A group of over 50 local artisans and crafters are auctioning their wares next week in support of victims of the recent devastating flooding across B.C.
Running online from 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, members of the North Delta Artisan & Gift Market will host a silent auction with all proceeds donated to the Canadian Red Cross.
“We were going to do a first anniversary event with some prizes and stuff — our first anniversary was Nov. 21 — and right before that happened the floods hit. And so we pivoted and decided to do an auction instead,” Sharon Poetker, one of the group’s founders, told the Reporter.
“I just thought I would get a few [auction items] because over the year everybody’s been donating things for prizes and draws and stuff. (…) But I put it out there and said, ‘Does anybody want to donate?’ And almost all of the group — it chokes me up — almost all of the group has donated. That’s the kind of group it is and it’s just really touching.”
As of Wednesday morning (Dec. 1), 66 items made by local artist and crafters had been donated for the fundraiser, with everything from jewelry to crafts, dolls, Christmas decorations, artwork, photography, pottery and more soon up for grabs at 32auctions.com/NDartauction2021.
The auction fundraiser is the latest project for the group, who just a few weeks ago held their first in-person event — a holiday craft market at Sunshine Hills Elementary. The event on Nov. 13 drew over 700 people who perused goods from 31 vendors, and the by-donation admission raised $2,000 which was split evenly between the school and the Rotary Club of North Delta.
The North Delta Artisan & Gift Market group came together last November as means for local crafters and artists to sell their works after COVID restrictions put a stop to their usual points of sale such as craft and holiday markets.
“Last year with COVID, everything was closed there were no markets and there was very little organized online — markets or anything like that,” said Heather Ratcliff, a Sunshine Hills toy and doll maker. “I was talking to Sharon about how frustrating it was. I had all these things on hand and in stock. She’s great at marketing, and she got a bunch of crafters together and we started our little group.”
Poetker first created a group on Facebook where members could sell their wares, followed by a website, ndartmarket.ca.
“I just kind of did it and it got really busy, really fast,” Poetker added.
Local artist Haike Tremblay, who joined the group in those early days and designed the market’s logo, said the loss of all the usual places and events where people like her sold their work drove interest in the group.
“Most of the people who were joining up were people who used to sell primarily through markets and out of their own home and things like that. It was kind of like everything just shut down, so this was an opportunity to be able to advertise on the Facebook group and show all your stuff on the website that Sharon created to go along with it,” Tremblay said.
“Most of our neighborhood [Facebook] groups, you can only advertise maybe once a week or something, whereas this was a Facebook group exclusively for artisans and vendors saying, ‘We have things that you want, so this is where to come to find these things.’”
In the year since the North Delta Artisan & Gift Market was formed, membership has grown to 48 local vendors plus nine “guest vendors” from outside the area, and response from the community at large has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s a nice little community that’s grown out of this,” Ratcliff said, referring to both the vendors and their customers.
“With that group, and with that [Nov. 13] craft fair, you can tell people — and not just the crafters — were really missing the markets.”
“Earlier in the year I’d asked if anybody wanted to give a [review], and people sent all kinds of notes. I included them on the website, people from the community who wrote in and said, ‘I got this thing and it was awesome,’ and, ‘I’m really glad that we have a place that we can buy stuff from.’ We had a lot of that,” Poetker said.
“And even at the craft fair that we just had a couple of weeks ago, you got a lot of people there saying that they came because they had been following the group for the last year. And so that was kind of cool.”
One of the key things that Poetker pointed to was the collaborative nature of the group, with many members contributing ideas and suggestions to improve things. The vendors even have a separate, private Facebook group they use to help each other out, making the market something of a community-building endeavour as well.
“We can communicate with each other in the background and give each other tips and ideas — you know, ‘How did you do this?’ or ‘Where did you find that?’ — or, you know, if we’re looking for suggestions on how to do something or how to market something or whatever … which is really helpful,” Tremblay said.
There’s even a bit of a social aspect to it, with members meeting at Poetker’s home this past summer — many for the first time.
“We all got together and we all brought samples of our art and we got to meet in person after just having been online for so long,” Ratcliff said.
“We all hung out and talked, got to put faces with names,” Tremblay added. “This was a chance to kind of get together and see who’s behind the products we’ve been looking at and talking about and promoting,” Tremblay added.
But of course, the most important role of the market is, as Ratcliff put it, to “support local crafters, not Amazon,” especially with the holidays right around the corner.
“It’s a great opportunity for Delta and the surrounding communities to focus on buying local too, especially this year with issues with shipping and just getting products in the stores. It’s a way to shop local,” Tremblay said.
For now the group has no plans for any more in-person events, but are leaving the door open to the possibility come spring.
“I think I’m learning to never say no,” Poetker said about hosting another market. “I don’t know where this is going. Like, I just thought, oh, it’ll get us through COVID and then I’ll move on. But COVID is kind of languishing. So I don’t know where it’ll go, but I’m here for the ride.”