Articles - 4th December 2020

Can designer/makers survive a Christmas without markets? Yes, they can

Words by Sinead Koehler
Illustration by Jon McCormack

It’s been a particularly tough year for makers. With markets cancelled, artists and makers have not only lost the opportunity to sell to their customers in person, but they have also lost the ability to meet with those that share their passion for creation. Makers tend to work alone, and the social aspect of markets is a really important part of the overall picture. Furthermore, with shops closed, those who sell wholesale have seen their orders decline.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom – this year is set to be the busiest year ever for online retail, with many new, inventive concepts springing up, all designed to make online shopping more fun. The drive to support small business is stronger than ever as consumer consciousness shifts to the local and small-scale which is great news for local economies.

Crafty Fox Market have been hosting markets in a variety of locations around London since 2010 and remain at the very heart of the capital’s vibrant maker scene. Usually at this time of year, preparations are well underway for a busy season of Christmas markets around London, supporting makers and helping them to sell their work. For many makers, Christmas markets provide reliable sales and an income that they rely on to see them through the quieter months of the year.

Julia deKlerk is based in Portsmouth and makes colourful, acrylic jewellery. “Markets are an integral part of my business as well as being where it all began for me. In person fairs, especially at Christmas made up a big part of my yearly revenue as well as being an opportunity to actually meet my customers in person, get feedback on my products and connect with other makers.”

Crafty Fox Market have been hosting a series of online markets this year, rounding off with a festive edition on 5th and 6th December. But what is an ‘online market’, and how exactly do they work?

An online market is a time-limited, virtual gathering of makers and celebration of maker culture. There are 180 makers taking part in the December event so there’s lots to discover. For many makers, online selling events have provided the opportunity to connect with other makers and a lifeline in terms of those all-important sales.

Nina Paloma is a ceramicist and illustrator based in Kent who usually sells regularly through markets and events. “While I was planning ahead for my Christmas season back in the summer, deciding what to stock and knowing that craft markets would more than likely be all online, I knew it would be an uncertain time. But the hype for Christmas is a big one this year, it really does mean the world when someone places an order or shows love on social media! I think one of the few amazing things to come out of 2020 is the support shown to small businesses. It’s so important in times of such unpredictability.”

 

Supporting independent makers may take a little more effort, but it’s so much more rewarding to give a beautiful handmade, gift with a real story attached – perhaps something unique that simply can’t be found anywhere else. Many of the makers are happy to take on commissions, so if there’s something special that you have in mind and with enough notice, many can make items to order. There’s so much effort that goes into the presentation of products with hand-written notes and beautiful packaging as standard. It’s so much more fun to receive a package from an independent maker and it feels good to know that your money helps that person to keep their business going.

Shopping small is also good for the environment – cutting down on transport miles and contributing to the small scale, local economy. Makers tend to be an eco-conscious bunch with many of them using recycled, compostable packaging and taking steps to reduce their impact on the environment. Products are designed to last in contrast to the many throw-away items that are of offer elsewhere.

For instance, Gemma from Papercutts Designs creates embroidered textile products and tells us how she hopes her items will be destined to become treasured family heirlooms.

By shopping small and supporting independent businesses, it means our communities can thrive together. Give better gifts this year, support your local makers and help keep the creative economy thriving.

 

 

With a background in event management and an experienced market trader herself, Sinead has been at the helm of Crafty Fox Market since 2010.  She is passionate about supporting talented creatives to do what they love, and has spoken on a range of topics related to the creative retail industry to audiences at The V&A, UAL, 10 Downing Street, and Folksy Summer School.

You can find the Crafty Fox online market at craftyfoxmarket.co.uk on 5th and 6th December, or you can shop anytime from our maker directory at shoppingwithsoul.co.uk.

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