Somehow I managed to set up shop right in the backyard of America's largest producers only farmers' market. Madison hosts the Dane County Farmers' Market at the State Capitol every Saturday morning. Alongside the farmers' market, there's a small selection of craft vendors. I'm now one of them.
It was a bit of a saga to secure my place as a vendor: special insurance, various permits, licences and a meeting to review my products. The start of the farmers' market was approaching and I hadn't heard anything. I was getting kind of nervous as I'd put most of my eggs in this basket. Last year I sold my work at craft fairs all over the midwest, but this year I only applied to a couple. If I couldn't get into the farmers' market I'd be in trouble.
With just under two weeks before the first day of the market, my application was approved and I was in. Every Saturday from April 24th to November 10th you'll be able to find me on W. Mifflin Street, outside Coopers' Tavern. Happy days.
Now a new concern was brought front and centre. Stock. As many of you know, I spent the winter apprenticing at Woodspirit Handcrafts. I learnt loads, but it meant that I didn't have much time to make stock for myself. The apprenticeship ended in February, which gave me about a month make stuff. Being awesome at time management, I used a chunk of that month to build a lathe, and another chunk to make stuff for my web shop. Not many chunks of time left.
In the end I managed to make what I consider the absolute minimum amount I'm comfortable going to a show with. Enough spoons to fill my shelves twice. It's a little less than what I'd expect to sell at a good two-day show. I guess I was still in the craft fair mindset while preparing for the Farmers' market. Expecting two full days of vending to customers looking for handmade crafts. Not a morning of selling to folks who are mainly after carrots and tomatoes.
Market day arrived. It was a bit of an early start, having to be onsite before 7:30am. Certainly not as bad as the farmers, who have to be there at ridiculous o'clock in the morning. I set up, going with a slightly stripped down version of my craft fair setup, but with a chopping block and spoon mule. I wanted to be able to make stuff during the the market and was reliably informed that the amount of attention one attracts is directly related to the size of the wood chips you can produce. So swinging the axe was a must.
It certainly worked. Out of necessity I develop slight tunnel-vision while axing stuff out. It was always amusing to come out of that zone and look up to find a sizeable crowd attracted to my booth.
It was great to see so many people interested in the craft. I made some good sales, but more importantly I had some great conversations with people. I spend most of my time in my wood cave, alone, making stuff. I love it, but it's also great to meet face-to-face with people who are interested in what I do. Perhaps they've dabbled in the craft, or it's something completely new to them. Either way, being able to share what I do with people in such a direct manner is incredibly rewarding.
If you find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin on a Saturday morning this summer, come along to the farmers' market and watch me waste some wood.