If you’ve found yourself reading this, then we’re going to assume that like us, you appreciate a good eye for design and motherhood. And if those two come together in one package, ever better! Enter The Fresh Exchange, a blog, graphic design studio and shop owned by Megan Gilger and her husband. The Fresh Exchange is an ode to a simple and beautiful life. Megan uses it as an outlet to share her graphic design work, fashion trends, delicious recipes, travel, family life and the custom home on a farm that she and her family are building (it is seriously amazing).
We had some questions for Megan about The Fresh Exchange and how motherhood has woven itself through almost everything she pursues. Scroll down to read more.
We love, love, love TFE. Tell us, how and when did you decide to start it?
The Fresh Exchange began in 2009 after I graduated from college. I was running a freelance business just trying to figure out what I wanted out of my career while also surviving the recession where creative jobs were few and far between. Mike and I both were just trying to work within our majors because we love doing creative work. At the time we were living out of a tiny house with a crooked kitchen floor, no laundry, but we had a sliver of a view of Lake Michigan and big dreams.
The blog was my creative playground and a way to document our life wandering around Michigan and exploring the area. I loved finding things and placing them on the pages of the blog. Since then it has adapted and shifted with me through the years, but it wasn’t till 2014 that the blog began becoming part of my work every day.
Coming back to Michigan after being away in Raleigh, NC in 2016 was a big deal. I was looking for purpose in my work again and Michigan provided that. I remembered how much I loved living along the lake and enjoying seasons again. I was able to come back to my own purpose and voice in a way I don’t think I would have otherwise.
Now, I get to talk daily about living amongst the seasons and create gatherings and experiences that inspire others to intentionally enjoy the way the world shifts both outside their windows and within themselves. There is a lot ahead for TFE and I have never been more excited about where things are leading.
Now that you have a child, how does his existence influence your creative work, both in the studio and on your blog?
I think the better question is how becoming a mother didn’t influence my work. Hayes was a clarifying point in my life as a woman. I needed to become a mother to find myself again in some way. He showed me what mattered to me most and what didn’t. He is why the blog has transformed the way it has and why I am choosing to pursue a life of simplicity, slowness, and seasons.
Becoming a mother was hard on my free spirit soul. I don’t like being tied down or being confined to creativity in a timeline and it has taken me time to find my footing in motherhood and my creative career at the same time. Though some days I still struggle, I now more than ever feel and see who I am in both worlds and how they cross and are better because of each other. Before, motherhood had a tendency to sadly feel like a weight, but I realized I had to find a balance with it both for myself, my career, and for him. Now, having time to pursue my passions and then spend days being with him feel has lessened the weight so I am better able to enjoy all aspects of my life.
Truthfully, I had to realize what matters most and accept that things weren’t going to happen at my old pace. I realized if I wanted them to continue at the old pace I would have to hire more help, but since that wasn’t what I wanted I accepted doing what can be done. We all make our decisions as mothers and none better than others, it is about you and your child and what is best for you both. It took me a while to understand that and accept who I was in this chapter and role in my life. Though I have big dreams, I also don’t want to miss these days with him. Soon enough he will be off to school and busy with his own life so I want to hold on to this time while still pursuing my dreams. I dream of being a present and fun mother that shapes him and grows with him while pursuing these big ole dreams I have for my creative career, so it has been all about finding the balance of them both in my life and accepting the pace it can all take.
How has being a mother changed you?
I have become gentler and more humble. I am more connected with who I am than I ever have been before. Maybe it is also becoming 30, but I feel motherhood has made me comfortable with who I am and most importantly who I am not. I am still growing and maturing every day but motherhood has been a wonderful mirror to reflect the most honest and real parts of who I am. More than ever I have learned to love who I am and find beauty in myself because of Hayes. He looks a lot like me and so I have found so much self-love watching him every day. I notice gestures, frustrations, and so many characteristics about him that are similar to me and because I love him so much, it has helped me love myself in ways I couldn’t before. Now, I see the beauty in how they every flaw and quirk indentify who I am and connect me to him.
I have also learned to accept that things happen as they should. I have found more beauty in the undone and the imperfect. Before Hayes I lived in a very put together and perfect world in many ways, but he has shown me the beauty of life in motion and how life unfolding is more beautiful than things being placed in their perfect place in our home.
I feel like your blog and Instagram are really an ode to living a simpler, happier life. Would you say that’s correct? How does this view affect the way toys and other items you purchase for your son?
That means a lot. I find comfort and less stress in a life that is simple, slower, and more about remaining present than over doing things. This was why I shifted our gatherings to focus on really being simple. I wanted to do less creating of moments and instead focus on finding the beauty in just how life is. So much of the blogging and instagram world is about staging and creating something that isn’t real, which is fine until it isn’t. Life is beautiful but we just have to become aware of it. I find that a greater challenge than creating beauty. Both are important and valuable, but I feel most called to find the beauty in the every day and typical routines of life.
That said, yes it has. Our toy choices are based upon where he is at in development and what brings him joy. I am not into planes, but he is and so I choose things based upon that more than aesthetics, though aesthetics are important and quality does add weight to our decisions with toys. I also keep things simple. We have two baskets one for books and one for toys. If the toys don’t fit in the basket we box up what isn’t being used and switch things out again if need be.
In all honesty though, Hayes spends most of his time outside or with me running errands for work so we enjoy things that can be toted easily and are a lot of fun wherever we find ourselves each day. He is happiest outside playing, but he does love playing at home or coloring while I work these days as well.
You’re building a house right now! How exciting! Tell us more about #BuildingHomeTFE?!
Building our home has literally been a dream since we first got married. I always knew I wanted to start a small farm that provided food for us and to live a very simple life, I just never knew how it would all come together. When we first got married, I had the most vivid dream of walking into a house on a hill holding the hand of a little boy. I woke up broken hearted it wasn’t real, and now 6 years later it literally is becoming reality. The journey here is something I never could have written or made up, but it is the perfect story for us and how good it feels to find ourselves here.
This last summer we found the land on a whim. It is 10 acres of rolling hills in beautiful Leelanau County, Michigan which is right on Lake Michigan and in the middle of wine country. We had no idea that life would lead us there, but we couldn’t imagine it any other way now. We are currently in the final framing stages of our farmhouse going up and it has been incredible to watch it take shape especially after designing it ourselves.
Every day it still feels surreal, but we couldn’t be more excited to move in this winter and start writing our family story. Since Hayes was born we haven’t been in a solid place longer than 4-6 months at a time. Most of our stuff is in storage as we bounce between rentals, so it will feel so wonderful to setup our life and start down this journey. In some ways it feels like the last 8 years has been about us just getting to a place we can finally begin. I feel like the first day we go to bed in our new home will be the beginning of a new era and chapter in our lives. There are so many exciting and beautiful times ahead on the land and in our home.
Any inspiration for your son’s new room?
I try to keep things simple for him. My hope is that his room will become a story of the world that surrounds him. I want it to display the things that he loves and is surrounded by every day. For instance, I purchased a quilt for him from of the Northern Sky Constellations for his bed. We will live somewhere that every clear night he will see a defined Milky Way above him. The other things that will come to be in his room are rocks we have collected, a dream catcher that was made for him from driftwood from Lake Michigan, and a sailboat I found for him at a local marina store sale. His growing up years will be filled with days outside living amongst the seasons and on Lake Michigan so I wanted to use that as inspiration for his room. He loves those things and they fill his days now. My hope is it will continue to inspire him to enjoy the world he has outside of his room.
Last question: It’s a sunny summer day and you can do anything you want or go anywhere you please. Where can we find you and what are you doing? (Okay, that’s technically 2 questions).
I am hiking somewhere in the dunes of Sleeping Bear National Park just 20 minutes from our home. I then would end the day with a dip in Lake Michigan to cool off in my favorite secret beach. Finally I would end the day with a wonderful meal with great friends watching the sun set. I wouldn’t spend summer anywhere other than at home in Leelanau County on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is a precious and beautiful place.