Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taking Matters into My Own Hands

I'm a bit of a stubborn, head-strong, take charge, be-the-change-you'd-like-to-see kind of person.  It has served me both very well and incredibly poorly at different points in my life, but I am who I am and I'm at peace with it.  I do not do well sitting on the side lines waiting for other people to do what needs to be done.  So when I realized that Burlington - my home for the last 12 years - was in desperate need of an affordable and stable venue for artists to sell their work, I decided to step in.  After months of planning, I'm pleased to announce that I've found the Old North End Art Market

The thing is, all of us artists, artisans, and crafters who have sold our work at shows have been there.  You spend a fortune and entire days where you may or may not make a dime all day.  And not only did you have to pay the vendor fee for the show (and sometimes an application fee...yikes), you had to buy a table and often a huge tent.  Plus you have to schlep all of your stuff to the show.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-show.  I'm starting a monthly one for pete's sake.  But I don't like the investment and risk that it takes to be involved in shows.  It takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and there's a huge learning curve.  There are so many incredibly talented people who have a bad experience the first time out and then give up on them.  And then they lose out on the benefits that shows can offer - exposure, sales, and meeting other artists.

Mostly I now know what it's like to try to slog it out making a living off of your creations.  It's tough.  Really tough.  Here in northern Vermont, there's no place you can try out a new design or have a location where customers can expect to buy from you unless you have a studio, which I can't afford to rent, or going the wholesale or consignment route, and I can't afford to take the 40%-60% cut in price that requires.  And since a lot of my work is really difficult to ship, I can't easily sell it online.  It's been discouraging.  I look at cities that have weekly or monthly markets and I drool with envy.  Ok, that's a bit of a graphic image.  Mostly I shake my fist angrily at the heavens that I don't have that opportunity.

So here's where the head-strong, take-charge part comes in.  Instead of sitting around and bemoaning my lack of options (which I did for a few years, don't get me wrong), I'm starting that market.  I'm creating what I need, and what I imagine a lot of other artists around here need.  The farmer's market is great, but you have to be able to be outside vending weekly all summer long, and have liability insurance, and afford the price, and have your own table, tent, and set up.  It works really well for some artists, but not for me.  I have a delightfully awful heat intolerance and I can't be outside in 85 degree or over temps without passing out and making a scene, so the outdoor market doesn't work for me.  I also can't commit to selling weekly.  I don't have the kind of time or inventory to make that work.  So my market is going to be monthly, from 10am- 3pm, and at a beautiful indoor location that provides tables and chairs so that all you have to do is bring a table covering and your work and you can sell away.  I think of it as an incubator space.  I want to provide a place where all those fabulous artists and makers who have been too intimidated by the world of shows to try them out can come down on a Saturday, pay $30 for a table (that's the affordable part!  I'd rather make significantly less for my efforts as the market organizer and make it accessible to artists), and give it a go.  Also, I really want to bring opportunities to my part of town - the Old North End - which is incredibly vibrant and diverse, but not a usual tourist destination like Church St. in downtown Burlington.    

Mostly, I'm really excited about all of it.  I want to support the arts in my community.  I want to create an opportunity for people to make money off of their creations.  I want to connect buyers who are looking for unique and hand-made items with those amazing people making them.  I also want to save other people from going through the isolation I went through trying to figure it all out on my own.  I'm planning a series of workshop to go along with the market on how to start your own home-based food business, marketing tips, setting up a booth, etc. so that no one has to go it alone.

It's exciting!  I'm excited.  I hope you are too.  So follow the art market on facebook or on twitter if you feel like it and if you're nearby, you should be a vendor if you're a maker, or be a shopper if you want to support the makers.  You won't be sorry.

And to those of you who read through the end of my rambling post, thanks :)