{Featured image by Diane + Mike}

The Do’s and Dont’s of Market Hopping: What Not to Say to Makers

Ahhh, spring and summer market season is upon us! One of the best aspects of holding down a booth at the various markets is all the lovely people you get to meet and greet. It’s always nice to meet like-minded people who are genuinely interested in your work; however, every once in a while you get asked a doozy that leaves you scratching yourhead.

Below I’ve outlined some of the things not to say to makers – all of which I’ve been asked at least once by well-intentioned, albeit unassuming, folks.


Can I get _____ for a lower price if you remove _____ ?

The first time I heard this, it was actually asked of my booth neighbour – she was selling framed original art. The customer wanted the art and wanted her to discount it if she removed it from the frame. Since then I’ve gotten this question myself, more than once – people are interested in buying the embroidery at a discounted rate if I remove it from it’s wooden embroidery hoop. I promise you that 99.9% of the makers at markets are not out here to score a quick buck; we’re out here because we’re proud of our art formand want to put out into the world, and we put our best products forward. If an artist is selling framed and unframed prints, it’s one thing to inquire – but asking someone to dismantle an item they put love and effort into crafting to skim $5 off the listed price isn’t cool.

I saw this really cool ____ by _____; can you recreate it for me?

At least once a week I get asked by someone with a screen cap of another embroidery artist’s work, asking me to recreate it. The answer is: no. As artists we strive to create original pieces that speak to our specific styles. No artist worth their name is going to rip off another person’s work. If you see something that you like, commission a custom piece from that specific artist – don’t shop around for a cheapie knock off. It’s not cool for the original artist and it’s not cool to the artist you’re approaching.

This is $30? It couldn’t have taken you that long to make.

This is perhaps the worst. Again, artists are not out here to rip you off and make a quick buck. You might look at an item and think it’s relatively simple. But what most folks fail to consider is that aside from the time and effort put into making a piece, as well as the initial investment for all the materials, market artists also pay a table fee to participate which can range anywhere from $75 to $500+ depending on the market. Also, most if not all, local artists are conscious of their eco-footprint and the sustainability and impact of their art. The fabrics that I order most often are designer organic cottons. These aren’t textiles that I can walk into Fabricland and buy for $18/m. These cottons are costly – because they haven’t been treated by pesticides and haven’t been spun by the nimble fingers of child labour and made with the tears of migrant workers. I’m happy to pay more for supplies I know are ethically sourced, and I price items correspondingly.

On top of the base cost of the fabric, I also pay an additional 20% exchange from the US dollar when I order from my suppliers in the US, Japan and Australia, international shipping, and then customs/duty tax, which can be as high as $30 per shipment. So when you pick up a $30, $45 or $60 embroidery and think it’s too pricey, remember that cost reflects not only the product but the process.

Wow, this is beautiful – can you teach me, like right now?

Artists’ work is often undervalued as it is; artists’ emotional labour, particularly women artists, even more so. Teaching is a service, and as such deserves compensation. If you’re interested in a specific artist’s craft a better question to ask is if they offer workshops/classes/private lessons. If they don’t they can probably point you in the right direction. And on that note, I’m happy to offer discounted rates for charity events and low-income families – but asking for (or worse, expecting!) a free service gets twothumbs down. I have to pay my rent, too.

Can I take a photo?

This is one I don’t get asked enough! We live in a digital age and for the most part art is meant to be consumed and enjoyed. As artists we often work with deeply personal sentiments and asking to take a photo before snapping away is always a nice gesture. Also, as any maker on social media knows there are a shit ton of copycats out there and for this reason some artists prefer to keep their work out of the Twittersphere. I’ll never say no when someone asks, but I always appreciate the question.

That about sums it up, and now you know! Now get out there and get your local small business shop on.


Maria Arseniuk 

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Maria is a Calgary-based fibre artist with a passion for social justice. When she isn’t stitching or crusading against oppression she’s probably exploring the mountains with her lovely partner and co-creator or traveling.

Find her on etsy, or instagram