The Square Handmade Market

Bendigo's Handmade Market 'The Square' is a treasure trove of creativity. Once you step through the doors of the historic town hall, you'll find yourself spoilt for choice with an incredible mix of products and stalls...and if you're anything like me you won't even notice time passing as you get lost in this indie shopping experience! Running four times a year, but twice this weekend, it's perfect place to pick up some gorgeous things for Christmas. This is the full version of the Q&A that my Bendigo Magazine article was based around...for market details see links at the end of this post.


Who is behind The Square Market and how did you meet & become involved in this project together? Originally there were three of us. 
Jodie: business owner (Milt & Joe) and mother of three...wishing she still had time to be a maker of things!
Belinda: crafter/maker, mother of two, blogger & Etsy store owner ‘Moonmum
Bridget: mum of one (and now two), partner in ‘Wink & Bid’ Etsy store, and has since moved from Bendigo to return to her old stomping ground in North East Victoria

When Jodie opened `Milt & Joe', after meeting a raft of fabulous makers from participating in markets, she wanted to be able to provide an outlet for local makers who at the time didn’t have any viable outlets. So she sourced suitable makers to stockist for her store, and that's how we all met.

How did the idea of the market for Bendigo come about?
When we got together we would often complain about the lack of a successful maker's market in town. Jodie had participated in other craft markets in Bendigo but unfortunately the attendance of locals was very poor. We craved the kind we liked visiting when in Melbourne or other towns. And as the saying goes, if you want something done you have to do it yourself, so we did :)

What's the story behind the choosing of the location/name?
When discussing where we wanted  the market, the beautiful town hall was our first choice...being  indoors (check), central (check), easily accessible (check), beautiful (check). The town hall is situated on an area originally called ‘market square’ and the name just stemmed from there.

Have you always known that you wanted to own your own business/work in a creative field or was it something you learned about yourself from other experiences?
I think we both like to spend time crafting and making stuff when we can. Since we both have a strong creative streak, we really enjoy seeing what others are doing in the creative and crafting field too. We both enjoy sifting through the market applications as they come in and seeing what kind of products and crafters we'll have at the next market.

Jodie: I grew up constantly making things. Both of my Nan’s were very creative and taught me to make lots of things (clothing, painting, knitting, cooking, hobby tex) so it is just something that makes me happy.


Is there such a thing as a "typical day" in the life of a market organiser? 
The market is only a very part-time gig for both of between regular work, our families and the general busy-ness of life. We run the market four times a year, so our work marketing each event, selecting stallholders, getting paperwork done and organising market days comes in cycles.

How do you possibly choose between all the applicants for each market….I can imagine that would be a huge process and quite a task to make sure you get the right mix of stall holders? This is the most enjoyable and most difficult part! Ever since the market started we've had more applications than we can accommodate, which is fantastic for us to be able to choose from a good balance of styles, mediums and products. But it's also really hard to turn away so many people who put their heart and soul into what they make. We're makers ourselves, so we know that it's a very personal process.

We're also getting to know what Bendigo shoppers like, so there are some really popular stalls we have time and time again. We've also learned what kind of things not to have at the market, that aren't as popular or don't suit the overall feel of the market. We try to make each market different, with a variety of stallholders to keep market-goers interested and let them see something new every time they come.

How would you describe the range of stalls/products to someone who hasn't been to The Square before? What can they expect from the experience?
We take great care to curate each market so there is a fantastic blend of a variety of mediums. The market offers a great shopping experience because you're buying from people who have actually made and/or designed the product themselves. Visitors can expect a very high quality of handmade products, that's one thing we're really fussy about. You can expect to see products ranging from jewellery, housewares, sewn goods, toys, art, photography, up cycled wares, clothing, paper goods and the odd yummy baked treat too.

How do your source your sellers/products and where do they come from?
Stallholders apply for the market online. As word is spreading about the market, we're getting more applications from further afield. Most stallholders are from regional Victoria and a few are coming from Melbourne. We love showcasing local creative peeps at the market, but it's also nice to bring some Melbourne makers up to show regional shoppers their products as well.

Is the Summer market leading into the Christmas season different in any way to your other markets?
The Summer/Christmas market is always so popular and really busy! Last year was the first year we made it a two day event and it was a great success. It is a great chance to showcase twice as many makers on the one weekend. This year each day will have completely different stallholders so well worth a visit on both days.


What's one of your favourite things about the market?
One thing we both find really satisfying is seeing creative people thrive. The market has only been going since December 2010 and even in that time we've seen some of our stallholder's businesses really grow and evolve. One particular stallholder who had their first ever stall at our market has gone on to wholesale nationally in a great number of retail stores…we love that!

Do you think that the trend of buying indie/handmade has become less of a temporary `trend' and more of a change in peoples behaviours/mindsets…and therefore more of a permanent option when looking for gifts etc?
We think it's definitely more than a 'trend' now. People are becoming more aware of the nature of mass production and care about where the products they're buying are actually coming from. At the market you're buying straight from the maker's hands! A product that has been made, not manufactured. Considered before it was created. There is an intentionality and meaning that is lacking large mass production, especially when you're looking for a personal gift to give someone special. There's also the added benefit of keeping profit and credit directly with the artist or designer that has created the product.

What influence do you think social media has played increasing the popularity of this market?
We know that many, many, many people have found us via Facebook or seen us mentioned on a blog, etc. But we're still amazed by how many people hear about us via good old word of mouth :)

Thanks Jodie and do an awesome job!  You can find The Square Handmade Market on Facebook, Twitter, and they release lots of sneak peeks of market stockists via their blog so keep an eye on that as well!  

Bendigo Town Hall (Hargreaves Street), Saturday Dec 8th and Sunday Dec 9th, 10am until 4pm ... remember there's a different mix of stall holders each day so be sure to visit twice!