Went to the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock, a rather run down area to the North East of  Cape Town today.  The market is a curated food and design market, which runs every Saturday and whilst it’s a bit stereotypically ‘organic’ [white, wealthy, educated, urban, lefty liberal, crocs wearing…], it’s such a vibrant interesting environment that it works incredibly well. And I say ‘curated’ because the stall holders are vetted for their community and artisan credentials; this isn’t Huddersfield.  The two blokes behind "What if the World" gallery in Cape Town started the Market earlier this year. Their gallery hosts local artists and nothing costs more than R1000 [about 80 quid] and it’s proved to be popular.  The market follows a similar philosophy of supporting emergent talent but food and design talent rather than ‘art’.  It was packed. Markets are just so social. You get to see the provenance [because generally the person who made it sells it] and the variety of goods on offer make it a real sensual, rummage type of experience [as opposed to the goal orientated supermarket shop] and a very viscereal kind of retail. It’s involving both in what it puports to offer [organic, designed, ‘unique’, community spirited, bloody righteous, whatever..] and the experience you have which is ‘hands on’ and social, both in the way you relate to the products and how you relate to other people in the communal eating / drinking areas.

I’ve been researching craft markets for a while now and the thing that I notice when I’m listening in on conversations is how fantastic people find the experience.  The experience.  Not really the products so much, good and full of stories as they are, and yet it’s nothing spectacular, there’s no entertainment or special effects. You’re just mingling, socialising with strangers and creativity and in that sense markets are an antidote to the very functional retail experience that shopping has largely become.  They’re also a source of cultural capital a means to find new produce, new things to talk about and recommend in much the same way that we rely on peers or experts or recommendation systems to help us manage choice and find new books or music or video. So markets seem support a similar function, here the market itself acts as an arbiter of choice and not just the individual and their peers who are browsing.

I’m sure markets will continue to thrive as food miles, local produce [and identity and provenance] become more of an issue, though I suspect they’ll remain distinctive in their cultural capital [this is after all  about ‘creativity’ and the best markets will be those that manage to foster the most creative telents] and will remain out of the mainstream, a bit part in the repertoire shopping behaviour of the swollen middle classes, but a more influential bit part.

Anyway, top notch cupcakes and fab tees by local artists :)

And whilst on the subject of Craft I need help to think of another term to describe handmade goods, because Craft signifies staid, old  fashioned and  well, a bit  cardigans and  Auntie’s woolly jumpers. The Japanese have Zakka, which I like.  Others?  I’ll find something at my next market visit to give away  to the best term, as decided by me :)

Other crafty links I’ve marked can be found via