The Inaugural Cold Water Market

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“Phoebe? It’s Jen. I’m outside your house,” I heard on the other end. I jolted awake again, having fallen back asleep after getting dressed and lying down on top of my made bed. I scrambled up and avoided slipping down three flights of stairs to where Jen, the designer of Paper People Clothing, was standing on my porch with a troop’s worth of suitcases, boxes and rolling racks. It was 10am. The other vendors were due to arrive before noon.

Somehow, weeks before, my friend Cate had expressed her wish to rid her fabulous closet of the vintage pieces she’d collected over the years, and I needed to start planning Bumperharvest Design’s spring pieces. Bloorcourt, where both of us have lived in the past couple of years, is a fascinating neighborhood, but one that lacks a venue for crafters and artisans the way that other neighborhoods in Toronto do. There is something elusive about the style and preferences of the younger residents here, most of who can be seen working through weekends in cafés on screenplays and communication strategies rather than shopping in boutiques.

After having no luck finding a café or bar that would serve as a venue, we decided in the end to host the event at my house, which is close to the Ossington subway station at Bloor. Putting the call out to various Toronto craft forums and Facebook groups, we eventually settled on just five vendors– Cate’s Coal and Marigold Vintage, our mutual friend Jennifer of Paper People Clothing, Linnea Duffy Jewellery, myself in the guise of Bumperharvest Designs, and Chatelaine staffer and food blogger, Dawne Marie, with her small batch ice creams.

It was a harried week of email marketing, running around Toronto for beads and supplies, cleaning and finally, on a cool March morning, finding Jen at my door with her suitcases full of wares. Cate arrived soon after with her racks and vintage housewares, and the two of them transformed my living room into a showroom. I still can’t get over the transformation– racks of soft, structured dresses hiding the flat-screen tv, wristwarmers on display in front of the window.

In the kitchen, I’d already hung up my wood and cord necklaces on the wall, and spread out geometrically-inspired bracelets. Linnea’s funky, edgy metal pieces were spread on the dining table. Finally, Dawne arrived, sleep-deprived after a few days of handchurning her chocolate and sea salt, white chocolate and lavender, passionfruit sorbet and lambic cherry ice creams. It was impossible to decide, so quite obviously we needed to try them all. Upstairs, my roommates helped out by setting up a used book sale, with Steph Kenzie‘s chapbooks and zines.

Despite the greyish weather, passerbys trooped in from the street to browse wares, although most of the foot traffic slowed after about 4pm. Throughout the day, I was asked if I would hold another market in the near future, and emails  from vendors still trickled in with the same request. After helping some of the vendors pack up and restoring my house to its original arrangement, I was too exhausted to think beyond dinner plans.

Will there be another Cold Water Market? Friends and neighbours having been suggesting potential vendors, venues and dates, as though it’s already a given. As a coordinator, I would have to take on the responsibility of ensuring that vendors were guaranteed sales, which is always uncertain in today’s economy. But I’m encouraged by the surge of support that local artisans and crafters in Toronto are receiving, and the general trend seems to be towards products handcrafted, whether it be small-batch breweries, baked goods, publishing or fashion. Like the cold spring itself, it’s hard to predict what might be in store.

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About Phoebe Wang

Apollo's sister. A moon off Saturn, a small, sparrow-like bird, once a Titan.

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