Des Moines // For Creatives
I moved to Des Moines from my hometown in Pennsylvania in November of 2008, not knowing anyone in town other than my boyfriend and his family. I found a small, accessible city with a thriving art community, fabulous restaurants, great music, access to outdoor recreation, and so much more. Three and a half years later, I have fully embraced Des Moines as my new home, and a “little” event called Market Day has played a huge role in growing my affection for living here, by being a place for me to share my passion for creating while meeting local artists and supporters of handmade.
Market Day is an art + craft (not arts and crafts) show that is held on the first Saturday of the month from May through October with a grand finale on Black Friday in November. Located in the lobby of the Kirkwood Hotel downtown and immediately adjacent to the famed Des Moines Farmer’s Market, Market Day draws of a crowd of 2,000 shoppers who are seeking an alternative to commercial, mass produced goods. Approximately forty vendors set up shop each month with a wide range of hand-crafted and vintage goods including stationary, photography, ceramics, jewelry, home decor, one-of-a-kind artwork and much, much more. Participating in the event as a vendor for the third year now, I have noticed that the quality and range of vendor offerings just keeps getting better and more diverse. This is all a result of the hard work and dedication of founders and organizers Cat Rocketship, her husband Scott, and Dani Ausen. I asked Dani to share how Market Day came into existence, how crafters can get the attention of event coordinators, and what she loves most about living in Des Moines.
How did you come up with the idea for Market Day?
Dani: The idea for Market Day was actually conjured up at Market Street Media Foundry, a co-working space that Scott and Cat founded and I worked at. Two former tenants of Market Street, Kari Bienert and Kerri Thein, originally came up with the idea of having a marketplace for local crafters and artists. Cat, Scott and I were immediately on board, and off we went! I started out as a vendor and the graphic designer, and I became co-director in 2011.
You guys are so passionate about promoting and supporting local handmade businesses. Why is that?
Dani: I’ve always been a crafty person myself, so the Indie Craft movement has fit me to a T. I love that handmade businesses are growing and flourishing even in a down economy. Handmade businesses give talented artisans a means of supporting themselves, and gives the customer access to quality handmade goods at affordable prices. Plus, the money stays local. What’s better than that?
Market Day is a juried event. What do you look for in a vendor application?
Dani: We look for original ideas, products and methods that we’ve never seen before. We look for high quality craftsmanship, cohesiveness of the vendor’s products, and great branding. We love to see photos of an impressive booth setup… when we see that, we know that shoppers will be drawn to the vendor. We also look for variety of price points… great vendors have items that start in a lower range, to accommodate all budgets.
Do you have any tips for handmade businesses applying to craft shows for the first time?
Dani: Take beautiful photos of your products, or enlist help to do so! This is your first, and most important impression. Send us a link to a great collection of photos of your work, including branding and booth setup, if you can. Make sure that all of your links work… you’d be surprised at how many broken links we receive. Focus your work, having too wide of a variety can be detrimental to a vendor. Also, be persistent! If you don’t make it the first time, ask us for feedback. We’re happy to give it, and it will give you an edge for next year’s application!
What advice would you give to a reader who was interested in starting an event like Market Day in their own city?
Dani: Most importantly, put together a great group of vendors. Vendors should not only have quality product and good business sense, they should be ready and willing to help promote the event. The more attendance you have, the better their sales will be!
Are you Des Moines natives? If so, why did you decide to stay?
Dani: I am actually a Des Moines native, I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but moved to Des Moines as a toddler. When I was growing up in Des Moines, I never thought that I would want to stay here. When I headed off to Iowa State, my intention was to head to Minneapolis or Chicago to get a design job. Des Moines came such a long way in those four years, that when I graduated and noticed the great opportunities and young professional community in Des Moines, I was hooked.
Do you feel like the Des Moines community is supportive of handmade businesses?
Dani: I really do. Market Day has had such a good reception in Des Moines in our fourth year. We’ve been ecstatic by the growth of our branding recognition and attendance. In addition, there are so many local shops, especially in the East Village, that carry local product and support handmade businesses. The buy local movement has really helped us out in a big way!
What do you love most about living in Des Moines?
Dani: Des Moines is big enough to feel like a city, but small enough that the little guy has a chance to make it. An event like Market Day could get very lost in the shuffle in a larger city, but we have so much support here. It’s really excellent.
What do you think first time visitors to Des Moines should definitely see?
Dani: I think that the Des Moines summer Saturday is really tops. They can hit the amazing Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market, head to Market Day (on the first Saturday of the month), and continue to the East Village or Western Gateway Park.
Where would you send them for a fabulous meal?
Dani: There are so many amazing local restaurants. One of my personal favorites has always been the Flying Mango. They have delicious barbecue, an excellent atmosphere, and a very homey/family feel. It’s always a great experience. Also, being a downtown dweller, I love Django for champagne and fresh seafood!
Do you have any favorite shops or small local businesses that you would recommend?
Dani: Domestica has a great variety of local and national handmade items, curated to perfection. Found Things is one of my favorite antique stores in the city, and it’s as beautiful to look at as it is fun to shop at. I love All Spice… their delicious infused olive oils and vinegars get me every time… and they let you sample as much as you want! Finally, Francy Pants in the Dogtown neighborhood is one of my favorite new spots. It’s an adorable consignment with great prices and local handmade items as well!
What is one thing you would like people to know about Des Moines that they might not already?
Dani: In Des Moines, we’re nice, but we’re also hungry. There are so many big thinkers in Des Moines taking great ideas and making them happen. We’re so much more than cornfields and cows!
Des Moines – and all of Iowa – is definitely more than cornfield and cows. The next time you’re cruising along I80, don’t just pass us by. There’s so much more to see and do, and Market Day is just one reason to stop and stay a while.
*All photos credit to Anna Jones.
Jillian lives in Windsor Heights, Iowa with her boyfriend Keegan black labrador Miles and ulta-charming shepherd mix Eddie. She is currently one semester away from her Master’s degree in Interior Design and keeps busy creating jewelry for shop on Etsy j. Frances Design. In her spare time, she loves sitting on the back porch with a glass of wine and a good book. This summer, she is looking forward to shopping at the Farmer’s Market, attending outdoor concerts, working on her golf game, and taking time to relax.