Spring Soft Market: An Ephemeral Mecca of Cute

Craft Market Takes Soft Approach to Hard Topics

The second Soft Market to take place in Montreal promotes values of self-love, inclusiveness and acceptance. Pictured is co-organizer Lovestruck Prints (left) and Girlplague (right). Photo courtesy of Lovestruck Prints

Fans and artists of soft, cute aesthetics gathered on Saturday May 7 at the second edition of the Soft Market. Co-organized by Starchild Stela and Lovestruck Prints, local artists, the crafts fair brought together over forty artists connecting on cute, fun art and shared values of inclusion and openness.

The venue was replete with crafts; tables filled with zines, stationery and buttons, t-shirts and tote bags tacked to the wall and on racks. Artsy kitchenware, body care and more niche items like a collection of My Little Ponies were also among the offerings.

From left: Starchild Stela and Lovestruck Prints; co-organizers, Simon Fortin, Kita (Lavender Teeth) and Becca Love; exhibitors. Photo Courtesy of Mélanie Racette

At the core of the event, and in the hearts of the organizers, are anti-oppression politics. “We are community-oriented, and want girls, non-binary folks, queer folks, marginalized folks, and survivors, to be at the centre of our events,” said Starchild Stela, an organizer and artist, to The Link.

“We are community-oriented, and want girls, non-binary folks, queer folks, marginalized folks, and survivors, to be at the centre of our events,” – Starchild Stela, co-organizer of the Soft Market

Starchild Stela—along with exhibitors Ambivalently Yours, Lora Mathis, and Lovestruck Prints, to name a few—is a proponent of “radical softness”. In an interview with Hooligan Magazine, Mathis described the unapologetic sharing of emotions as a political move—as a way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness.

Radical softness is a loud political message—like Lovestruck Prints’ FUCK YR MALE GAZE, against quiet pastel backgrounds. Or Ambivalently Yours’ “Stop Apologizing For Your Emotions” button—pastel pink, featuring a crying, wide-eyed girl with rounded features. The combination of soft design and strong statements delivers a message that subverts the normative view of showing emotions—a stereotypically feminine trait—as an undesirable sign of vulnerability.

The event was as fun as it was political. Maïté Pouliche, an artisan and avid collector of vintage toys, presided over a little table of customized dolls—some in near mint condition dating back to 1986—and My Little Ponies with various shades of dyed hair and funky accessories.

“Pouliche means pony in French,” she said. Some of the toys date back to her childhood, others came to her through My Little Ponytail, Pouliche’s Facebook group that facilitates toy exchanges and showcases her creations.

Soft Market haul: crochet cactus (Lovely Day Crochet), knick-knack pack (SKSS), button (Ambivalently Yours), assorted stickers (various artists). Photo Ocean DeRouchie

The co-organizers—aware of how difficult it could be for artists to market their creations—strived to create an event that was open to all. “Crafts fairs have more often than not a relatively expensive price to participate in—Puces Pop (a fair organized three times a year that brings together local designers, crafters, and artists) is a very accurate example. The idea with the Soft Markets is to offer sellers tables at a low price, so people that don’t have a lot of experience or a limited income feel comfortable enough to participate,” Starchild Stela said.

Sheila Turcotte, who exhibited under the name Blushing Dahlia, was selling her zine—an eight page expression of love through animal companionship—on a pay-what-you-can basis as a means to raise money for her upcoming wedding on June 25. She wants to afford a suit and bowtie for her son, who will be two by the wedding.

“If you are not from a privileged background, it’s hard to get by as an artist. People deserve to be paid for their work. We are in the real world. Capitalism is still the system we live in,” Starchild Stela said.