by Jessie Ammons
“I’m a little overwhelmed by Etsy,” says Maria Carroll, who works in administration at Duke University Hospital’s heart center and also has a penchant for locally made art and goods. She and her likeminded colleague-turned-friend, Maggie Meyer, are fans of weekend artists’ markets where they can meet and get to know local makers – an element that can get lost in a virtual worldwide marketplace behemoth like Etsy. “At pop-up shows and markets, we really connected with the stories behind these artists,” Meyer says, “and the mission behind their work.”
But with busy schedules and full-time jobs, the two found it difficult to make their weekend market-going a regular activity. So they turned to Etsy’s online model as inspiration to launch a scaled-down local version, The Makers Mercantile. “It’s a one-stop shop where you know you’ll find really quality products made by local artists,” says Carroll. “We love going to pop-up markets and we love going to gallery openings. This is a collection inspired by that.”
From greeting cards to pottery, necklaces made from Turkish kilims and others from handmade beads to naturally dyed clothing, lip balms to home textiles, “the shop runs the gamut,” says Carroll. “We consider it a collection, but we want to reflect the many different types of art out there in the Triangle.”
Carroll and Meyer consider themselves purely the conduit. While the two operate from a home base in Durham and curate the market in their off time from Duke, “this isn’t about us,” says Meyer, who dabbles in calligraphy. “We feel honored to be able to connect with these makers. They have really amazing stories and such unique backgrounds.” To that end, Makers Mercantile has both a blog and a makers’ section full of stories and profiles, so that consumers connect with the artists, too.
Since the online shop’s launch in June, Meyer says the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.” A founding group of 14 makers quickly expanded to 18, and email requests to join their ranks come in weekly. Carroll and Meyer plan to cultivate the community for holiday market preparation, something that can be daunting for small-scale local operations. Look out for them at upcoming Pop-Up Raleigh markets, held at Trophy Maywood one Saturday afternoon a month, and The Patchwork Market held at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham on the first Saturday each month. In the meantime, the online shop is always open – after all, Carroll says, 24/7 accessibility is what prompted The Makers Mercantile to begin with. “We are here for consumers looking for local art. This is a way to spread further awareness, too. We can all share in our love for the creative community.”
Visit the shop at themakersmercantile.com; market appearances and holiday shows will be posted on the blog at themakersmercantile.com/blog