A Space for Local Makers at Marketplace New EnglandMarch, 2019
By Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Laura Miller is the proprietor of Marketplace New England in Concord. It is a store where local artists and small businesses may exhibit and sell their work.
But she is not satisfied with simply providing a retail space, she wants to create a facility for them to make things, too.
“I had the idea for a makers’ space about 12 years ago, but I wasn’t been able to put my thoughts into practice until last summer,” Miller said recently as a handful of shoppers stepped in from Main Street to browse. “My passion is to help people pursue their passion.”
It takes more than talent to create something special. You have to have the right equipment and find a workspace, too. That’s the idea behind Making Matters NH, a makers’ place and business incubator planned by Miller and a band of about 30 devoted volunteers.
Miller said the space she envisions is a place for artists and craftspeople to work, with a woodworking shop, a commercial kitchen and area for industrial arts with welding gear and other equipment.
“We want to create a place where people can come to share, to grow and create,” she said. “It will be a place where there will be no failures.
“If something doesn’t work — say painting — they can try something else. Why not try a craft or cooking? We hope to have workshops and classes, too.”
Miller opened Marketplace New England in 2015.
“I wanted to create a space for artists, artisans and small business could sell their creations,” she said. “The artists don’t necessarily make a living at it, they make extra money.
“Many are hobbyists, who want to sell their work to finance their efforts. One textile artist recently told me said she just wanted to make enough money to buy more yarn.”
But whatever their financial goals, the artist and artisan wares at the shop are carefully curated by Miller. From art-piece ceramics, like the leaf-like constructions of Concord artist and teacher Ahmad Q. Gazal of Rainmaker Pottery; local wines from Coffin Cellars of Webster; jewelry of granite bracelet beads from Sunapee Graniteworks; locally made greeting cards; and even New Hampshire history-inspired comic books from Mitchell Comics in Tilton, Marketplace New England is a microcosm of the talent that exists in the state and the region.
Miller said she often finds her wares when artists and craftspeople come in off the street to show her their creations. She also attends trade shows like the Made in NH Expo in Manchester. She said she deals with about 140 artists and artisans and small makers from New Hampshire as well as artists from other New England states.
She recently teamed up with Rachel Ward, owner of What’s in Your Closet Resale Boutique, who displays and sells previously owned women’s clothing and accessories in the back portion of the store. Ward’s tiny rescue dog Tanner greets visitors with a perpetually wagging tail.
Immersed as she is in the arts, does Miller make any art herself?
“I can’t make anything,” she said, “but I can make a makers’ space.”
She said, “We’re actively looking for a location, something in downtown Concord or the heights. It will have to be wheelchair-accessible. Natural light would be good for the artists, too. And it will have to be able to have a commercial kitchen. We’ve had a few nibbles, but nothing solid yet. We’re looking for our unicorn space.”
For more information, visit marketplacenewengland.com or follow Marketplace New England on Facebook for events.