A make-or-break marketplace for Kentucky artists


Lexington, KY – Imagine splitting your business brain in two: one part focusing on wholesale to retailers and the other on selling retail products to individuals. Artisan entrepreneurs do this all the time, especially during events such as Kentucky Crafted: The Market.

The four-day event at Lexington Center, sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council, is actually two separate events. March 1-2 are “trade-only” days for retail businesses to place orders with the artists, and March 3-4 are open to the public. The market features about 250 artist businesses, 185 of whom are visual and craft artists. Artists’ sales at the market were right under a million dollars last year.

In 1982, Kentucky Crafted: The Market was the first state-sponsored wholesale and retail marketplace in the nation. It was held at the Kentucky Horse Park. After a long run in Louisville, the market has returned to the Bluegrass for its 30th anniversary at Lexington Center.

“It was really quite a coup to accomplish a move from their previous home base at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville,” said Becky Trimble, Lexington Center’s senior convention sales manager. “It is one of the biggest public shows we will have this year at Lexington Center, and we would be honored to host it for several years to come.”

The event will utilize around 86,000 square feet of space at Lexington Center, requiring the efforts of 115 full-time and 20 or more part-time employees two days before the show starts. The sales and marketing departments at Lexington Center have been working on operational aspects of the project since 2010.

On Thursday and Friday of the market, at least 500 retail business owners from Kentucky and a dozen other states come in to place orders with the artisans.

“They’re not buying off the floor, but placing orders for delivery throughout the year,” said Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council. “A lot of these artists may take wholesale orders at the market that will be their orders for the entire year.”

The two public days of the market are an opportunity for artists to test new products before heading off to summer craft fairs to sell their jewelry, pottery, stained glass, furniture and other types of art.

For Rachel Savané, owner of Savané Silver, the trade-only days got her business off the ground.

“A designated quantity of work to do with the promise of being paid at completion is a wonderful prospect for any entrepreneur,” she said. Savané quickly learned how to calculate prices based on materials, labor and wholesale selling.

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