From their hands to yours: A glimpse into this year’s Handmade Arcade

Photo courtesy of Joey Kennedy

By: Sam Fatula | A&E Editor

Photo courtesy of Joey Kennedy
Photo courtesy of Joey Kennedy

It is safe to say that the indulgence over Pittsburgh’s ever-increasing arts scene sounds like a broken record for some people, but others realize that the city has transformed into a center that has transitioned from its primordial stage to something that is anything but ephemeral.

This Saturday, over 150 vendors will fill the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Downtown to participate in the 11th annual Handmade Arcade, the city’s longest and largest independent craft fair. Local retail manufacturers, photographers, graphic designers and even woodworkers will be featuring their best works to raise awareness of their brands alongside selling various homemade products. Each creative talent should garner attention from attendees, and a handful of this year’s artists are well-worth a price of admission, even though the event is free.

A large majority of the participants at the convention range from homemade jewelry to printed graphics for casual wear. This year’s retail manufacturers place a larger emphasis on t-shirt designs, and many of them feature unique and trendy images that pay homage to Steel City history and culture.

Commonwealth Press and Steel City Cotton Works both implement designs that have sports teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Penguins and Steelers at the forefront of their creations. Iconic images like Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and the skyline from Mt. Washington give Pittsburgh loyalists a sense of nostalgia with a fashionable design to accompany it.

Photo courtesy of Joey Kennedy
Photo courtesy of Joey Kennedy

If you are searching for clothing that is slightly outside of the box, local designer Upcycle can cater those needs. Upcycle takes articles of clothing like collared shirts and skirts and adds a recycled pattern onto the original piece for an original, yet innovative design.

Well over 25 vendors have entered this year’s convention for jewelry. Although some may have the perception that common beads and necklaces will be on display this Saturday, a number of pieces use unexpected materials. Local company known as Naked Geometry

features intricate designs based on various shapes to create wooden earrings and pendants that look sharp and expensive, but are marked at a reasonable price.

Another jewelry artist that uses extreme detail in all pieces is Little Cat Metals. Stationed in Western Massachusetts, Carol Joannidi uses metalwork to make bracelets, necklaces and rings that result in microscopic environments.

Posters & Prints
In addition to pieces of art that you can wear, there is also plenty of crafts, posters and prints that you can frame and put on a wall. There are well over a dozen vendors that attendees can buy from this Saturday, though some can satisfy specific needs. If you are still feeling a little nostalgic, LEX Covato Art can deliver some of your brightest childhood memories. The studio features a handful of portraits from classic television shows like Mr. Rogers, The Muppets and Sesame Street.

Illustrations also play a big role into Handmade Arcade this year. Local artist Mario Zucca has been doing satirical cartoons and portraits of iconic images for years, and has a reputable list of clients that range from ESPN: the Magazine to The New York Times. His massive portfolio of political cartoons, sports and pop culture illustrations are sure to gain a large amount of interest this weekend.

But if being a braggadocious Pittsburgher or buying jewelry isn’t necessarily on your to-do list, perhaps the small section of Geekery crafts can suit your inner-nerdy needs. Circuit Breaker Labs has an entire collection dedicated toward wearing modified circuit breakers as accessories. Whether they are in the form of rings or cufflinks, you’ll be wired for the better.

Even the video game community can become involved during Handmade Arcade, specifically Retro Built Games, LLC. Founder of Retro Games, Ryan Bates has been creating older gaming systems out of wood on a larger scale for some time, such as the original Gameboys and the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Hands-On Activities
If you are looking for a more hands-on approach during this year’s convention, there’s an entire homemade section this year titled “Hands-On Handmade,” where attendees can learn from professionals about the art of woodworking, create your own band logo with Girls Rock! Pittsburgh or create your own superhero mask and cape with The Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh. Although it’s understandable that an attendee would want to be involved with nearly all of the activities listed for Handmade Arcade, they are only offered for during specific hours of the day and some do overlap others. However, it should be noted that there is not much to be disappointed about in the festivities.
The convention begins at 11 a.m. with the ceremonial puppet parade and runs until 7 p.m. Any other information listings are available on Handmade Arcade’s website.