It’s hard to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Sydney’s artists and makers were among those hit, with many facing the shutdown of the weekend markets where they usually ply their wares. Textile designer Sophie Parry was keenly aware of the lack of income and opportunities for those who usually sell at markets – including those who weren’t eligible for government support, and had no idea where to start with launching an e-commerce site. So in April she founded Sydney Artisan Collective, a Facebook page that gave makers a space to advertise their goods. More recently the page has evolved into a fully fledged website, with more than 40 artisans selling 800 items.
“It’s become vital to support local and handmade goods, now more than ever,” Parry tells Broadsheet. “Customers were unable to visit the weekend markets in Sydney due to the restrictions, [so] having an online marketplace to shop for those handmade wares is the next-best thing, as it allows people to connect easily with local artisans and their creations. We’ve even had feedback from people in other states, informing us of how much they love the Sydney markets and how much they now appreciate being able to browse and shop with all of those brands all in one place.”
On the site you’ll find everything from silk tops to leather handbags, stylish jewellery, vibrant art prints, terrariums, ginger-spiced honey and microgreen kits – in essence, the varied array of goods you might get at a weekend market.
“Our collective is just as popular with sellers as it is with buyers, as it offered a solution to the restrictions and now acts as a risk-free retail platform that will stay open if we face another lockdown,” says Parry. “Additionally, as many of our makers had no existing websites, this has been an introduction to selling their goods online. It also provides a community for local artists in these tough times – everyone is in the same boat, and the collective has created a much-needed network of support.”
Parry says Sydney Artisan Collective is the only online marketplace dedicated to artisans in Sydney (recently a store opened on Newtown’s King Street that also stocks goods from local makers left without a market during lockdown), and that it not only gives sellers a place to advertise their wares, but also encourages them to learn how to sell and market themselves online. Eighty per cent of the site’s customers are in NSW, with the remaining 20 per cent shopping from other states.
Parry has also recently launched a Christmas vertical of the site, selling gifts and other silly-season essentials. There are Christmas-themed terrarium kits, Christmas cards, mistletoe and Christmas pudding-scented candles and an assortment of gifts.