the tuck shop: holiday edition

I left my cabin with massage salve pooling on the counter and a puff of tooth powder in the air. I struggled with the dolly (carrying my precariously balanced products and display), through the mud from my farm community to the end of the road to hail down the bus to catch the ferry from Salt Spring to Vancouver.

It was a strange feeling having all the things I had been slaving over to complete in time- labels, business cards, perfecting last minute recipe changes, finding more mini mason jars and metal tins, stockpiling coconut oil and beeswax, cringing at overpriced baskets but finding a free wooden dish rack soap display, and have everything fit nicely into a small red suitcase, six mason jar flats and a reusable grocery bag. The sweat, the stress, the late nights and rushing to the print shop, the delicate work of collaging labels, to then scan and photoshop and fit to size, then fine tuning the ingredient label requirements to fit Health Canada, and my jars.

The Tuck Shop: Holiday Edition was Saturday from 6-10pm, a hip(ster) night market, and Sunday from 10am-4pm. By arriving Friday it gave me some time to hang out with my friend Nadine, who got me the spot at the craft fair, see some other friends in The Big City, and not be exhausted from the 7 hour travel from door to door.

Sitting on the bus to East Van, hovering over my precious products like a mama wolf defending its’ young, there were many... characters on the bus.

Strangers verbally attacking their neighbours as casually as if they were asking the time. The blunt confrontation was unsettling. Two people behind me were bickering about one coughing on the other.

“But I have bronchitis!”

“How old are you? you’re not old enough to have bronchitis.”

“I’m 65!”

“Well, if you’re going to cough, do it in another direction!”

It was hot on the bus, the rain was beading and collecting on the window beside me, similar to the sweat on my collar bone. I was worried with the intermittent crowding that I would have issues getting my dolly off the bus in one piece. How long is this bus ride, how big is this city? I thought, appreciating the quaintness of Salt Spring Island, where folk hail the bus down from the side of the road. I managed to get off gracefully, enough, and shortly after happily stuff my face with Thai food- a luxury that the small island I reside on, does not provide.

Looking at the two flights of stairs my friend lives at the top of, I took a breath, checked her message again at the directions and address, noted the door and gate should be unlocked, and staggered up the stairs only to bump into the gate, and hear it click into place. I hung my head in defeat, but saw another woman who was on the floor below. I convinced her I wasn't not a robber, she believed me and let me in.

My friend Nadine was babysitting, but her roommates were home, jamming on their respective viola and violin. I sat there, finishing up some labelling and doing a final quality control check before the market, and had a warm, fuzzy feeling of foreshadowing of my festival tour ahead. I Listened to creative, friendly people produce music while I play production-line to my products (labelling takes a lot longer than anyone can imagine).

It was just- pleasant. Sitting quietly, appreciating the calm company, feeling proud of the nice smelling salves and soaps I made. It all magically came together in a way (as one can say whimsically as all the finished products lay at their feet, forgetting the painstaking months it took to get to that stage).

After going through a list of things I didn’t think to bring, like a tally sheet, paper bags or price signs, I fell asleep on the couch, excitement dancing in my head of what the next evening will bring.

The next day I caught up with a friend from university at lunch and printed out product price signs a minute before the copy shop closed (3pm!? in Vancouver!?), got showered and mapped out my route to the market. The glory of night markets is not having to wake up before dawn, which I will imagine to be rough at points this summer.

Lugging the dolly with surprisingly tiny wheels that should be on a skateboard (most likely was), I decided this is the first, and last time I went to a market sans vehicle. Lifting up the goods onto the bus, throwing the suitcase on first like a train hopper en route then wedging my way in with the rest of my 50 pound carry on- just didn’t work for the easy breazy, sweat free persona I wanted to exude to potential customers.

I arrived at Astorinos with an hour to set up. The venue was on Venables Street just off of Commercial (that I kept calling consumer by accident…)and was quaint and reminiscent of an old church hall.

I was happy to see my table was front and center, and I was sharing with Nadine’s friends who sold silk scarves. I was the first to arrive, so I started taking out my baskets, discretely cutting off the tags, and putting down my tablecloth that I was wearing as a scarf.

Surprisingly, it looked quite professional. Later I even had another woman selling felted goods tell me she thought I was a seasoned vendor.

The two girls sharing the table were quite lovely, one German and one English, who were a bit disheartened the first night at lack of sales, but were great company nonetheless, and the sales picked up the next day. Later I realised having free samples of oil based salves next to silk scarves wasn’t the ideal combination of vendor, even though we got along swimmingly.

The market wasn’t as busy as I had imagined in my head, a mad rush of Christmas shoppers, holding wads of cash and pointing at products emulating a 1920s stock market floor. But, out of the people who did come by my stand, a lot were interested and bought. And I got to work on my spiel for the products.

“Go ahead, try a sample. Hm, it does go a long way. Yeah, great stocking stuffer idea.”

“All of the butters and oils have a natural SPF, and the cacao and lavender act as an aftersun as well.”

“I know, it shouldn’t be a surprise because I’m a herbalist, but yeah the deodorant actually really works!”

These were the first moments with the words. Since I wasn’t sick of saying the same thing over and over again, I cherished the unfamiliarity of it all and made note of what worked, what didn’t, feedback on labels.

People bought things. My things. They were excited about it, and I stood with pride behind something I not only made, but strongly believed in. (See proud smile in photo above, shortly after set up).

That night I went with my friend Lisa from Salt Spring, to a concert in a warehouse not far away from Astorinos. It was like a mini festival, with third eye face painting, a tickle trunk, photo shoot, and art exhibit. As I danced madly to an impressive band called High Society, I imagined- this is what my life this summer will be like, sell during the day meet awesome people vending and interesting alternative customers, and let loose at night to highly talented bands that haven’t seen the fame they deserve yet.

At 3:00AM I remembered I technically had to work the next day, even if it was for myself, and got home, debated for a minute whether I should leave the third eye neon pink paint on my forehead for the market the next day, decided it would waver the confidence in potential customers, washed up and went to bed.

The next morning I grabbed a double latte from the corner cafe, (I live like a bum but 5 years in Europe has made me snobby on the coffee) and make it in time to open for 10:00 AM. From 10 until 12PM it was mostly other vendors perusing the stalls, looking for trades to make at the end of day.

A girl who made cotton screen prints of angel wings, waxing moons and bicycles said sternly, “Take whatever you like.” When I mentioned I would trade for some natural skin care products.

third eye

I ended up trading for a handmade felted toiletry bag, small leather wallet, cotton prints, a silk scarf, a jar of kimchi, and pink 1950s glasses frames (which I have now added my prescription). I almost traded for as much as I made in monetary funds- but it was worth the first market memorabilia.

My dolly was much lighter when I left which is the important thing, and I felt great relief of getting through this milestone of my first market, without feeling like a total amature. On the contrary I presented myself as much more organised and professional than I imagined. It left me pretty exhausted but mostly just excited at the taste of what my spring and summer is shaping up to look like.

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