Ariane Griffiths first entered the maker scene in 2001 while caring for her newborn daughter. She began creating handmade soaps, and quickly found herself experimenting with various craft mediums. Griffiths decided to launch an Etsy shop where she could sell her creations online, but she needed some help getting her e-commerce business off the ground.
When she turned to Etsy Canada for support, Griffiths learned there was not a regional team assigned to her area. One opportunity led to another and suddenly a new business idea was born. Griffiths launched Etsy York Region in 2016, and the organization rebranded to become York Region Handcrafted Maker’s Association one year later. “We have a variety of makers that range from jewelers to potters to painters to seamstresses,” says Griffiths. “We have gardeners, bakers, woodworkers and beekeepers. Our makers use all sorts of different materials to make their handcrafts.”
York Region Handcrafted Maker’s Association has an online platform where makers can create their own shop to sell their products, similar to the way Etsy works. They also offer business growth workshops for makers, covering topics such as social media marketing, bookkeeping and self-employment insurance. But some of the most enjoyable experiences for members—and their customers—to participate in are the local makers’ markets.
“The vision of the market has shifted significantly in the last five to 10 years – it’s not hosted in the basement of a church anymore,” explains Griffiths. Inspired by larger scale events like the One-Of-a-Kind Show and Makers’ Festival held in Toronto, makers’ markets offer an experience that cannot be captured through an online shop.
“There are a lot of online marketplaces that people can purchase from, like Etsy,” says Derrol Salmon, co-owner of Newmakeit, the shared maker space in Newmarket. “But I still think people want to touch. These are tangible items, and people want to hold them in their hands and see what they’re all about.”
Residents of York Region will have the opportunity to do exactly that at the Etsy Made in Canada Market coming to the Newmarket Community Centre on September 29th, 2018. But there are other makers’ markets being hosted all across Ontario, and they’re worth looking into during your travels. “A lot of our maker members go on these circuits through Ontario, selling at different fairs and festivals held from here to cottage country,” says Salmon.
Newmakeit tends to cater to more of the industrial makers – such as those who require specialized equipment and tools to make products out of wood, metal and other materials. These makers are masters in areas such as electronics, coding, and robotics. “But making has always been more broader based than that,” says Salmon. “If you derive pleasure from using your hands to make something, you’re a maker.”
In addition to delivering a platform where vendors can sell their handcrafted products, makers’ markets do their part in adding value to the community. They attract local tourism, and provide an opportunity for visitors and residents to build connections that would not otherwise be possible. “Makers’ markets keep funds local and help to grow the economy,” explains Griffiths, “while also providing the makers access to consumers they may not reach while working from home.”
Still, perhaps the most valuable feature of the makers’ market is the chance to shop local and purchase one-of-a-kind creations crafted locally. “People are tired of run-of-the-mill stuff,” says Salmon. “If they’re going to buy something, they want it to have a story behind it. They want to buy from someone local who put sweat equity into creating it. They appreciate the artisanal side
of creating such a unique piece.”
by Charlotte Ottaway
York Region Handcrafted Maker’s Association