Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ho Ho Ho from the Holiday Market!

OK, I know I haven’t been blogging lately and the reason can be summed up in two words: Union Square. Actually four words: Union Square Holiday Market. The biggest holiday market in NYC and an event that Maruska (my business partner) and I have been gearing up for for the last year. So the past 6 weeks have been filled with papier mache, sewing, printing shirts, more sewing and general planning for this big event.
The Union Square Holiday Market is a month-long market in the style of a German Christmas market. Little booths with lots of interesting stuff to buy and eat. There are a lot of designers and artists who sell unique items perfect for any Xmas wish list. It may cost you a little more, but it’s definitely worth it since most of things you find here are a) one of a kind and b) handmade by local people (like myself). Resist the mind-numbness of mall shopping and get your ass to this market or one like it near you.
We opened a week ago and so far it’s been pretty good. A little slow but that’s to be expected (as the veterans have been telling us). They say the last two weeks will be really crazy so that’s what I am getting ready for. Maruska and I have one of the most welcoming and colorful booths in the market loaded with great stuff—t-shirts, pajamas, quilts and blankets for babies, Diva Kitties, original art, ornaments, and so on. My latest animal, the tiger is looking to be a hot seller for me. Next week, I’ll be debuting a giraffe design which should be fabulous.
What I love about the market is that it’s like a little village full of friendly people that you get to see every day. I know many of the vendors around us from other markets and those I don’t know, we are already buddies. Besides Belle, the jeweler and Jensen the textile designer, there’s Sister Kristina from Belarus selling Russian laquer boxes, ornaments and matroshki for the monastery where she works. Of course she and I blab in Russian all day. She’s not a real nun but works at the St. Elisabeth monastery in Minsk. They sent her because she personable and knows English. Actually I’ve been speaking a lot of Russian at the market. Besides Kristina, there’s Azamat and Hamid, two young students from Tajikistan selling Pillow Pets. Oh those Christmas jobs! All the Russian speaking opened up a door with Lisa who sells jewelry across from us. Turns out she and I lived in Russia at the same time. Small world huh? She and I ran in different crowds. I was more in with the Russian students who came over to find work and she was more corporate, working for Saachi and Saachi, a high-falootin’ ad agency. Still we have good reminiscing time when it’s slow. On the other side of us is the Viking cuisine and Dezign Mind booth. Run by Klaus and Tina, the Viking cuisine is basically hearty food like meatballs with potato salad, rice pudding and little hamburgers. Klaus is the showcase of that booth, where he and his girls cook up a storm all day in the Viking hats. Dezign Mind is Tina’s booth full of things from Bali: toys, ornaments boxes, masks, etc. The biggest draw is the wooden frog toy that you make rabbit by stroking its back with a stick. So besides the smell of meatballs all day, we hear croaking frogs too. We’ve already grown accustomed to it all.
Besides working at the market all day, I’ve still been teaching ESL two nights a week at Brooklyn College. Monday, I’m having my students come to the market to do a Scavenger Hunt, using their English skills to find out information and to have a chance to get out of Brooklyn. They belly ache about taking the subway and all, but I assured them that they’re going to have a good time—and they will, once they get here.
So here it is a Thursday morning, the beginning of the second week for us. Before I know it, we’ll be finished and resting at home on Christmas Day. The weather has gotten quite warm today, in the 60’s, so that should bring out the shoppers. Look out for more pictures and news from the market in the next weeks!

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