Artisans crafting perfect cure for spring fever at Monroeville festival

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Lately, shoppers with a fever might not have the flu

They might be suffering from an itch for spring bargains on crafts and artwork.

And that condition can be rectified at the 14th annual Pittsburgh Arts & Crafts Spring Fever Festival, which will be held Friday through Sunday at the Monroeville Convention Center.

More than 175 booths will feature vendors offering floral arrangements, pottery, soaps and lotions, crafts, art, clothing and accessories, pet items, outdoor decor, and all of the items that can get shoppers and their homes ready for the new season, show producer Debbie Stoner of Irwin said.

“It's based on a lot of spring arts and crafts,” said Stoner, who owns Family Festivals Association Inc., along with her husband, Dave. “It's spring-oriented. It's nice and fresh.”

This is the first of many exhibitions the business produces each year, Debbie Stoner said.

She said the Spring Fever Festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5.50 for adults, $5 for senior citizens ages 65 and older, $1 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children ages 5 and younger, she said.

There is a 50-cent discount coupon on the website for adults and senior citizens.

Along with all the crafters selling home and personal items, the food purveyors are another big draw, and they will have treats for shoppers preparing for the upcoming Easter weekend, Debbie Stoner said.

Along with those selling gourmet soup and dip mixes, seasonings, baked goods, candies, fudge and jellies, there also be a vendor selling frozen handmade pirogi. And fresh kettle corn made on site is ready to eat, Debbie Stoner said.

With vendors from 14 states, the festival has gotten so large that this year, for the first time, it will use both the north and south halls, or nearly 100,000 square feet, at the venue, Dave Stoner said.

“We basically encompass the whole convention center,” he said. Thirty to 40 percent of the vendors are new to the festival.

It probably draws more than 10,000 visitors over the weekend, Debbie Stoner said.

As far as trends go, Dave Stoner said, jewelry has been an ongoing favorite over the past few years, which means there will be plenty of crafters selling such items.

Among them will be Kim Teti, who operates Jewels by KCC, a jewelry line she makes at her home in Plum.

Teti creates various pieces from Swarovski crystals, a popular Austrian crystal. She designs casual to formal styles, as well as wedding jewelry, she said.

“I have a bit of everything,” said Teti, who is a first-time vendor at the Spring Fever Festival.

Diane Wilson of Regent Square creates jewelry from porcelain and terra cotta, a type of reddish clay.

“I go with what I feel in my heart, (and) I draw a lot of inspiration from my customers,” said Wilson, 59.

Designs can be simple pieces to elaborate ones, and her latest line features her Sedona necklaces, which were inspired by a recent trip to Sedona, Ariz. The colors and design reflect the contrast between the rocks, sky and other scenery there.

Her pieces range in price from earrings starting at $20 to necklaces that start at $40.

Wilson has been a vendor at this festival for years and said the convention center has good lighting.

“The venue is quite nice. It's a relatively cheerful place,” Wilson said.

Diane Demitras owns the store Crafted Treasures in Monroeville and is preparing for her fourth year at the Spring Fever Festival. She will sell items she makes, such as embroidered baby items, all-natural pet treats and pet gifts at the festival. Other crafters who sell things at her store also will have items for sale at the festival.

“They get a lot of business,” Demitras, of Monroeville, said about the festival.

And instead of just browsing, she said, “people actually come to purchase gifts there.”

Demitras, 44, said she even likes to do a little bit of shopping herself while she is at the festival.

“We do our own Easter shopping and holiday shopping while we're there, too,” she said.

Another returning vendor is Susan Hill, who has been coming to the Family Festivals shows for more than 10 years. She said her clients expect to see her there.

“I've been doing this for so long now. I have a clientele that comes and looks for me there,” said Hill, of Irwin, who designs one-of-a-kind, handcrafted silver jewelry, often using precious stones and engraving or etching art into silver pieces.

She said can create almost any type of piece and even will be making jewelry right there at her booth. Hill's new line this year involves acid etching into metals to create the flowers of the month, such as a carnation for January, most often worn as a necklace.

“Once I create something, it's done so you are creating a piece of art,” Hill said.

And stopping in at the show won't be like a boring trip to the mall for children because clowns Glitter-Dot and Dapper are returning to paint faces and make balloon animals all three days of the show.

“They're very entertaining,” Debbie Stoner said.

The venue is easily accessible to people with disabilities, and the Stoners will have about 10 wheelchairs on hand that will be available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Because the venue is indoors, the Stoners said, the event will go on rain or shine. But Wilson, for one, would prefer that it doesn't snow because she's eager for spring.

“Aren't we all ready for it?” she asked.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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