Local Seen: Creative Spark
Lowcountry Artist Market founder Kristen Gastaldo connects local makers and buyers
She may not be crafty, but 32-year-old Kristen Gastaldo is certainly an inspired creator. In 2010, this hip self-starter carved out the Lowcountry Artist Market, a seasonal gathering designed to draw out nearby makers and buyers. With 10 successful shows now under her belt and another slated for December 7, the craft-show director has stitched together an eclectic collection of handmade and vintage purveyors that has area shoppers glued to local loot.
CM: When did you craft the idea for the Lowcountry Artist Market?
KG: While planning my wedding, I purchased bridesmaids’ jewelry on Etsy. Turns out, the maker was from Charleston. At that point, the downtown farmers market included the same vendors each week, and artists creating on the side found it hard to make that commitment. Craft fairs are all around the country, but there wasn’t one here, so I did a local Etsy search and began recruiting.
CM: Did the market’s wildly positive reception surprise you?
KG: Of course I’d hoped the first one would be good, but I couldn’t have known how popular it would be—people here love local. I wasn’t even prepared to count shoppers. We’ve had 1,000-plus at some markets—the holiday one always does well.
CM: How do you decide which vendors to include?
KG: When I started, I wondered if I’d get a bunch of crocheted toilet-paper covers. But I’ve had to turn away artisans who make awesome things. The selection process is a work-in-progress. In the beginning, I perused goods online; now, a jury helps me. And if I have a vendor who’s done several markets, I’ll ask them to rotate out for one. I want that sweet spot of new people and old favorites.
CM: Do you get a chance to shop?
KG: I buy something at every market. My husband jokes that I started this so I could shop! I usually walk around early to pick what I like, and if it’s still available at the end, I may buy it. You have to put money back into your business, right?
CM: Tell us about some of the market’s success stories.
KG: It’s amazing to see people make careers of what they love. Michelle Jewell with Finkelstein’s Center is now making stuffed animals full time. Rewined Candles doesn’t need me anymore. Whole Foods picked up Shivika Asthana’s upcycled clothing line, Little Bit Kids. Dodeline Design opened a shop in I’On where they create everything from websites to stationery. And neve/hawk did Charleston Fashion Week and is now carried worldwide.
CM: Do you think the market will eventually outgrow Music Farm?
KG: Music Farm is a fantastic space for the market, and the only reason to leave would be that I have more people wanting to participate. I’ve thought about doing something at the Visitor Center Bus Shed or Hampton Park in addition to the Farm. I visited Germany last Thanksgiving and saw German Christmas markets in several town squares—something like that is another idea. If I could figure out how to do this thing full time, I would. Who knows? I could be one of my own success stories.
Lives: In Wagener Terrace with husband Michael and “one giant cat named Mable”
Occupation: As community manager at Blackbaud, she works to bring customers together through online forums, blog postings, Skype chats, etc.
Favorite vendors: Print art from Kristen Solecki, s’mores from Haypenny Confections, and vintage fashions from Inherited
Craft confession: “I would love to be craftier than I am, but my DIY skills are limited to manageable tasks around the house, like holiday decorations.”
The Holiday Lowcountry Artist Market is Saturday, December 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Music Farm, 32 Ann St. Admission is free. Find more information—including a vendor list—at lowcountryartistmarket.com.