Nestled among a series of high-rise buildings in the upper plaza above the Crystal City Shops, a new open-air market launched in Arlington, Virginia on May 15. During the hour or so while I visited, at least 100 people came through the plaza, browsing, shopping and chatting with the inaugural 20 vendors. Event producer David Ross curated an upbeat soundtrack with both U.S. and international recording artists.
National Landing Market (NLM) — the latest project from Ross, who was previously the managing director of Dupont Underground — has a global-meets-local, or “glocal,” mission. The market is designed to celebrate international artists and vendors living, working and creating within the greater DMV.
“The whole idea is to do a flea market with a little bit of everything,” Ross says. “It’s like a market that you would visit overseas, and the international community here already knows these types of markets better than anyone else.”
There were tempting sweets, deliciously scented candles, both designer and upcycled vintage clothing, a variety of antiques, handmade jewelry, and more. I left with my tote bag filled with a lavender gift set from Everybodysweet, Fast Snail thank you cards designed and printed by Liz Hutcheson, and several inspirational stickers designed by Lettering by Mei.
Noting the importance of the District’s mosaic of cultures and array of embassies, Ross says the focus on international artisans was always part of his design for NLM. And he acknowledges those with global market knowledge who helped along the way. He gives a lot of credit to Yildiz Yagci and Didem Corakci of nonprofit Anatolian Artisans, who suggested other vendors such as Aysem Furtun, a Turkish silversmith who makes whimsical jewelry.
Yagci, originally from Istanbul, started Anatolian Artisans in 1991 to help low-income women in Turkey develop traditional artisanal skills and create new products at fair wages. Yagci says the nonprofit also serves as a cultural ambassador, teaching Americans about arts and crafts traditional to Turkey and bringing artisans to the states for exhibitions.
NLM is a good alternative for the nonprofit as things have slowed down for them during the pandemic, and Yagci says the artists “enjoy collaborating” with Ross. Their wares at the market’s first week included textile necklaces woven into intricate flowers crafted by female artisans from the coal-mining community of Soma, Turkey, and adorable stuffed animals made from denim. The collective plans to return to NLM every other week, rotating different products such as Turkish scarves.
Camille Blavec, owner of Everybodysweet, makes home fragrances and skincare products with essential oils imported from their point of origin, as well as natural ingredients. Well-versed in the therapeutic aspects of natural oils, Blavec imports French lavender oil from her familial home in Provence, France to make delicately scented candles and other aromatic niceties. Ross says representing international artisans is just as important as thinking local.
“The D.C. metro area extends from Baltimore to Richmond,” he says. “Richmond has some of the best artistic power in the region. I view this region as a whole, and I want to go where there’s something new. Pick any place and there’s always somebody doing something creative.”
He describes NLM as a “rebellious take on the traditional flea market, with quirky vintage shops, thoughtful international and nonprofit partnerships, a fun atmosphere, and free-flowing creatives.”
Currently hosting 20 vendors, Ross says the market may eventually expand to as many as 50, with more food options, local breweries, and space for nonprofits and organizations to set up booths as well, adding to the market’s communal quality. Many of the vendors say they plan to return, but rotating and creating variety is key to the success of NLM, says its associate producer Kate Perry.
“We want people to keep coming by to see what’s changed,” Perry says. “My biggest hope is engaging the actual neighborhood where we’re hosting it.”
Chelsea Hweii Chiee Tan, chef and owner of Chiboo Bakery in Chantilly, Virginia, says she loves NLM’s emphasis on promoting a space for community connection and cultural exchange.
“That’s the experience I strive to create with my baked goods,” she says. “I want to tell a tale of my sweet adventures through the variety of macaron flavors I can offer.”
Tan, who grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, specializes in handmade gourmet French macarons inspired by global flavors and will be at NLM in early June.
By the time I made my way to the end of the tents, I had already missed out on the popular banana pudding in a jar created by D.C. bakeshop Sweets by Shy, but a few pink strawberry cookies were still available (delicious!) Next time, I will make a beeline for the banana pudding, grab a beer and bring an extra canvas tote to carry home my new purchases.
National Landing Market is open every Saturday through July 31 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit www.nationallandingmarket.org and follow @nationallanding on Instagram.
Visit Anatolian Artisans at www.anatolianartisans.org and on Instagram @anatolian.artisans, check out Chiboo Bakery at www.chiboobakery.com and on Instagram @chiboobakery.com, and follow Everybodysweet on Instagram @everybodysweet.
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