Caitlin Brubacher and Mark Savoia have magically transformed your upcoming holiday shopping days into weekends filled with feel good activity. Yes, Queen West Torontonians, there is an alternative to the anxiety-inducing mall and manufactured gifts after all. Founders of the pop-up market Vendor Queens, the two friends and artists in their own right came up with the concept of a multi-weekend flea market on the west side initially as a place to sell their own unique objets d’art. Every Saturday until the end of 2013, you can find Brubacher and Savoia at Queen and Dovercourt in the former Thrush Holmes Empire gallery along with many other artists and vintage vendors making your holiday season bright. We caught up with the two to find out more about the concept and what will find there.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I (Caitlin) am from Toronto and moved to Brooklyn to do an MFA in playwriting with this wonderfully brilliant and peculiar man, Mac Wellman. I started the business of finding and framing images sort of naturally after I finished the program — I write plays in a similar way, just taking a bunch of found stuff out of context and seeing what happens to it.
Mark and I started collaborating when I was still in New York and I saw his stain-glass work and all the creative marketing he did around it. When I told my friends in Brooklyn about being afraid about taking Elephant in the Attic back home (without the strength of a permanent market culture behind me), I’d show them his website and feel reassured.
I think starting Vendor Queens is a result of my desire to bring a larger element of performance back into my life, and of Mark’s and my desire to be immersed in a rich artistic community of makers.
What makes Vendor Queens unique as a flea market?
Vendor Queens is unique in a number of ways. For Torontonian artisans and vintage collectors/upcyclers, it is a totally new kind of concept. People aren’t used to the idea of getting to stay put in one place and the kind of community engagement this makes possible. I think that the idea of Vendors being like queens is also a unique one, and what the whole market concept is based on. I generally find that sellers do best when they earnestly engage with their customers with a whole lot of genuine pride in who they are and what they are doing. That can only happen when people have a space that they can afford to occupy.
We’re trying to send the message here that when you take something home that is handmade or found, it’s almost more like you are buying a connection with another human being who is willing to part with something meaningful and give it to you. It’s a totally different experience than standing in line at Walmart/Target/wherever…
What kind of products/art/vintage etc can people expect to find at Vendor Queens?
Anything and everything! Each weekend will feature different jewelers, vintage collectors, visual artists, and designers. We are still taking in lots of applications, but have a solid base of great vendors from each category who plan to make the market their home base for the season. We’ve got two these two amazing food vendors too, (both named Sarah) who are serving up complementary treats each weekend—gourmet vegetarian breakfast sandwiches from Herb N’ Homestead (think homemade English muffins) and delicious brownie/shortbread/fancy cakes from Sarah’s Wooden Spoon. We also have these wonderful tea makers, Shannon and Bella (of Madhatter Tea) and guest appearances from their adorable bobbing babies.
What are some of your favourite flea markets around the world and why?
The first market that I really fell in love with was in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala when I was doing my coming of age abroad moment at 18—So much colour, so much vibrancy, huge. Later I was inspired with my long-time friend/Vendor Queen, Michael Young (Owner of Plant Panic) at a Barcelona street market for similar reasons…
But, as a seller and maker, I have to go with the market where I grew my business: Artists & Fleas in Brooklyn, Williamsburg. We’re using a similar structure here because it was so sustainable for me with Elephant in the Attic. It’s a real community full of strange and wonderful queens. I don’t buy things for myself anymore. I just trade.
I love all markets. I’ve never been able to walk by one. I basically always have to go to every garage sale or antique shop I see anywhere. Sometimes my friends plan out road-trip routes to avoid dealing with this reality.
As Vendor Queens grows and progresses, what are your hopes and dreams for it?
I’d like it to be full, vibrant and exciting but also stable and reliable and organized. We want to be an incubator for artists to come together and come up with ideas. I’d like to have free programming during the week for artist/vendor run workshops or work with external groups to make interesting ideas come to fruition.
In the long run, I’d like Vendor Queens to be like a living breathing theatre of people that smudges craft and art, seller and buyer, performance and experience.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever found at a flea market?
Please, don’t make me choose! Let’s just say: books. Lots and lots of amazing books with even more amazing illustrations…
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date with your busy life?
www.vendorqueens.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Better Still: Visit us at 1093 Queen Street West every Saturday & Sunday until New Years, 10AM to 7PM