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q&a with finders keepers

by Carolyn Price
The Finders Keepers Markets, December 2009 at CarriageWorks, Sydney

I 1. How did you meet & first come up with the idea of a design market?

SARAH Brooke and I met straight after high school as we were taking on new creative paths. My background is in Fashion design, I have studied and worked as a designer for Fashion & Accessories for 6 years. Brooke’s background is Jewellery Design and she studied Jewellery & Object Design and went on to start her own jewellery label Brooke Johnston Design in 2006.

The markets started from a conversation after Brooke had just started her jewellery label. She was feeling frustrated about trying every single market in Sydney and not getting the results she wanted and so we dreamed up the idea of doing our own markets our own way that set a benchmark of creative standards in a fun supportive atmosphere.

Ceramic designs on sale at the Finders Keepers markets

Ceramic designs on sale at The Finders Keepers Markets

So after a 'why not' attitude and perhaps a few wines, we started in a restaurant space in Surry Hills with just 18 designers and the response was overwhelming. We had so much fun we held it 4 times that year and we quickly grew out of the space with people queuing out the door to get in!

We both started working on the markets part time as a hobby and now we dedicate a few days a week to working on Finders Keepers and we'd love to evenutally work on it full time.

Finders Keepers was originally adopted from our first project, Hope Street Markets, which we started in 2007 and this is where our initial idea blossomed. Hope Street Markets was a name adapted from the venue we were using at the time ‘Hope Street’ and we went on in 2008 to start our own journey and created the Finders Keepers - our own business name.

The lovely team behind CarriageWorks then approached us to use their space and it we then launched Finders Keepers. CarriageWorks is now our official host and home in Sydney and we grew from 20 stalls to 60 overnight.

I 2. Are you both crafty too?

BROOKE We both have design backgrounds and design & art has always been in our blood so to speak. We're always creating our own things and love to explore new ways of doing things and learning from others. Even if it's re-creating or re-purposing old things into new, to surround our houses with beautiful things! We also can't help to be inspired when we are surrounded with so many talented people and new products all the time.

I 3. Do you share the work evenly, or do you each have defined roles?

SARAH When it comes to events we both share the workload evenly and decide everything together. We balance really well when we work together as we both have different knowledge and experience in design so we always have something to contribute to the work we do. I run the website with our fabulous intern Frankie and we are always profiling designers & artists and keep our followers in the loop about new creative events and opportunities.

Publisher Textiles display at the Finders Keepers markets

Publisher Textiles display at The Finders Keepers Markets

I 4. What did you learn from putting on Hope Street Markets that enabled you to launch the larger Finders Keepers markets with such success?

BROOKE We learnt a lot from Hope Street Markets and it was a great way to start what we do. We started small, with no money and learnt from mistakes along the way! It also gave us lots of confidence as we started out - we developed our own ways of working and the incredible response we got, not only from the customers but also the designers, re-affirmed our decision to keep going and develop it at a larger scale.

I 5. How have collaborations helped you to achieve your vision for The Finders Keepers - eg. with venues, flyer artwork, props & decorations, music…

SARAH Collaborating has been crucial to what we are doing. It's not only about the sponsors who haved worked for us at discounted rates or pro-bono - it's more their added support & care, and actually working alongside people that inspire and motivate us. They all share a love and a passion for what we do and that energy is priceless, we just love having like minded people work with us!

At the Sydney Finders Keepers Markets in December

At the Sydney Finders Keepers Markets, December 2009.

I 6. With spaces strictly limited, it must be hard to decide on which labels make the cut. What are you looking for in applications?

BROOKE It is a hard process and we hate making the cut when there is a lot of talent we want to encourage. However, it also shows that the design world is competitive and to be successful you really need to be a step ahead and show why your product is unique amongst others. We look for innovative work and the quality of the work has to be evident - not only how it is made, but also the way it is presented to us. Presentation is key, people have to show why their products will look amazing at our markets and why we should choose them over 100s of others.

I 7. What are some of your favourite labels?

This is a hard one! We love so much..

SARAH I love some of these artists: Beci Orpin, Courtney Brims, Schmooks, Anke Weckmann and lots more.

BROOKE Some designers I love: Dragstar, Nancybird, Paper Boat Press, Kristen Doran, Iggy and Lou Lou, Have you Met Miss Jones and many more!

The Old Museum - Finders Keepers venue in Brisbane

The Finders Keeper's Brisbane venue - The Old Museum

I 8. What were the biggest challenges in expanding the Markets into Brisbane?

SARAH Finding a venue when you're in a city you don't know is definitely a challenge! We were trying to find something that could replicate what we have in Sydney. We must say we are very blessed to have CarriageWorks so we were struggling for a long time. The Old Museum was a hidden gem that had the size and the character of a building we were looking for. It's also a struggle doing everything by correspondence and trying to envisage how it will look and how the response would be. It was a bit of a risk for us to try and reach out to a city that we didn't know and try and speak their language so to speak! Fortunately, we had an amazing response and we have learnt a lot from our first event, and the next one will be bigger and better! We are a little more confident now in being bold to take risks and try and make things happen.

I 9. Will it be long before The Finders Keepers appear in other states?

BROOKE We're looking into state number 3 at the moment, we only have the time and capacity to work on one city a year so we're crossing our fingers we'll be able to launch later this year!

I 10. As it expands, will The Finders Keepers become a full-time pursuit for you both?

SARAH We are both taking on more responsibilty and giving more time to Finders Keepers. It's currently a work in progress as we need to spend more time to make it work, so it's just a constant balance. We're trying to build the structure and backbone of our little business so that we can prepare for working for ourselves full time one day! We're also designers at heart so we want to build our own brands (both Brooke's label for her and Find me, Keep me as our joint project) and keep doing what we love.

Drummer softies at the Finders Keepers markets

Drummer softies at The Finders Keepers Markets

I 11. What have been some of the biggest highlights on your journey so far?

BROOKE Having our vision come to life and having people love and look forward to each event has been so rewarding, it's a constant buzz for us. Building amazing relationships and meeting people that respect and support what we do is also a big highlight. Being recognised from some of Sydney's most credible publications and organisations for making a difference to the design/art scene in this city has been incredibly flattering - and we still pinch ourselves knowing that we have that sort of effect!

I 12. What are you most looking forward to with the upcoming Sydney Autumn/Winter Markets?

SARAH We're spending more time on some art installations alongside Michelle McCosker from Reef Knot and her amazing knitting team. We've also got some exciting collective and interactive type stalls alongside some creative and clever people. We really want to keep pushing each event to have some new exciting and different so people of all sorts can be inspired and even get involved! Yet again, there are so many amazing new artists, and for the first time we have had a great response from WA & Tasmania - there are lots of great designers we have never seen before that we are anticipating great things from making their debut with us!

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