The seven-year-old marketplace of local makers is shifting its focus to smaller-format pop-ups infused in more traditional retail settings and beyond.

The Grove, West Elm and Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla headquarters all have one thing in common: the maker movement.

All are set to see the seven-year-old craft fair Artisanal L.A., operated by Angeleno Inc., set up shop with its bank of local vendors selling a variety of goods ranging from food to giftable items in a bid to bring the local artisan movement to their customers or employees.

“The market is demanding more and more interesting, local product and to some degree the national retailer needs to be in tune with that, address that need and make that part of their vendor mix or their tenant mix to be more competitive,” Artisanal L.A. founder Shawna Dawson said. “On the flip side, it also speaks to the fact that these small makers are so abundant and prevalent that they’re seeking out more opportunities to be in these types of environments. So it’s complementary for everyone.”

The company’s next pop-up marketplace will be Sunday at The Grove, where they’ll set up a mix of a little over a dozen vendors ranging from floral crown and floral sprays to home goods for Mother’s Day shopping. They’ll return to the shopping center in August for a back-to-school-themed market, with both expected to draw attendees in the thousands.

The company has also made arrangements to pop-up at West Elm stores in Santa Monica and Los Angeles several times throughout the rest of the year, with the events including a mix of both makers and food trucks.

There’s also the pop-up marketplace Artisanal will bring to the Tesla and SpaceX headquarters for employees to shop.

The mini marketplaces are a bit of a departure from how Artisanal got its start, which was to create two large markets for spring and fall, usually drawing roughly 10,000 people over the course of a weekend, to shop from local vendors. The rise in popularity of the maker movement and interest in shopping local have also enabled craft fairs such as Renegade Craft Fair and the Unique Markets to thrive. With more competition, however, there’s now a need to pivot much like the traditional retail outlets these craft fairs aimed to be an alternative to.

Artisanal L.A.’s final large-marketplace format will take place in October, before the company turns its full attention to mini-marketplace pop-ups and other types of smaller offerings.

The company is also getting more savvy about how it looks to maintain the connections between attendees, vendors and itself beyond the in-real-life marketplaces and, to that end, is now considering a web directory that is both consumer- and wholesale-facing.

“For us, part of it is it’s time for change. To some degree, things become formulaic and if it becomes formulaic for us, it does for your attendees as well,” Dawson said. “It was about how do we get creative about this again?….When we started doing this in 2010, it made a lot of sense because nothing like it existed. Now we have to be different and we have to do better and we have to think creatively. To me, this is just the next step to getting this everywhere. It’s a certain type of person that has attended over the years so it was also about how do we get the product in front of a different demographic because the person walking in the mall or in a West Elm might have been to one of these [original marketplace] events, but they might not have.”


By Kari Hamanaka