Inspired Woman Magazine

Handcrafted Just for You: Women Vendors Dish on the Urban Harvest Experience

By Amanda Mack

What is the difference between an artist and a crafter? A debate lies therein. Some might say that an artist creates what you put on your walls to decorate your home or workplace whereas a crafter creates functional art, something handmade that you can wear like a skirt or a handbag.

Genevieve Fisher, who owns Diva Dimensions and will vend for her fourth season at Urban Harvest this summer, believes that we are all artists. We just need the confidence to find and do our art.

About vending at Urban Harvest, Fisher says, “Everyone is afraid that their stuff isn’t good enough or thinks their stuff won’t sell. Don’t give up. Just jump in and do it.”

An open-air street market in downtown Bismarck, Urban Harvest is held six consecutive Thursdays beginning July 14. The market features the work of local artists, crafters, food vendors and service providers and is currently accepting vendor applications.

The goods
While many Urban Harvest vendors are continuing traditions passed down over several generations, others are entrepreneurial HGTV junkies. What they have in common is you won’t find any idle hands among them.

Andrea Ficek has been vending at Urban Harvest since its inception in 2005. She describes her style as “hip granny” and for good reason. Her grandma, who lived on a farm near New England, N.D., taught her how to sew. A quilter, she would set Ficek up with small sewing projects like working on a quilt square, embroidering a dishtowel or doing cross-stitch.

“After I learned how to sew, I wanted to put my own spin on it. I started making A-line skirts and handbags. I make pouches, jewelry, hats and headbands.”

Ficek continues, “I also like to create functional things like bags or things to keep you warm. My signature things are probably hats. I’m getting more familiar with knitting and lettering which is fun because you can make it more personalized.”

In the same vein, Fisher says she attended her first arts and craft show with her parents, who were tending their booth, when she was one month old. Over the years, Fisher’s mother taught her various handiworks such as sewing and embroidery and her father taught her how to paint.

Integral to Fisher’s art is upcycling, a national trend that gives new life to otherwise discarded items. One of her signature items is a project bag, a trendy duffle bag with lots of pockets for carting scrapbooking supplies, knitting projects or craft items from site to site. For one bag, she used an old necktie, an outdated sweater and several fabric remnants inherited from her grandmother to complete the project.

Another of Fisher’s signature items is a one-size-fits-all wrap skirt that can be worn as a dress or a skirt. Primarily using silk saris brought back from India and given to her by a craft show friend, each wrap skirt is a one of a kind.

Pam Berge owns P.S. Retro, a furniture upcycling business. A self-described HGTV and garage sale junkie, ideas are not the problem, it’s time! Berge is also co-owner of Nightlife Music with her husband Rick, works at the Waterford retirement community and DJs on the weekend. A grandmother to boot, this woman does not like sitting still. Vending at Urban Harvest is a great fit for her.

“My hobbies got me into [upcyling furniture]. I love rummage sales. I found this cute little side table. I painted it light blue and put a new knob on it. I used a little wallpaper. It turned out so cute!”

Berge retrofits weathered benches and can turn a forgotten end table into a dog bed. She’ll dress up a chair with a fresh coat of paint and use a funky fabric as a seat cushion. One of her specialties is transforming old coffee tables into ottomans.

“It’s so easy!” says Berge. “The key to my stuff is that people could do it on their own, but they don’t have time and they don’t want to. It’s like baking. I don’t like to bake. That’s why you have bakeries!”

The experience
Working on Medcenter One’s oncology floor is Fisher’s full-time job, doing alterations on the side brings in extra income, and Urban Harvest she says, “is just fun.” Even better, Fisher makes good money at it. “It’s lucrative for me,” she says.

Ficek looks forward to the Urban Harvest feeling. “I really like being downtown,” she says. “It just feels special. You just get to sit in the middle of the street all day. I usually bring a little project to work on while I’m there. The music and the people…the feeling of community is really nice.”

“It’s a really great community experience,” concurs Alice Ospovat, a tie-dyed clothing vendor at Urban Harvest since 2007 and co-owner of Parallax Computer and Games in Bismarck. “I am kind of a shy person and I wasn’t sure I’d be good at selling. It’s been really good for me.”

Berge got a consignment deal with One World Boutique on her first day vending at the market. The owner, Monte Schmidt, who has stores in Bismarck, Fargo and St. Paul, came up to her and said, “I want, that, that, that and that. And the rest of it, when you’re done, I want you to bring down to my store.”

“’What store?!’ was my response and ‘who is this guy?!’” she laughs. With consignment items in Schmidt’s Bismarck and Fargo stores with plans to get into his St. Paul store, vending at Urban Harvest provided Berge with a valuable connection. “Unless you have your own store, how else do you get this out to the public?” she adds.

Furthermore, despite drawing smaller crowds than the Downtowner’s annual street fair or Mandan’s Art in the Park, Berge says that Urban Harvest is just as lucrative for her.

“I did better [at Urban Harvest]. I gave out so many business cards. I had such a good response from the people who came to look. I got so many calls. Everyone was so positive.”

How to prepare
Getting ready for the market is about finding time to create. Berge produces slowly during the winter one piece at a time in her basement and then mass-produces when she can work barefoot in her yard not having to worry about paint fumes. Ospovat finds time in the evening after her kids are in bed or on weekends when they can help.

Ficek says she tries to build up a stock beginning at least a few months before hand. “One summer I actually just vended at Urban Harvest and was able to live on that.”

According to Ospovat, “Urban Harvest is how we got the tie-dye business started in the first place. Urban Harvest is the main thing I do every year.”

Even though Ospovat sells a lot, she is still learning the business. For example, she’s learned not to buy too much inventory because fashions change. She says, “The things I think are going to sell don’t necessarily sell. I’ve also learned that I always sell out of 4T dresses.”

About getting ready for market, Ospovat shares, “One of the advantages of tie-dye is you can do it in a short time. In one evening, three to four hours of work, I can make 20 to 30 items. In five to 10 evenings, I’m ready.”

Berge says she brings about 30 pieces to each market because that is how much she can fit under her tent. She explains she notices patterns from week to week and prepares for each market accordingly. “The things that sold, I’d run with that. Oranges and purples – the retro colors – were big sellers.”

Ficek, who was 20 when she started vending at Urban Harvest, is committed for her seventh season. A loyal participant, she says, “As long as I live in Bismarck, I will vend at Urban Harvest. An all-local market is such a good idea. I just want to see it continue.”

Amanda Mack is a local writer who perpetually buys 4T tie-dye dresses at Urban Harvest each summer.

Inspired Woman Magazine

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