Independent handmade-craft fair marks its 9th year

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Artist Jennifer Moroney wants people to walk all over her designs.

She makes rugs — and not just so people can hang them on walls.

“I am a believer in functional art,” says Moroney, who will be at Saturday's Handmade Arcade. “So, I expect people who buy them to put them on the floor. I don't have a rug as a wall-hanging anywhere in my house. They are supposed to be used.”

Moroney, of Greensburg, owns White Wave Originals — her name, Jennifer, means “white wave,” she says. She will be one of 150 crafters who will be selling their wares at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Handmade Arcade is Pittsburgh's largest independent crafts fair. Marking its ninth anniversary and its third appearance at the eco-friendly convention center, the event will showcase innovative crafts vendors from Pittsburgh, the region and the country for the market's biggest show to date.

Every year, the event's planning group receives more than 300 applications from crafters. This year, Handmade Arcade will feature vendors from more than 15 states. Many of the goods integrate upcycled, recycled, sustainable and eco-friendly materials and techniques.

There will be cleverly constructed products such as purses made from recycled books, camera straps made from vintage fabrics, felt accessories, jewelry made from found objects, pillows constructed from vintage T-shirts, letter-pressed paper goods, hand-bound journals, eclectic housewares, limited-edition art posters, organic bath and body products, upcycled children's clothing and more. Prices range from $3 to $150.

New this year is a tote bag, designed by Pittsburgh-based artist Allison Glancey of Strawberry Luna, a longtime vendor. Her bags will be available along with T-shirts, posters and buttons.

Moroney, who weaves rugs made from 100 percent cotton after she hand-dyes the yarn, is impressed with the dedication of the planners to promote crafts and to help further artists' careers.

Helping create business is an important goal of the show, says founding member Jennifer Baron, one of the 10 co-organizers, who handles public relations for the event.

“There are one-of-a-kind gifts here,” she says. “It is a creative expression of the artists.”

Previous events have drawn about 10,000 in two days, and during a one-day event, about 6,000 attendees.

Amber Coppings of Stanton Heights will participate for a third year. She owns Xmittens and creates fingerless gloves from recycled fleece. She will showcase her unisex-size convertible glove line, which features a flipover mitten top attached to fingerless gloves. Coppings will open a studio in Lawrenceville later this month.

“It's a great event, and I especially love that it's Downtown, because it draws people from all over the city, and it is really an accessible venue,” Coppings says. “It's a high-caliber show and the fact it is in the convention center is perfect, because it is a green building and a lot of the artists create items from recycled materials. Being an artist can be a singular world, so it is nice to see so many people who are interested in handmade items. I love to see the reaction of people to what I make.”

So does Joseph Morrison, co-owner of New Kensington's Fresh Heirlooms with Lindsay Woge.

Morrison and Woge create home-décor items that have practical uses. They take repurposed and recycled materials and fashion items such as cabinets made from vintage soda crates and cigar boxes, and coasters made from reclaimed fabric swatch books formerly used by upholsterers, drapery companies and designers.

“People appreciate a handmade product,” Morrison says. “They know we put a lot of time and energy into making something. I also think people like recycling, and it is no longer a trend, but an everyday purchasing pattern.

“It is also wonderful to be surrounded by like-minded people. There is an amazing energy in that room.”

Another Handmade Arcade founding member Jessica Manack, a Hazelwood resident, agrees. As a vendor with her company Miss Chief Productions, she has been known to pick through garbage to find items for her buttons.

“I love recycling items,” says Manack, who has traveled to other craft shows to see what they do and also handles getting the word out via social media. “The craft community is so welcoming. We are all friends in a way, because we share the passion of creating hand-made items. This show is in an environment where shoppers appreciate these types of goods. Artists get good feedback from the customers.”

The event is a good place to learn some crafting skills, as well. At the Hands-on Handmade Arcade activity area, shoppers can participate in arts and crafts projects. The activities help give insight into what it takes to make something by hand, Manack says.

“It is a way to bridge the gap between artists and consumers for a hands-on experience,” Baron says.

Stylists from ModCloth, the indie, vintage and retro-inspired style website — — will host Pop-Up Chic, a hands-on style demonstration where you can turn paper dolls into fashionistas, talk styling tips, have measurements taken and try out a photo booth.

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

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