If you are new to town, you might hear the name Handmade Arcade and think it’s a DIY video game hall. That would be far from truth. Handmade Arcade was founded in 2004 as Pittsburgh’s first and only independent craft fair, and it’s BIG.
One of Buzzfeed’s “Top 35 Craft Fairs in the World,” last year’s event was also ranked #7 in Pittsburgh Business Times’ list of the largest public shows of 2016, with 9,035 people visiting the fair in just one day. According to the same list, that’s actually bigger than the majority of the largest conventions held in Pittsburgh, including Anthrocon (with 7,310), the East Coast Volleyball Championships (with 7,900) and Association for Iron and Steel Technology’s convention (with 7,764).
Handmade Arcade 2017 will be held in the same location—the David L. Lawrence Convention Center—on Saturday, December 2, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here are six reasons to stop what you are doing and mark the date on your calendar right now:
- You can do all your holiday shopping in just one day.
You can find some pretty weird stuff at Handmade Arcade, which is very refreshing for gift-givers who prefer to be more personalized. Some of my favorite Handmade Arcade finds have been: pop culture jewelry (Game of Thrones House Stark Bangle, Legend of Zelda triforce earrings, Harry Potter book necklace), vintage china re-purposed into tiered serving trays, Pittsburgh-themed Christmas cards, candles made from craft beer bottles and decorations made out of famous book passages. From kitschy to rustic to trendy to macabre, there is no doubt in my mind that Handmade Arcade will have a gift that’s perfect for each of the colorful characters on your holiday shopping list.
- You will be supporting local artists. Part of Handmade Arcade’s mission is to bolster Pittsburgh’s independent craft community and draw attention to the Do-It-Yourself maker movement.
As such, the 2017 event will feature more than 170 artists and designers, many of whom are from Mt. Lebanon:
*Shivika Asthana, Little Bit Kids : Understated accessories for kids, tweens and teens with a wittier and sublter sense of style.
*Kelly Sanders, Too Many Sparkles : Unwanted vintage fabric upcycled into notebooks, cards and art inspired by pop culture, music and more.
*Jennifer Anderson, I Would Dye for You : Handmade tye-died products including linens, baby onesies, travel pouches and more.
*Dave Klug, Klugworld, Inc. : Art and design inspired by the love we have for animals.
*Kim Fox, Worker Bird : Tin artist, illustrator and print maker with a collection of patchwork maps, collages and quilt patterns.
*Samantha Bower, Luster : Jewelry made with crystal, stone, wire, glass and paper beads purchased fair-trade from Uganda.
*Dan Grguras, Baxter & the Bear : Custom-designed movie posters featuring minimalist photos of items significant to a movie.
Artsmiths of Pittsburgh , McFarland Road, will be sponsoring the “Hands-on Handmade” portion of the event. This participatory art booth will include projects and crafts for the attendees, tutorials, art installations and more. Commonwealth Press , Washington Road, and Matt’s Maker Space, a local nonprofit dedicated to STEAM education, will also participate as sponsors.
- You can take your mom!
My mom is my favorite shopping buddy, so we see each other quite a lot over the holiday season. Our Handmade Arcade adventure has become one of our most-anticipated shopping traditions. First, it’s so much more fun and leisurely than mall shopping during the holidays (you can see how we feel about our Black Friday tradition in the post on the right). We also like to get there early so that we can enjoy brunch downtown afterward. Then, to finish off the day, we come back to Mt. Lebanon to peruse our many local boutiques—it’s very much a Shop Small sort of day! My mom loves it, and there’s a highly scientific 98.64% chance that your mom would, too.
- It’s free.
The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 2, and it’s free and open to the public. You can park in the convention center garage for a fee, or you can take advantage of the free holiday parking at public facilities downtown. Click here  for more info.
- If you hate large crowds, there is an option for you.
As you can imagine, when more than 9,000 people visit the show in one day, it can get pretty crowded. This is where the Early Birdie passes come in: For $15, you can access the show at 10 a.m., one hour before it opens to the public. You get a lovely Handmade Arcade swag bag, you beat the crowds AND you get first dibs on the shopping. Just be sure to get yours ahead of time! There are a limited number available. Click here  to learn more.
- It is so much more than a craft show. Handmade Arcade receives more than 400 applicants each year, and the applications are carefully reviewed by a team of jurors. New this year is a Craft Corridor featuring 19 first-time craft fair vendors, commemorative merchandise, an expert framing demonstration, a new youth scholarship, art raffles, DJs and an expanded hands-on activity area. So be sure you set aside a couple hours to make the most out of your experience!