Handmade Arcade promises one-of-a-kind goods for everyone on your holiday gift list
Handmade Arcade is so much more than a craft fair.
It is a vibrant market and maker space where you can meet and get inspired by local, regional and national makers, shop for one-of-a-kind, handmade goods of all kinds, learn a new craft, and be a maker yourself.
The annual event is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. It was named one the Top 35 craft fairs in the world by BuzzFeed and was featured in Pop Shop America's guide to the best fall and holiday craft fairs in the U.S. in 2016.
“We are excited to open our doors to our largest event ever, featuring 170 vendors — including 66 who are making their Handmade Arcade debut, eight who are area youth, and 19 who are emerging artists,” says Jennifer Baron, co-organizer and director of marketing and outreach. “At Handmade Arcade, you can feel good about handmade products—many that use locally sourced and reclaimed materials – knowing that you are directly supporting the local economy and hardworking, innovative artists.”
From a recent survey of vendors total sales in one day reached $275,000, Baron says, which shows the event's economic impact.
Here are a few makers from the area.
He's an inspiration
Alea Morren's son inspired her to create.
When the Fox Chapel resident's second child, Adlai, was born, she knew that some things weren't quite right. He would scream for hours each night, and he had strange movements and couldn't coordinate his eyes to work together, she says.
He was diagnosed with Fox G1, a severe neurological condition characterized by small brain growth, seizures and developmental delay, as well as physical impairments; lack of speech, inability to walk, inability to hold objects, and cortical visual impairment.
“It was a very hard and difficult time, to say the least, but I feel blessed that just around that time of Adlai's diagnosis, a new foundation was started by five brave mothers, called the International Fox G1 Foundation (foxg1.org), with the goal of helping families like mine by raising awareness and research funds, and supporting us with a community of love and information,” she says.
Morren started Momma Fox Toys in 2014 (mommfox.com), two years after Adlai's diagnosis, because she was frustrated by the loud, hard and generic toys in the big box stores that would upset him and leave her exasperated.
Her goal is to donate 50 percent of annual profits to the Fox G1 Foundation.
“I would simply make things I needed,” she says. “My next project was bibs, and after that, I was having so much fun, I started making baby blankets and burp cloths. I started thinking about new inventions, like toys that would be sensory rich and that could be attached to his wheelchair tray — he loved knocking things off of it, and I hated bending down constantly.”
Sewing became an outlet for this mom who has always been creative. She began branching out and eventually started carrying some bibs and baby boutique items.
“Every item I make, I produce in a spirit of joy and service, and do it all in Adlai's honor,” she says.
She's designed sets with leggings, bandanas and hats, and will also have her more traditional line up of baby blankets, bib gift sets, infant teethers and sensory rich toys. Prices range from $10 to $30.
“Sensory toys focus on engaging the child's vision and curiosity —the key elements in development,” she says.
Margaret Hewitt, whose company is Midnight Hour Stitchery (midnighthrstichery.etsy.com), spends a lot of late nights creating embroidered art.
The Verona resident is a self-taught embroidery artist who makes bright cross-stitched designs inspired by the people around her. She combines traditional hand embroidery with stitches in fresh ways with textured florals, bold typefaces, and painterly blended threads.
“As a habitual night owl, I often do my work late into the night, inspiring my Midnight Hour Stitchery name,” Hewitt says. “Embroidery appealed to me because I am a history nerd. As a history lover, I have always been fascinated by the material goods created by generations past — especially by women.”
Hewitt's completed pieces are framed in their hoops in a traditional style with sewn felt backs to create an heirloom quality piece.
This year is a perfect opportunity for her to be part of Handmade Arcade, because the organization is offering smaller, more affordable spaces for emerging artists such as Hewitt.
Most of her creations measure 5 or 6 inches across. They can be displayed on walls or sat on an easel or leaned against a wall or book case. Most items cost between $15 and $30.
From costumes to clothing
Making Halloween costumes for her sons sparked Tabitha Reed's love of making children's clothing, especially tutus and boutique style dresses for her daughter, Scarlett Mae, 11.
Reed of Kittanning owns Missy Mae Tutus (facebook.com/missymaetutus), a children's accessory and clothing line. She has never taken a formal sewing class but learned some techniques from her mother, Vickie Stitt.
Reed mixes designer fabrics to create dresses, skirts, headbands, tutus and baby bonnets. She recently added woodland-themed cloth dolls that she coordinates with children's clothing. She has made stuffed animals with matching girls skirts and has matching stuffed animals with bow ties for boys.
Prices range from $6 to $10 for accessories to $50 or $60 for animals.
Handmade Arcade's Hands-on Handmade underscores the event's dedication to cutting edge crafts, Pittsburgh's independent art and crafts communities, and the global do-it-yourself maker movement.
Hands-on Handmade invites attendees to participate in art, craft, tech and learning activities led by Pittsburgh-based artists, art collectives and nonprofit organizations.
The area features short and daylong drop-in projects, demonstrations, mini-tutorials, make-and-take activities, games, performances, and large-scale art installations.
One of the activities is Make a Mask with The Westmoreland Museum of American Art from Greensburg, using a mask template taken from an art image from the museum's collection.
“We are thrilled to welcome The Westmoreland Museum of American Art,” Baron says. “It's an outstanding museum with an outstanding collection. It has been great to connect with them.”
The museum is happy to be a part of this event, says Catena Bergevin, deputy director/director of advancement for the museum who knows Baron from working with her previously at the Mattress Factory on Pittsburgh's North Side.
“We think that the audience for Handmade Arcade is likely to be interested in learning about our upcoming exhibitions, programming and events and will hopefully choose to come visit us,” Bergevin says.