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Hsia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I’ve never been great with work life balance in general. Could possibly be my upbringing or watching my father work 2 full time jobs and sleeping less than 4 hours a night for my entire life. Or watching my mother work two jobs, raise my sister and I and act as a caretaker for my grandmother on top of all the other duties mothers handle. I come from a background where the mindset is very much work is life.
When I first opened the shop, I knew I wanted my staff to be able to have things that didn’t exist for me in the time and jobs I had prior to opening Reclamation. I wanted them to have a job that recognized that staff are people that have lives outside of work and that mental health is not something to be shunned and swept under the rug but something that needed to have space and flexibility to be addressed in order to have a solid work life balance. In my opinion, our society and system isn’t set up for a decent work life balance and although I couldn’t change it for a large population, id be able to change it for just a few folx.
When I first opened Reclamation, I was still working at a veterinary clinic so there was no balance. life was just work, and it sucked royally. Eventually, I moved my entire focus to the shop. I made it a point to take at least 2 days to myself. As the business grew and we faced new challenges (pandemic, burglary, harassment etc) I found the little balance I had disappeared over night. It’s tough when your livelihood is dependent on your business. A business that is still a fledgling learning to turn those wobbles into full flight. As a small business owner (with no business background) I handle anything and everything that arises. Inventory, receiving, hr, buying, quality control, creative director, merchandiser, community outreach- and the list goes on.
Currently, work life balance does not exist in my life. We are not in a space where we can afford to bring on people to cover all the job duties needed for me to be able to create that balance between work and life. If I were to ignore those duties, our shop will likely suffer for it. I have to be reminded weekly that it is important and crucial to take the time for myself. There is an endless novel of things that need to be done when you’re a small business owner so taking anytime to myself often comes with a heaping side of guilt.
Without having space to balance and address my health, responsibilities and life outside of work, it makes owning a business unsustainable in the long run.
Currently, I tend to tell myself that I am just going to “get over this hurdle” then take a step back to create the desperately overdue balance that is needed. Having said that, on the other side of my brain, the realistic side, laughs at the somewhat empty promise I tell myself because, working to keep a business open during the pandemic has a mind of its own, and it never fails that the minute I feel I am able to breathe and take a step back, some new challenge presents itself. It’s tough to not be pessimistic a lot of the time, but I remind myself that it won’t always be like this. Community helps, A LOT. I forget how important connection is in offering a reset and healing. We just need to get through some thick mud before we can get to clear waters and see where we are headed again.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I love the natural world. visual harmony and chaos tend to play back and forth in my mind when it comes to creating work. I enjoy deconstructing items and repurposing them into something else and giving it new life. Contrasting elements and medias are something that I find myself drawn to the last few years. I try to evoke the same feelings that I get when I look at something fascinating, in my art. a little mode dodge of emotions and fragments of memories. my art is a reflection of the different facets of my mind and how I visualize things day to day. Some days it flows easily and other times ill look at pieces I made and wonder what in the right heck was going on there?
Ive always been a creative and creating art in any media and form is an outlet for me. It’s meditative and therapeutic and although I didnt realize this til much later in adulthood, its a reflection of the struggles or accomplishments that happen in my life.
After losing my medical to fly, I really dove into my creative endeavors. time stopped, and all those emotions just left as I would create. I would wake up before my early shifts at the clinic and make jewelry, and bonsai terrariums and after my long shift, id come home and create until I was almost falling asleep at the workbench.
this was my way of reclaiming what I had lost. it was empowering and I wanted others to be able to feel the same. that feeling eventually pushed me to open RECLAMATION.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Day 1: We would definitely hike forest park and head to mount hood and cannon beach. Along the way we would hit up Powells Books, Kimura toast bar, tiki tea, then have dinner at master kongs or Powells sea food. We would head to sellwood and check out the little vintage shops, hit the farmers market and Saturday market downtown to check out all the local artist booths, then head over to omsi to geek out on their new exhibits. On the way home we’d stop at all the plant shops in town starting with Arium Botanicals, Hammer and Vine, Birds and Bees Nursery then stroll over to Amelia on Alberta street for some clothing and jewelry followed by crafty wonderland.. We would finish off a long day with Lauretta Jean’s Salted Honey custard pie and then lay in a food coma til the next morning.
Day 2: would go to the rock museum in hillsboro, then white water rafting in Maupin and have dinner at Thai Home in Sandy. The yellow curry over sticky rice.
Day 3: Woodburn Tulip festival > shopping the gift shops on Hawthorne then Hawaiian shaved ice downtown.
Day 4: Powells seafood binge. It’s a long standing tradition. Walnut Prawns, Pepper Salt enoki mushrooms and boiled conch. Then head to Tonys nursery on Glisan
Day 5: sauvie island: maybe picking some berries at the local farms then hanging out on the beach in the sun for a few hours and finishing the night and trip at por que no for their fish tacos and Jamaica margaritas.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
ready to read a novel? I owe the shop still being open and really, any successes we have to the community, support system, family and friends and incredible artisans and other small business owners I’ve met along the way. In no particular order, I want to give giant giant mind hugs and high fives to:
* Colton bless your entrepreneur mind, your encouragement, drive, ability to bring out the fun side of me that I’ve forgotten about. You’re the best little brother anyone could ask for.
* Tracy NC @brinkcommunications OG homie fam. My truest sis. Thick and thin. You tell it like it is, no drama, no bs. It’s refreshing and admirable. You’re also one of the smartest humans I’ve ever met. You never cease to inspire and amaze. I wouldn’t be here without you, the life lessons that you’ve taught me, your neurotic pup that grabs balls with her toes and your ability to walk me through turning on my computer because i’m technologically inept. Wouldn’t have gotten past day 2 if it weren’t for you.
* Tony & Tylor @ariumbotanicals Thank you for always lending a hand, giving back to our community and for the endless laughs and hugs when s**t is rough. I don’t think I knew how to cackle until I met you, the night at the hele pele and the walk home.
* Kayoko and Matt @Kayosramen and @kimuratoastbar: I picked our first location because I was just too damn excited to be across from my favorite ramen bar! You all have been so amazing, kind, generous and have truly made me feel at home on Williams. I still remember the tub of yuzu daikon pickles that yall brought over. to date, the best pickles of all time. No question. Y’all truly are the best and we love you!
* Alexis : You’re a trailblazer. The sunshine. You get sh*t done, You’re always there to help support without any judgement and by golly you can manage. The last month you’ve saved my ass every day and truly, you’re a gd lion and sometimes I feel you’re super human. How you’re able to do it all, sit in your car thats 200 degrees AND enjoy it? where’s that medal that I need to give you. talk about inspiration.
*my therapist (bless his heart) he needs an award for listening to my broken record issues and for still being patient, understanding and not being completely disgusted when im in full blown snot tears due to stress.
all the businesses on williams that I am so lucky to be a part of: @xlbpdx @crispsaladsnw @eempdx @migrationbrewery @mftasty @workshopvintage @blackthornmercantie @spiewalktoys @lifeofpi @luapdx @dingteapdx @poacafe @eitheror @grizzlytattoo and so so many more.
all the folx in the art, plant, and fur fam community: too many to mention- I hold a very special place in my heart for you all and will never forget the support and love you’ve shown us. #wearegroot
every single one of you that ive interacted with in the community. You have made an impact on me, be it conversation, collaboration, civil disagreements that end in understanding, all of these interactions and connections mean so much to me and are the reason I continue to move forward.
nothing but mad love and endless gratitude for you all,