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Handmade Arcade opens window to one-of-a-kind wares

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Friday, Nov. 9, 2007

Kim Piper of Fox Chapel has been making her own handmade soaps, bath fizzes, shower scrubs and other toiletries for the past six years. When she sold her creations at last year's Handmade Arcade event, Piper says, buyers validated the worth of her products.

"Your friends and family are always going to tell you your stuff is great, but when I went there, I completely ran out of everything I had," says Piper, whose business is called Sunstone Soap. She makes soaps and other toiletries out of olive oil, cocoa and shea butters, and other natural ingredients, but no animal products.

The Handmade Arcade, an indie craft fair in its fourth year, allows local and out-of-state artisans to showcase and sell their unique creations. This year is the first that the show will run two days instead of one, and more than 100 vendors -- selling everything from jewelry made from guitar picks to pillows constructed from vintage T-shirts -- will come to Construction Junction in Point Breeze to participate.

"It's a wonderful show," Piper says. "Everybody has such a unique craft -- things that you wouldn't see at a normal craft show or even typically at a special boutique shop."

Handmade Arcade, which drew more than 5,000 shoppers last year, includes interactive art-making workshops, and food and beverage vendors. The event allows people to get an easy head start on holiday shopping and find quirky, one-of-a-kind items, says Jill Chisnell, co-organizer of the event.

"You don't have to go to the crazy mall," she says. Handmade Arcade patrons can be "buying something that you know not everyone else is going to have."

"It's also a lot of fun, and a chance for people, even if they're not buying, to see a ... different type of crafting," Chisnell says. "It's not country charm and Kleenex boxes. If it is, it's done with a little twist."

Chisnell also is a vendor, who makes notebooks with old record covers. The Point Breeze resident named her business Little Evelyn for her grandmother, who taught her how to sew and gave her some of the album covers.

"People really get a kick out of them," Chisnell says of her hundreds of notebooks. "People will spend hours at a time at my table, because they're trying to find the perfect one."

Jennifer Baron, the other co-producer of Handmade Arcade, also is a vendor, with her Fresh Popcorn Production business. She started off making greeting cards out of vintage popcorn packaging, but now also crafts jewelry and other creations from different materials.

Maura Kearns and Andi Corona, a pair of 15-year-olds from Mt. Lebanon, will be bringing in a stock of purses, wallets, cell-phone cases and more, made out of duct tape in a rainbow of colors. The teens sold their goods at last year's Handmade Arcade, after selling a few items to family and friends.

"It is so great; it's the high point of my year," Maura says of the event. "I love it." Additional Information:

Handmade Arcade

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

Admission: Free, along with free parking

Where: Construction Junction, 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze

Details: 412-243-5025 or online

Note: Most vendors do not take credit cards, and there are no on-site ATMs.

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