San Diego – In between my second and third year of grad school, I received my first architectural related position during the summer of 2008. I got hired working for a small custom home design firm where I worked as an independent contractor. After I worked through my thesis year, my once full time position had become part time and lasted about one more year until when we basically had to close our doors due to the lack of work. That is when I began thinking of different projects for me to fill my days with and when I decided to dedicate my time and effort toward creating custom art work and selling it at local farmers markets and art walks. Over the next two months where I had not been working doing architectural work, I had created about fifty original drawings and the prints to boot. I felt like that was more than enough to justify the cost of renting a space, so I gave it a shot.
The first market I set up at was the Ocean Beach Farmers Market off Newport Avenue in June of last year, which takes place every Wednesday evening. I pretty much grew up in OB so I felt it would be a nice place to start. It went well, so I looked into other markets around San Diego where I thought my work might also sell considering the theme of my work was iconic San Diego symbols, signs and scenes. What I did not realize was the amazing quantity of markets we actually have on a weekly basis here in San Diego County, many of which set up rain or shine and on holidays. On any given day, one can find a market in almost every part of town, stretching from Chula Vista to Oceanside. The next two markets I decided to pursue were Old Town’s Saturday Market off Harney Street and the Gaslamp Quarter Market held on Sunday mornings on J St in downtown. I also looked into setting up at Ray @ Night, the once a month art walk held on Ray Street in North Park. The next surprise, after speaking to fellow vendors, was how many of these markets are run by the same people and how many vendors set up at multiple markets each week, and many were the same I decided to try out.
After I set up at all three markets for a couple of months, I began to make the connections as to the “who sets up where and when.” It became apparent to me that this little side business I had created for myself, all while I continued to look for more architectural work, had developed into full time work all on its own. For many of the people who sold their product around me, this was how they made a living. I discovered this was a whole new world of the economy I never really knew existed, at least to the extent that it does. The organizers who run these markets have at some point in time gotten permission from the city with a series of permits and forms to have multiple blocks of commonly used roads closed on a weekly basis, thus stimulating the towing industry’s economy. When arriving early at each market to set up, there are lines of tow trucks licking their lips waiting for the chance to take away the vehicles owned by those unfortunate folks who did not read the fine print and parked in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is always a sad sight, and it happens often, to see the guy who comes to the place where his Ford Fusion was once parked to find a taco stand serving up carne asada and tamales.
Some markets are strictly certified farmers markets, meaning no art or product besides produce, while others don’t allow fried food. Each market defines booth costs independently and many have an application process prior to getting approval to set up. This ensures the product being sold is not the same or too similar to the product that is already being displayed at that particular market. Some markets have a higher demand and are harder to get a spot, while others do not attract as large of a crowd and always have space for new vendors. Currently, I continue to work the OB Market Wednesday evenings (since I have a large amount of drawings and photos from that area), and have added North Park on Thursdays, along with a part time spot at the Little Italy and Hillcrest Markets on Saturday and Sunday mornings respectively. I have gotten to know my surrounding vendors better and am amazed with the routine it has created with my life, morphing into a full time job I never knew I would have just two years out of receiving my Masters in Architecture. My mother mentioned this to me when I began doing markets on a more continuous basis and I thought it was ironic: I am now working full time doing something to pay for the loans I accrued for an education in a field in which I am not currently working in. The funniest part is, she said I was capable of doing all of this with my life prior to starting college in the first place, and for the most part she is right. Although I have adapted much of what I learned in college toward what I am doing now, it is quite entertaining to think that. To view a full list of farmers markets around San Diego, visit www.sdfarmbureau.org and plan a trip to the market soon.
Photo by Brandon Hubbard