Are you curious about what life is like for historical market sellers and historical interpreters? Let me show you how my workdays and life looks like during a normal market season! (you know, before the pandemic when we actually travelled and met friends)
What everyone sees (hopefully); standing in the market stall in pretty clothing
What life is like, nr 1: Driving
I live in the middle of Sweden so all markets during the season are typically a 4-8 hours drive away from home, and about 12 hours if I want to reach the southern parts. 2 years ago I bought a small van that I can drive on my regular driver’s license and it gives me the opportunity to bring all my market things, sleeping arrangement, restocking items and food. I can sleep in the van if I have to, and a small field kitchen keeps me sustained so I don’t have to stay at expensive restaurants along the way.
Nr 2: Freedom
Driving may be boring and takes a lot of time, but it also gives me a great feeling of freedom, driving across the country, over mountains, and stopping at interesting places to see the view or buy a local drink. Being your own also means freedom to plan, to decide when to work and how, and how much…
But sometimes I plan poorly and end up having to pack away the whole market stall and all my belongings in the heat of summer before I can take the van to go and find food. That happened a little too often in 2019, I will definitely plan better in the future.
Nr 3: Actual working clothing
Regular working clothing when packing the camp; shift (linen underwear) sturdy shoes, working gloves, sunglasses and not much more. Fashionable deluxe!
Or, half-clean pants (they never stay clean for long when packing…) and a sweaty t-shirt after driving for hours without a working AC in summer. We really do save the best looking clothing for visitors and customers!
Nr 4: Lots of really hard work
From unloading the van to the ready-to-open market stall several hours of hard work lies in between. Packing up, lifting, packing down, carrying… If someone would make an employment ad for my work, there would totally be lines like “You really enjoy carrying things around and loading vans”.
I do so much heavy lifting during summer that I need to keep my weight lifting up during the winter so I won’t hurt my back when the summer season comes. Who could have guessed?
Because I am a one-person business, I sometimes travel alone (though I like to bring Love or friends along- it’s so much more fun!) which means I need to do the work myself, and also find some helping hands to raise the tent. We often help each other out which means running around helping with several tents, but also laughter and company while working!
Nr 5: Simple living conditions
Living in a medieval camp. This is the most awesome, and the hardest thing all season. I absolutely love sleeping in the cosy medieval tent, listening to the wind and sounds of camp all around. In the morning there is a fire with fresh coffee, friends to talk with and birds singing all around.
It is also the hardest. 2019 was a really cold and damp year sleeping outside, I regularly wore double woollen dresses and in bed, I had two layers of woollen clothes, covets, blankets, woollen socks and a cap- and was still freezing. When I arrived late at a market I barely got the tent up before darkness, and then there was only a cold meal in a messy space before sleeping. It can be uncomfortable, dark, cold… or a storm threatening to tear your home down.
Still worth it!
Nr 6: Tourists
Not the same thing as customers, or visitors. The tourist will ask you things like “Do you really live in there” (yes) “Is this ware really from the Viking age?” (no) “Where do you take a shower?” (…) and sometimes you can be really, I mean really, tired of those questions. But at the same time, meeting people and making new friends is the best part of travelling.
But it is ok to be tired sometimes. And tell them you never shower… (On some events there are no showers. A lake or a bucket of water might be good for a couple of days, but every once in a while a girl needs a warm shower!)
When the tourists leave… Ok, I admit that some of the best times during the market weekends are the evenings. The work is done, the market stall closed and you have time to cook, hang out with others at the market and enjoy entertainment, feasts, fire shows or just relax.
Nr 7: Moving from the modern world to the historical dream
The mix between the historical dream and the modern world. Vans, heavy work and lots of things you need to build, carry, organise… But after that; a beautiful dress, a cosy area with medieval tents, cooking and that amazing feeling of visiting another time.
Nailed it! Getting that perfect photo that shows you standing effortless in a beautiful surrounding, with your medieval outfit perfectly in order. The wind is right, the light is right. Not showing;
- I was sick as a dog
- There were one zillion visitors in the garden at the same time, appearing in the background and beside me
- Battery remaining in camera; around 4%
Do you think this seems to be the most amazing job ever? (even after reading this whole post?) Well, here are my tips for starting:
- Visit lots of markets to see what people want to buy, and what others are selling. Is there a gap in the market you might fill with products of your own? Thinking you can do the exact same thing as others, only cheaper/faster/better is not a good way to start- most markets and events want diversity in their sellers and won’t invite too many shoe/pottery/cake vendors.
- What can you make/produce and what do you need to buy? If you have lots of costs (like importing fabrics) you will need bigger markets to sell more, whereas if you sell homemade cookies and honey you have lower costs but need more time preparing products.
- Calculate costs; purchases, travel expenses and a salary for yourself, and then make a budget for the market season. How much do you need to sell to get a salary? To pay for all the costs going to a market? Many beginners make the mistake of not charging enough for their products and are struggling to make the ends meet until they get exhausted and quit. You need to charge enough to both cover your costs, get money for yourself and build a small amount for emergencies like a flat tyre or a broken tent.
- Patience. No matter if you have a good budget and great products in place, the first season might not be great. It takes time to discover which markets suit your products, what customers want, how to sell things… Be patient. Have a backup plan to cover your living costs (like a side job, savings, etc) while exploring the market life.
- Get to know people; everything is easier with friends. Maybe you can collaborate with someone, or help out somewhere in the beginning to make new friends. Being kind and helpful to others is a great first step!
Fun fact about my business: Some time ago I got a call from a television show producer, wanting to know more about my life as a historical market seller and maker. She was very disappointed when I explained that I live my life like most people do, in a house, driving a car and eating everyday food for the better part of the year…
I am, after all, a pretty normal person with a business, that takes me out on adventures and travelling for the summer season, while I am living quite the normal life for the other half of the year.
30/04/2021 at 08:40
I really envy you, as you have made historical reenactment your way of life. I began to reenact just for hobby, and four years later my reenactment group is my second family, even if we just reenact and take part in viking events. I have my XXI job, but as I finally got the hang of (for example) nalbinding, sometimes I think it would be great to begin doing things for sale, even if it’s just for fun. And of course, I really would love to meet you someday, in Sweden or in Wolin. Or maybe in Spain, who knows. 🙂
30/04/2021 at 10:55
Thank you for your reply =) I am sure you could also redesign your life if you wanted to, either to more reenactment or just to do a part-time handcrafting business of your choice? The real important thing is that we do things that bring joy and fulfilment to our life. And have the means to pay our bills… I totally started out “for fun” sewing mediocre tunics for all my friends that wanted clothing. I’d love to meet you, too! I so hope the world will spin back to a more normal everyday soon. Take care!
12/09/2021 at 20:40
Tip for your travels is to have a pre-packed box with some freeze dried foods and hard bread. Add a 10 litre water container and you have an easy meal whenever you arrive late at night or spent all day unpacking your van or need to make a stop along the way (you mentioned about having a camping stove already). Not luxury but close to if there are few other options for the time being. Some energy and water will make wonders and yourself alert at the most adverse of times.