The Ooh La La Curiosity Market brings local artists to Pritchard Park

A WARM GATHERING: Throughout the summer, Pritchard Park will be home to the Ooh La La Curiosity Market. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Morning

“What I like about my market is that it’s intimate,” say Chelsea Morning, the creator and organizer of the Ooh La La Curiosity Market. “You don’t feel closed in and overwhelmed with stuff.”

Entering its fifth year, the market launches for the season at Pritchard Park on Saturday, May 14. Throughout the 15-event summer series, painters, leather smiths, jewelry makers, potters, up-cycled crafters, clothing designers, photographers and others will set up beneath large umbrellas. Musicians will perform at each event, with acts ranging from blues and acoustic rock to solo saxophonists.

A jewelry maker by trade, Morning dreamed up the Ooh La La Curiosity Market in 2011. At the time, her daughter volunteered at the Animal Haven of Asheville and Morning was involved in running the fundraising program at her daughter’s school. “It made sense that if I was going to do this, why not make it a fundraiser as well as a fabulous local art market,” she says.

The “La La” component of the event’s name stands for “Local Artists/Local Animals,”  and a portion of the vendor fees goes toward Animal Haven, a refuge for homeless and abused animals. “They do so much and are one of the lesser-known animal shelters in the area,” Morning says. In addition to the vendor fees, proceeds from a raffle basket filled with donated items from each artist participating in that week’s event go toward raising money for the shelter.

LIVE JAMS: In addition to local craft, local musicians will fill Pritchard Park with music throughout the day. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Morning

Trina Hudson, Animal Haven’s co-founder and director of fundraising, says Ooh La La has provided huge financial help. “We don’t receive any city, county or state funding, so we rely on our fundraisers. It’s a win-win for everybody,” she says. “It gives exposure to the local artists and also to our organization, as far as outreach goes, all of which brings in volunteers and supporters.”

Based on the market’s early success, in 2012, Morning opened The Curiosity Shoppe, a “unique boutique” located on Cherry Street in Black Mountain. Half of the boutique’s inventory is locally made items, many of which come from artists who participate in the market.

Painter Jerry Long, aka Bongojerry, has been a vendor at Ooh La La since its start. “I saw a call to artists on Craigslist, and I was one of the first to respond,” he says. Over the past four years, he’s watched the market grow both in size and scale. What began as six markets with a handful of artists has gradually turned into a seasonal gig. “If you sell well, you could make a living at it through the summer,” Long says.

Like Morning, Long appreciates the venue’s intimacy. “It isn’t overwhelming,” he says. “I think because [of this], more artists are successful in selling their product, rather than being spread out so thin.”

While a handful of the same artists partake in every market, Morning adds new vendors throughout the season to keep the experience fresh. She also makes it a point to invite emerging makers. “I really enjoy giving new artists who maybe aren’t quite ready to do a $400 festival an outlet to see where they can go with what they’re doing,” she says.

Potter and longtime Ooh La La vendor William Hunter offers some practical advice for those new to the circuit. “Don’t be shy. People are coming to get information and see new things,” he says. “Make them feel welcome. And talk up your work. You want to give them a good feeling.”

He adds that Morning’s own concern and kindness toward both her vendors and those in attendance play a large role in the market’s success. “She really takes care of the artists and watches out for our interests,” he says. “It’s refreshing.”

WHAT: Ooh La La Curiosity Market

WHERE: Pritchard Park

WHEN: Saturdays, May 14, 21 and 28; June 4 and 11; July 2, 9, 16 and 23; Aug. 13 and 20; Sept. 3, 17 and 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Musical performances at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.