Make it Franke has been kicking around since February 2015, but I really got it up and running January 2016 and this past March, doing the Curated. Spring Market, marked one year of being involved in the crazy beautiful, crazy stressful, crazy amazing world of makers markets. I thought I'd share with you what a year+ has taught me about product, market set-up, and picking a focus. I'll explain why I made some of the decisions I made, critique my own mistakes, and share a little bit of what the future possibly holds. I also want to write this down so I can remember and appreciate my journey.
During the fall 2015, I was in Value Village (with a 30% off coupon in my pocket, of course) when I kind of had a breakdown. I was so, so, so unhappy with my current job as a registered nurse because I simply never found joy in the job and I needed a way out. At that time, I had only ever sold my art work at a few Whyte Ave Art Walks, and I also just started getting prints of my work made through a gallery. Through sharing my artwork and furniture on Facebook to an audience simply made up of my friends and family, I knew there were customers out there. It was just a matter of product dispersal. Being out on the farm was very inconvenient for any one to come by and grab a quick birthday present, shower gift, piece for themselves, etc. I also really needed (and still DO! need) an Etsy shop or some other online way to sell my product but woah woah woah a girl can only do one thing at a time. This is when, in the Value Village aisle between the long sleeve shirts and the sweaters, on the brink of a nervous break down, I thought about applying to the Old Strathcona Antique Mall. I thought, "Hey, I bet I could sell my art work and refinished furniture there if I also sell some vintage swag." I already had a love for vintage and could pick a vintage item out from of any shelf at a thrift store or garage sale. I phoned my mom, kind of asked if she wanted to get in on this with me, and the conversation turned into "YEAH and maybe we could turn vintage fabrics into cool things like pillows and stuff?!" My mom is an incredibly skilled sewer so this was definitely something we could collaborate on. That night when I got home I applied to be a vendor at the antique mall and basically decided to quit my job. (Marty and I had also just bought the farm AND still had our renovated acreage home for sale. This also may have contributed to my mental state.) At the time sweet places to buy locally made products like The Makers Keep, Made Local, and Majesty and Friends were not around - if they would have been - my entire business path would have likely carved a completely different trail.
FAST forward a few months later. Our house sold. I handed in my resignation. My mom and I started thrifting the world like crazy for the booth that I did in fact get at the antique mall. I spent SO much time making tags for all the items because 1.) I thought it would be interesting for people to get a little history lesson about each item and 2.) I always have so many good jokes and puns I needed some where to write them down. :P (But actually though, the tags were such great pick-me-ups and I had so fun making them but they were hella time consuming.)
SO. The booth was doing okay. I was selling a decent amount of vintage goods, my mom's sewn items were selling, a few art prints sold (which I had just started making on my own after buying a monster printer) and a few small pieces of furniture did too. In hindsight, and that's what this whole entry is all about, what the actual eff was I thinking. Why did I think it was sustainable and marketable to have all of these different things that truly don't fit together. Things have changed from this beginning time because it proved to be impossible to keep all these different creative tracks open and maintain them properly. Also, eventually I could not maintain the booth because with markets I was always pulling items back and forth and financially it was not worth the hassle.
Here's my booth at the mall!
Then I did my first market. Back a year ago Curated. was called Vixens of Vintage (BTW Candace, love Curated!) and I brought with me all the same things I was selling at the antique mall to sell in person at the market.
Here are some images from my very first market set-up!
I don't like brown. Brown has nothing to do with my business, branding, colour scheme or anything. I don't even put brown in my house .. so why is my entire backdrop and shelving unit a moody and dark brown? I have no idea. I think I thought that it would be covered up with so many colourful things that it wouldn't really show. SO problems with that thinking: as things sell, it's harder and harder to hide the brown, also, UM YES it shows through. It took me a few markets until it dawned on me that the reason I wasn't liking my set-up was because of all the brown. (It later got beautifully white washed.)
Another market I did a total of three times last summer was the White Barn Market (which is absolutely lovely!) as well I was an outdoor vendor at All Things Pretty (and let me tell you it's a very pretty market!). I love colour, that's what I'm all about. But my biggest mistake with this outdoor market scene, was using a blue tent. With a blue tent, yellow display pieces and a decent amount of red mixed in there, my whole set-up felt very, very primary thus very much 'for children'. My artwork is definitely for kids, but that doesn't mean that's the way I necessarily want to market myself, and it doesn't mean that it's not for adults too. (Put an owl in your office or craft room!) Again, this primary colours thing only came together in my mind after the fourth set-up at outdoor markets. AND everything was still brown. :]
So here's the White Barn Market
When I did the Whyte Ave Art Walk after a few art-work-furniture-vintage-swag-and-sewn-goods-markets, I absolutely loved it. All I brought was art, because obviously that's what the market is all about. Not only did I not have to pack up a small apartment and unpack it for the show, art is what I want to do. Art is who I am. Art is why I started Make it Franke. After the art walk, I knew focusing on art work was what I needed to do.
I knew I had to phase out the sewn goods (so sorry mom!) because when people would come by and want to buy a pillow and ask me technical question about sewing, I'd have to say "Er I don't know, I'll have to ask my mom." Or if they wanted custom work done, "Er I can ask my mom?" It took the connection between maker and customer out of the equation. And that's not what buying local at markets is about.
Phasing out the vintage swag also had to happen. Thrifting is A LOT of work when you are looking for consistent amounts of things. It also took FOR EVER to pack and unpack for market. Each piece had to be individually wrapped and unwrapped. SO time consuming.
So besides all the already mentioned reasons to solely focus on art (I am also going to keep doing furniture) is because when people would walk by or visit my booth I KNew they were somewhat confused. Explaining how the menagerie of items came together was often more work than it was worth.
My last two markets were the winter and then spring Curated. Market, the latter of which was just a few weeks ago. My backdrop got white-washed, there was no primary colour problems, and I did not bring sewn goods with me. I also added a checkout station to my booth so I had somewhere to keep my purse, jacket and of course my snacks. At the end of the spring market a few weeks ago, I started giving vintage swag away for free because as of that market I officially retired. :P I also had an INcredible prints display unit that I had Marty build for me. I had wanted something of the type for for a very long time, again, why did it take so long to figure out? No idea. I also improved my packaging, labeling and sizing of my prints.
Here's a few images from the Curated. Holiday Market!
And here's my sweet arse display unit!
Looking back on some of these pictures definitely makes me cringe. But guys, without them, I wouldn't be able to see how far I've truly come. There is so much in this world that will never get figured out unless you just jump in and do it. There is no better teacher than learning from your mistakes and as you can see I made my share over this past year+.
Looking forward to the whitewashed year ahead,