Workshops help Indigenous artisans prepare for upcoming markets
'What we wanted to do was just set them up for success'
In a meeting room inside of the Abegweit First Nation band office artisans are busy planning for the upcoming Indigenous Artisan Market.
The event doesn't take place until Nov. 27, but on Thursday morning ideas were already being shared about how to best prepare.
"People are really excited," said Jamie Thomas, the chair of the Indigenous Tourism Association of P.E.I.
"The last market, I think, was in 2019. We weren't able to do it last year but the uptake from artisans has been really, really great."
The non-profit organization is hosting training workshops to help get everyone ready. The hope is that the sessions give artists a chance to share experiences, best practices and learn from one another.
"What we wanted to do was just set them up for success," said Thomas. "So that it's a smooth process when we actually get to the event."
The room filled with information, ideas, tips and an array of questions one might completely forget to think about in the heat of the moment.
"Do you need an electrical outlet?" one woman said. "If you have a break you will want a chair to sit in?"
There was advice too. For example, suggestions about payment methods, how to give receipts and what to do if there is poor lighting.
Secrets were also revealed about ways to spice up your personal booth. One recommendation involved hiding containers under a black tablecloth to create depth and display products.
"Indigenous artisans, it's a very individual type of business, so putting them in the same room together and having them exchange information … and providing a space where people can do that, and feel comfortable and feel safe to share their stories is really powerful," said Tyler Gould, who sits on the board of the association.
"That's why it was good to have it directly in the community here in Abegweit."
'It'll blow you away'
So far, Thomas said about 40 artists have registered for the market at the end of the month. That includes Mi'kmaq Printing & Design, Custom Creations, basket makers, porcupine quill art designers and some experimenting with birch bark and making Christmas ornaments.
"Some of our artisans are as young as 10 years old," she said. "So we're pretty excited because we've got a range of people who have a range of products."
For those who are registered but were unable to make the workshop in Abegweit, Gould said another training session is scheduled to take place next week in Lennox Island.
"It's a great, great way to learn from each other, to show that the support systems are there," he said. "We want the artisans and the entrepreneurs to ultimately succeed. So it's about connecting and sharing information and learning from each other."
As some of the Island's Indigenous artists get ready to showcase their products, Gould hopes others in the province take time to check out their work.
"There's so many incredible Indigenous artisans, both in Abegweit First Nation [and] Lennox Island First Nation," he said.
"It'll blow you away just how talented these individuals are."
The event is planned for Nov. 27 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. More info can be found on the Discover Charlottetown website.