While chain stores continue to open up everywhere, over the last few years a small retail revolution has taken hold: the handmade market. At least in New York City, not a weekend goes by without some kind of opportunity to purchase handmade goodies from local crafters and artists. It’s a combination of shopping on Etsy and at a mom and pop. Instead of grabbing some random T-shirt fabricated in Honduras, you get to talk to the people who have lovingly designed whatever it is you are eyeing.
I first discovered this phenomenon in 2003. Strolling down Mulberry Street, south of my apartment, I stumbled upon The Market, where young designers plied their jewelry, clothing and accessories. Since then, different versions of that idea have popped up all over the city. One of the greatest examples of this phenomenon is Brooklyn Flea, pictured above, which reopened its outdoor market in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood this past Saturday (it has been running an indoor version over the winter in the old Williamsburg Savings Bank building, and also had smaller markets in DUMBO and the old Tower Records space in the Village). The organizers have pulled together designers, sellers of vintage clothing and collectibles, as well as some amazing food vendors and small-batch producers.
One of the nicest things is that you get to know some of the designers who do the “market circuit.” One, MaryAnne LoVerme of Wabisabi Brooklyn, who makes awesome decoupage jewelry out of pennies and paper, even allowed me last year to document her process for my photography class assignment. I’ve come back to her, and other designers, for unique gifts.
When I visited Portland, Ore., last summer, I got to see their version, the Portland Saturday Market, where I found one of my most prized souvenirs from the trip — a glass pendant created by a guy who I ended up having a nice conversation with about the awesomeness of that city. On a hunch from my husband, we also later found out he was a reality TV “star.”
Fairfield County is already on the farmers’ market bandwagon, and I think it is ripe for this kind of thing.