Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ultimate Blog Challenge Day Three

Sunrise over Smiley's Flea Market, August 2010, photo by Jack V. Sage
On the perfect average day, I'd wake up at 4:30 in the morning, while the air still hold's last night's chill, and the morning dew still hovers, coating every flat surface with its frosty breath. I'd slip out of our vardo as quietly as I could, despite the fact that the flashlight men are already making their rounds.

"Got any gold," they chant in their whiskey and cigarette voices, "got any fishing lures? Got any guns?" I answer no, like always. I don't deal in antiques, breakables or anything I can't afford to ditch to the thunder and rain gods, or sacrifice to the breakdown gnomes.

I flip my tarps if it's dry enough, or place just enough cheap plastic household crap I bought yesterday for $5 a box on the table to satisfy the flea market owner that I really do intend to do business. As the sun rises and dries away the dew, I add old tools and scrap metal to one table and any of our jewelry that is not made from black steel to the other.

Hand-hammered black-steel scimitar kilt pin, FaerieWynd 2010
I jump back into the vardo to get warm, while we share coffee and watch the sun rise. We don't do business this early. Women don't feel pretty till after 10 AM, and men are still too tired from last night's work to buy knives or large hand tools. This early, they just want to look, or they want to shoot the breeze about the things they wish they had time to do, or used to do but can't any more for one reason or another.

The plastic household crap goes under the table, tossed into the mystical $5 box that people can't resist picking through, even when they have to bend down and block traffic to do it. Things I could never sell on top of the table at any price become treasures, garnering anywhere from a quarter to $5. I've bought boxes of crap off fellow vendors for as little as $5 and sold as much as $80 worth of stuff or more from them by the end of the day, with just a little TLC and a few batteries as my cost of doing business.

Late Afternoon, Smiley's Flea Market, August 2010 Photo by Jack V Sage
But the plastic crap is just what we use to get people to stop: dinosaurs, toy cars, stuff you can buy your kids for fifty cents. Then Momma spies the $2 and $5 earring boxes. Next thing you know, we have the day's $25 table fees in hand for the price of a pack of head pins and two strings of Chinese turquoise cabochons.

I lied about the breakables, though. I will put them on the table if I got them in a package deal, but I get them right back off the table ASAP unless they are special enough to use as display pieces. Like the maneki neko "luck cat" we hauled through 7 states, whose place of honor was at the center of the show table, surrounded by rose bodice daggers and Kingman Mine turquoise stud earrings, or the hand-painted wooden serving trays I used to display our $5 earrings through six shows in five different states.

Kingman Mine turquoise stud earrings, FaerieWynd 2010

A pair of orc scimitars forged from leaf springs graced the show table for three weeks running, kept shiny by daily rubbings with a green kitchen scrubbie and olive oil and wiped clean with paper towels from the flea market's ladies' rest room. We had an assortment of throwing daggers and some hand-woven chokers with glass seed beads, filigree-wrapped stopper bottle pendants and mini-scimitar annular brooches.

Filigree Memory Bottles, FaerieWynd 2010
The spray paint art is the last thing I add to the table, once the dew has completely disappeared. I anchor it all with rose daggers, throwing knives and large pendants to keep the Carolina winds from whisking it away. Our crowd, the "dangerous, dirty, tattooed, uncivilized kind of people" meander into the flea market and we start selling.

"Emerald City" in progress, July 2010

Once the sun is up, it's on. I greet people in three languages, and nod and smile at the ones whose languages I don't know. Everyone gets a hello, Buenos Dias or Bonjour. One of these days I'll learn to say it in Farsi, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean as well. Why? Because it makes people smile, and people who are smiling buy things from the people who make them smile. They come back and buy more things the next time they see you, especially if you make them feel remembered. It costs nothing but a second, and the willingness to think like the person on the other side of the show table.

Sometime around two or three in the afternoon, if it hasn't rained, the crowd thins and vendors on each side start packing. The antique dealers leave first, followed by the housewives selling off their children's outgrown clothes. Then the baseball card and comic book men pack it in, followed by the packaged goods vendors and the truck garden folks. Only the diehards like us, selling tools, better-quality jewelry, new work clothes or car parts stay for the last few hours of the day. Finally, only the indoor marketers are still around, and the afternoon wind whips our Goretex off the table and flips our stock on the ground, even with clamps and blocks holding things in place. We pack it in and spend the rest of the day making new stock for tomorrow.


  1. Wow...what a cool experience. My dream is to travel the country and sell my jewelry at flea markets, craft shows, etc. I'm working towards it, but it's still a few years off, so until then, I'm just going to read about your adventures. :-)

  2. That sounds very interesting.I have never been good with selling stuff, yet in my real job I am in sales lol.