150 crafters will sell their wares at Pittsburgh's annual Handmade Arcade
Craig Peterson brews several cups of coffee at a time, but drinks only one.
The others are for show — for art shows, really.
Peterson of Indiana, Pa., creates “coffee art” by painting with the liquid. He is inspired by java and its varying shades of color, depending on the roast.
Peterson will be one of 40 new vendors out of 150 at the 12th annual Handmade Arcade on Dec. 5 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
“I love tea, but the coffee was darker and when I created my coffee art, people liked it,” says Peterson, whose pieces sell for $25 to $400 (artworkontherun.) “A lot of people ask me, ‘What is coffee art?' I will explain it, and they think it's fun to look at — because it's different.”
Seeing something out of the ordinary is the basis of Handmade Arcade, which this year received a record number of applications — more than 400 — for this juried show.
Handmade Arcade is run by a collective of creatives who have helped to shape and bolster Pittsburgh's independent craft scene. The event features affordable, hand-constructed wares from imaginative and talented crafters.
Products range from artwork, bath and body items and accessories to geekery, housewares and woodworking.
Jennifer Baron, co-coordinator and public relations manager of Handmade Arcade, says the event is committed to supporting local makers and the independent craft movement. At least 75 percent of the vendors are local.
“Numerous featured vendors have gone on to receive national and international recognition, develop brand-new product lines, work on major commissions and open studio spaces and brick-and-mortar shops,” Baron says.
Handmade Arcade offers shoppers an opportunity to meet the makers and talk about their creative process, product lines and background, Baron says.
The artists enjoy talking about what they do, says Sarah Silk, who, with her mother, Louise, owns SilkDenim (silkdenim.us), based in the South Side. They fashion denim garments, bags, quilts and home accessories from vintage clothing, especially jeans. Louise Silk has been a fiber artist for more than 40 years and she teamed with her daughter two years ago on this project.
“We know (Handmake Arcade) is Pittsburgh's most original and independent craft fair,” Sarah Silk says. “And it's an important part of the maker movement. It's our first retail venue, and we wanted to be a part of it so we can expose our work to people who appreciate handmade goods.”
The pieces are transformed from deconstructed jeans and shirts. Prices range from $5 to more than $100.
Making items that you can't find everywhere is why Dana Valente of Leechburg likes being part of Handmade Arcade. She owns Nina Ramone (ninaramone.etsy.com), a business named after her beloved German shepherd. She has created new designs for this event — some are limited-edition. Her collection includes earmuffs, scarves and hats. Prices range from $22 to $98.
“I can't imagine not being a part of Handmade Arcade,” Valente says. “Handmade Arcade has a prestigious reputation. Handmade Arcade's selection of artists sets the bar pretty high. It's great validation in my work that I'm doing something right to be welcomed back. It inspires and challenges me to make sure my work continues to evolve each year. To survive as a seasonal artist, I need to keep my customers coming back to see what new designs I've made each year.”
Valente says the word “handmade” does not quite do the show justice. Some people are leery of handmade items because of questionable quality. But Handmade Arcade is more of an artisan trade show, she says, because each vendor is an established artist and displays a specialized trade or set of skills that makes their work go beyond the term “handmade.”
Jenny Nemlekar of the Strip District uses her engineering background to create handbags out of leather, canvas and hardware for her company Jenny N. Design (jennyndesign.com). She doesn't have formal training but, while in college, her artistic side was fighting against her engineering studies as she made purses in her dorm room.
She credits her husband, Shay, with helping with the company. The couple moved here from Texas so he could attend the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Handmade Arcade does such a great job of curating such a diverse mix of artists who do different things,” Nemlekar says. “They bring in customers who have a strong heart in supporting local artists. Pittsburgh is a city that has a strong loyalty to artists.”
Her bags — wristlets to cross-body to laptop bags — range from $50 to $350.
Shoppers can take part in making something in the expanded Hands-on-Handmade area. The area features short and daylong drop-in projects, demonstrations, mini-tutorials, make-and-take activities, performances and large-scale art installations.
There will be a book launch for Handmade Arcade's first print publication “Things Making Things: A DIY Coloring Book.” It features commissioned artwork by Pittsburgh-based artists and Handmade Arcade vendors. Proceeds will benefit Handmade Arcade's educational and outreach activities.
The signature Handmade Arcade “Scissor Girl” logo was transformed into custom-made string and stencil artworks created by Pittsburgh-based designer Kara Reid of Ohio Township. These newly commissioned sculptural works are the inspiration for Handmade Arcade's limited-edition tote bags, posters and buttons, which will be for sale.
“This was a fun opportunity to be part of Handmade Arcade, which is an event for innovative artists,” Reid says. “I wanted to create something that would represent the talent at Handmade Arcade.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7889.