Handmade Arcade Celebrates 10 Years

Dec 5, 2013

Last year's Handmade Arcade drew more than 9,000 shoppers.
Credit Joey Kennedy / Handmade Arcade

Shoppers will spend the next few weeks looking for the perfect holiday gifts for the special people in their lives.

For the 10th year in a row, the Handmade Arcade is offering Pittsburghers the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts at their annual event on Saturday.

Jennifer Baron is one of the co-organizers of the craft fair, and said the Handmade Arcade can provide shoppers a respite from the fatigue of Black Friday.

“It’s really a way to engage the public in the creative process, and bridge that gap between the producers and the consumers,” said Baron. “You actually get to meet the artists who made the object, whether it’s something you will have as a keepsake for your home, something you might wear, clothing, a piece of jewelry, or something you would give as a gift.”

Baron said there will be around 150 vendors at this year’s event, and expects more than 9,000 visitors throughout the day. Many of the artists, hailing both from Pittsburgh and from throughout the country, use recycled materials to create decorative and functional objects.

“There’s always that feeling of discovery when you walk into Handmade Arcade, and you look around and you see things that these artist made,” said Baron. “You might not know what it is at first. You might recognize the shape, the color, the material, but it’s really being transformed.”

Baron said the Handmade Arcade is not just about buying, it’s about creating as well. For third year in a row, the craft fair will feature “Hands-On Handmade” sessions, with craft-making demos and opportunities for visitors to create their own works of art.

“We want people to think about making in an everyday sense, or throughout the year, so it’s not just a one day event where you buy things,” said Baron. “The public can actually participate in a lot of the kinds of practices and techniques that the artists use in making the goods that they sell.”

In the past few years, Baron said the number of vendors selling hand-made and all-natural bath and body products has increased.

“A lot of people are more aware of the chemicals and the toxins that are in bath, beauty, and body products that are marketed to us every day, whether it’s chemicals that are in mascara or lipstick, or soaps and shampoos,” said Baron.

The Handmade Arcade has been a boon to the artists and crafters who participate, according to Baron. She said many of the vendors have been able to turn their passion for arts and crafts into a career.

“They’ve now been able to open their own spaces,” said Baron. “They’ve opened studio spaces, brick and mortar stores, pop up shops. And you really are putting your money back in the local arts community, into the local economy.”

The event will also feature a variety of food options, pop-up dance performances, a marching band, and DJ sets, including one by Baron herself.

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday proclaimed Saturday to be “Handmade Arcade Day.”

The 10th annual Handmade Arcade be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown, and will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but “Early Birdie” passes can be purchases for $15, for shoppers who want a chance to peruse the hand-made goods an hour before the event officially begins.