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[potterybasics] have you ever tried selling at a flea market?

updated tue 23 aug 11


Carl Cravens on sat 20 aug 11

I don't lump flea markets and farmer's markets into the same category. The=
farmer's markets I'm familiar with don't accept "junk" and only accept loc=
al, hand-made art, and have some standards. And if they're meeting the US =
Federal regulations for a farmer's market, they must have at least 50% prod=
uce vendors... so most markets are turning away "crafters" because they hav=
e limited space for non-produce, and typically would rather have *more* pro=
duce. There are never, ever, enough tomatoes to satisfy demand.

Flea markets are the equivalent of a junk shop, in my experience. If you p=
ay the booth fee, you can sell whatever imported Chinese junk you want, so =
long as it's legal. I may go to flea markets looking for used hand-tools, =
but I don't go there looking for arts and crafts. I *do* go to the farmer'=
s market looking for hand-made goods by local people. The only reason I ha=
ven't bought pottery at a farmer's market is because the one potter I've se=
en locally wasn't good enough for me to spend money on. (Alas, I spend ver=
y little money on other potters' pots.)

One thing to consider is that people aren't looking to spend much money at =
a farmer's market. By and large, they're there for tomatoes, other produce=
, some fresh-baked bread, that kind of thing. They're grocery shopping. I=
think the above-mentioned potter missed out on that fact... his pots weren=
't aimed at people shopping for tonight's dinner. These are people who put=
thought into the meal... if they give that much thought to what goes on th=
e plate, it doesn't take much to get them thinking about the plate itself a=
nd presentation of the meal. I think the crowd is much more likely to buy =
functional table and kitchen ware in this context, if they're going to buy =
anything at all. Think more "serving or mixing bowl" than "place settings"=

If you've got a hand-made soap vendor, think soap dishes. An artisanal mil=
l selling flour, baking pans. Greens, salad bowls. Fruit, berry bowls. P=
otatoes and carrots, soup/stew bowls. Pay attention to what the other vend=
ors are selling and sell pots that pair well with them... I think it not on=
ly helps your sales, I think it helps their sales as well. Give 'em a nudg=
e and provide recipe cards to get them mentally connecting your pots with t=
he produce for sale.

And don't worry about starving... you can always trade pots for food at the=
farmer's market. :) My wife sells bread at our local market, which is som=
ething you don't want to bring a lot of extra home... she can always trade =
bread for vegetables, cake, and whatnot (a tip for the folk singer). Just =
be sure to have inexpensive pots... a $40 mug is a lot of loaves of bread, =
and at the end of the day, bread and stuff that will expire before the next=
market doesn't have so much value.

All that said, it's hard to make much money at farmer's markets, at least a=
round here. Unless you've got a large supply of tomatoes.

Carl D Cravens (
Hey, I ran Windows the other day, and it didn't crash!

Vince Pitelka on sun 21 aug 11

My experience is that much of the good "junk" that used to appear at flea
markets is now being sold on eBay, Craig's List, and other online venues,
and the quality of "merchandise" at flea markets has deteriorated
accordingly. Realizing this, people who are moving or doing spring cleanin=
and have a quantity of good stuff to unload rarely do it through a flea
market and instead hold a yard/garage/tag-sale. I still find great stuff a=
yard sales, but I have only stopped at several flea markets over the past
few years and most of what I saw was worthless trash. When we left Blue
Lake, CA in 1985 to head off to Massachusetts for grad school we sold 90% o=
everything we owned. Much of what I see today at flea markets today is the
kind of stuff we put in the giant dumpster before we set up for the big yar=

Perhaps in some parts of the country there are still good flea markets, but
I cannot imagine taking one's handmade fine craft product to a flea market
unless it is a glut of old work, leftovers, or seconds that need to go away=
Even then, I worry that a craftsperson might hurt their local reputation by
selling any of their handmade work at a flea market. Farmer's markets are a
completely different story, and in many parts of the country seem to be a
very good venue for craftspeople as long as the market association is
somewhat discerning about what can be sold. More and more, the farmers and
craftspeople are realizing that they all work to mutual benefit when the
market includes a wider range of quality produce and art/crafts. It just
makes for a more interesting experience for the shopper, and those coming
for crafts often by produce as well (and the other way around).

I have two close friends who currently make most or all of their income
selling their pots at good farmer's markets. For the time being, this seems
a good venue for craftspeople, but it all depends on the presence of an
active market association or governing board and their willingness to impos=
reasonable standards determining what can be sold at the market.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft
Tennessee Tech University;

KATHI LESUEUR on sun 21 aug 11

I never sold at a flea market but at the beginning of my career I did =3D
sell at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. I think this is a good venue for =3D
people who are starting out or are only doing pots part time. Usually =3D
you will have an appreciative audience. The cost is very low and you can =
build your skills at your own pace. I do know a few potters who never =3D
sold anywhere else.


Lis Allison on sun 21 aug 11

On August 21, 2011, Carl Cravens wrote:

> All that said, it's hard to make much money at farmer's markets, at
> least around here. Unless you've got a large supply of tomatoes.
Actually, if you are there regularly, people start to plan to buy your
stuff. I get lots of large (for me) orders like dinnerware sets or wedding
gifts from market customers. But I agree, Markets are probably not the
place to sell fine art or sculptural pottery.

Elisabeth Allison
Pine Ridge Studio
Pottery blog:
Garden blog:

gary navarre on mon 22 aug 11

Lots of good comments and most seem to class flea mar=3D

Thanks Folks,=3D0A=3D0A=3DA0Lots of good comments and most seem to class fl=
ea mar=3D
kets as last on the list behind setting up in my Mom's driveway in Dearborn=
. We have one across from Wal*Mart in Iron Mountain where a modular home bu=
ilder had their base of operations until about 4 years ago. I don't think I=
'd do so hot setting up near a guy with a trailer load of ammo cans. I will=
keep farmers markets in mind because most of what I make is intended to be=
used for food or drink. Someone in the Facebook group for my high school g=
raduating class said there are a lot more art fairs and other places to sel=
l in the Wayne County area than I might think so moving back to Dearborn co=
uld be a positive idea from a marketing perspective. As I recall I did sell=
some pots at a mall on the corner of Michigan and Outer Drive when I was a=
kid and made $60. Loosing the wood fired effect would be quite an emotiona=
l negative for me but sales might improve if I didn't have to take so much =
explaining the process and why it costs so much. =3D0A=3D0A=3D0A=3DA0Well =
like I s=3D
ay, " You can't sell what you haven't got." so I better get to doin somethi=
ng, even if it's wrong.=3D0A=3D0A=3D0AGary Navarre=3D0ANavarre Pottery=3D0A=
Navarre En=3D
terprises=3D0ANorway, Michigan, USA=3D0A
_____________________________=3D0AFrom: KATHI LESUEUR K.=3D
COM>=3D0ATo: Clayart@LSV.CERAMICS.ORG=3D0ASent: Sunday, August 21, 2011 8:3=
3 PM=3D
=3D0ASubject: Re: [Clayart] [potterybasics] Have you ever tried selling at =
a =3D
flea market?=3D0A=3D0AI never sold at a flea market but at the beginning of=
my =3D
career I did sell at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. I think this is a good v=
enue for people who are starting out or are only doing pots part time. Usua=
lly you will have an appreciative audience. The cost is very low and you ca=
n build your skills at your own pace. I do know a few potters who never sol=
d anywhere else.=3D0A=3D0AKATHI LESUEUR=3D0A