There are artisanal fairs, and then there’s THE artisanal fair: Montreal's Puces POP.
An off-shoot of the POP Montreal International Music Festival, was born in 2004 with a focus on hand-made products by local artisans ranging from clothiers, visual artists, jewelers, ceramicists, toymakers, gourmandises—you name it, and they’ve probably sold it at some point over their near-two decades of operation.
Since its inception, Puces POP has grown to include three fairs throughout a given year (one of which being a holiday edition that’s more of a two-for-one affair held over two weekends), each time bringing together 100 or more vendors and 10,000 visitors.
Now, it’s more than safe to say that it’s a foundational part of the POP universe.
In a way, it’s the weird brand that thrives in its own ecosystem.
AN ANNUAL GALAXY OF LOCAL ARTISANS
Almost regularly held in church basements across the city, it’s almost deceptively folksy: The vendors are curated with a mixity of both established and new artisans, and requires a team of people to pore over submissions and herd the crowds that come through with each edition.
More importantly, Puces POP has come to represent an evolving mix of people and products that demonstrates the shifting trends among design, crafts, and art scenes throughout the years.
At this point, given its reception, it’s become a matter of maintaining momentum.
“There so much demand, so we have to keep it rolling,” says Gab Godon, the on-and-off director of Puces POP since 2017. “There’s always been a lot of traffic. We have a loyal clientele that show up every edition, and we’ve really been to secure a place in the city.”
All told, it’s a heady mix of originality, a variety of offerings, making sure it hand-made and as local as possible.
“POP Montreal’s always had a strong sense of community, and with all of its branches touching different artistic avenues, Puces and its focus on buying local—encouraging artists that are working with their hands and trying to make a living from their passion—is part of that,” Gab adds, even with the event’s visual identity.
“It’s become so much of its own thing, people can even sometimes forget it’s even part of POP Montreal. In a way, it’s the weird brand that thrives in its own ecosystem.”
It’s about being involved with other people and helping them thrive
YOU GOTTA KEEP 'EM CONNECTED
The event’s not without its fair share of chaos—imagine corralling hundreds of artisans every year, the space that holds them together, crowds of visitors—but the organizing process has remained a great way for people like Godon to maintain a connection to the artistic communities of Montreal.
“As an artist myself (under the name Laroie), in the music industry, being a part of Puces POP is a nice way to stay involved in a creative way that promotes the work of other people, and it helps me work on my own projects,” she says.
“It’s about being involved with other people and helping them thrive… It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it is a lot, but as long as everyone is feeling heard and safe and they have everything they need, they can shine.”
We live in a capitalist society, and the money’s important, but if we’re going to take part in this economy, we might as well do it with the people we live with and make this city the city it is.
As an honest place of diversely fun, handmade and sometimes weird goods that’s constantly shifting over the years, Puces POP has somehow stayed true to its local-first roots.
And it has an impact: “I get a lot of comments from vendors that it’s their favourite market to be a part of, and it’s happened a lot where I finish an event and I’m emotional because I feel people worked so hard that weekend, gave it everything they had, and they’re leaving happy. They’re fulfilled, and they put everything they had into it.”
Of course, buying local means more than just buying local. For Godon, “it’s important to not encourage large companies making big money but don’t pay their workers well. We live in a capitalist society, and the money’s important, but if we’re going to take part in this economy, we might as well do it with the people we live with and make this city the city it is.”
“To encourage them in their craft and live off their passion, to help them do what makes them happy? I’ll all about that.”
Puces POP’s 2023 Winter Edition is running on December 8-9-10 & December 15-16-17 at Église St-Denis (5075 rue Rivard, near Laurier station on the Orange Line).