In 2020, Christina Terry saw the effects the pandemic had on her side business selling elderberry tea and syrup. The pandemic caused her local community to simply no longer have the extra money to spend on her products. It was a situation that led Terry to a unique solution that allowed her to still provide for her customers.
“I started bartering with a lot of my neighbors, friends and customers for their handicrafts, anything that they would have in their house. We just bartered like the old days, and I found a lot of them were actually extremely talented,” Terry said.
One lady made pottery from a studio out of her garage. Another was blowing glass for a local Houston-area boutique. It didn’t take long for Terry to see the need to help these talented artisans get their product out to a broader market.
That led to the start of Texas Artisan Markets back in October 2020 with 25 exhibitors at the first market. Terry’s concept quickly expanded from there, spreading out into eight different markets in 2021 before exploding across the state in 2022 with 56 markets between Houston, Austin and Dallas.
At the start of 2023, with exhibitor demand still high, the markets received a rebranding as Vibe Artisan Markets and a more concentrated focus to become what Terry calls a “more art-centric style of market.”
“We had so many people asking us, ‘Please do more, please do more,’ so then we started to think how we can make this a little bit more efficient,” Terry said. “I do have a two, a four and a six-year-old, so I didn’t want to spend so much time away from them, and so this year we narrowed it down to 32 markets and I think we did a really good job of honing in on what works best for our artists.”
The markets now fill large indoor spaces to accommodate foot traffic as they shift to focus on exhibitors who sell “things that are truly handmade and handcrafted of the higher caliber” like leather and silver goods, ceramics, blown glass and fine art paintings.
“Our whole mission is to diminish the stigma of the starving artist,” Terry said.
Terry explained that she’s seen exhibitors make the shift to becoming full-time artists through the market. She views Vibe Artisan Markets as an opportunity to immerse local communities in the world of art by making it accessible and attainable.
The opportunity to experience the market firsthand comes to Dallas on December 16 and 17 with the free admission Holiday Vibe Market at Fashion Industry Gallery. Terry said the market will feature about 97 artisans on Saturday and 105 on Sunday, with the majority of them coming from the local DFW area. There will also be a live DJ, complimentary cocktails, an espresso bar and an art gallery featuring works by the market’s different exhibitors, among other attractions.
“It really is a stay and play all day (market),” Terry said.
With a broad range of events and a sprawling list of vendors to manage at a destination that’s hours away from her home, Terry still takes a fully hands-on approach to the market.
“We want to make sure that everyone feels like they have a safe and secure environment where they know everyone who is going to be running it, and it’s a less stressful, less anxiety-ridden environment,” Terry said.
Her goal is to create a supportive and familial environment for the artists at the markets, referring to herself as “basically the mom to 3000 artists” in her role as CEO of Vibe Artisan Markets.
Behind-the-scenes, the markets are very much a family effort as well. Terry said her husband, Brad, quit his chemistry job he worked at prior to the start of the markets to become a stay-at-home dad and work part-time, serving as the Vibe Artisan Markets CFO.
The couple run the markets by themselves, hiring a few locals only to help with the welcome desk when needed, to maintain their personalized feel.
Terry said it’s about “finding these small moments that you can spend with your loved ones…to really fill your own cup,” like playing soccer with her kids or taking her dog for a walk that helps her find a balance between work and life.
“Finding that (perfect) balance, I don’t think I’ll ever achieve it, but I think I do a really good job evening my time out from personal to business,” Terry said.
With that in mind, Terry is looking at expanding the markets slowly beyond Texas with a new location each year. The potential cities in consideration right now are Denver and Seattle.
“We’re just trying to slowly migrate out because, again, we want that real personal connection and family-style environment for these artists, so I don’t want to put too much on my own plate where I’m not available for them like I am for all my artists here in Texas,” Terry said.
Terry views community building as the most important part of her markets. The creation of a group of artisans who can relate to the strains and anxieties that come with setting up booths, making sales and creating popular products.
She wants the artisans to feel “loved and honored” for their work, both from her as the market organizer and from the scores of people in attendance, highlighting the joy she sees in her exhibitors’ faces when someone compliments their work at the market.
“E-commerce is great and all, but it’s so nice when (customers) have that interpersonal connection and bond that they create with the artists right on site as they’re purchasing the art,” Terry said. “It’s a really special thing, and I feel that it helps the consumer to understand that art is attainable, and it is affordable, and you can have nice things. You can treat yourself, as well as others, with the creations that are from the hands of these artists.”
Vibe Artisan Markets’ Holiday Vibe Market runs from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on December 16 and 17 at Fashion Industry Gallery in Dallas. For more information about Vibe Artisan Markets, visit https://vibeartisanmarkets.com/.
This interview has been edited for clarity.