Audrey Thacker: Founder and President of Artisan Markets

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker
www.artisanmarketsaz.com

Audrey Thacker was a jewelry maker who saw a need for an artist market community in the Valley. She founded Artisan Markets in 2009, which has grown to a twice-weekly Scottsdale market featuring items ranging from metal sculptures to glass art for purchase. The markets are every Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Scottsdale Waterfront, complete with live music to listen to as you peruse the artist offerings.

The 37-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about what goes into organizing the Artisan Markets, and you can hear Thacker name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was attracted to the prospect of good weather, opportunity and affordability. I am originally from Connecticut, but moved to Arizona after living in Hawaii, because I wanted a place where I could embark on my career as an artist. Arizona had everything I was looking for.

How did you become interested in art, and what has your career evolution been like?

As a kid, I was involved in the arts. I took many classes with my dad and in high school. I was always creating something.

My experience in Hawaii is where I truly became a working artist. I worked for a local jewelry company participating in the swap meet and surrounded myself with other working artists. I really saw that I could make a living doing what I loved, so I created a line of jewelry using a 12-gauge sterling silver wire and gemstones. I sold my work at local farmers markets, street fairs and the swap meet in Hawaii.

When I moved to Arizona, I worked with every arts and fashion organization I could find. I volunteered my time to help produce events and did several solo gallery shows and many fashion and art shows.

I saw that there was a growing need for a regular, consistent event for the budding amount of artists here in the valley, so Artisan Markets was created. We started a monthly event at Main Street Plaza, just outside of Su Vino Winery in 2009, and we had about 10 to 15 artists showing their wares every month.

In 2010, we moved over to the Scottsdale Waterfront for a weekly event on Thursday nights. What started with 10 artists on a monthly basis has now grown to a twice-weekly event seeing more than 70 local and national artists every Sunday and more than 40 every Thursday evening.

The goal for Artisan Markets has always been to create a sense of community, where we all had an opportunity for success in an organized and well-marketed environment.
Even though I’m no longer a working artist, I love being around all my peers and seeing them succeed.

What’s your typical week like running the Artisan Markets during the season?

It’s crazy. I’m always working to spread the word about the market, so I attend networking events and work with the city and the local business community to see how we can provide both locals and tourists an experience while in Scottsdale.

I receive five to 10 new artist applications weekly, and we have a jury panel of five working artists reviewing and deciding on the new works that will be represented at the market.

I’m constantly striving to improve the market and program great live music, live art demos and other activities that help draw in new customers.

What do you look for in a vendor you’re going to include?

Our jury panel looks at many aspects of a potential new vendor. We look at quality of work, uniqueness and saleability. We want our vendors to enjoy success. We also look at their online presence, the display and representation of the work, and if they are using social media and/or marketing themselves. We want vendors who are going to enhance the market atmosphere.

How would you describe your customer?

Our customers are looking for unique works of art, who can take home a “story” of their new purchase. The average price point of work sold is $50 and less, but many of our artists do very well with higher priced items, as well. We have glass art, metal sculptures, paintings, photography, wood, jewelry and more. Regardless of the price point, our customers are looking for a story, an experience to take a little piece of Arizona home with them.

How do you spend your off-season during the summers?

I get to relax a little bit, travel and spend time with family. It also helps to recharge the batteries and figure out what I want to change for next season and how to make it better.

What are the biggest benefits and challenges to owning your own business?

The benefit is I get to make my own schedule, which is great. It’s very rewarding, because I’m doing work I love.

The challenge is being in charge of every aspect. Also, managing employees is something new for me and challenging.

What are your goals?

I want to keep it going as it is now, but I do see it moving to different cities across the country. I’d like to find a place in the summer we can have a market, since it’s too hot here.

I’m also in negotiations to hold a market in other parts of the Valley.

How would you characterize the artist community here?

We’re a family. We really care about each other, and everyone cares about the other person’s success. We keep the egos out of it and create community.

The diversity of the art makes it stand out, and Arizona artists are hungry because it’s a very emerging culture here. When they’re finding new opportunities, they get excited about it. The market has been successful for a lot of people, which keeps them motivated and inspired.

What advice would you have for aspiring professional artists?

Try everything first, and find your niche. Define your goals: do you want to be in a gallery? Do you want to do festivals? Do you want to do more online stuff? Is it a hobby for you? Is it a business for you? We have people here who are both hobbyists and professionals, so defining your goals is important.

After that, watch learn and get yourself out there.

What tips do you have for creating a great display at a market?

It definitely depends on what your product is. Raising tables to make things eye-level is going to get them seen more, because people do not want to bend over to look at things. Less is more. Keep it simple, clean and organized. Always put a smile on your face.

What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?

Patience is key. Never stop. Never give up. I’ve had to face a lot of adversity, and I just keep going anyway. The market never skips a beat.

Why is it important to support local business?

Local businesses keep money in our economy. They really are the pioneers of our community, and it’s what keeps us diverse. Instead of always getting something from a big box retailer, you can go home with a personal story and something that means something to you.

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