The Maker Community
I had a market yesterday in Freeport on Main Street near the L.L.Bean store as part of Makers on Main, an event organized by @visitfreeport. Doing a day-long pop-up sale is a bit of an undertaking with a very questionable outcome. I had done a market at the same place last month on a day that was unusually cold for early June (and eventually turned into a deluge). Only two of us vendors showed up that day because the weather was so iffy, so there was plenty of space to set up. The young woman with an organic brownie mix business was setting up her tent on her own for the first time that day and she was struggling a bit so I jumped in to help her get it up. Pop-up tents are standard equipment for vendors at markets and under good circumstances can be set up by a single individual, although a bit awkwardly. After exchanging stories and trying to put on a brave face despite freezing hands and worsening rain, we both ended up packing it in early. We were getting soaked despite our tents and shoppers were understandably not braving the weather to browse our wares. As we were getting ready to race to get our vehicles, she ran over to me and gave me a box of her brownie mix as a thanks for my assistance earlier that day. The brownies by the way were absolutely killer (Instagram @kittylamb_official).
But yesterday was a great market day, not hot, not sunny enough to send the visitors to the beach and thankfully not raining. There were four vendors signed up to be on this particular small green space in front of the Maine Organic Marketplace (which also carries our items inside the store and is run by @MOFGA, the organic farming association in Maine, sponsor of the fabulous Common Ground Fair in the fall). I thought I was getting there early enough to get my pick of the spots but in fact I was the last of the four to arrive. But this is the thing about the maker community, they are always eager to help each other out. There were two women who had almost completed setting up their tent with their farm's gorgeous organic cut flowers, wreaths and charming dried flower crowns (Instagram @suncatcherflowers). They immediately realized that I needed to find space to set up and shifted their whole setup to give me space. As I started to erect my tent I was struggling a bit with the placement since it had to be lifted over the store's sign in the lawn. So the flower farmers and the artist on the other side of the lawn jumped in and helped me put it in position.
By the end of they day the vendor group had gotten to know each other and heard each other's stories about how we started doing what we do, sharing tips about other shows, social media ideas, payment systems and of course we followed each other on Instagram. As we packed up, a charming ritual began which I have observed and been part of at at quite a few markets. The flower farmers gave us each a bunch of gorgeous blooms, perhaps partly because they wouldn't last until the next market but just as much as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity. Then the artist selling beautiful printed tea towels (@jenniebluevermont) told us each to choose one as a gift. So generous! I had already chosen a piece of my work to give them each as token and then the exchange ritual was over and we continued to pack up. I went to get my car from the parking lot so I could load my bins, folding tables, etc. at the curb, and by the time I returned, to my surprise, my own tent was already neatly collapsed and stacked by my other things. I was so touched by that thoughtful act but honestly not all that surprised because that's how this community of makers operates, at least from what I've seen in this part of Maine. So even if a market is a weather washout or the shoppers aren't in a spending mood, I come home exhausted of course, but usually with a few new friends and even gifts of beautiful items created by loving hands.