Shaybazaar: Featuring Unique and Ethical Gifts Made by Independent Makers
Whether you’re a creator looking for a spot to sell your goods, or a consumer who likes to support those who are…Shaybazaar might be your new favorite online marketplace. The platform features works from independent artists in categories like “Love Thyself,” “Gifts for Doodlers,” “Southwestern Dreams,” and even offers “Some Zines to Start Reading.” Items span from earrings to greeting cards and everything in between. It’s happy, it’s beautiful, and it’s supportive.
We caught up with founder Shaya AlArfaj who shared her inspiration for the platform, their human-based approach to online buying, and how the submission process works.
So tell me about the initial idea for this platform and how it came to be.
The idea for shaybazaar came to us after attending an open studio event in Brooklyn. We discovered lots of amazing work and got to meet the creators behind it all. We left with this feeling of excitement.
It made us wonder how many other creatives are out there. The internet didn’t seem to help much either. Searching through online marketplaces is difficult and overwhelming. Much of the work by independent makers is buried deep under pages of mass-produced stuff with sentence long clickbait-y titles. Nothing seemed to resemble local maker-markets that are found in larger cities, where you can wander around countless booths and stumble upon pieces you didn’t even know existed or that you, or someone you loved, needed. Our goal became very clear: to try and recreate the feeling of local marker-markets online at a personal level.
Who else is on the team?
The team currently consists of myself: a product designer and ceramic enthusiast. I just finished up my masters in industrial design at Pratt and now lead the curation of the site. With the other half being my partner Joey: a web developer / designer and lover of graphic design, who handles more of the technical side.
I love working in clay through slip casting and wheel throwing, although I’m not that great yet. Joey has always been interested in creating graphics and animations. We both really appreciate creativeness and the process that goes into making amazing work.
There's a very friendly, uplifting thing going on. Is that an important aspect of what you do? Tell me about the importance of the guidelines you have listed...
Super important. We see shaybazaar as a way to support independent makers and wanted to offer a different approach than what is currently being offered.
It’s a more human-focused approach to online buying. We want to help users find what they’re looking for, whether it's for themselves or someone else. The culture around buying today is much more conscious. People are aware of the impact of their buying habits and appreciate transparency. There's very little need now to purchase from a big faceless store when there are so many more options available. We know from experience how overwhelming it can get, not only to find unique pieces but to also make sure we are making better decisions for ourselves and the planet. And that's what we’re trying to solve by providing a space where you can browse, at ease, knowing everything is the work of an independent maker, cruelty-free, and ethically made.
How do you find makers and products to feature?
Finding the products and makers can really be quite an art form in itself haha. We have various different approaches. We try everything from going to maker markets and talking to people, to crawling around the internet, to submissions and recommendations from other makers.
It can be really challenging at times. But then other times you sort of go down a rabbit hole and keep finding incredible maker after maker. It’s overwhelming sometimes how many talented people are out there.
And people can submit their own projects?
Yes! We always encourage people to reach out and submit their items. We have a link at the bottom of the site with a form for submissions or even just dm’ing us on Instagram works.
We don’t want people to feel like they need a large following, or a huge inventory to be featured. We are just looking for real people who make real things.
We’re about to start a blog that dives into more depth about the piece and makers we showcase. We also from time-to-time send out a newsletter where we put together our favorite pieces relevant to upcoming holidays or seasons. Subscribe if you are interested!