Thunderbird Marketplace Artists

This past Sunday I wrapped up five days at the One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale. The One of a Kind is the largest trade craft show in Canada and the first time I showed my work at a commercial level (aka, created inventory and sold it).  Leading up to and during those five days I went through a series of up and down experiences and feelings, which ultimately left me feeling invigorated and ready to keep going. It was a success!

The curated group of artists were set up at the Thunderbird Marketplace, spearheaded by Denise Bolduc (bullDUKE Productions) and sponsored by Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training (Thunderbird Marketplace). The group of artists were selected through a jury process and included emerging and established artists, some had experience selling work at shows like this, and some were new and learning throughout the process (the latter would be me, as most of my work have been one-off pieces). The whole team included our amazing leader Denise Bolduc, on-site helpers Darla Contois, Falen Johnson and Medika Thorpe, and the artists:

Fitting Breakfast Dress Pattern


In lead up to the show I worked diligently to create my Strawberry Girl’s Collection. This is my favourite part because I am able to take the time to build the concept behind the collection; what it means to me, and what I want to pass on to the collection’s wearers. I love the design process, which includes pattern creation, fabric selection, research, illustration, artist statement, fittings and sample making, and as I completed the design part, I would shortly move into the inventory production part of the whole process: grading (making patterns in various sizes), pattern marking (laying patterns out on fabric to ensure the best use of fabric), fabric cutting (keep those scissors sharp!), sewing and pressing. The second part of production at this scale was completely new to me, so time management and overall learning were at an all-time peak the last three months (a big lesson learnt for my overall capacity is that I need to build a team or more time).

The first day of the show arrived, and I started panicking – it’s here! My nerves were everywhere, and my uncertainties grew strong. In my head I wanted a boutique-style booth that displayed high-end designs and felt like a polished, minimalistic version of my studio. I wanted my booth to be comfortable and welcoming with key pieces that were meaningful and displayed like art. When I saw all the booths the night before it suddenly hit me that perhaps I didn’t have enough inventory or styles and that perhaps my display goal should be more of an “Urban Outfitters” style with racks of items displayed in a kitschy manner (irony?). While I was trying to finish up everything, produce more inventory and grapple with my insecurities (which I’m sure, or at least hoping, were normal), I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to be the best ambassador for the Thunderbird Marketplace (and for my own work!) as possible. I was in unknown territory and luckily I was kicked back into gear by Denise – she was my coach at that point (she was throughout the whole process), giving me the strength and guidance I so very much needed at that very moment (ten minutes before the door opened… it was terrifying, to say the least)! I snapped out of it and got back to business – perseverance!

Once I had everything set up and as each day flew by I couldn’t have been happier and ready to share my work! My display was exactly how I envisioned and arriving at the Direct Energy Centre each morning to the smiling faces of all the artists and coordinators I was reminded why I wanted to be a part of the Thunderbird Marketplace and why I love community – it is incredibly supportive, warm, funny, smiling, creative and is family. Each day and night my mom would check in with me, keep me grounded, and she would help with other business things that needed to happen, which prepared me for the following day of business (she was pretty much my biz partner through this). During the days I saw so many family, friends and community members come out to see what we had created. Our section was smartly curated, it was like going to a gallery-style boutique you would see in Yorkville or NYC – I was proud and filled with such gratitude every time I reflected on it. The whole set-up and design of our section was very real, I kept telling myself “You’re a real designer, Sage!”

Me, Sage, at the One of a Kind

New Sage Paul branding, which I love

My first sale was very exciting, and being there with the whole Thunderbird group meant waiting until the customer left so we could do a little happy dance. It was fun having friends there to momentarily celebrate this accomplishment. In addition to making sales I also had many people who I knew and didn’t know let me know my work was beautiful, that they had seen my work at other shows (like the Woodland Cultural Centre or Harbourfront), wanting to know where they can see and get more of my work and so on. It was very encouraging. I was also able to get a good list of e-mail subscribers together, one of the things I’m learning is very important for getting the word out about my business! I also received some great feedback from show peers, friends, community members, and show-goers which is important during the infancy and development of my company.

What did I learn? I’m too old to wear ripped nylons (thanks mom, even though that trend will still live on at rock shows), be ready and present myself professionally and with a smile regardless of my fears (thanks Denise), ask for help and build a team before I think I need it (thanks mom and Denise), be confident and happy (thank you to all the artists) and no matter what, always give myself ten times more time than I think I need to finish everything (thanks to the whole experience).

There have been so many people and moments that have helped me realize my dream throughout this invaluable, milestone experience; being at the Thunderbird Marketplace at the One of a Kind has propelled me to believe it. I am running my company and sharing my experiences, culture and stories through fashion!

Until my next show, and as I work on getting some orders out and my on-line store up, Mahsi Cho (Thank you, so much)!!

xo, sage