My tips for shopping at the International Folk Art Market

There’s art to shopping at the International Folk Art Market. The market falls just before my birthday each year so of course I have to buy myself a gift there. Over the years I’ve developed some strategies for shopping at the packed market. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful.

Getting to the International Folk Art Market

I’ve come to love the International Folk Art Market, but I almost didn’t go. As most cars aren’t allowed on Museum Hill (where the market takes place) there’s continuous  free shuttle service each day. I was reluctant; I hate crowded buses. This probably traces back to all the crowded buses and subways I rode in NYC as a child. I bit the bullet and discovered that the air-conditioned buses were fine and that the ride was short. A bonus: people are friendly and you can chat with fellow folk art enthusiasts about the Market. As I wear a press badge I’m often asked about who I write for. On the return trip ask someone with a shopping bag what they bought and you’ll be regaled. People love sharing their finds. Buy your tickets prior to the Market so you won’t have to wait on line to buy them at the gate. Also, the Market can sell out.

My modus operandi and some of my Folk Art Market finds

shopping at the International Folk Art Market - A South African lidded basket, photo Billie Frank

A South African lidded basket, photo/Billie Frank

Once I arrive on-site, my plan of action is to start at the first tent and work my way to the last. I love seeing everything. I don’t buy a lot as my budget is small but I always leave with something special. My first year there I got a telephone-wire bowl from South Africa. I also bought some embroidered purses from Guatemala that I gave as gifts. The next year (it’s always close to my birthday) I bought myself a present, a wonderful hand-carved Zapotec angel from Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s the Archangel San Miguel; his extended hands hold a bird. The wings and the bird are detachable. He sits in our guestroom on a primitive bench welcoming visitors. The following year I bought a piece of flowered china from Poland that, alas, broke last year- I may just have to replace it. Last year we both worked all weekend and missed the Market, but we will be back this year, cash is hand. Other birthday gifts have included baskets from Panama, Venezuela, South Africa and Rwanda and pottery from Poland and Uzbekistan. Each is a treasure I’ve bought small South African baskets for under $10 as gifts for friends and family. Last year I bought some painted tin ware from Peru which also went for gifts. Thank you International Folk Art Market for taking place just before my birthday. It gives me a guild-free reason for shopping at the International Folk Art Market. I can’t wait to see what I come home with this year.

Strategies for shopping at the International Folk Art Market

shopping at the International Folk Art Market - Lidded basket from Rwanda sits on an old barn table photo Billie Frank

Lidded basket from Rwanda sits on an old barn table photo/Billie Frank

 When we first started attending the market, crowds were less. Over the years, the Market has flourished and it can get crowded. Now we’re a bit spoiled. For the last five years we’ve been getting press credentials to the Folk Art Market which includes “All Access” pass allowing us to go to the Friday night Preview Party. It’s way less crowded so shopping is easier, plus there’s food and drinks ( included in the ticket price). Food stations set up around the Market and servers circulate with tasty bites. If you can afford a ticket to this event and want to do some serious shopping, splurge! Also, Early Bird shopping offered on Saturday before the Market opens to the public. Besides being less crowded, you can shop in the cooler part of the day.

If like me shopping at the International Folk Art Market on a budget, you may want to check out the entire Market before making buying decisions. Be sure to note either in the book with a map of the vendors, in your phone or on a piece of paper what you discovered and the booth it’s in so you can go back once you’ve decided you can’t live without it. Trust me! I’ve learned the hard way after failing to find booths where there was something I decided I really wanted.

shopping at the International Folk Art Market - two small Wounaan baskets from Panama photo Billie Frank

Two small Wounaan baskets from Panama, photo/Billie Frank

If money is no object, pick out what you want at each booth and have the booth’s volunteer assistant write up your sale. They’ll pack your treasure for later pick-up and hand you an invoice in triplicate. Keep shopping. When you’re done choosing your treasures proceed to one of the check-out stations and pay for your purchases. You’ll get two copies of the invoice back: one for the vendor and one for you. Return to the booth, give them your receipt and they’ll hand over your finds.

Steve isn’t big on shopping. After taking photos for the blog he spends his time at the market people-watching, striking up conversations with strangers or listening to music at the entertainment area.

When I’m done, birthday gift in hand, I call Steve’s cell phone to find out where he is, meet him and we go to the shuttle bus thinking about how much fun we’ll have at the Market next year.

What treasures did you buy shopping at the International Folk Art Market?






No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge