Aspen councilman knits way to market
ASPEN ” Aspen City Councilman Jack Johnson is available this summer to knit you a teddy bear or a handbag.
Johnson is one of the newest additions to the Aspen Saturday Market, which will take place every Saturday from June 14 through Oct. 18.
Johnson said he taught himself how to knit this past New Year’s Eve and has created enough of an inventory to be a vendor at the market. At a shared booth, he will rotate every other week with Ann Bennett, who is a weaver.
For the past five months, Johnson has been busily knitting traditional stuffed animals, such as teddy bears and dogs. He’s also made felt market shopping bags and handbags out of women’s wool sweaters.
He’s got nearly a dozen items in his inventory and will create more on demand.
“I’ll be taking orders,” he said. “But I’m not trying to compete with the Chinese in terms of volume.”
Johnson said he first thought of the idea as a good way to pass the time during what can be extremely long and drawn-out City Council meetings. But he has yet to knit publicly.
“I haven’t built up the nerve yet to do it in the meetings,” he said.
Kathy Strickland, manager of the market, said there have been many changes made to the weekly event, including new vendors, cooking demonstrations, live music and fewer jewelers.
The market ” which operates on a block of Hopkins Avenue and Hunter Street ” will expand this year to Conner Park, next to City Hall.
New vendors will set up at the park and include a woodworker who converts old whiskey barrels into furniture, as well a potter, a silversmith and the Aspen Animal Shelter, which will sell products to fund the nonprofit.
Monthly cooking demonstrations with top chefs, sponsored by Edible Aspen
magazine, also will take place.
And because shoppers complained that there were too many jewelers last year, the number of them have been reduced and those who are returning are required to offer new products and designs, Strickland said.
There are 16 farmers setting up at the market, which includes a new one from Craig who will sell sheep cheese. All total, there will be 56 vendors, with the majority being artisans. While some aren’t pleased with the market being mostly crafts, that is what it was designed for, Strickland said. She added that farmers will be adding to their edible offerings this year.
“I’m happy with the size,” Strickland said, adding the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission runs the market and an agricultural group helps select vendors. “The point of this is for upcoming artisans to progress and get exposure.”
Strickland some artisans who have sold their wares at the Aspen Saturday Market have gone on to manufacture the products nationally.
Regardless of what people’s opinions are about the make-up of the market, it appears to be successful and lucrative.
The market annually generates more than $1 million in sales, with between $16,000 and $25,000 coming to the city of Aspen in sales tax revenue. The majority of sales come from the farmers and agricultural booths, Strickland said.
It costs $460 for vendors to have a booth for the 19 weeks that the market runs. That figure goes up for the larger operations, which have to bring in large trucks, Strickland said.
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