The 14th annual Handmade Arcade on Saturday will look a lot like the past several ones, as Pittsburgh’s oldest and largest indie craft fair takes over a big chunk of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the day.
But it’ll look a good deal different from its very first iteration. Instead of the 30 vendors who populated 2004's inaugural event (held in the space above Construction Junction, in Point Breeze), there’ll be 240 – about eight times as many. And while that first holiday-season event drew 1,000, says Handmade Arcade spokesperson Jennifer Baron, Saturday’s version will probably welcome closer to 10,000.
As always, the fair features vendors who make what they sell – a vast variety of goods, from woodworking and metalsmithing to artisanal soaps, fine art, quirky T-shirts, plush toys and jewelry made from reclaimed auto glass. (A complete list is here.) There will also be DJs and 16 free Hands-on Handmade Activities for all ages (letter-press printing, stained-glass-making, bookbinding, creating hip-hop beats, etc.).
A few things will be new, Baron says – including roughly one-third of the vendors who will be first-timers. A Craft Corridor will host 19 additional vendors who are new to the craft-fair scene. A dozen Youth Makers drawn from the ranks of area teenagers will make their debuts. Also new is Friday night’s event The Cutting Edge, a Handmade Arcade fundraiser that takes place at the space and offers first crack at a majority of the vendors. (Tickets are $30 for patrons ages 18 and older.)
Handmade Arcade's special Early Birdie pass is sold out.
Baron touts craft fairs as an alternative to conventional retail shopping. “You meet the makers,” she says. “You can talk to them about what materials they used, what techniques they used.”
In an era of online shopping, she says, “People are really craving that personal experience.”
And while this year’s vendors hail from across the country, about two-thirds are from the Pittsburgh region, Baron says. “You really do feel good about spending money because you’re putting money back into the economy, into the local arts economy,” she says.
Sales at last year’s event totaled $400,000, she says.
Admission to Handmade Arcade is free.
Handmade Arcade is an underwriter of 90.5 WESA.