Crafting a brand

Breaking into local artisan markets

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Each year, hundreds of vendors apply for juried craft shows where the competition and entry fees are steep. How does a novice crafter make a name for themselves?

“There are still a lot of smaller sales with small fees that are great for a crafter starting out,” visual artist Lisa Whitehouse says. “There are for sure some sales that have come to be seen as higher end, just due to the crowds they draw, the quality of the product being offered and the high number of makers that apply.”

Whitehouse says the jury process can be disheartening, but it’s necessary to ensure shows have a cohesive style while offering a variety of products.

Chandra Kremski, a founder of the Third + Bird show, says the decisions are never easy.

“We always want anyone who applies to the craft sale to know that we really appreciate their vulnerability,” she says. “We are artists, too, and we know it’s not fun to get an email that says ‘we’re sorry.’ We want them to know that they are talented and that they matter.”

Third + Bird does have a limited number of tables at a discount rate available for newcomers.

Beginners looking for a less competitive market do have other options.

Sheila Terra, creator of Shiver Soap, is passionate about putting together the kind of craft shows she would enjoy as both a vendor and a customer.

Affordability and organization is Terra’s mission statement. 

“Usually, the well-organized sales end up being really expensive,” she says. 

As a hobby artisan, Terra found the options in her price range were not as well put together or promoted as she would have liked.

This is the second year for Terra’s Half Moon Market. The original venue was Luxalune Pub, now closed, and she is happy to call King’s Head Pub and Eatery the new home.

Terra likes the idea of holding the show at a pub rather than a community centre. 

“It’s radically different,” she says. “The vision is that customers can grab a glass of wine or a beer and stroll around. There’s a place at the bar where they can sit and just hang out as well.”

When choosing vendors, Terra looks for variety and individuality. 

For those who have less experience and want to try selling crafts as a hobby, there are shows that are carefully put together while remaining low pressure and non-exclusive.

Jennie Lee Paraiso, organizer for the Winnipeg Craft & Gift Christmas Market, says she has no preference for types of products at the event. Every event she puts together is for a different local charity, and she’s been impressed with all the talent in Winnipeg.

“I love seeing how people can be so passionate and driven about their craft,” Paraiso says. 

Kremski recognizes Winnipeg’s impressive level on the art scene. She encourages novice crafters to build their brand by networking on social media. 

Kremski says she has seen many makers catapult their careers when they invest in themselves and build a team of people who can work together to elevate their product.

Third + Bird 
Nov. 26 to 27 at the Transcona Country Club, admission $5

The Half Moon Market
Nov. 26 at the King’s Head Pub, free admission

Winnipeg Craft & Gift Christmas Market
Nov. 19 at the Transcona Country Club, admission $2

Published in Volume 71, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 3, 2016)

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