When artist Lauren Johnston Duncan had the opportunity for a store space in downtown Auburn last December, she knew immediately it was the answer to a long-time dream for showcasing artists and makers. She called friends for a pop-up shop that grew month by month to housing over 50 makers’ handmade items and offering classes. THE locAL Market officially opened in June to offer Alabama artists and makers a platform to show and sell their handmade products.
“As a painter,” says Duncan, “I was always looking for a place to show my artwork. There was not a gallery or place in Auburn. Once we had access to this building, the market continued to grow. People were excited to be a part of it. Artists and makers continued to apply to become a part of THE locAL Market. “I started to think this could be a real business,” she adds. “We opened officially with a ribbon cutting June 1 and had a great turnout.” Over 50 makers display their work. Some have sold out and are making more things to return and sell.
“The more people hear about it,” says Duncan, “the more people apply. We are always looking for more high quality, one of a kind, handmade items. It has to be made in Alabama.” Makers are providing pottery, art, furniture, leather goods, frames, jewelry and photography, among many other items. Many of the makers are teachers. One is teaching a pet painting class, while others are teaching flower arranging and calligraphy. Everyone who has items at the shop is commission based. The makers who help operate the store have a variable different commission according to their involvement.
“One of my favorite parts about this being my work,” says Duncan, “is that I bring my artwork up here and paint. Most of the time I am in front working on a watercolor. I can continue to be creative while I am here working.” Lauren has been painting for as long as she can remember, and her parents tell her she was painting at 3 years old. She began taking art classes at age 5, which led Lauren to know she wanted to teach art.
She graduated from Auburn University in Fine Art and has a master’s in Art Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After graduation, Lauren taught art at an elementary school outside Birmingham. She then went to West Africa for a year to teach art at an American international school with students from across the globe. Duncan returned home to Auburn and taught art at Richland, Auburn Early Ed and Auburn High School. Along with operating the store, she is writing a creative devotional book for girls.
“It has been a blessing to watch Lauren start this,’ says maker Scott Moody. “You can tell by the joy in her face that this is where her heart is right now. I think it is great she is emphasizing makers because nationally that is a big deal, but not locally.” While Moody has a storefront in Opelika called Chirpwood, his framing business is Chirpwood West at the market. “I have a lot of our business come here,” he adds. “I like the idea of knowing other makers.”
Kristin Daniel is a painter and artist whose work is available at the market. “One thing that has been so fabulous about the market,” she says, “has been being able to see other artists and get inspiration from the other makers. You see how hard they are working with creative juices flowing. You go home with this fire in you to create more and make more.” Kat Scarbrough, who paints and dyes fabric with natural dyes, has found having her work at the market to be a life-changing experience. “I am a teacher and single mom,” says Scarbrough. “I have never been good at marketing myself and finding a place to show my work. Since I found locAL Market, I have started making art more than ever. It has been a blessing to be a part of this maker community.”
“When Lauren started the market,” says Beth Hornsby of Hornsby Farms, “we were all excited to have somebody to have the talent and passion to let Auburn know how many great artists and makers are in the community. “It gives people a place to shop and support small business. We are excited to be a part of it and having our jams, jellies and pickles here.” “I think people like the idea of shopping and supporting local,” adds Duncan. “We want people to be proud of Auburn. There are so many great things right here.
“The tag line is CREATE – SHOP – GATHER. We are focused on building a creative community. Doors are open for new artists and artwork.” An application is available on the website localmarketauburn.com. Along with offering classes, events are being planned. The market hosted a benefit for Nourish that provides food for local families. The locAL Market is located at 127 S. College St. in Auburn. It is open 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. J & M Bookstore sponsors the market. http://localmarketauburn.com/
An award winning journalist, Ann Cipperly has been writing features, as well as food, travel and restaurant articles for East Alabama Living since 2004. She is a former newspaper lifestyle and food editor and currently writes features and a food column for the Opelika Observer. Ann is a native Opelikan.