I Made It! Market has 6 years of providing crafty gifts

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

Carrie Nardini and Nina Barbuto sat next to each other six years ago at a craft show at Carnegie Mellon University.

They had a conversation about how nice it would be if there were multiple opportunities to sell their wares throughout the year.

It wasn't just talk.

The two created I Made It! Market, a nomadic indie craft-and-art marketplace that hosts events year long, including the annual holiday market Friday and Saturday at Bakery Square in the East End.

This is the sixth-annual holiday event. Last year, more than 7,000 attended.

This year's artists will include a diverse mix of goods including ceramics, house wares, jewelry, clothing, bath-and-body products, giftware, prints, letterpress, sweet treats, plush, children's items and much more.

“It is a place to get some really cool ideas for gifts,” says Nardini, from Brookline. “There will be many items made from recycled and re-purposed items and you will see some really unique pieces from every artist.”

I Made It! Market has grown since its 2007 debut with 20 artists. More than 90 vendors will take part in this weekend's juried show, which had nearly 300 applicants.

Lucy McClure of Scott makes vintage-styled jewelry with re-purposed materials such as turning clip-on earrings into bracelets.

“They have been very popular,” says McClure, who finds great pieces at estate sales and who started out as a shopper at the market. “I have always loved getting something that was homemade, and I think people feel a real connection with an artist when they meet them and talk to them about what they make.” Her jewelry is available at www.belmonili.com.

The I Made It! Market helps sustain the small craft business in Pittsburgh, McClure says, where vendors are willing to help each other.

“It's kind of a crafting family,” she says. “Organizers have found a way to give artists a realistic avenue to be successful.”

Barbuto, from Polish Hill, says there will be so much to choose from at the two-day shopping event.

“I am so happy it has caught on,” she says. “The people who are part of this really care about it and take the initiative to make it better and better each show.”

While many of the artists sell items on websites such as Etsy.com, Barbuto says that experience can't compare to a live meeting of artist and buyer.

“You get to put a face to that piece of jewelry, handbag or piece of clothing, and you get to experience the personality of the person who made it,” she says.

Markets like these help build a community in terms of where you can find home-made items, Barbuto says.

“The most important part is giving people more and more opportunity to sell what they make,” she says. “I really enjoy the creativity at these markets. I like to help artists and buyers make a connection.”

The founders have helped teach about the business side in terms of copywriting, inventory and marketing.

Barbuto handles the layout and logistics while Nardini takes care of getting the word out.

“There are so many artists with so much natural talent, and we want to help get them in front of an audience more often so they can meet their customers and also learn from their customers about what they want,” Nardini says. “These are artists who live in our community and who sometimes collaborate to create items. Coming to a show like this helps support local artists and you get to buy things that are unique.”

Jessica Graves from Ross owns Una Biologicals, which produces beauty and wellness products. Her most popular item is a beauty butter luxe face cream.

“I want to be able to give clients affordable organic options,” says Graves, who has a background in chemistry and is an herbalist. “Your skin is your biggest organ, so I try to educate on skin care and help get the word out. I love working with I Made It! Market because they help give companies, particularly small businesses, an opportunity to display their products and introduce what they make to potential buyers.”

Graves says vendors share knowledge freely about everything from the business details to the creative side.

“It's a great way to connect with other artists and to meet so many people who come to the markets,” Graves says. “It is not cutthroat, and that is one of the reasons I love being a part of it. By working together, we will elevate the community of hand-made goods in Pittsburgh.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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