If you’ve ever thought you’ve discovered a little-known maker on Instagram, chances are Kelly Thompson is already all over it. There’s nothing she loves more than finding and nurturing new talent, providing a platform and a place to sell their wares in her online store, Makers’ Mrkt.
But this isn’t just any ordinary web-shop! Kelly invests a huge amount of time and energy in curating an exceptional stable of artists and makers who she works with closely to develop a tight edit of wares from Australia, New Zealand (where she’s from) and beyond. She’s the kind of person who will send you an impeccably wrapped gift out of the blue, just because she sees you working your butt off. To put it simply, her taste is on point, and her vibes are high!
Kelly has had a winding career path that has taken her from photography and styling, to commercial illustration, to artist management – and all roads have led to Makers’ Mrkt. The multifaceted creative takes us through her journey, what she looks for in a maker, and how her business has grown over the last three years!
Hey Kelly! When did you start Makers’ Mrkt, and why?
Kelly: I started Mrkt as a hobby. I just wanted to do something without any pressure, that was outside of my own creative work, and would benefit the talented creatives I know and admire. As a freelancer, I was sick of my work being all about my individual skills, and I just wanted to do something positive outside of me for my creative community.
As an illustrator, I know how hard it can be to sell a print or product on my own personal folio site. It soon dawned on me that it must be so much harder to find that product if you’re not lucky to be surrounded by creative community and know plenty of talented makers like I do. What does John the accountant even Google if he wants to shop from independent talent? And would said talent even appear on Google? I officially launched my site exactly three years ago, but until this year it was just on the side and very much a hobby. It’s really only this year that I’ve dug my teeth in so I almost count this as year 1.
You stock brands from overseas as well as Australian makers. What are you looking for in a Makers’ Mrkt brand?
Good personalities are key, just as much as the product!
Initially it started as a pool of people I either knew or had shopped with or just swooned over anytime I saw their work, but the main criteria was that they had to be genuine, nice, positive, productive people – there’s no room for dicks on Mrkt! When looking for makers now I have a few more criteria: Are their products made by hand and/or ethically and sustainably? Do I look at their work and just think “WANT!”? Is there something about them as a person that resonates with me or can I see potential in their work that I’d like to nurture?
I also really want the store to be unique, whenever I find a new maker, I check around to see who else they’re stocked with, are there too many cross-overs? I even contact stores sometimes to see if they mind if I stock a Maker I know they’ve nurtured from the start. As someone who spends a lot of time building an edit and researching I really want my edit to be mine. I love nothing more than finding someone talented who only has a small following on IG and hasn’t even considered having a stockist.
The Makers Mrkt identity expands beyond the brands – you have created such a nice world with interviews and incredibly strong campaign photography. What was your vision for the overall direction?
Oh thank you! I think that’s because Mrkt wasn’t launched for the sake of launching a shop to make money, Mrkt was launched because of my love for the amazing people in my community. It’s easy to create a world when it comes from inside rather than from a box-ticking marketing plan.
My ongoing vision for Mrkt and the driver is really to educate the consumers about the makers products, but also share why the products are so special, who makes the products, how are they made? Why is it important to choose these items over a mass-produced product?
Is it just you running Makers Mrkt? If so, what’s that like?
Pretty much! But I am genuinely fuelled by it and obsessed with it – it energises me. I grew it by investing any illustration money or consulting money into it, and that’s how I’ve got it off the ground. Even though that’s really hard, it’s also very satisfying and rewarding to think “Hey, I did all of this”. I feel like the makers are also all so supportive with sharing my content too, they’ve been integral to the growth, I feel like they want it as much as I do. It’s a team effort so shout out to them for saying yes to me when I was just starting!
I run all the admin, packing, budgeting, buying, styling, shooting, retouching, site, socials, but I do have a new freelancer Kate who writes my newsletters and does my Facebook ads, thank goodness for her! I have also have Tully who’s taking over my blog now… she also saved me with Xmas wrapping this week! Just recently I got my first mentor, Dan, why didn’t I have a mentor when I was 20!?
what is the most rewarding part of your job?
The relationships that I’m building with the makers, I just feel like a proud mum watching them grow. It’s also so heartwarming to receive emails from customers about their orders, or have people tell me how they discovered a brand through the site and love it.
Overall though, I think one of the main rewards is seeing and hearing that people have started to think differently about the way they shop.
Check out Makers’ Mrkt here!
Every Christmas order from Makers’ Mrkt is hand-wrapped by Kelly, and is available for IRL pick-up for all those last-minute buyers!
Kelly Thompson is the founder of Makers’ Mrkt – s full-time title as of 2020! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Her luscious Ivanhoe pad also doubles as a studio. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Photo – Kelly Thompson.
A wall full of makers! At a glance, we can spot ceramics by Ella Reweti, twisted glassware by Thomas Maxam and knotted clay candle-holders by Arowm. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Every piece is wrapped in Beci Orpin-designed graphic! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Beci Orpin wrapping paper on some Makers’ Mrkt goodies. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Kelly’s favourite part of her job is the creative community she gets to support and surround herself with every day! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A lineup of makers including Kerryn Levy, Andrej Urem candles, Drew Spanenberg glass bowl, Asobimasu Clay ceramics and brass incense burners from Subtle Bodies. Photo – Kelly Thompson
Wundaire incense holders, Ovum vase, Kura Studio garlic grater and Deborah Sweeney candle-stick holders. Photo – Kelly Thompson
Kelly’s coffee table decked out with a vessel from Clae Studio and a Kura Studio incense holder. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A pocket of well-curated heaven. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A picture of style and grace! Kelly at her home base. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A perfect burnt orange corner is complete with a giant Gidon vase. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
What a lineup! Ceramics from Deborah Sweeney, Kerryn Levy and Eun Ceramics beside a Kura Studios incense holder, Andre Urem candle and glassware from Drew Spanenberg – all from Makers’ Mrkt. Photo – Kelly Thompson