Playing “Market”

Pen and ink drawings made by my parents for sale in Spain in 1974.
Pen and ink drawings made by my parents for sale in Spain in 1974.

I am no stranger to markets. I have grown up in them. Starting in Spain, where I was born, my parents sold paintings in the markets along the coast. When they were leaving Spain they set their eyes on Seattle because it had a world famous market. They came to this city with the hope of remaining independent artists. They started in 1979 by making and selling handmade wooden puzzles in Pike Place Market. I have now followed in their footsteps and have opened my own shop in Post Alley.

My brother and I selling at the Fremont Fair in 1979.
My brother and I selling at the Fremont Fair in 1979.

The experience of being in markets influenced my childhood games. I would invite my friends to our house at age eight and we would play “Market.” Each of us would run a table. We had a large piece of cardboard with tables drawn on it. We spent hours cutting out little T-shirts, bags, necklaces and making drawings out of construction paper. Monopoly money and construction paper check books were our currency. Each check was individually drawn with lines for filling them out, our names in the top corner. Once we had prepared all of our wares we set them in piles on our designated tables and proceeded to buy things from each other. The true creativity was in our selling abilities. For example,  an orange cut out in the shape of a T became a hand woven silk screened shirt.

It wasn’t a game of who made the most money or who made the best product, it was a game of commerce. Our rules were simple: No bargaining for a better price, each person had to respect the artistic abilities of the other, once we were out of monopoly money we could write a check for any amount. Checks were far more fun to write anyway.

High school Saturdays selling at Studio Solstone.
High school Saturdays selling at Studio Solstone.

In high school and college I worked at my parents shop now in the Atrium of the Market, Studio Solstone. There I experienced the excitement of meeting different people  from around the world, the pride of representing my family, and being a part of real commerce. Now that I have opened my own shop I understand all of the challenges running an owner operated business can present. I think that the same rules from my childhood game still apply: Do not bargain for a better price. The work you are seeing has taken someone tremendous time, energy and creativity. Have respect for the artistic abilities of others. Even if it is not to your taste. And when you run out of a cash, we most likely accept credit.

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Me at my shop, 1499 Post Alley in Pike Place Market.

I can be found just under my parents shop in Lower Post Alley next to the gum wall. I sell espresso, retail items and conduct tours in the area at night.  – Mercedes Carrabba

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3 thoughts on “Playing “Market”

  1. fabulous story, Mercedes. when you and your brother were selling at the Fremont Market, my Rambler American (that I lived in) was breaking down in Everett. and I’m still here. 😉

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