A Mourning Market: Seattle’s Dark Artist Collective

Snapper S. Ploen


A lady’s corsage constructed from a paper wasp’s nest is presented in a jewelry box. A jigsaw of avian bones dangles in the air like a morbid wind chime. A matryoshka doll painted with the menacing visage of Cthulhu stands guard among the artifacts. This list may sound bizarre, perhaps even frightening, and you may wonder: Where on this tortured Earth would one find such macabre treasures?


Seattle’s Mourning Market, a quarterly art show hosted in a city know for its rain and shadow, calls together those Pacific Northwestern artists who practice their own unique blend of the “dark arts.” Visitors to this experience could find one-of-a-kind pieces ranging from unseelie photography to vintage gothic posters and specially designed tarot card decks. With new artists joining the show every year, the variety of skill sets it brings together is both innovative and diverse.


The gathering’s origin sprung from two Seattle residents, Alicia Sigala and Ginger Rivera, who were active in the arts and crafts community, but surprisingly did not see many exhibitions that reflected the darker side of the city’s talent.


“We began Mourning Market in 2009 after doing many craft shows (as artists) in the Seattle area and realizing that we were the complete black bats of the craft scene,” says Sigala, “We knew so many amazing darker artists in the Pacific Northwest and felt that we could make a show that catered to people that enjoyed the spookier side of life.”


Four years later, their little experiment has bloomed like nightshade, and since its inception has grossed thousands of dollars for the local artists who sell their wares at the show. With the explosion of online e-commerce store fronts like Etsy, many consumers have simplified their shopping needs to a simple point-and-click. However, the Mourning Market allows for a truly one-of-a-kind experience: a physical flashpoint between buyer and seller and a chance to meet and speak with the creators of the pieces and an opportunity for you to unearth the ideas behind their inspirations. Through this route, buyers have an interesting piece of artwork for their home or business as well as an imaginative story to go along with it.


The event wasn’t an easy one to bring to fruition. Sigala points out the early difficulty of finding a home for the show, “Our biggest obstacle that we have faced over the past four years is our venues closing. We have been at two previous venues before finding our (hopefully) permanent home at El Corazon.” The centrally-located El Corazon is a “live music and libations” setting nestled between Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood and the rumbling I-5 corridor. She adds, “We LOVE our new Home, El Corazon! It is a perfect location for us. It is very well known in Seattle and it is close to the major neighborhoods.”


Sigala admits that finding compatibility with sponsors has also been sometimes challenging. “We try to look for sponsors that fit our design idea. We have had to turn away many companies that have asked to sponsor our show because we felt that they didn't exactly fit with who we are.”


The Mourning Market itself attracts an assorted crowd of artists and vendors from painters and sculptors to jewelers and doll makers. Sigala has some prospective advice for anyone who wishes to participate: “We require a minimum of five images along with an application, so please try and make the images the most representative of what you do. Also, be creative and unique in what you do. It is great to get inspiration from another artist, but don't ever rip them off. Ginger and I can tell if an applicant is ripping off another artist.” Hence, participation requires approval and the ladies of the Mourning Market can process applications electronically via their website: www.mourningmarket.com. They also regularly post updates to advertise upcoming Markets on their Facebook page.


When asked what she’d like to see more of at the Mourning Market, Sigala says, “I would love to see more original print art and shirt artists. I love art (regardless of the medium) that is affordable.” In keeping with the economic-minded, the Market currently charges $1 for anyone to walk in and browse the exhibits.


As Ginger and Alicia look to the future, it appears to be anything but dark or cloudy for the monster they’ve created. “Ginger and I have so many ideas on where we would like Mourning Market to end up. So far we have been thrilled with how large our little show has grown over the past four years. We would love to incorporate different aspects into our show, maybe adding a fashion show or making an entire weekend of Mourning Market festivities.”


After that, they may have no limit but the gray Seattle sky itself, as there is a possibility that these ladies could be television’s next stars by seizing the reality wave of all things disturbing and artistic. Alicia confides, “We are actually in the works with a production company on possibly doing a reality show. We are super excited about getting the word out about Mourning Market.”






Author Bio:
Snapper Ploen is a contributing writer and photographer at Highbrow Magazine.

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