Shop local at the Handmade Arcade


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Thea Okonak of Aspinwall makes "Pittsburgh-centric" cards for all occasions. Laurie Trok of Lawrenceville makes jewelry and lighting. Amy Hamley, also from Lawrenceville, specializes in porcelain jewelry and decor.

The three craftspeople are among 150 vendors who will sell their wares and talk to customers about their handiwork next Saturday at the 10th annual Handmade Arcade: A Decade of DIY (Do It Yourself).

Admission to the crafts fair at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, is free between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. But from 10 to 11 a.m., 250 people who pay $15 for "early birdie passes" will get first crack at the merchandise. The passes are available on the Web at www.handmadearcade.com or at the Wild Card store in Lawrenceville.

"We had over 9,000 people last year. We've grown every year," said Jennifer Baron of Dormont, one of the nine organizers of Handmade Arcade. "I would love to see close to 10,000 people" this year.

Ms. Baron, a crafter and musician who will serve as a DJ at the event, said the variety of handmade goods is what draws the crowds.

"We have handmade jewelry, posters, prints and artwork, clothing for children and adults. We have T-shirts. We have stationery and paper goods and cards. We have houseware things like candles and lamps, vases, picture frames, pottery. We have organic bath and body products, like soap, cream. We have toys."

Ms. Okonak, Ms. Trok and Ms. Hamley were pleased to find they were among the 150 vendors chosen to participate in Handmade Arcade out of more than 350 people who applied. A volunteer group of artists picked craftspeople from Western Pennsylvania and more than 15 other states.

"It's quite competitive," Ms. Baron said. "We look at quality, innovation, creativity, prices. We don't want it to be too expensive."

Ms. Hamley, who does business as Redraven Studios, said she buys anywhere from 25 to 40 gallons of liquid porcelain at a time and fashions it into jewelry and decor items -- "anything to decorate your house with, porcelain horseshoes to hang above your door, miniature wall hangings."

She plans to offer more than 300 pieces ranging from $14 holiday ornaments to a $108 necklace. "It's a porcelain crystal necklace with 14-karat gold on it and a 14-karat chain."

Ms. Trok of TrokArt cuts and draws on paper, usually with India ink, then uses those drawings to fabricate limited-edition pieces of wood or acrylic. She plans to bring mainly jewelry ranging in price from $20 to $100 to the convention center.

"I make a lot of jewelry, earrings and necklaces, rings bracelets," she said. "Also I make lamps and lamp shades, and a lot of that is custom work. ... I make sculptures and pieces for the wall and installation."

Ms. Okonak, whose business is called John the Craftist, will have handmade cards that celebrate unique Pittsburgh customs and sayings in cool typography. "I have a card that says, 'You're the fries and slaw on my sammich.' I have one for people who have just had a baby that says, 'Congrats on your little pierogi.' I have more basic ones, like 'Happy Birthday n'at.' "

Ms. Okonak believes people like sending or receiving cards with a local angle.

"I think people appreciate the handmade element, from designing it to printing it, cutting it, folding it in a sleeve," she said. "People really like buying something that's locally made, and they like the fact that they can interact with the person who made it."

At the Handmade Arcade, Ms. Okonak will have hundreds of cards, both singles and in boxes, and other items ranging from $1 buttons to $25 T-shirts.


Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.

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