Independent artisans congregate at Black Market Flea in Cambridge

By Meaghan T’Ao
BU News Service

CAMBRIDGE — This past Sunday, Boston Hassle and Ignore Rock’n’roll Heroes held their bimonthly Black Market Flea in Cambridge. The market focused on handmade and secondhand products by local and travelling artisans, including artwork, zines, records, patches and pins, leather goods, and jewelry.

Ignore Rock’n’roll Heroes is a hardcore punk distributor that also organizes events and bookings. Boston Hassle is Boston-based nonprofit that aims to provide creative cultural empowerment for all ages. Their events include other markets, art exhibitions, and recently, a forum hosted inside a sauna.

The Black Market Flea isn’t your average flea market. Independent artists and creators from all around Boston congregate at the market to sell their wares, represent local DIY, and build community. According to return vendor Sam Lee, who runs the leather goods store Primitive Ritual store, the flea started off as a punk market.

“It was mostly punks trading mixtapes and selling their junk and shirts they screen printed,” he said.

To this day, the market still maintains a strong affiliation with underground music scenes, even though the vendors have branched out in terms of products.

“With the Boston DIY Scene…as someone who has been around music forever, I’ve always equated DIY culture with music,” said  Shawn Massak, of local black metal label Realm and Ritual.

“However, I think it’s important to have spaces that showcase art in other forms. I think Hassle is great at promoting music but also events that fall outside of that.”

Realm and Ritual releases small runs of cassettes, specializing in the subgenres of depressive suicidal black metal, atmospheric black metal, and blackgaze. According to Massak, the Boston area black metal scene is small but full of talented musicians, similarly to the local DIY art scene.

“The flea is important to me in that it encourages alternative and DIY art,” he said. “I’m definitely aware of my existence in the space as a straight cis-white dude, but there is a lot of diversity present in a way that is not at all present in other markets I’ve checked out.”

The market is certainly diverse in terms of goods and artists. Claire Hopkins, who runs the shop Brilliant Botany, sells her graphic designs as stickers, patches and buttons to help cover the costs of her work in education.

Hopkins wants to create an inclusive environment by normalizing queer people in STEM. She does so by selling designs that allow people to show both their pride and love of science. Her table showcases products in the shape of bees, each in the color of a different pride flag.

“I love the Black Market Flea! It feels like such an accepting and eccentric environment. I love being among young people creating art, and have great conversations with the folks there,” she said.

Eowyn Evans creates jewelry that is both aesthetic and purposeful. Her Literal Charm Bracelets are covered in symbols for things like protection, money drawing, or love.

“I have realized my dream and become a full-time artist now, for over a year, which is only possible for me because of how we all work together,” she said.

Additionally, the market features vintage vendors, who specialize in more than just clothing from past decades. One such example is Cosmic Cult, a joint effort between curator, model and stylist Lindsay Sgrosso and her boyfriend Nick. The shop offers everything from the clothing of rock and roll legends to jewelry, books, handmade pins, old records, and cult and horror VHS.

“Artists and makers should be supported by their community,” said Sgrosso. “Plus, unique handmade or vintage items are way cooler and more ethical than clothing made in sweatshops.”

Justin Pomerleau, of antique and oddity store Vivant Vintage, agrees.

There is enough stuff in the world, we don’t need anything new,” he said. “Consumers should uplift and respect the people who provide a one-of-a-kind outlet to create their world, their identity.”

Across the wide range of attendees and vendors present at the market, there seems to be a consensus. Buy local. Buy vintage and secondhand. Support independent artists, and support DIY.

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