Handmade Arcade showcases indie craft community

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

A clock made out of recycled bicycle cogs, a scarf screenprinted with a chrysanthemum pattern and a baby onesie adorned with the words “p is for pierogi” are just a a few of the items independent crafter Amy Garbark makes for her handmade goods brand Garbella.”My design style is based a lot on pattern,” Garbark, 32, said of her craft aesthetic in a phone interview on Wednesday. “It’s minimalist and modern.”Garbark’s line of crafts will cover one of 140 craft tables at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Nov. 12.Handmade Arcade, Pittsburgh’s largest “indie” craft fair, will hold its holiday season event on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to showcase the artistic work of craft vendors from 17 different states.”The event [Handmade Arcade] is super well-run,” Garbark said. “The Handmade Arcade team does a great job with making it happen. They’ve really built a name for the event.”The event was founded in 2004 by a group of crafters who noticed a lack of opportunity for indie crafters to share their work with the Pittsburgh community.”There was nothing in Pittsburgh for a marketplace for indie craft vendors,” Jennifer Baron, a co-organizer and public relations contact for Handmade Arcade, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “[Handmade Arcade] is a place to sell our works and meet people shopping. It also builds the community from within. It really has grown since that first year.”Handmade Arcade is a juried show, meaning vendors must apply and be approved by several judges in order to participate. This prevents any one type of craft from overpopulating the event.”We work very hard in our jurying sessions to make sure a wide variety of crafts are represented,” Baron, 41, said.This year’s categories include accessories, artwork and illustrations, bath and body, bookbinding, ceramics and pottery, children’s clothing and accessories, adult clothing, fiber arts, housewares, jewelry, posters and prints, stationary and paper craft, T-shirts, toys and music, homemade magazines and multimedia, which is a new addition to the usual list of categories.”We’re allowing patrons to experience different craft platforms and think about including crafts in their own lives,” Baron said.Handmade Arcade is ideal for thrifty yet thoughtful holiday shoppers, according to Baron.”You can spend anywhere from $1 to $100,” Baron said. “Most of the items are under $40. It’s a great place to purchase holiday gifts because they’re one of a kind, or one of a few, items. There’s always a little bit of a change when it’s handmade.”Three DJs will provide music for the event, which grows in attendance throughout the day, according to Baron.”We definitely get intensely crowded in the middle of the day, but this year we have larger aisles … to make it more comfortable for everyone,” Baron said.Handmade Arcade attracts various demographics, according to Baron.”It’s diverse in terms of age and background,” Baron said. “People like to hang out there. It really is this inspiring, invigorating social event.”In addition to shopping and socializing, attendees will be able to get in on the crafting themselves this year with a new feature of the event: Hands-on Handmade.”Hands-on Handmade is our brand new activity area,” Baron said. “People can take a break from shopping to learn a craft, skill and make a craft a part of their own life.”Some of the activities in the new area include “Pizza Relay,” in which participants will dress up in upcycled costumes to compete against each other to create a giant plush pizza, and a handmade gift wrap station where participants will use patterns of different Pittsburgh artists’ faces to screenprint their own giftwrap. Another activity, “Psychic T-Shirt E.S.P.,” relies on the participants’ thoughts to create art.”You pick a rock out of a bag and hold it in your hand, and you focus on what you want the artist to paint on the T-shirt, and he paints it,” said co-organizer and Designer Deborah Allen, 36, of the Hands-on Handmade activity in a phone interview on Tuesday.”A Craft Happening” incorporates the creativity of all participants for one work of installation art.”You walk up and add to a sculpture,” Allen said. “All day the sculpture will evolve and people can keep adding to it.”For Baron, the entire Handmade Arcade experience is a “creative act” for both shoppers and vendors.”It’s different from going to a mall,” Baron said. “You get to actually meet the people who make the items, talk to them and ask how it was made.”To learn more about experiencing Handmade Arcade, visit their website at handmadearcade.com. For those who want first pick of this year’s craft selection, Early Birdie passes can be bought on the website or an hour before the start of the event at the door for $15. Only 200 passes are available.Baron hopes those considering attending realize the benefits Handmade Arcade provides Pittsburgh.”We’re putting money back in the local economy and supporting the craft community,” she said.