“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.
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. oohlalacuriositymarket.com