Huong Eva Do

Discover Australia’s culture and creativity with a visit to a local market

The entrance to Rose Street Artists’ Market, Melbourne

Australia has over 300 registered markets, not including daily markets. Victoria, in particular, has at least 100 markets. Even when these markets take place in fixed locations, they usually only operate on certain days of the week, most commonly during the weekend. However, even markets that only take place once or twice per month are considered “weekend markets.”

Thanks to the incredible diversity of local goods on offer, weekend markets always fill visitors with curiosity and wonder. If it is a farmers’ market, one is bound to find fresh, exotic, and seasonal produce grown by local farmers. If it is an artists’ market, one may find the ingenious creations of local artists. A flea market offers interesting curios and rare antiques, making it the ideal hunting ground for collectors. Most markets also offer hot food and freshly baked goods and some even feature live bands. The market area rings with the cordial and genuine greetings of vendors, market-goers, and tourists. Some people come to weekend markets to find rare items, while others wish to support local farmers and vendors, allowing artisans and small businesses to thrive and survive despite the immense pressure of big retailers.

Products made with beeswax

There are many ways to organize a market: Some take place in large barns that shelter visitors from the sun and rain. Some are hosted under gazebos on grassy lawns, in big parking lots, or on the pavement – and may be canceled at the last minute due to fickle weather. Some markets are drive-ins, meaning that vendors will drive their trucks to an open space and set up shop, selling straight off their trucks’ tailgates. Regardless, the markets are considered “community events” that help strengthen and develop small communities.

To sell products at these markets, prospective vendors must register with the management board and pay a fee. Every market has its own rules. For example, artworks at an artists’ market can only be sold by their creators. Reselling other artists’ works is strictly forbidden. The management board is also committed to diversity, so they will promote the sale of uncommon items and limit the sale of ubiquitous ones. Not all vendors are frequent market sellers, nor do all consider this a full-time job. Some have found this trade unexpectedly and stay for many reasons. 

Eva Thien Huong displays her silk scarves

Judy, a vendor at the Rose Street Artist Market in Melbourne, has worked in the foreign currency exchange business for 30 years. She began sewing and crocheting as hobbies to balance her life, and sells her creations at the market every weekend. At the same market, a pair of sisters selling scented candles told me that they used to manage an essential oil brand for a decade before quitting. However, they set up shop here once a week since they miss meeting customers and talking to other people. Kikuchi, a girl of Japanese descent born and raised in Australia, is particularly passionate about washi (traditional Japanese paper) and uses this material in her handbags and earrings. Her products are Ikkanbari handbags that are made with a traditional Japanese technique. On average, it takes her a week to complete a single handbag. Eva Thien Huong, an Australian of Vietnamese descent, creates silk scarves that are printed on both sides with seams finished by hand. With a background in art and UX design, her products tell the stories of both Australian and Vietnamese culture. At Eumundi Market in Queensland, Michael Hutchins sells handmade electric guitars fashioned from wooden cigar boxes. He has been making these guitars for the past 15 years, inspired by the legendary guitarist Jimmy Hendrix – a famous musician who started out playing self-built guitars consisting of several strings and fashioned from cigar boxes.