Smile Politely

Designing art markets with Anna Gutsch

Anna Gutsch, a white woman, is wearing a beige sweater and standing behind a display of birch jewelry and home decor.
Art and Artisan Markets on Instagram

If you’ve spent any time shopping at our local markets, you’ve likely come across NORDEN or Pipapo. NORDEN is an Urbana-based design company making furniture and home goods. Pipapo is their birch jewelry spinoff. Owners Anna Gutsch and Johann Rischau are originally from Germany and have been here in Champaign-Urbana since 2011. 

In the decade-plus they’ve been here, they’ve been advocates for C-U’s artists and makers, creating spaces and opportunities for other creators to share and sell their wares, like the Mistletoe Market. (You can find all of their markets and events under their events banner, Art + Artisan Markets.) One of these markets is the Boneyard Arts Market (BÄM!), now in its second year. This collection of vendors will set up shop in Lincoln Square Mall Friday night and Saturday, during the Boneyard Arts Festival this weekend. You can learn more about the vendors on the Facebook event page

I recently corresponded with Gutsch about the market, and her work in the community. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Smile Politely: What is the Boneyard Arts Market? 

Anna Gutsch: BÄM! Boneyard Arts Market is an art-centric marketplace for local artists and artisans. This year it is a two-day event starting on Friday and continuing on Saturday. 

SP: How do you go about selecting vendors? 

Gutsch: We select participants based on many different criteria. Are they producing and selling authentic items? Is the artwork photographed well? Are the artwork or items something that could appeal to our visitors? Is the artwork unique from the other artists? Do they have a consistent body of work? Does the work continue to develop? Do they offer items at different price points? 

We always get more applicants than we can admit, but we are limited to how many artists and artisans in one category we can admit. Our goal is to create an event where visitors have a great experience and are excited to come back next year. We also want the artists and artisans to have a successful market so they get the positive reinforcement — and most importantly financial backing — to continue on their creative path. 

SP: What should visitors and shoppers expect?

Gutsch: This market is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local and regional creative scene and take in all the different passions that are pursued by our local talent. We purposely choose a very diverse selection of participants to make sure that everyone will be able to find something delightful and inspiring. 

If you visited our event last year, you can be sure that we have many new participants as well as familiar faces with new items and ideas. We have a total of 43 participants with well-made home goods and decorative items. They are made in a wide range of mediums like printed art, paintings, drawings, woodworking, pottery, fiber and more. We also have select artists who specialize in jewelry and special artisans who make delightful personal care goods. 

Everyone is welcome to this free event! We made an effort to make it family friendly. The Cooperative Nursery School Urbana is hosting a creativity corner for very young aspiring artists. Their curriculum is structured around using art to help kids to learn fine motor skills and learning how to express themselves. We are also happy to provide free coloring pages from our favorite kids book characters at the NORDEN/Pipapo booth! 

Three works of art. L-R: an illustration of a white cat in a field of flowers; a water color painting of a bouquet of purple flowers with green stems in a clear vase; a photo of blue bells flowers.
Boneyard Arts Market

SP: You have organized other seasonal markets before. What is it about doing this work that is most satisfying? 

Gutsch: It is really rewarding to experience the impact these events have on the participants and visitors. People come and spend their valuable time with friends and family at the event we designed. That’s quite awesome! We have many returning visitors who wait all year to find unique gifts or items for their homes, and jewelry at our events. With markets like BÄM!, we are also serving many very small businesses that follow a passion and which would likely have no place to sell without events. 

Our goal is to concentrate our efforts on creating regular markets that cater to local and regional creative makers and establish a recurring opportunity for visitors to connect with them. That is why we launched the event series: All Together Now CU. Together with the Boneyard Arts Market and the Mistletoe Market, we created a marketplace which creates economic opportunities for small yet unique professional designers, artists and crafters all year round. You don’t have to be an art collector to come to BÄM! and start enjoying the benefits of well made art, design and crafts in your life. 

SP: Do you see this work as an extension of your work as a designer? How do the two connect? 

Gutsch: Yes. I would even consider it integral to my work as a designer. Design is a field that can be described in many ways, but there is a recurring theme — a big part of design is to purposefully create an experience. Creating these events is essentially designing an experience for visitors, vendors, and the community as a whole. We put a lot of care into the name, theme, vendor selection and all the details of how the event unfolds. Our participants praise how well organized the event is and are grateful about the effort we make in our marketing campaign that celebrates our vendors. Our visitors are excited about how thoughtful the selection of vendors is and how we are always able to make it exciting. There is also the design of the social media campaign on our Facebook event page that gives people a sneak peek of what to expect. 

These markets are part of our work as designers because at NORDEN we are also creating artwork. Artists are successful if they can make a living off their art. As such, we believe that selling our design and artwork is part of being a business that designs and manufactures products. Designing markets is a natural part or extension of our business. Without being able to sell our work, there would be no reason to continue to create. It’s as simple as that. By hosting these markets, we help 40+ professional creatives sell their art and continue to create each month. 

SP: Outside of BÄM!, what about the Boneyard Arts Festival is most exciting to you? 

Gutsch: It really gets the creative scene energized in Champaign-Urbana and beyond. Everyone gets involved; it brings out the wonderful diversity of creative talent that is usually hidden from the public eye. It is just like nature in spring when after the dark winter, all the art pops up like a beautiful flower meadow! This is just so powerful and it makes my heart beat faster! 

SP: What are your favorite things to do in Champaign-Urbana? 

Gutsch: After all these busy markets and everyday small-business life filled with product development and providing nurturing care to our almost four-year-old son, I really enjoy relaxing and recharging in one of the many local parks in Champaign-Urbana. We love to take a walk in a park or the woods and have a small picnic outside in almost every weather. These green spaces are a great source of inspiration, relaxation, and joy for me. We appreciate the process of slowing down, getting on what I like to call ‘human speed’ (because the work life is often very fast-paced). We are at peace with ourselves in the outdoors and enjoy designing new home goods that contain and pass on that peaceful spirit found in nature and transform our lives at home to a calmer, more present everyday.

Boneyard Arts Market
Lincoln Square Mall
201 Lincoln Square
F Apr 14th, 4 to 8 p.m.
Sa Apr 15th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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