Two weeks ago, Craft & Caro had the opportunity to be a part of Boston’s newest craft market, Boston Made. Twenty diverse, Boston-area artisans came together in Somerville for one of the first pleasant, sunny weekends of the season.
The market was received with unanimous delight by curious patrons and vendors alike. For many on both sides of the booths, it was the first time attending such an event in Boston, despite the increasing number of active artists and makers in the city.
Boston Made is the brainchild of peers Kathryn Yee, founder of The Everyday Co., and Kate Kellman and Isabel Bonenfant, founders of Of Note Stationers. The three entrepreneurs came together in January to build a comprehensive database of craft markets they had each worked, to plan for the new year. They quickly saw that their combined resources held a much more valuable potential.
“We realized that wasn’t anything local in the Spring after the hustle of the holiday markets” Kathryn explains. “Between Kate, Isabel and I, we were confident that we could create a small market from all the makers we knew. So we just kicked it off and started planning,” says Kathryn.
In keeping with the enterprising spirit that is characteristic of the maker movement, Kathryn, Kate and Isabel saw their opportunity to create something and went for it. Over a matter of just a few weeks, they embraced a “divide and conquer” strategy and used their individual networks to build a roster of vendors, supporters and organizers.
“We started with our network of maker friends and expanded from there. Each of us spent hours reaching out to people for event promotion,” says Kate.
As luck would have it, friend and kindred spirit Chas Wagner offered to host Boston Made at his brand new pop-up event space, The Clubhouse. Chas, founder of the culture and apparel brand Rally Sports, recently rehabilitated the vacant Somerville Ave. garage into a bright, mural-adorned, community-oriented space for creative events just like this one.
Just down the street from Union Square and within eyesight of the Artisan’s Asylum studios, The Clubhouse sits in the heart of one of Boston’s most creative boroughs. Only New York City boasts more artists per capita than Somerville, according to the city’s official website. On-street parking, steady pedestrian traffic and high visibility made it the perfect location for the incipient market. In turn, Boston Made was a great chance to showcase the colorful new venue.
Kathryn, Kate and Isabel put special attention on curating a well-rounded selection of vendors, for a robust shopping experience where every table offered something unique.
“It was important that the experience of the shopper felt cohesive and curated. We made sure that each maker would be highlighted and we didn’t have overlapping products” says Kathryn.
(Spoons by Annie Meyer Studio)
“Our aim was to have a well-balanced group… If we allowed any overlap in the type of goods showcased, we made sure their aesthetics differed enough so that all of the brands would compliment each other,” adds Kate.
That effort was not lost on the vendors, who agreed that the diverse selection of products really elevated the experience for everyone.
“It’s a good group, a good variety of products,” said Tori Kendrew of Kitchen & Kraft, maker of natural kitchen and home goods, or as her slogan reads, “rad things for mindful living.”
Illustrator Shawna Koontz agreed. “This is incredibly well curated. Some of the most top-notch makers in the [Boston] craft industry are here.”
More importantly, it seemed, Boston Made provided a much needed opportunity for local makers to get out of their studios and make connections with each other, and with their customers. For some vendors, this was their first time coming face to face with other craftspeople working and creating in the very same community as them.
“It’s invaluable for networking. To me that is the most important thing by far,” explained maker Jane Cuthbertson of Grey Green Goods. This was her first time vending at a live market. “Everything I do is online mostly. But there is no substitute for picking something up.”
“As a weaver I’m kind of isolated,” said Amy Seeburger of Aurelian Weavers. Amy opened her website for business just one week before attending Boston Made. “Just being able to understand what the customers’ needs and wants are is huge.”
Despite the burgeoning population of Boston makers and the growing interest locally crafted goods, many voices in the industry lament the lack of regular events like Boston Made. While a few major (and more impersonal) shows like American Field come to Boston annually, and New England Open Markets is gearing up for another busy season down in the South End, many makers feel Boston is far from hitting its saturation point.
“A big part of this was about drawing attention to creative small businesses. There is a huge maker movement happening not only in Boston but across our country, bringing back craftsmanship. I’d love to see a change in the way people shop in Boston. Right now there isn’t a cool destination for people to shop local. Everything is sort of spread out and siloed. We see it happening in other cities but not ours,” explains Kathryn.
Designer Erica Feldman, who came out to peruse the market, was excited for that very reason. “I’m from Chicago. There’s a really big [maker] culture in Chicago. When I moved here I couldn’t find any independent brands, so it’s nice to see this.” Feldman is the owner of HausWitch, a boutique home goods store in Salem, MA, where a similar craft scene has developed.
“The pop-ups and markets are where customers are really meeting us,” says artist Alaina Montuori, proprietor of Extras By Alaina. “Its nice when people can discover what’s happening.”
Surely, the biggest reward for Kathryn, Kate and Isabel was the incessant inquiring by patrons about when the next Boston Made would be happening.
“We didn’t expect the overwhelming response from both vendors and attendees to this market. People kept asking if we were doing it every weekend or when the next one would be,” beams Kate.
“From just one show, Boston Made has created a brand for itself. We’ve been talking about keeping it small and curated, but approachable, encompassing and supportive. I think this will set our market apart from some of the larger ones.” reflects Kathryn. “The possibilities are endless.”
Kate is just as optimistic. “It’s an exciting time for the Boston maker scene. Lots of cool people are doing really cool things. And it seems, as this community is growing, so too are the opportunities for new markets.”
(Pillows by Salty Oat.)