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Handmade Arcade offers distinctive crafts

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Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008

No matter your budget or tastes, you will find something you want this weekend at the Handmade Arcade, say organizers of the two-day shopping extravaganza featuring the quirky work of more than 100 artists.

The Handmade Arcade, an award-winning indie craft fair to be held Saturday and Sunday at Hunt Armory, features numerous homemade crafts, soaps and other items for sale. The unusual goods include duct tape wallets, jewelry made from dominos and guitar picks, pillows constructed from vintage T-shirts, stuffed creatures, knitted accessories, handmade glass beads, coat racks made out of eating utensils, and more. The items' creators mostly come from the Pittsburgh area, but some are coming from out of state.

"I think for the shopper, it gives a very real chance to support local artists, but at the same time, think about buying that special, unique gift," says Jessica Manack of Lawrenceville. She is one of the event's organizers, and one of the vendor crafters. Through her business, Miss Chief Productions, Manack makes functional, everyday items, like greeting cards out of images from old books.

"You get a chance to buy things you just can't find every day here," Manack says. "We really try to put together a good mix of products. It's the kind of thing where you can really find something for everyone."

The timing of the Handmade Arcade makes it a good place to pre-shop before the holiday season officially hits, she says.

"I think the Handmade Arcade ... has really cemented a reputation of being almost a kickoff to the holiday shopping season," Manack says. "It's a bit early, but there's a real sense of anticipation. We have people lining up at the door before we officially open."

The Handmade Arcade started in 2004, when it was held at Construction Junction in Point Breeze. But last year, when more than 7,000 shoppers came, organizers had to find a larger venue.

"It's gotten bigger and better every year," says Jill Chisnell of Point Breeze. She is one of the event's organizers, and one of the vendor crafters. She makes notebooks out of vintage record covers, and says that each notebook, which costs up to $6, is one-of-a-kind.

"Each album cover is like my little baby; each is special," Chisnell says. "I can't stop anytime I'm in a thrift store. The records call me."

The Handmade Arcade gives local artists great exposure, she says.

"It gives an opportunity to people who most likely work a full-time job, but make things in their spare time," Chisnell says. "They can get their names out there and start building a customer base, and maybe get some local businesses interested in their stuff.

"It gets people in a creative mood," she says about Handmade Arcade. "I hear a lot of, 'What a great idea,' or 'I want to apply next year.'"

Kim Piper, owner of Sunstone Soap, has been coming to Handmade Arcade for three years, and says she is amazed by how much the event has grown. She will bring individual bars of her all-natural soaps in many scents, gift baskets, facial products and her dog shampoo.

"It's really a wonderful event, especially this time of year when people are starting to think about holidays," says Piper, of Fox Chapel.

"From my perspective, it's a great place to introduce Sunstone Soap and new products," she says. "It's really a nice opportunity to see how crafters go to market in a very unique way, and to get to talk one-on-one to customers."

Additional Information:

If you go

When : 11 a.m.-7 p.m. today; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Admission : Free

Where : Hunt Armory, 324 Emerson St., Shadyside

Details : 412-956-6788 or visit the fair's Web site .

Note : Parking may be scarce in Shadyside, so event organizers recommend carpooling or taking public transportation.

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