Walking to the Durham Farmers’ Market is one of my favorite things about living near downtown. Supporting local farmers by buying my collards, sausage and tomatoes directly from them makes me happy, and it allows me the opportunity to ask questions about exactly how that tomato came to be.
One recent Saturday morning, eager to get to the market early before the empanada ladies ran out of their amazing apricot-flavored treats, I was sidetracked by a group of tents that had sprung up across the street from the main market lot on Morris Street. Smiles and hellos greeted me, along with a colorful assortment of locally made crafts and jewelry. I realized that I wasn’t going to get breakfast quite yet.
There have always been a few great photographers and craftspeople sprinkled throughout the market. Now they’ve gotten organized. The Durham Craft Market consists of 15 to 20 visual artists and designers offering everything from jewelry to stained glass to pottery to purses and clothes. All of the designers live within a 25-mile radius of the
Emmy Marshall, who coordinates the market, isn’t an artisan herself. About a year ago, she started looking for a place where her teenaged daughter, Kate Loughlin, could sell her original beaded jewelry. In the process, Marshall says she met several craftspeople and artists who were finding room at the popular Durham Farmers’ Market increasingly hard to come by. So, they got together to create their own space. “We started with such a creative and talented group that I didn’t have to ask anyone to do anything. Everyone jumped in and helped make this market happen,” Marshall says.
“We all look forward to Saturday mornings just so we can hang out with other creative people,” she adds. “We believe strongly that you don’t have to buy gifts and artwork at box stores or chains. Our purpose also includes fostering great community relations by welcoming youth and embracing diversity.”
I made a beeline to a table of jewelry made by Kia Eason. Her designs include funky and delicate beaded necklace and earring sets and modern metal work. She makes them all and was able to advise me on the kinds of stones and gems used in each. I got a lesson in mineralogy while browsing. A lot of us buy jewelry at the mall because it’s on sale. As I browsed at Eason’s booth, I kept considering the fact that the same quality jewelry in a big chain store would be at least triple the price. This way, not only would I pay less, but I could hand the cash directly to the artist. Plus I know I will be wearing a truly original piece that I won’t see other people wearing.
Next, I spoke with Erika King, who sells a number of different accessories and cloth creations as well as cigar box purses. “I’ve been sewing since I was 10 or 11 years old. I’ve been a quilter for about eight years, but I really enjoy the smaller projects, like purses. A friend told me about this market and I came last fall when they were trying it out. I’m glad I did. I like that everyone here shares their creative ideas and truly appreciates what you’re doing.”
Most of the things on Long’s table ranged from $2 to $12, including purses made from her uncle’s old silk ties, pin cushions made from bottle caps, unique fabric bowls and even cloth jackets for your mini packets of tissues.
I spotted some incredible African coins turned into earrings at the House of Haroon tent, which bore a sign saying, “Presents for your Essence/Essence for your Presence.”
On the last stop before my empanada, I perused the Fiberfetish table. Molloy Rogers explained that she’s had a passion for knitting for a long, long time. Not only does she sell her hand-knit creations here, she also teaches private lessons to adults and kids–she can show you how to make baby booties in just two hours.
An admitted yarn snob, Rogers sells kits that include beautiful yarns, needles and instructions for a wide variety of creations. My favorite was a ball of yarn that came with a bar of soap. “This is so you can make a washcloth, then use it!” Rogers explains.
“A lot of people think handmade means rustic, but when you look around this market, there is some really gorgeous, high quality stuff,” Rogers says. “The first time I sold something, I ran around and bought stuff from everyone else.”
The most beautiful part about this market? If you don’t find anything that suits your style, come back the next Saturday.
“The market ebbs and flows,” Marshall says. “The same artists aren’t necessarily here every week.” In fact, she adds, there’s a vendor application on the Web site (www.durhamcraftmarket.com). “We are always looking for more artists and designers to expand our community, including youth artists. I have a daughter who makes beautiful jewelry, and she inspired us all to remember that there’s no age limit on creativity.”
Whether you’re a crafty kid new to town, a longtime creator, an experimenter or a budding fashion designer, they’d love to have you. And I’d love to buy from you.
The Durham Craft Market is open on sunny Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon through Thanksgiving in the parking lot of Measurement Inc. on the 400 block of Morris Street between Morgan and West Corporation streets in downtown Durham. (Note: The market tends to close on rainy days.)