Just because you don’t see it in the shops or the popular markets, doesn’t mean it’s not being made in Guelph.
Friends and Guelph Night Market co-conspirators Emily Colley-Divjak, 25, and Theresa Mullin, 27, knew this to be true. In their alternative, subcultural circle of friends in Guelph, an entire hand-made underground was happening. They thought to bring it above ground.
The young women are planning their third installment of the market, set for The Common coffee and tea shop on April 7, part of Kazoo! Fest. Two previous markets, both at eBar downtown, were so well-received that the queue stretched down the stairs, out the door and half way down the block.
All the handmade items being made in people’s basement, kitchens and studios comes out to play at the markets. And sales are usually through the roof.
“We wanted to work together on a big project for a long time,” said Mullin. “We were always plotting, planning and scheming at something.”
Both had frequented evening, alternative markets in Vancouver, Halfax and other Canadian cities. Scouring through tables of homemade soaps, balms, jewelry, recycled items and repurposed clothing, art and accessories was a thrill.
“Guelph needed something like this,” Mullin added. “There are so many makers and collectors.”
“So many people doing new and interesting things,” Colley-Divjak chimed in.
The two attended last years Art on the Street in downtown Guelph, a showcase of the city’s visual arts culture.
“But we didn’t see any of our peers,” Mullin said. “We were like, where are they, what’s going on here? Where are our people, who could really benefit from that type of exposure?”
And so Guelph Night Market was dreamed up and schemed up. As they planned and explored, the two uncovered a surprising amount of creative work happening behind the scenes, not just among their circle of friends, but in the University of Guelph community as well.
“What we do is more than a market – it’s an event,” said Emily. “It’s something exciting to go to. Doing the market has exposed us to the fact that there is even more going on than we imagined.”
So many people locally and throughout the region are relearning old skills and learning to make their own handcrafted articles for sale, they said. Do-it-yourself is their generation’s effort to redefine the idea of work and the process of earning an income.
They said there is a strong push in that younger generation to work less, do more of what they love to do, and be more entrepreneurial at heart. Living more frugally is part of that culture, and making your own things is integral to living on less.
“I feel we lost a lot of those skills that enabled us to support ourselves,” said Colley-Divjak.
With only two successful events behind them, the partners are nevertheless inundated with requests from would-be vendors, some from London, Hamilton, Kitchener, and Toronto. Including some of those out-of-town vendors has opened the event up to broader influences, and has helped build wider connections in the culture.
Among the 30 or so vendors you might see at upcoming markets are Steambox Dumplings, Bread Bandit, SADSADDERDAZE, Take Time Vintage and visual artist Gillian Wilson.
“We get hundreds of applications, and a good percentage of them are from people making make-up, lotions, bars of soap, and hair dyes,” Mullin said.
“There are people who keep their own bees and make lip-balm,” Colley-Divjak said.
It is more valuable on a human/community level, Colley-Divjak said, to purchase products that are locally made. There is a truer sense of community involved in such a transaction, a stronger sense of connection, caring and sharing woven into it. That, they say, is why the market has been so successful, so quickly.
“It’s just very special,” Mullin said, adding that most vendors sold out of their products during the first market. Vendors are not charged for space, but there is a small admission fee of $2 to get into the event. The events include beer.
“Our vendors got to pay their rent doing something they love doing,” Mullin said. “It is a really good feeling to be able to support them to do that.”
The personal tastes and aesthetics of Mullin and Colley-Divjak have an overarching influence on what is included in the market. They curate the event and accept what they like.
“Our market is us, and we know what we like,” Mullin said. “And I guess there are a lot of other people in the city who like and want what we like, and who want something different to do with their time.”
The women are looking to organize a summer outdoor version of Guelph Night Market. Anyone with venue suggestions or opportunities can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The scaled down Thursday, April 7 event at The Common runs from 7-11 p.m.