Handmade in the Hunter Market Interview

Handmade in the Hunter Market Interview

Hi Everyone – today we have Part One of our Handmade HQ markets series with an intro to Handmade in the Hunter Markets

Hi Karen, tell us about your market,

First and foremost, I am a passionate hand-maker myself. I have made and given handmade gifts for years and years. And like other creators, had collected so many leftover bits and pieces, as well as a wide assortment UFO’s (unfinished objects).

When I retired from being a relationship counsellor I started finishing and using up what was in my over-flowing craft cupboards and tried to sell them at the local markets. It was there that I discovered the difficulty, and total frustration, of handmade competing with overseas imports in a market setting. I started getting those crazy thoughts about what I would do to emphasise and promote handmade and what needed to be done to make the stallholder (and not the market) as successful as possible.

I knew that it had to be a totally 100% handmade market whose sole purpose was to showcase and sell a variety of locally made and grown products. Since we are located in a tourist area, being locally made was a must.

I also felt it was important that the makers sold their own work since no one is as passionate or knowledgeable as the actual maker. I didn’t want someone to go around and collect handmade work to sell, I wanted the person who made it to be the seller.

I struggled to adequately define “handmade”, so that anyone who applied would know what was being expected so I came up with 3 broad definitions:

Handmade 1: The stallholder takes the raw material and processes it before it can be used further to make a finished product. (ie spinning wool before being able to knit, growing olives for olive oil, working clay, firing and finishing ). This is the most complex and purest form of handmade/home-grown.

Handmade 2: The stallholder buys the manufactured supplies and makes a finished item from it (ie buying fabric, produce, skeins of wool etc). Most stallholders fit into this category.

Handmade 3: The stallholder buys a ready-made item and does something creative to it. (ie – buying a ready-made face-washer/towel, shirt etc. and doing something with it ). The manufactured item essentially is the canvas for the handmade. Only a select few stallholders are allowed to sell items from this category.

Slowly the core tenets of the market evolved: Every item for sale in a stall had to be handmade by the stallholder who was present in the stall, they needed to be a resident of the Hunter Valley, and their work needed to fit within the stated definitions of handmade.

I also had the idea of not duplicating stalls. Every market I went to had a gazillion stalls of candles, children’s clothes, jewellery, food selling pretty much the same thing. My observation was that sales went down proportionately to with the amount of same item stalls and under-cutting prices eventuated in order to make a sale. Stallholders were unhappy, complained and usually left. As a result of this idea, Handmade in the Hunter Markets has what we call the one-of rights. There is only one stall selling an item that uses the same creative process &/or materials. In the case of jewellery, there is only one silversmith in the market, but the ceramic artist who makes ceramic pendants (different creative process and materials) would also be allowed to sell jewellery, as well as the glass artist who makes her own glass beads.

Handmade in the Hunter Market Interview

Karen how did you get started and what was your inspiration?

Handmade in the Hunter Markets grew out of a very humble start, we opened on 16 April, 2011 with a whopping 6 stalls in the pouring rain! As stated before, I was so discouraged trying to sell in a mixed market (import/handmade) setting. I tried a number of handmade/artisan markets only to discover that things were “handmade” in Bali, India, Thailand, etc. and not by the person selling them.

And my inspiration? It was to see if a handmade market could be run that righted all the problems that I had previously witnessed, and see what resulted. I am thrilled to report that the market has grown from strength to strength and we have developed into a thriving creative community.

Stallholders refer to the market as a family and go above and beyond when working together. It is awesome to witness the respect and cooperation they give each other and the way they are so protective of both the market, and the people in it.

Handmade in the Hunter Market Interview
What is in store for Handmade in the Hunter in 2017?

I’m giggling away as I read this question. I am not a long-range planner and don’t have 1 year or 5 year plans/goals. I more or less go with the flow and am so thankful for all the positive things that have happened.

For the very first time since we opened, every single site is booked on our 2nd and 4th Saturday market schedule. There is a huge increase in people doing handmade and the work being done is outstanding.

We have increased the number of markets we do and are currently trialing a weekly market schedule that coincides with concert/event season in the Hunter vineyards.

There are a number of people who are on waiting lists and who are asked to do a number of our extra markets when regular stallholders need time to make.

The market has developed a reputation as being a high-quality handmade market that totally represents the Hunter Valley. The vineyard community that we operate from has adopted us as “their” market and totally support us because we have not wavered in being a local 100% handmade market. They know that our Hunter visitors love taking a “little bit of the Hunter home with them” and that the market certainly provides that.

The only wish I have for 2017 is that more people would hear about this awesome market and come for a visit. That’s the only way you will experience the excitement and feel the passion as you talk to the stallholders about their work.

It thrills my soul to watch these creatives animatedly explaining how they do what they do and have visitors appreciate the wonder world of handmade!

A very big thank you to Karen for being part of the HandmadeHQ Market Series – don’t forget to keep an eye on her page Handmade in the Hunter Markets for the latest info and dates!