The arrival of spring is a boon for Savannah’s artists and makers.
Warmer weather means the return of outdoor activities, which importantly includes art markets. Fresh off the Christmas surge and the subsequent winter chill, local artists await the arrival of spring to get outside and sell their stuff.
This year, of course, is a little different.
Held back by social distancing per the CDC’s guidelines, some of Savannah’s makers have come up with creative alternatives to getting their art out there. A clear answer to this problem is an online market.
Abode Studios has compiled Savannah Makers Online, a group of 30 makers that appear on one page to sell their work that ranges from jewelry to illustrations to candles and everything in between. The artists are familiar faces and names at most of the makers’ markets you’ll see around town.
Abode’s Chrissy Rippetoe shares that they had a big spring market in the works before things began to change quickly.
“We felt uncomfortable announcing it and not knowing for sure how it would affect the community’s health,” says Rippetoe. “We didn’t want to put any of our artists’ health in hazard, either, so we just didn’t want to bring that into our space not knowing what the dangers were.”
Rippetoe and her co-founder of Abode, Alex Forby, kept an eye out for alternatives. In Rippetoe’s hometown of Orlando, she saw an online market that seemed to be getting good interaction. That inspired her to begin one here in Savannah to salvage everyone’s springtime plans.
“We were getting the feeling that people were getting discouraged really quickly because markets were getting canceled really fast,” remembers Rippetoe. “We wanted to do something that not only lifted spirits but also involved everyone socially.”
The social aspect is integral to markets. Not only is it a way for people to just get out of the house and hang out with other people (ah, remember those days?), but talking with potential buyers is the easiest way to sell your work.
“It’s a lot easier to sell an item in person because people can handle the items, you can talk to them, they get a feel for who you are, they can see your entire collection in one glance,” explains Nea Hanna, an artist and maker with Abode.
Over the weekend, Hanna was one of about 20 makers who participated in a Facebook Live event that allowed shoppers to hear from their favorite makers in a 30-minute live video.
“It’s hilarious and full of awkward moments that are okay because we all understand that we’re doing the best we can and this is new to a lot of us,” says Hanna.
Hanna is also part of an Instagram group that acts as a conduit for social media interaction and visibility.
“Each person does a post every single morning, and then we just go through the whole list of each others’ posts and share the love, comment and like,” says Hanna, “so we make sure that we’re driving visibility for everybody. There’s been people that have been reaching out to do collaborations that otherwise you would never think of.”
One such collaboration happened with Rippetoe and one of her makers, Melissa Montford Beauchamp of MMBbyHand. Beauchamp is a seamstress who usually makes wallets and purses, but she recently redirected her focus.
“She had some medical friends and friends in hospitals and doctor’s offices asking, ‘Hey, can you do masks for us please?’” shares Rippetoe. “Then I was sharing about the market and community members were asking, ‘Do you have masks?’ So I started sharing her information and it steamrolled from there.”
Currently, Abode has 11 seamstresses creating masks and isolation gowns to distribute to any medical facilities that may need them. Rippetoe shares that medical professionals in need of supplies can email firstname.lastname@example.org with their requests, and people willing to help monetarily can make a donation to their GoFundMe, which can be found on their Facebook page.
It’s inspiring to watch artists come together and do good things, even in the face of a global pandemic that seems never-ending. It’s equally inspiring to see the creativity flowing out of our already-creative community.
For Rippetoe, the idea of bringing everyone together in one digital space fosters that creative community even more.
“We wanted to do something that cross-connected everyone’s audiences,” says Rippetoe. “We’re all sharing it, so my audience is going to see everyone else’s things and then shop something they’ve never seen before. Some people are running sales, a lot of people are doing free shipping or local pickups—a lot of people are taking a really creative way at trying to make their small business work and rolling with the punches in a very strange time.”
Hanna thinks that there’s room for these new ways of connecting to carry over to our daily lives.
“I think it’s really opened our eyes to how much more we can be doing online and digitally, and with people that maybe have travel restrictions or are homebound in general,” says Hanna. “It really opens it up and makes it available to everybody, and I hope that we don’t forget that when things get back to some sort of physical normalcy. I hope that we don’t forget the value in driving online community.”