This is the tale of two makers with a “build it, and they will come” attitude.
The tale begins, appropriately, at the 2015 Buy Local Louisville event where the two makers each showed their handmade wares at facing booths, admiring each other’s products and getting to know their similarities, like that they both work side-by-side with their husbands to run their business.
It wasn’t long before these makers found that they had yet another thing in common: a shared frustration.
Both Jordan Kavuma, owner of Thistle and Thread Design and Allison Barker, owner of Burdees Handmade Accessories are Louisville-based handmade artists with thriving businesses who commonly travel out of town to sell their products at markets around the region.
Why out of town, you might ask. Turns out, Kavuma and Barker were asking themselves the same question.
“One thing we kept running into with local markets is that they were more focused on being a festival, so they would have a lot of things going on, and the focus really wasn’t on the vendors or the makers. People weren’t coming to shop, they were just coming to an event,” Kavuma shares of her experience selling her stitch working designs at local markets.
“We actually travel out of town pretty frequently to go to markets in the region that are focused on makers and that don’t really bring in any other elements to the market. We are way more successful at those because people are coming there to shop.”
The Makers Make the Market
“Being involved in the maker community here in Louisville, we just kept hearing from artists who were saying ‘We really wish that we had a handmade market in Louisville’,” Kavuma continues.
That was all that Kavuma and Barker needed to birth the idea of Made Market in early 2016. They used their experiences at other regional shows to form the market, the first of which will debut on August 13 at The Pointe at Butchertown.
“Once we had the idea, it happened really quickly,” recalls Barker, whose Burdees makes minimalistic jewelry pieces designed to complement all styles.
For Kavuma and Barker, the venue for the first show was key, and so they nailed it down first.
“We definitely wanted it to be indoors with open space instead of broken up rooms. We wanted a space that would bring in a ton of natural light because that just makes the products look so much better,” says Kavuma.
The team chose The Pointe at Butchertown because it met all of those criteria, according to Kavuma, who also applauded the venue’s event staff and customer service.
They Built it…and They Came
Filling the vendor list for the debut Made Market was where Kavuma and Barker ran into some surprises.
“We knew that, for the two of us, that piece was missing here in Louisville, but as we started looking for other makers, we realized that there were a lot that we had never even heard of that have really great goods they are producing, and they are really committed to their craft and are working really hard at it,” Barker says.
“To be makers ourselves and having not heard of them, we thought there must be a lot of people that also haven’t heard of them,” she continues. “We just really wanted to get their name out there more. People in Louisville should know about them.”
The pair curated a list of 35 vendors for the August show, which represent a mix of local and regional artists with modern goods that range from paper goods, stationary, jewelry, home accessories, woodworking pieces, leather goods and fine arts such as wall paintings and embroidery art.
Since the market is a curated event, each vendor is at the mercy of an anonymous four-person committee to gain entry, though the criteria are not meant to be a barrier.
Even though vendors must submit an application with photos of their products, Kavuma says the only main qualification is that the vendor be an artist or handmade maker that “wants to be a part of this.”
More than a Market
One maker that definitely wanted to be a part of Made Market was Katherine Jury, a Louisville-based artist whose art includes wall hangings and hand-painted home goods and accessories.
Jury, who most commonly sells her work online through her own website, sees a potential in the Made Market that, for Kavuma, was definitely one of design.
“The great thing about something like Made Market is there is a lot of opportunities for different kinds of relationships and different kinds of sales,” says Jury.
“I love selling work to the mom who shows up with two babies on her hip and wants to buy a piece for her kitchen, and I also love starting a relationship with a boutique owner who is interested in carrying some of my home goods. I’m interested in both facets of sales, selling directly to a customer but also wholesaling some of my items that might be a good fit for a store or a gallery.”
Wholesale opportunities are something that Kavuma knows something about, as she currently works with many wholesale accounts that carry her handmade original stitching designs in their stores. Many of those connections came to her through markets.
“Not only do local shoppers want to come and buy something at a market, but a lot of times, that’s where curators and shop owners come to find who they want to carry next in their store,” she says.
Making a Community
Louisville has recently been enjoying a Renaissance, of sorts, with a boom of local handmade producers creating art and handmade goods that are second to none. Kavuma has witnessed that and the community’s embrace of it, and that’s why she believes that Made Market will, in fact, find a market in Louisville.
“What we’ve seen in the past is that the more you increase awareness of what’s available, the more people will come around to support that,” she says.
“I think Louisville really loves to invest in their community and they love to shop local and support local artist and buy from people around them, but a lot of times, people who want to buy things from a local artist, there’s just not that exposure. They don’t know that other artists exist; they don’t know what products are available to them, and then it becomes easier for them to go to the mall or another big store because that’s available.”
Support is a common theme for both Kavuma and Barker and, for them, it not only means support from the community, but support for the community—their community of local makers.
“The whole purpose behind Made Market is to strengthen the maker community within itself and to connect artists to each other so there’s a lot of collaboration and education, but then also giving a high-quality shopping experience to the locals in Louisville so that they can know where they need to go and what’s available to them in order to shop small or buy from a handmade artist,” Kavuma says. “Naturally, when that cycle happens, it builds the city of Louisville but it also builds the maker community, and it empowers them to be able to actually sustain a living off their business.”
“Our intention with Made Market is just to promote makers and their hard work and the quality goods they are producing and to make a community of makers, people that are working really hard who can encourage other makers in our community,” adds Barker.
The Market’s Future
The pair have big plans for the future of the Made Market, one that perhaps could even take the model on the road.
Preparations are already underway for another December large market, similar to the August event, which, according to Kavuma, will attract holiday gift shoppers.
If initial suggestions are any indication, the pair is expecting an even larger show their second time around.
“The winter market is already shaping up to be quite a bit larger than what our summer market will be,” says Kavuma.
Until then, the team plans to host pop-up Made Markets that are designed to be more intimate with fewer vendors so that shoppers can take the time to engage with the artists and become more familiar with their personalities, processes and products.
In 2017, the Made Market plans to feature two large shows–in the spring and in December–and then scatter pop-up shops when possible, with a goal of seven to ten throughout.
Reaching that goal may very well depend upon support from the community, according to Kavuma, who says they are constantly looking for makers to take part and venues to host pop-up shops as well as sponsors or advertising underwriters.
If the pair is successful in Louisville, they are considering using the Made Market model to bring awareness to maker communities in other cities like Louisville who do not currently have handmade markets.
Until then, Barker’s mission for Made Market is pretty simple. “We would love to get local products into people’s homes and lives here in Louisville.”
Made Market will be Saturday, August 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The Pointe (1205 East Washington St.).