By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
With COVID-19 putting a freeze on large gatherings, creative communities across Pittsburgh have been negatively impacted. Some of the hardest hit are artists and craft makers, who often rely on large market events for their livelihood. Consequently, some have come up with virtual solutions to this problem. The Three Rivers Arts Festival, for instance, moved their festival completely online for 2020 in lieu of an in-person event.
Handmade Arcade, Pittsburgh’s largest annual crafts fair, is following that lead. After cancelling all in-person events for 2020 due to the pandemic, they are opening a public call for vendors for “Digital DIY,” an all-online market of handmade goods. The virtual fair will begin on Small Business Saturday, November 28, and run through December 6.
Handmade Arcade began in 2004, and sprang out of the nonprofit Construction Junction, which supplies surplus building materials to the community. Initially hosting around 30 vendors at Construction Junction’s Point Breeze homebase, the event grew significantly in popularity over the years. Interest became great enough that the event last year hosted 200 vendors and filled the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown.
This year’s call for vendors is open to both Pittsburgh locals and those from out of state. The call is also open to many different kinds of makers, including artists, jewelry makers, glass blowers, metal workers, and more. Applicants will have until August 22 to submit their work.
“We are estimating approximately 150 vendors,” said Baron. “We are calling for vendors from a wide range of product types.”
Vendor spots will be competitive, as Handmade Arcade regularly receives more applications than there are available spaces.
“In the past, we’ve had close to 500 applications for 200 spots,” said Baron.
Once the applications are submitted, a jury of volunteers will review the work. The jurors all come from various parts of Pittsburgh’s art and business community.
“Our event is a juried event. Every year, we have guest jury members from the arts and maker community, crafts community, small business community, and cultural community,” said Baron.
Handmade Arcade also makes efforts to raise up new artists through their platform, and artists who have not shown at the festival before will make up a significant portion of vendors.
“We’re definitely very interested in having new makers every year,” said Baron. “We might have 70 or 80 makers who have never been in our event before.”
Vendors will be announced on September 25. For the application, Baron recommends taking high-quality photos, writing a detailed description of the work and process, and having a website featuring current work.
Digital DIY will feature more than just shopping, as well. Artists will be participating in various video projects for guests to view. These will include Q&A sessions with the makers, art technique tutorials, and behind-the-scenes content.
“It’s not just a website. We’re going to have live interactive video and streaming experiences,” said Baron.
With these elements combined, Digital DIY hopes to help support the arts and maker communities, while helping people find just the right thing for the holidays.
Visit handmadearcade.org for more information.