Benita Adesuyan learns about the craft market in Jumeirah Town Centre where every stall tells a story.
Take a trip to Jumeirah Town Centre and you’ll pick up more than you bargained for – T-shirts that create jobs for women in Ajman, handbags that help find animals a home in Dubai and South African kitchenware that sends children to school.
Marketeerzz is the brain child of Dubai resident Montserrat Martin. A fine art painter by trade, she set up the conscious consumers’ craft market in Jumeirah Town Centre to offer shoppers a place to buy unique handcrafted items and provide a platform for artisans to sell their handicrafts, all for a good cause.
Montserrat walks us around the market on a Thursday afternoon. All the stallholders know her, she hugs friends on stands as she checks in on them and offers them advice on how to make their displays more attractive. ‘There’s a lot of extremely talented people in the UAE,’ she says as she leads us around the stalls on the ground floor of the mall. ‘So we thought, why not promote these people and combine their efforts with sustainable projects that help people in rural areas of the world?’
Montserrat is originally from the Canary Islands and has been living in Dubai for more than 13 years. She was keen to set up a space in which artists could make a living from their talents, but also where the community could meet and develop. As an artist herself, this is something very close to her heart. ‘Artists [don’t have to] dilute themselves working in an office, hating their job, just to make money,’ she says.
Marketeerzz began at the end of April as a monthly event. However, due to its popularity, it now has a regular spot at the mall on Jumeirah Beach Road from Thursday to Saturday. ‘The feedback from vendors has been good,’ Montserrat says. ‘The majority of them are surprised because there is smaller footfall, but the ratio of buyers is higher. Some vendors have been with us since April and they are here every weekend so they’re doing well.’
Each of the stalls tells a different story. Montserrat has focused on finding products and vendors that support community projects here in the UAE and overseas. She points out a stall that sells cotton dresses, and Mexican-style children’s toys called Manta & Rebozo, and explains that the proceeds go towards supporting 40 families in a rural village in Mexico. She highlights another, Joud, selling handmade jewellery and T-shirts that help underprivileged women from Ajman.
‘Some of the women who are helped through this project are from poor backgrounds. By creating and selling their own handiwork, they get a chance to develop their confidence and be self-sufficient, so they don’t have to get married at 14 to support themselves,’ she says.
At the front of the market sits Minakshi Nadu, busily crocheting for her stall full of brightly coloured clutch bags and mobile phone covers. Minakshi has been setting up shop at Marketeerzz for four weeks. ‘I also do Arte,’ she says as she knits. ‘But this has been really good for me. Part of the profits from sales go to Help for Animals.’ The market has an eclectic feel and next to Minakshi is Melissah Russo, creator of Lady Mauve, with her graffiti-inspired statement jewellery. ‘It’s like having my own boutique,’ the young designer says.
Marketeerzz not only offers a community project for people in need overseas, it also seeks to enrich the lives of the local residents too. Alongside the stalls, visitors can attend creative writing courses, receive life coaching and engage in language exchanges. Montserrat also has plans to see the project grow. ‘We are not looking for the biggest, tallest, fastest. We’re looking to have a real close community, where people know the artists are here and there’s a really good relationship between the vendors, the organisers and the mall. We want shoppers to know that there are alternative ways of buying out there, and we want to expose interesting projects.’
The market currently has 20 stalls with capacity for 60, and Montserrat is keen to hear from other architects, interior designers and all creatives with a passion for art and giving back to the community. She hopes that through the market, more artists will be able to make a living practising their craft for the love of it, as she has done.
‘Doing things for the community makes me happy. I would probably make more money if I worked for a company as a creative director or something like that, but that is not what makes me content. I feel satisfied when I know people are doing well and supporting individuals to make a living.’
Marketeerzz, Jumeirah Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road. Thu-Sat noon-10pm. To set up a stall email firstname.lastname@example.org (050 770 6711).
More community markets to visit
Monthly arts and crafts fair for products handmade in the UAE that takes place in various locations across Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, including Times Square Center on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Ripe Food & Craft Market
Enjoy fresh, seasonal, organic, local fruit and veg, gourmet foods and handmade products at this market.
Zabeel Park, www.ripeme.com (04 380 7602).