Craft Egalitarianism

Salty Streets Flea Market founders Audrey Gallegos (wearing jewelry by Arash Mafi) and Karamea Puriri (wearing a necklace by Sarah Pace) with antique clothing and furniture provided by Amanda Wilson of Who Vintage. Photo: Chris Swainston

The first Salty Streets Flea Market, on May 2 of this year, was almost a complete bust due to a petulant winter refusing to die. “We looked online and it was supposed to snow and rain.” says Karamea Puriri, “We thought about cancelling, but there was no other day. So, we took a chance. The vendors were more than willing to still set up their booths. It helped having their support.”

Vendors huddled together, hoping that someone, anyone, might be willing to brave the meteorological nastiness and at least browse the wares. Surprisingly, people were there right when the market opened at noon. By three o’clock that afternoon, the sun had come out and people were at the Salty Streets Flea Market in droves. “It gave us some good momentum.” says Puriri, “As soon as that first flea market ended, we started planning for June.”

The Salty Streets Flea Market is the brainchild of Puriri and her partner, Audrey Gallegos. Gallegos was moving back to Salt Lake City from San Francisco and wanted to have some kind of project to involve herself in upon her return. Puriri had a degree in Entertainment Business that, like most degrees, was going largely unused. “We thought about it for a while and then we realized that we know tons of people who make amazing arts and crafts but have no place to sell them. Vendor’s fees can be really expensive. So we thought, why don’t we host a super cheap, first-come first-served at Kilby?”

Many craft fairs require vendor’s fees, which can make merely breaking even at the end of the day impossible. It’s not uncommon for a vendor to pay forty, seventy-five or even one hundred dollars for a space at a craft fair—and that’s if they even get in. Many craft fairs get pretty picky in choosing who gets to vend their wares and who doesn’t—a process which can sometimes be based solely on personal taste rather than the quality of the items being “auditioned.” The Salty Streets Flea Market is, by comparison, an exercise in craft egalitarianism. Vendors are selected by when they apply, rather than what they apply with. And while vendor’s fees have had to be raised from the initial ten dollars to twenty-five, it is still more than affordable when compared to other craft fairs.

After speaking with Lance Saunders at Kilby Court, Puriri and Gallegos had a venue and a date, although they would have to move a little more quickly than they had previously anticipated. “When we set the date for the first flea market, we had no more than a month to prepare,” says Puriri. However, within a weekend, the pair had made posters and handbills and effectively spread the word. “When I explained the idea to people, I told them ‘I know it’s a new idea and it’s scary, but let’s just jump in head first’,” says Puriri. Within a week and a half, they had fifteen vendors lined up—more than they expected. By the day of the first flea market, more than twenty people had signed on, selling everything from handmade jewelry to zines. Gallegos and Puriri were even able to get local bands Holy Water Buffalo and Birthquake! to come and provide entertainment.

In addition to providing a space for local artists and crafters where there might previously have been none, the Salty Streets Flea Market is also committed to the promotion of local non-profit organizations. “Our generation tends to forget the problems of others.” says Puriri, “It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, and so we thought this would be a good way to raise awareness and contribute. Every vendor donates one or two items and we put it into a basket and raffle it off.” May’s flea market raised almost four hundred and fifty dollars for The Empowerment Project, which creates micro-enterprises for widowed women in Kaberamaido, a village in Uganda. In June, they raised three-hundred and fifty dollars for the Ching Farm Animal Rescue and Sanctuary.

In the great crafting revival that has happened in the past few years, one may question the need for yet another bazaar or boutique. However, where The Salty Streets Flea Market stands out from other fairs is a sense of community not always found in its crafting contemporaries. Like other markets, there is certainly an emphasis on the exchange of money for handmade goods or even just recycled junk resurrected from someone’s basement. However, for Puriri and Gallegos, there is an equal if not greater emphasis on their love for Salt Lake City and for the local talent that resides therein. “It’s always good to bring creative people together.” says Puriri, “It’s always good to showcase talented people, and it’s good to just have another event for people to come together and have a good time.”

As of press time, the next Salty Streets Flea Market will be held on September 5. As always, it is first-come, first-served, and the vendor’s fee is twenty-five dollars. Email for inquiries or to sign up.

Salty Streets Flea Market founders Audrey Gallegos (wearing jewelry by Arash Mafi) and Karamea Puriri (wearing a necklace by Sarah Pace) with antique clothing and furniture provided by Amanda Wilson of Who Vintage. Photo: Chris Swainston