handmade arcade

Biggest-ever Handmade Arcade showcases first class of Youth Maker Scholarship winners

Above photo: Teen Corde Davis wears her opinions on her shirts. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Teen designer Corde Davis uses her fashion line to draw awareness to social injustice.

“Growing up in Homewood exposed me to a lot of stuff that no kid my age should have seen,” says the 17-year-old, a senior at Propel Braddock Hills. “As I grew up, I noticed nothing had changed. And that’s what motivated me.”

She points to gun violence, gentrification of African-American neighborhoods and poor treatment of women as issues close to her heart.

“I used my paintings to express that,” she says, “and decided to wear my opinion on T-shirts so everyone I crossed paths with would know.” Her “My Canvas” line also includes hoodies, fanny packs and keychains.

As one of the winners of the new Youth Maker Scholarship Program, Corde will be among those to be featured at this year’s Handmade Arcade.

In its largest event ever, more than 200 artists, crafters, designers and makers – including that group of talented kids – will be selling their creations at the free curated marketplace on Dec. 8 in the David Lawrence Convention Center.

The works of 12 up-and-coming entrepreneur teens were selected this past summer to participate in the scholarship program, which was supported by Remake Learning, The Grable Foundation and Google.

Winners were awarded free vendor space at Handmade Arcade and a stipend to assist with the production of their goods, along with mentoring and workshop opportunities to learn business skills – from merchandising, packaging and pricing to workflow, marketing and finances.

handmade arcade
Justine Szurley will sell embroidered apparel that focuses on female empowerment. Photo by Lindsay Goranson.

Another Youth Maker, Justine Szurley of Cranberry, brings her Hear Me Roar Apparel line that features her embroidered T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pins and tote bags.

“While I love learning, I also enjoy creative outlets,” Justine says. “I’m always looking to try new things and develop different skills.”

She participated in Handmade Arcade last year and says it was an incredible experience.

“I hope this year to solidify HMR Apparel as a serious brand, rather than ‘just a youth project.’ ” she says. “I want to network with others in Pittsburgh and expand my opportunities for the upcoming year.”

Hannah Jones, a senior at Mount Lebanon High School, will sell her fine-art prints, cards and T-shirts. Her work is inspired by her passion for researching and observing nature.

“In the summer of 2017, I visited Wyoming and was captivated by its wildlife. Many of my art pieces used reference photos from this trip,” says Hannah, who aspires to be an illustrator. “Part of the reason I signed up for a Youth Maker Scholarship is because of the positive experiences I’ve had there with my family.”

handmade arcade
Danielle Engstrom with her handcrafted wooden pens. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Another scholarship winner, Danielle Engstrom, a Belle Vernon Area High School student, learned from her father about the craft of creating wooden pens.

“I became intrigued with turning wood and wanted to do more of my own. Now I make much more than pens and my projects include fountain pens, seam rippers, letter openers, pencils and more,” she says. “I love to change a piece of nature that is somewhat dull and common into something people will cherish and appreciate in their daily lives.”

Danielle has gone on two mission trips to El Salvador, paid for in part by selling her pens, and said she is looking forward to heading back there in June for her third trip.

“This year’s youth makers consist of a really great group of young people,” says Tricia Brancolini-Foley, executive director of Handmade Arcade. “They are motivated, creative, talented, hard-working and dedicated to their craft.”

She views the annual event as a bridge between creators and consumers, providing a platform for youth makers that doesn’t exist in everyday life.”

Future makers can get involved with the Hands-On Handmade Activity Area led by 16 Pittsburgh-based artists and arts organizations. You’ll find free drop-in art and craft projects, workshops, games and demonstrations.