By Meg Fair
Pittsburgh Current Managing Editor
Deer Jerk, a first time vendor, will be selling digitized dinosaur tv woodcuts in sticker packs
For 15 years, Handmade Arcade has been putting in work to uplift and celebrate makers and artists from the region and the larger craft community nationally. Its 15th iteration will feature more than 180 vendors and a variety of opportunities to play and make things yourself while in attendance.
During the holiday season, it can be easy to make excuses about why it’s too tricky to buy small or local, how you’d rather be able to shop for everything in one go. Handmade Arcade blows those excuses to bits, as you can get gifts for every friend and family member, every neighbor, neighborhood dog or cat and beyond. There’s clothing to buy, houseware, prints, stuffed animals, ornaments, toys, books and beyond.
The event also features 18 free activities and crafting stations, so hypothetically you could even make a gift for a loved one while you’re there shopping.
You can feel good about buying from the artists of Handmade Arcade, as it is part of the organization’s mission to showcase a unique variety of emerging and established artists, returning vendors and first-timers in an effort to provide its 13,000 attendees with a totally unique experience. There are 20 Emerging Makers in the Craft Corridor sponsored by Commonwealth Press, and a total of 84 first-time vendors in the entire marketplace.
One of this year’s first year vendors is Deer Jerk, the endeavour of West Virginian Bryn Perrott. The Deer Jerk style is distinct–the intricate woodcuts are mesmerizing to look at and have a kind of mystical, folk art energy. For those familiar with Jackie O’s Brewery in Athens, OH, its distinct artwork on its Mystic Mama and Firefly Amber cans are digitized versions of some of Deer Jerk’s woodcuts.
At Handmade Arcade, Deer Jerk’s table will feature everything from woodcuts to bandanas to collectible toys to sticker packs to pencils and beyond. And while Perrott is excited to sell art, there’s something most exciting about being in a space with so many makers and crafting-enthusiasts.
“You always meet people,” explains Perrott, “On the internet you have to look for things, but if you’re walking through a space you’ll just see things and meet people organically. I like buying things from other artists.”
“I get money in my hands and I’m like, ‘Awesome, I’m gonna buy that thing I saw over there!’ Every event I’ve ever done, the excitement is that I’ll get presents for people or art I’m really excited about it,” says Perrott.
Handmade Arcade will also feature a new corridor called Youth Maker Alley, putting 12 young artists aged 13-18 on display as part of the 2019 Youth Maker Scholarship Program. The scholarship not only provides youth makers with free vendor space and stipends, but it also provides mentorship and professional development workshops for youths from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These 12 eclectic artists will be showcasing jewelry, houseware, accessories, clothing, paper goods, prints and beyond.
Celebration of youth artists doesn’t end there, as nine maker groups with students from grades 3 through 12 from local schools will be bringing their art to the marketplace for sale as well.
Handmade Arcade is tons of fun for kids of all ages, and parents and aunts and uncles are more than welcome to bring the kiddos along. If you’re worried about the ‘drop’ part of shopping til you drop with kiddos, this year will introduce the Hatch Nest, a quiet spot to play and relax for children six and under and their parents who need a break from the action.
In its 15th year, Handmade Arcade seems to show no sign of slowing down on innovation, inclusion or excitement. Come ready to spend!
Handmade Arcade Friday Night Preview Party
Friday, Dec. 6. 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. $20. www.handmadearcade.org
Saturday, Dec. 7. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Free. www.handmadearcade.org