Design Markets

Bowerbird has been on the calendar of the Adelaide design market scene since 2009.

As the popularity of this and other design markets continues to grow – both in Adelaide and around Australia, we sat down with Bowerbird leader and design market trailblazer Jane Barwick to get some inside advice about participating in this award winning design market.

What is Bowerbird?

Bowerbird is a 3-day design event created to offer visitors a design experience. Twice a year it offers over 150 designers from around Australia the opportunity to sell their work directly to a large appreciative audience and each event offers a fresh mix of local and national creative practitioners, emerging and established. The interaction between a designer and potential buyer is invaluable for both. It’s very much about community and workshops, maker demonstrations, delicious local food and beverages add to the experience and extend the artisan theme.

We also support the business development of those taking part, running workshops on visual merchandising and signage, and providing information on selling and wholesaling.

It is a curated event, and we call for applications twice a year, about four months prior to each market held in May and November. It began in 2009.

What do you look for in a strong application?

Product needs to be Australian-designed, and preferably Australian-made. We’re always looking for fresh, contemporary and well made work, that sits in a cohesive range. It’s important we see that the maker takes a professional approach to their business, that they have a good online presence – either through a good website or strong, active social media.

It’s also important that an application includes excellent imagery. We look for professional photos of the work, and request an image of a stall mock up as an indicator of what an applicant’s stall might look like.

We always try to make sure there is a variety of work shown within an event, and from market to market, so this influences our selections too.

Do I need insurance?

Yes, stallholders need $10,000,000 of public liability insurance. This can be obtained through Guildhouse membership or insurance companies such as AAMI. Food caterers must have both public liability and product indemnity insurance.

What other costs should I consider? (eg: merchandising/dressing stall)

Strong signage and stall display are worth investing in – although neither signage nor merchandising need to be expensive. We hire out trestle tables, clothing racks and tablecloths to stallholders to reduce stallholders’ transportation costs. If coming from interstate, then travel, transport of goods and stall and accommodation also need to be considered. Promotional material – business cards, postcards, flyers etc are recommended. Professional photography is vital.

There are also opportunities for additional promotion and advertising through Bowerbird. It’s worth spending time and money getting your website the best it can be in the lead up to the event as the event will bring a lot of extra traffic.

Who is the main audience for your market?

We have a lot of women aged 30 and over attending, but it’s a diverse audience, and it’s always great to see lots of men attending too.

Any tips for merchandising my stock?

Bowerbird offers merchandising and signage workshops and handouts with information to stallholders who can’t attend. We recommend mocking up a stall at home so you have a plan when you set up at the event. Think about a stall as a shop front and create clear, well organised professional displays consistent with your branding.

How much stock should a stallholder bring?

We always say bring more than you think you will need! If you’re a local it’s possibly easier to access more stock if you need to, but for interstate stallholders the logistics of bringing in more stock can be tricky. There have been times when stallholders were low on stock at the end of the first day. It is also worth asking other stallholders who work in the same medium as you how much they have brought to a market – this can be a great guide and we find there’s a generosity in sharing and helping each other out with this kind of information.

What role does social media play in market promotion for the market and the makers?
Social media is key. Instagram and Facebook particularly as they’re so visual.

Social media is a great way to build anticipation and sharing of the event, and to showcase the participating designers and upcoming program.
As far as other promotion goes, we have some beautiful recognisable branding, an effective advertising strategy and a strong editorial presence across many publications, print and online, in the lead up to the market. We are also creating collaborations where cross promotion benefits everyone involved.

What makes a great market for you?

A warm buzzy atmosphere, lots of smiles and happy stallholders!

Good promotion of the event – knowing that the Bowerbird brand is out there and people are hearing about us and attending, strong sales for our stallholders and seeing their generosity and warmth towards each other. It can be an excellent opportunity for designers to get to know each other, share ideas, collaborate and support each other’s practices.

Giving stallholders the opportunity to receive direct feedback from their customers is invaluable and can inform new product development.
Seeing visitors engaged with designers’ stories is a lovely part of the event, it really helps to build a connection between the makers and the audience.

Bowerbird is held twice a year in May and November. For more details visit

Guildhouse financial members are able to obtain one on one professional development support about many areas of their practice. Contact us for more information.