Behind the scenes of a pop-up shop with Elena M. Sarni

 She hosts pop-up shops. She supports local artists. Hear her story.

Behind the scenes of a pop-up shop with Elena M. Sarni

Have you ever sold your work at a pop-up shop? Have you ever been to one? Today, I’m sharing with you the story of one dedicated writer, historian and curator who is making it her mission to support artisans by hosting pop-up shops in her community. In fact, she has one going on right now at the Woodman Museum in Dover, NH.

This is a great read for anyone who is trying to figure out how to sell their wares or for someone looking to better engage and support their local artists’ community. Enjoy!


Hi Elena! Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are now.

I grew up in the small coastal town of No. Hampton, NH. It’s gorgeous. You can drive, walk, or bike along Rt. 1A and look out at the Isles of Shoals on a clear day. The ocean view from my home town is still one of my favorites!

I would say that my interest in art and fine craft stems from being raised in an artistic family, although only my dad and sister ever received formal training. My dad is a finish carpenter. When I was a child my father did a lot of restoration work on historic houses throughout the New Hampshire seacoast and southern Maine so I would visit him at job sites. Through this exposure I developed an appreciation for craftsmanship. This formative experience propelled me to study history, art, craft, and museum studies as an adult. My mom is also naturally very artistic and would make and design amazing birthday cakes and decorations for my sister and me. She still does! Then there is my sister, who is an art teacher and a very talented artist. Art and craft just runs in my family as I have grandparents who were poets and violinists, painters and metalsmiths. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in!

During high school I took a lot of art classes and one summer I was chosen to apprentice with my ceramics teacher, the potter Raymond LaBranche, who was a member of the League of NH Craftsmen. I went on to earn a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire. But I continued to take studio art and art history courses as an undergrad. My minor was American Studies, which is the intersection of American art, literature, and history — all of which I love. After college I worked briefly in the publishing field, but ended up being awarded a fellowship at Historic New England to study the folk art collection of Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little. The fellowship was life changing. It reignited my love for the decorative arts and fine craft. It was also the reason that I decided to return to graduate school to become a curator. At the time, the University of New Hampshire was the only school in New England that offered a Master’s degree in Museum Studies so I returned to UNH on a full scholarship and earned an MA in History: Museum Studies to become a curator.

I worked at several historical societies and museums in Massachusetts before eventually relocating back north to be closer to my (now) husband. For years I worked as a freelance art reviewer and traveled all over Maine (I didn’t even have GPS back then!) interviewing artists and reviewing exhibits. I loved it and it was the best way to get to know the state of Maine! I went on to work at a local art association and really found my stride helping artists. I organized a professional development series for artists that included portfolio reviews with gallery owners, a session on photographing your artwork, and a talk by the editor of Art New England. It was really empowering for the artists. And in my spare time I found myself writing a lot of artist statements and press releases for artist friends, as well as helping them select work for open calls. Continue reading “Behind the scenes of a pop-up shop with Elena M. Sarni”