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Image: The Local People

The next time you are shopping for quirky stationery and bags or one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces, visit a craft market.

Boosted by the burgeoning interest in artisanal goods in the past two years, craft markets have blossomed in Singapore.

There are no fewer than three such markets a month. Some are held in regular locations such as malls, while others pop up in more obscure spaces such as a rooftop or carpark.

The recurring markets include the monthly Market of Artists and Designers (Maad); Makers’ Market by Singapore’s largest flea market organiser Fleawhere, which takes place every weekend; and the monthly markets by Public Garden, a community of independent businesses and creative individuals.

A pioneer in the scene is Maad, which was started by the Red Dot Design Museum Singapore in 2006 and is the largest regular craft market here. One Friday night a month, about 80 creatives, such as artists, designers, crafters and illustrators, set up booths in the museum.

Mr Elvin Seah, who curates Maad, notes that markets are moving away from peddling second- hand or mass-produced items to “one where visitors can find higher quality, unique, customised and better designed products”.

Visitorship to Maad has jumped from 700 over two days in 2006 to between 2,000 and 3,000 a night.

A newer entrant into the fray is The Local People, an art market collective that provides a platform for home-grown budding artists and designers to showcase their craft.

A trademark of The Local People, which has 11 markets under its belt since launching in the middle of last year, is its unconventional locations.

From the rooftop carpark of People’s Park Complex in Chinatown to a shophouse in Upper Thomson Road, the collective prefers to stay away from malls and commercial areas. Instead, they pick spaces “people would not normally associate with an art market”, says co-founder Lu Yawen.

She adds: “The Local People events are less about buy-and-sell monetary transactions, but more about getting to know the people behind the products.

“Our markets are not meant to feel like a supermarket, but are places for customers to talk to vendors and get to know the work that goes into the products.”

The turnout for the markets has soared since the first edition, which was held in May last year in an alley in the River Valley area and which drew 600 people. In November, 5,000 turned up for The Local People x Movember Night Market that was held as part of a charity event.

For crafters, these markets offer a cheaper alternative to brick-and- mortar outlets.

Sisters Hazirah and Fajrina Rahim of Ozzy & Lulu, a three- year-old outfit that designs and creates cute stationery and accessories such as passport covers and doodle books, dream of having their own shop space, but are turned off by high rents.

They have an online store and also sell their items at craft markets organised by Public Garden and The Local People. They decline to reveal their sales figures.

Ms Fajrina, 25, says: “Rental for a unit at Haji Lane can start from $5,500 a month. The high shop rentals in Singapore can break your business.”

Rental for a booth at craft markets is $30 to $80 a day.

Retiree Davy Young, 68, who owns ceramic leaf business Leaves With Memories, does not have an online store and prefers to peddle his wares at craft markets.

He takes part in close to 20 craft markets every year, including Maad, Maker Faire Singapore and the ones organised by Public Garden. He says he has sold about 300 pieces since 2012.

He adds: “I get to meet and network with dedicated artisans with diverse expertise. It is also fun to meet customers and share with them the processes of making the leaves.”

For teacher Nurul Musfirah Abdul Talib, 27, going to craft markets and meeting creative people are a refreshing change from shopping at mass market stores.

She says: “I like supporting local crafters because sometimes, you get a sense of Singapore’s intricate history and cultural influence through the creation of the product.”

This story was first published in The Straits Times on July 10, 2015. For similar stories, go to www.sph.straitstimes.com/lifestyle. 

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