For the past eight years, Pop Montreal has been digging its claws into the city’s artistic underworld outside of its music festival; Puces Pop, which began as a subsidiary of the annual music festival, has become a thrice-yearly fair.
It has also literally grown out of space. For the holiday edition, directors Amy Johnson and Marilis Cardinal decided to relocate the fair from St-Michael’s Church to Saint-Enfant-Jesus du Mile End. It’s still in the heart of Mile End, both literally and figuratively, but the move reflects both its success and a shift towards a more inclusive standpoint.
“We want to be true to what we represent but then also thinking about the people who live in the different communities,” said Johnson. Even the core of the “young, sort of artistic community” that they have traditionally represented is changing. “It’s a baby fest in there,” Johnson said lightly.
Johnson attributed a large part of Puces’ enduring success to its careful selection of exhibitors, a feature that distinguishes it from other arts and crafts events. They receive hundreds of applications for every edition, and usually select around 70. “We pick the ones that we think are not only the most attractive to us but that we think will sell well,” Johnson explained.
There are two paths to good sales at Puces Pop. One is to have a good price point; the other is to sell cupcakes. Jack Dylan, an illustrator and poster artist, is a skilled hand when it comes to the former. Dylan has been a Puces Pop staple since 2005. “[Puces Pop] was the first way I was able to get myself out there, actually,” he said. He channels Henry Ford when making decisions about pricing. “I only felt my product should be able to be purchased by the person who made it. In this case, that was me,” he said. “I didn’t have very much money. I always put it in a price range that I could afford.”
In many respects, the fair operates like a small business. Johnson is a former business owner, having run a store in the Mile End called Wooden Apples, where she also taught DIY workshops.
She brought that ethos to Puces Pop, using it to create what she described as her “pet project,” a free conference for the vendors called “Lil’ Biz.” The annual workshop, which ran last September, addresses financial and commercial issues that are particular to the artistic profession.
Johnson and Cardinal organized several activities for the public in conjunction with the upcoming edition of the fair. Their ever-popular Bingo Night will be held the night before the fair officially opens its doors, while the Taco Truck, of Pop Montreal fame, will be in the area all weekend long.
Puces Pop’s goal is to become “the biggest [fair] in Canada,” according to Johnson. “The renegade craft fair in Brooklyn [has expanded to] Chicago and San Francisco. People come from all over the States to participate in those fairs because they have such a good reputation,” she said. “That’s what we’re aiming for, essentially.”
The bigger they get, the more they can expand. “We are a non-profit so everything goes right back into the festival,” Johnson said. They’re also looking to host a Valentine’s Day edition.
For the upcoming fair, Puces Pop will include vendors whose work is more gift-friendly, in time for Christmas. A charity gift-wrapping table will also be available, with all proceeds going to Heads & Hands.
The biggest Puces Pop yet will be held at St-Enfant-JÃ©sus Church, at 5037 St-Dominique St. (corner Laurier Blvd.) on Dec. 18 and 19, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.popmontreal.com/en/puces/events.