Let Me Tell You a Tale ...

Square LemonPerhaps some of you know the Square Lemon origin story, but just in case ....

In April 2018 I took part in a craft market. That market, through no fault of the organiser, was not successful. Then I attended another around Christmas of 2018, which was really, really unsuccessful!

I felt truly disheartened by the craft market scene in Ottawa, and very isolated from other crafty people.

Anyone who has read my Knittage blog, or who knows me in the real world, will not be surprised that I decided to do something about it. What may surprise those people is that I was successful in doing something about it!

At that last, really unsuccessful market, I turned on ‘Busybody Brit’ mode, and spent a few hours talking to all the other vendors there. And some of them were receptive to my thoughts:

  • I came from a market town in the UK. There is a market on almost every day in Stafford, and many times a month, there is a specialty market, such as a farmers’ market or a European market. Because of this, people in Stafford always know they can pick up all kinds of things at the market. Whether it’s cheese, handbags, pet beds, the market is pretty much always there for you to browse and buy.
  • Ottawa seemed to have very little in the way of regular markets, other than places like Parkdale Market, where you can buy fresh produce and plants, and other similar things.
  • Craft/art/maker markets were, and are, very seasonal. There were usually markets held at holiday points - Valentine’s, Mothers’ Day, Christmas, and so on. And at those times, there would be a lot! But nothing regular.
  • There were other outlets for crafters, like selling through concession at local craft and maker stores, but those had a limit capacity, and did not have the in-person vibe that craft markets have, where the maker gets to chat and interact with their customer.
  • And there was not a huge, easily available, in-person community.
And man, I do love a community!

What followed was truly thrilling for me. I collected contact information from a number of vendors, we emailed back and forth for a number of weeks, and then a group of us met up at my home.

Following meetings and discussions and planning sessions, we whittled away until we had a good group of people, and a name - Square Lemon!

And we ran with it.

We reached out to a local Maker Space, and took a tenancy. With that we were able to run our first workshop on March 26th 2019! And our very first craft market on April 13th 2019 - a year after my last blog post here!!

And it worked. We have spent the intervening time organising better, working out the kinks, hosting markets and workshops, and building a community. And that community rocks.

Within 6 months we signed a lease on our own premises, and now we have a home. We ran in-person markets every 2 weeks, and a whole bunch of workshops. People met people. And friendships, collaborations and inspiration happened, and grew.

Even with the events of 2020 and the pandemic, the lock-downs, the lack of social interaction, our community exists and thrives.

Square Lemon Artistic Association is a non-profit corporation, and we have a steadfast base of 3 board members and 2 volunteers. And they all rock!

Meg, Melanie, Steph and Sasha have worked tirelessly to make Square Lemon a warm and welcoming community for new crafters, artists and makers. We have an incredible social media presence now, thanks to Steph’s genius. And we have an online marketplace via Shopify to enable us to continue to offer a place for our market vendors to show the world their talents.

And when the pandemic finally leaves us and we can host in-person events again, we will have markets every 2 weeks, and lots and lots of workshops!

Have there been problems? Yes. Have we been able to work through them with the help of our amazing community, and the Lemons themselves? Yes.

I can only say how privileged and happy I am to have the community I yearned for here in Ottawa, and to have met so many amazingly talented crafters and makers over the last not-even 2 years!
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