Two Airdrie residents will be opening a new brick-and-mortar market this spring to help crafters, artisans and other vendors who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them a permanent place to sell their wares.
Sandi Sketchley and Cassie Bishop will be opening Squiggly Pig Marketplace in a facility across from House of Cars Airdrie next month, with the hopes of offering patrons a wide array of handcrafted goods from across Canada.
In anticipation for a mid-June opening, the business partners have been busy refinishing furniture, developing and designing a brand name and logo, and finding the right locale. Sketchley said she has dreamt of opening up an artisan market for some time, but the stars hadn't quite aligned to make it happen, until now.
“The guy who owns the spot that we’re leasing from, up until we met him, we had pretty much gone through hell,” she said. “We thought ‘Is this ever going to happen?’ and then all of a sudden, we ran into [him] and we thought, ‘Everything is coming along, we’ve got wings’".
According to Sketchley and Bishop, landlord and small business owner Ryan Campbell has been indispensable in helping the two business owners get their market off the ground. Over the last few months, Campbell has assisted with the necessary renovations to get the business up and running, including the installation of fitting rooms and plumbing.
The partners are still waiting on additional approvals and inspections from the City before they can officially open, but they are planning to open their market with the support of more than 200 vendors next month. They are also looking for approval to host direct-sale vendors, who would be able to set up their tents on the property on weekends and sell their goods directly to customers.
“We come from that place as well,” said Bishop, adding that both she and Sketchley know what it’s like to be a vendor at local markets, having to constantly set up and tear down stands, and they want to do what they can to help entrepreneurs who are struggling.
Before the birth of Squiggly Pig Marketplace, both Sketchley and Bishop had been redirected from their previous careers into the bustling world of artisan markets.
For Sketchley, an injury 10 years ago forced her to retire from her career as a paramedic and venture into a career travelling and sourcing clothes for a fashion company. Bishop was laid off from her job at an oil and gas company around the same time. Sketchley soon began her own business selling clothes at local markets, where Bishop was a regular customer.
“Our stories are similar because [we] were busy and then everything fell apart and then for 10 years it was a blur,” said Bishop. “And then all of a sudden, Sandi was selling clothes and I was buying the clothing.
“It’d be $300 later and a couple of cups of coffee… so we kind of became friends from that.”
Bishop added she has an entrepreneurial background and a business mind, which complements Sketchley’s creative, design, and social media marketing skills.
According to Sketchley, the year-round market will emphasize Canadian handcrafted goods and will not be focusing solely on supporting just local artisans and crafted goods.
“We’ve been to a few different stores and they only promote local,” said Sketchley. “I said to Cassie, ‘I love that, but what about the rest of Canada?’
“There are people sitting in their homes... even in my own home, my husband [and I], we’ve just had a terrible ride the last two years and I’m thinking, ‘What about all the other people? How are they doing?’ They’re making things, they’re still there and they’re sitting around with all of these beautiful pieces.”
The marketplace will include spaces to showcase vendors’ goods, including hand-refinished furniture and custom cabinetry and shelves. There will also be open spaces for vendors to rent out, with Sketchley and Bishop selling the products on their behalf.
Calgary-based artisan Tracey Kurtz will be showcasing her handcrafted glass creations from her shop HennHouse Glass Creations in a rented space at Squiggly Pig Marketplace.
She said she started working with glass about four years ago, after her mom passed away and left her some money that made exploring the new art form possible.
“I feel like she’s given me this gift to be able to do this work, because I wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it [otherwise],” she said. “That’s my inspiration behind doing it and I’ve had some really cool experiences meeting people through this work.”
She added that one such experience that left her heart warm was when her cousin who is a nurse gave some of her artwork to a 15-year-old boy who was terminally ill.
“She had given it [to him] just to hold and he didn’t have vision but he was holding it on his chest,” she said. “He told her that he saw kindness in the glass and he told his mom that that’s where she would be able to see him when he passed away, was in this piece of glass.
“It was such a beautiful story and I guess that really behind what I do is that feeling and hoping that people get that from what I create.”
While Kurtz began with more simplistic designs and creations, after taking some glass-making courses at Mukluks Magpies Stained Glass Emporium in Airdrie, she expanded her technique to include more complicated designs like tulips and sunflowers.
“Over the last four years, I’ve done a lot of experimenting and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I feel I’ve created something that is unique to me and it’s not a copy of someone else’s [work],” she said. “It’s something that I created for myself.”
This will be Kurtz’s first time selling her artwork at a marketplace, and she added she will be selling artwork with a summer theme, including ladybug garden skewers, lanterns and glass flowers.
If you are interested in joining Kurtz as a vendor at Squiggly Pig Marketplace, please contact Sketchley and Bishop through either their Facebook page or by emailing email@example.com
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