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Arts, Sports & Culture

Handmade Arcade Offers First Spring Marketplace For Local Makers Only

handmade arcade virtual marketplace home page
The home page for Handmade Arcade's spring virtual marketplace

This past December, for the first time since 2003, Pittsburgh didn’t have a Handmade Arcade Holiday Marketplace. Instead, like so much else during the pandemic, the group’s big annual event for handcrafters — long housed in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center — migrated online. Organizers thought the event successful enough to follow up with the group’s first-ever spring showcase, this one both hyperlocal and virtual.

The Handmade Arcade Virtual Marketplace’s three-day spring edition, April 30–May 2, will feature 60 makers who live or work in Allegheny County, selling everything from artwork to jewelry and skincare products. Aside from eliminating the safety concerns associated with in-person, indoor events, the marketplace responds to the pandemic in another way, said Handmade Arcade executive director Tricia Brancolini-Foley.

“We really want to make sure that the creative economy in Pittsburgh gets a boost,” she said.

The in-person holiday market, first held in 2004 and most recently in 2019, is a huge event, drawing upward of 250 artists from Pittsburgh area and across the country. Attendance was up to 10,000 or more, said Brancolini-Foley.

The coronavirus pandemic scotched the 2020 edition as an in-person event. Instead, with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Handmade Arcade went online. “We tried really hard to make it as intimate as possible while being virtual,” said Brancolini-Foley.

The event lasted nine days instead of just one. It featured a similar number of makers from a similarly broad geographic range, and drew about 23,000 users – more than twice as many as the in-person version, the group said. However, absent face-to-face interactions and opportunities to actually handle merchandise, sales, though “better than expected,” were still down a bit, said Brancolini-Foley.

A jury selected the 60 local crafters for the spring marketplace. “We wanted to really lean into the idea of shopping local, and really helping the Greater Pittsburgh area’s maker community have a chance to bring in some extra income after so many losses in the past year,” said Brancolini-Foley.

Other categories of goods for sale include housewares, clothing, accessories, toys, ceramics, and paper goods.

The spring marketplace will run round-the-clock. A complete list of makers and other information is available at Handmade Arcade’s website.