Posted by: Soulgrow | February 12, 2010

i heart markets with authenticity, integrity and soul!

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is about all these new markets springing up everywhere – specifically in Cape Town, because I’m more aware of them here, where I am based. But it seems that elsewhere around the country there are also lots of new market events happening – and I’m slowly but surely tracking them down and trying to suss them out.

And they are not all created equal.

One of the latest ones I’ve discovered is in Durban, and what I’ve read about it fills me with enthusiasm and excitement, especially since I’m a born and bred Durbanite. Although I’ve lived in the Mother City for 17 years (almost long enough to call myself Capetonian!), I am still enormously proud of the creative, bohemian spirit that emanates from Durbs. It is well-embodied in a relatively young but evidently vibrant event called iheartmarket, held on the first Saturday of every month in the vicinity of that iconic haunt of the hippest, Beanbag Bohemia.

From what I can ascertain, the market is a truly home-grown affair, one that has grown organically through the creative efforts and passion of a few highly creative young people. In my opinion, this is the best kind of market: one with authenticity, soul, integrity and depth. Unlike so many of the events that have been started as formulaic money-making exercises recently.

Call me cynical (or call it sour grapes – I still drive a 20-year-old car!), but I’ve been organising markets and exhibitions for the past 13 years, having started as a naïve young 25-year old with a good idea, no money and not a clue how challenging it can be! I loathe it when it appears that an event or market has been created because the organisers are jumping on some perceived bandwagon that will lead them to fame and fortune. Very often these events are simply carbon-copies of other, longer-established events, without an ounce of soul or originality to boast of.

There is nothing sadder than a market that has all the right elements… in theory – but that completely lacks atmosphere, and… indeed, heart.

That’s why I appreciate the iheartmarket initiative so much, and it is definitely on my list of places to visit when I do my next prodigal visit.

The reason this is so topical for me is that I had a great conversation today with a young creative who will be exhibiting at another market that I’m involved with in a couple of weeks time, the Vintage and Collectibles Fair that happens at the at the popular Old Biscuit Mill complex in Woodstock every Sunday from 10-3.

Cara Siegers and her business partner Victoria Rhomberg are the fledgling team behind Eco-aware Homeware. Cara – who is a finalist in the 2010 Woolworths/House & Leisure Green Designers Competition to be showcased at the Design Indaba at the end of February – describes their range as follows:

“Victoria started her brand “Photoganic” last year. Each piece of work combines an organic medium with a naturally photogenic subject as it lies in nature, where every step right down to the printing is eco-friendly. She prints onto a range of organic fabrics including hemp, cotton, linen-blends; making each piece unique.  Her range extends from wall-hung canvasses to printed items including cushions, and soon to be ottomans, and the product extendability here is limitless.
 
“I, on the other hand, have created a brand, namely Rugged Designs, which includes a range of floor coverings, rugs and bathmats, which have been hand-knitted using recycled fabrics. The end result is an eco-friendly product that is cosy, contemporary and crafted. We are busy working on a range of other home-ware items, ranging from cushions and bags to throws. Both of us employ local craftsmen and women to assist in the assembly of our designs, and it is our objective to aid in empowering and uplifting our employees with a creative response and a set of skills that can then be passed on.
 
“Victoria and I have collaborated as our brands both fall under an “eco-aware” umbrella, offering a home-ware range made entirely from eco-friendly products and manufactured in the “greenest” light. Our organisation is called “Photoganic and Rugged Designs” and we would like to showcase our work at markets and informal trading points of the like.
 
“We both share a similar mindset; being that creativity is a lifestyle concept that can be applied anywhere in one’s homes, with this certainty: that it will create a sense of warmth, calm and comfort and, naturally, inspire.
 
“We believe that continuous change and constantly improving technology have led most of us to neglect our basic crafting skills. This means that hand-made articles,imbued with the maker’s creativity and generosity, once more become a priceless pleasure to the recipient. We are not re-inventing the wheel, we are simply using ancient crafts and re-viving them into contemporary styles.”
This kind of ingenuity and creativity always strikes a chord with me, since it represents the very best kind of originality and authenticity. Good luck Cara and Victoria.
These plucky women are like so many creative entrepreneurs in this country, and indeed, around the world, under-resourced, passionate, yet following their hearts, serving a good cause and all the while adding something new, beautiful and valuable to the world.
My thought process after talking to Cara took me back to my art education, and gave me an inkling of why there is probably such a trend towards ‘real’, ‘slow’, artisanal, handcrafted and ethical goods and services – to some degree reflected in the mushrooming of all these markets and green/natural/organic/authentically creative events.
This was my response to her query about having a stall:
“Thanks for your query and the chat – as I said on the phone, your product range fits well into what I would call ‘contemporary collectible’, i.e. quality items created today that are bespoke, have ‘soul’, and are already collectible, and as such will also become Vintage and even Antique one day.

I think the concept we were talking about as regards the difference between some of the twee ‘crafts’ sold at many ‘craft markets’ and the kind of items being created by more conscious, design-oriented producers such as yourself is similar to what happened with the Arts & Crafts Movement at the turn of the last century, where there was an attempt to retain the soulfulness of work done by artisans and craftspeople in the face of industrialisation and mass production.

I believe we have seen a continuing thread of this principle throughout the 20th Century (especially in the 1960s), and now again a return to this kind of ethic with the social and eco-consciousness of today.”
 
This brief treatise on why so many of us market devotees are feeling so warm and fuzzy at the moment about things all things wholesome and soulful opened up a whole new avenue of thought for me, and I look forward to discovering many more markets with depth and soul in future, and to sharing this info with you.
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