Every Monday, a select group of vendors transforms the Grange Hall in West Tisbury into a cosmopolitan capital. However, like many Vineyard traditions, World Market Monday has had to make adjustments in a summer marked by mask-wearing and social distancing.
Hand-painted scarves and beautifully beaded bowls decorate the Hall’s porch, alongside a variety of other small treasures. Curious shoppers can find colorful textiles, handcrafted jewelry, and beautiful ceramic pieces, as well as agricultural products like fair-trade organic olive oil and traditional tapenade. All of these items are imported from communities around the world, including Tanzania, Haiti, India, and Palestine, to aid them in various economic development projects.
While World Market Monday has been in operation for four years, this summer has presented unique challenges. “People weren’t sure we were going to be here because we weren’t even sure we were going to be here,” said vendor Carolyn Stoeber. Vendors were unsure if state guidelines would allow them to open, or if shoppers would feel comfortable coming to their stands, and waited until July 27 to restart the market –– nearly two months later than normal.
Vendors made many needed adjustments to ensure a safe shopping experience, including moving their stands outside, requiring masks, and providing hand sanitizer. However, they were unable to hold their annual fundraiser, which raises money for the Grange Hall venue. “We used to have a big fundraiser, but since we can’t do that this year, we ran out of money,” said vendor Judy Lane. “We only had money left over last year for two markets.” The Vineyard Grocer, Cronig’s Market, and MacNelly Cohen Architects have since sponsored the market, making charitable donations to support its continuation.
“We’re just taking it one week at a time,” said vendor Dawn Moran. “It’s so different, everything is just so different right now, but personally, I didn’t want to give up.”
World Market Monday is home to four vendors — Judy Lane, Dawn Moran, Linda Cohen, and Carolyn Stoeber. Each of their stands presents a different stylistic aesthetic, showcasing the work of the community they’ve connected with.
Judy Lane, a seasonal resident of Aquinnah, has worked with Maasai Partners, an organization that connects members of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania with an international support network, for a decade. She sells a collection of handcrafted items from the Maasai tribe, including jewelry, woven baskets, textiles, and crafts. Her beaded baskets were a personal favorite, each eye-catching and vibrant with color. All of her profits go to programs that support the Maasai community. So far, her work has helped fund the construction of kindergartens, sponsored education programs, supported microfinance loan programs for women, and aided a doctor who does mobile outreach clinics.
Dawn Moran, another vendor, who lives in East Falmouth, works in collaboration with the Her Future Coalition, an organization that rescues, educates, and trains women who were victims of human trafficking in India. The women are trained as metalsmiths, a job that is traditionally reserved for men, and are offered high-wage employment, education, counseling, and shelter. Moran established the Invisible World Project, an initiative that combines her background as a marine biologist and the Her Future Coalition, to create beautiful, handcrafted plankton jewelry, and has raised more than $20,000 in the past two years alone.
“The metaphor is bringing what’s under the surface into the light,” Moran said. “It’s creating awareness for ocean health and the human condition, and it’s a central theme that they both should be treated with respect, and we go through our lives every day and we don’t really think about these things.”
Linda Cohen’s stand showcases Palestinian agricultural products and crafts, with the focus being fair-trade organic olive oil. The olives are hand-picked from trees that are thousands of years old, and processed the very same day. She also has hand-painted ceramics, hand-carved wooden pieces, tapenades, spices, and so much more. Cohen works with Canaan Fair-Trade and Bethlehem Fair-Trade Artisans, an interfaith group of Christians and Muslims, to import the stunning products. “The people that I’ve met, the artists and artisans and farmers, these people are already doing something beautiful,” Cohen said. “I just want to present that to my community.”
Chilmark resident Carolyn Stoeber’s stand is a dazzling display of colorful beaded crafts, hand-painted silk scarves, and thank-you flags. Stoeber’s work supports artisan groups in Haiti, where she has been visiting for almost 10 years. Many of her items are from La Gonâve, an Island off the coast of Haiti.
“I think COVID has affected everybody — it’s affected everybody in so many ways, everyone’s life,” Stoeber said. “But maybe they’ll be happy to come to an outdoor venue and see some products, and think about people who are struggling during this time especially. I think COVID has shined a light on the disparities, not only in our country but in the world, between the more impoverished nations and the more well-off nations, so now is also a good time to support those small artisans in places around the world that are really needing help.”
World Market Mondays are held every Monday from 10 am to 3 pm, July 27 through Sept. 7, at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. For more information, visit worldmarketmondays.org.