I was here the other day looking for you. Where were you?

The Market Master conducts morning roll call for the craftspeople.

When thinking about questions we hear frequently in the daystalls at Pike Place Market, at the top of the list is certainly a variation of “I was here the other day looking for you.  Where were you?”

There are a few possible answers:

1) I was not here; I was at home making product, shipping mail orders, doing bookkeeping, updating my website, blogging, packaging product, ordering supplies, or any number of other tasks necessary to keep my little one-woman show working.

2) I was not here; I took a day off to relax, spend quality time with my husband and cats, visit with friends, go out to eat, go hiking, see a movie, take a vacation, or any number of other activities necessary to keep me working!

3) I was here, but not in this spot.

How does that work, you ask.  Welllll, it’s a little complicated. You see, when one becomes a daystall vendor (or “permit holder” as we are properly called) at Pike Place Market, you are handed a 50+ page document full of rules, regulations, and procedures that govern the operation of the daystalls, which are host to craftspeople as well as farmers.

But wait, I should go back a step – how does one become a craftsperson at the market? First, you must be just that – an artist or craftsperson producing 100% of your work by yourself, by hand. (There are a small number of “grandfathered” vendors who are allowed to sell imported goods as they have been in the market since prior to the handmade rule.) The market master reviews applications and you must stand before a screening committee for approval. Once that hurdle is passed, the market master will pay a visit to your studio/workspace to view and document your process. Then you are given a seniority number.

Your seniority number is very important. Casual conversation between vendors often includes the question, “What number are you?” It is a way of sizing you up, a method of vetting you for old-timer or new-timer status, and an indicator of how good your choice of spots on any given day is likely to be. I am number 150. I started 6 years ago at 209. Movement up the list is faster toward the end of it; more attrition. The fewer people are ahead of you, the more slowly you move up.

The beauty of being a daystall vendor at the market is that we don’t have to be there every day (thus the term “daystall” since we rent the stalls by the day). This allows for activities 1 and 2, above. There are attendance requirements that seem to comprise 30 pages of the aforementioned rules, but I shan’t bother you with them. Because our schedules are mostly at our own whim, the craftspeople attend roll call in the morning to choose spaces before setting up. We sign in on a sheet that lists everybody by name in seniority order. If you are signed in when the market master comes to you, s/he calls your name and you choose an open space. If you’ve ever been in the market before we set up and noticed a large group of people gathered in the north end of the arcade, this is what is going on.

As number 150, I am right on the cusp of having a “good” number. On most weekdays, it is not difficult for me to get a “good” spot as there aren’t many vendors (the definition of “good” varies; we all like different spaces for different reasons – more traffic, less traffic, the neighbors, etc.). You might imagine, on Saturdays, when business is generally better, more vendors choose to come to the market. There might be 100+ crafters picking spaces ahead of me. If the weather is nice and many of them want to go outside, there will be plenty of spaces for me to choose from inside, but perhaps not in an ideal location. If the weather is poor, there may not be a table available inside by the time the market master gets to me.

Why do I endure this uncertainty, not knowing where or even whether I will be selling each day? Because I love what I do. I had  no idea that I would enjoy being a small business owner as much as I do. For me, self-employment is challenging, rewarding, and exciting (and not nearly as frightening as I expected before venturing out on my own). I can work as much or as little as I want. Being in the market gives me the opportunity to bring my products directly to customers from all around the world, as well as allowing me to be part of a community of other artists and craftspeople.

I love using my creativity and skills to build a product line that truly comes from me and delivers to my customers in a way that betters their lives. I love to hear that my lip smoothies “make smooching my wife like ten times better” and that my soaps are “the best I have ever used.” It makes me giddy to know that someone thinks that my skin smoothies are “just the thing for my dry feet.” THAT is why I do this.

Becky Boutch, Seattle Rainwater Soap Co.

P.S. You can always check my website for my schedule of days at the market.

Originally posted on my blog: Soaping in the Rain.

A Feast for the Eyes

Pike Place Producers is a collaborative effort among a group of artists and craftspeople from Pike Place Market. Each week one of us will have the opportunity to introduce ourselves, and hopefully in the process you will learn a little bit about the market and its unique community of creative people.

As a visual artist, I’ve put together a little slideshow of my work for you rather than writing something. Sit back and enjoy!

Scott Alberts: Painter

Hey out there! We’re “The Producers”!

Before "The Producers" hit the tables.

We make what we sell. We sell what we make. From our hands to yours. We are Artists. Craftspeople. Husbands. Wives. Mothers. Fathers. Small business owners. Singers. Performers. The jeweler. The painter. The Seattle soap maker. Meet the producer. We are the producers of Pike Place Market.

We are a special group. Regulated and authenticated by the Pike Development Authority (The PDA) confirming a very special quality that we all share. We make what we sell. The responsibility for crafting what’s on the table or hanging overhead is ours and ours alone. We may have a helping hand in our studios or to assist us in selling on busy market days. But we fashion everything that you see. This is our work. These are our stories.

Silver pendants on velvet lay next to tie dye. Stark limbs of trees and Buddha in blue. Polished boxes carved out of rich, warm burl woods. Recycled paper torn into scenes full of life. Silk hats and scarves. Mod and classic handbags with birds and giraffes. Monster hats made of fleece. Penguins in black. Designer sweaters made out of..well..other sweaters. Spiritual images in delicate bas relief tiles. Treasures all. Treasures to someone. From our hands to yours.

The market is our neighborhood. The 4 foot stalls our shops. Walk through. From the aisles of the North Arcade into the blue summer day. We’re set up along the sidewalk and in tents on the street. You’ll meet us. See our craft. We can get to know each other. You will walk away with more than an object. You will walk away with a shared experience. A sense of origin and our story.

Made in America. Shop local. Shop small businesses. Buy art. Buy handcrafted that’s not crafted by hands overseas. Much more than slogans. They can be a conscious way of life.

Welcome to the blog of the Pike Place Producers. We invite you to peek into the lives of professional artists and small business owners carving out livelihoods in the chaos and quiet of Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. We can have good days and bad days and days that we sell nothing at all. It’s a chosen way of life and not for the faint of heart.

We want to meet you and more importantly we want you to meet us. The producers.

The market is a treasure hunt. Any morning is my favorite. Come for coffee and a pastry and a relaxed wander through. Take note of the faces behind the tables. Hard working. Tenacious. Dynamic. Independent. Determined. Creative and artistic. Handcrafting clothes, hats, body products, laptop bags, glass bowls, jewelry, wall art, spiritual art, paintings, pepper mills, handbags, and so much more.

From our hands to yours.

By Kat Allen
Symbols in Art