The Boston Open Market, a new weekly arts market hosted by New England Open Markets, opened on Saturday and is offering artists a chance to showcase their art and reconnect with customers at Copley Square.
New England Open Markets have been bringing arts markets to Boston for over 17 years. But, with its new partnership with the Friends of Copley Square, the company was able to bring the Boston Open Market to Copley Square.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of the New England Open Markets,” Gretchen Gold, owner of Wish List Vintage Apparel, said. “And this is my first time showing with them. You can just see the location, and everybody wants to get out, you know, and I think it’ll just be great for everyone.”
The Boston Open Market is set up as a series of tents around the greenery at Copley Square. Each business, ranging from jewelry designers to garment upcyclers, has its own tent to promote its art.
Gold’s business focuses on vintage apparel, jewelry, and shoes. Her shop has an array of vintage items, including pins from the ’80s, cut-off Levi shorts, and Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts.
“I got in the consignment business about 20 years ago and just fell in love with it,” Gold said. “And I met a lot of collectors and people along the way that had beautiful collections that I actually started selling for them.”
According to Gold, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists like Gold, who would normally sell their crafts at local markets, were forced to shift their businesses online. This change makes the experience of selling impersonal, Gold said.
“It was kind of isolating just to sell online all for like a year,” Gold said.
While Gold started selling her work online because of the pandemic, other vendors, such as Ashley Stebbins from Plantcycled, began their businesses on websites like Etsy before moving to markets.
“When I was in college, I started making my dinosaur planters,” Stebbins said. “I originally made one for myself, and it turned into a big success with all my roommates and my friends and everything.”
Stebbins’ dinosaur planters are made by cutting a piece of plastic out of a dinosaur figurine and inserting a plant, just like placing a plant into a pot. Other planters available at her shop are also made from materials that could be found around the house.
“We specialize in upcycled materials, planters, terrarium made from just your average, [and] standard everyday items that are normally thrown out, but they’ve been repurposed to give a new love and life,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins said selling on Etsy helped her to branch out with new products over the years.
“It’s come to now doing conventions and doing more pop culture, Pokemon, anime-themed items,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins said she is glad that she is able to return to selling her items in person because she missed the personal connections she made with her customers.
“It’s meeting all the new people, the infinite people,” Stebbins said. “It’s getting out there [and] being social. It’s also nice being outside, especially after staying inside for a whole year. … It’s been my favorite thing so far.”
Vendors at the Boston Open Market also come from a variety of locations, including Analia Knauer from Argentina.
Knauer’s shop, Krikraf, specializes in handmade pouches, purses, and tote bags. Many of these products are printed or embroidered with geometric patterns or graphics of public figures such as Frida Kahlo. At the open market, she also sold earrings, necklaces, and masks.
Although Knauer has been sewing since she was 14, her business was only a year old at the start of the pandemic, which she said made it difficult for her to adapt.
She also said people were afraid to touch her items at her shop because of the pandemic, so she originally covered them in clear plastic bags. This inability to touch the products made it harder for Knauer to sell them, and said she is happy to sell her items, plastic bag–free, at the market again.
Another vendor, Richard “Luhne” Bonasoro from Backyard Soap Company, said he missed the opportunity to sell at markets when he shifted his focus to his online business at the start of the pandemic.
“Because, you know, this pandemic has been going on for a while, and not being at markets for almost two years was kind of a bummer,” Luhne said. “So that’s my favorite thing. I’m just happy to be back.”
Backyard Soap Co. is a vegan soap company based in Massachusetts. Luhne, a chef by trade, started making soap eight years ago because he said he loved making things from scratch.
“So I got into making soap, and it was kind of one of those projects that just stuck, and then I started giving it out,” Luhne said.
He originally started just making soaps for his family and friends, but then expanded to markets around Boston.
“I started in SoWa in the South End, and then for years I was doing the Greenway,” Luhne said. “And now we’re in Copley. This is our first open market here today.”
The Boston Open Market will be open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May through Nov. 1.
“I love the location,” Gold said. “And I love the energy. I love the people, the different types of vendors. You know, it’s just, it’s beautiful.”
Featured Image by Josie McNeill / Heights Editor