• Today is: Friday, December 15, 2017

Handmade for the holidays: A Pittsburgh guide to kid-friendly, crafty gifts

Emily Stimmel
November25/ 2017

From a Santa’s Workshop-style market designed for tiny shoppers to scholarships supporting creative youth entrepreneurs, Pittsburgh’s holiday craft fairs offer no shortage of opportunities to engage young people in the DIY holiday spirit.

As part of the I Made It! for the Holidays market, kids have their own special day on Sunday, Nov. 26. At Kids Day, children can make handmade gifts for under $10, including seed bombs with Apoidea Apiary and collage picture frames with Hatch Art Studio. They can also look over an assortment of affordable gifts—and keep them a surprise for their parents, thanks to childcare from Flexable.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, Handmade Arcade will bring back its popular—and free—Hands-on Handmade activity area, which invites attendees to participate in inclusive activities led by Pittsburgh-based artists, collectives, and non-profits. Eight Youth Maker Scholarship recipients—all alumni of Startable Pittsburgh—will sell their original products. And Early Birdie ticket holders can beat the rush with an exclusive look at merchandise from 10 to 11 a.m.

Read on to discover more locally made, kid-friendly products and where to find them this holiday season.

Apparel and prints by 2468 Kids

2468 Kids

Items: Art prints and apparel
Where to find them: 
I Made It! for the Holidays, Handmade Arcade, East End Brewing Company’s Crafts and Drafts Holiday Market, Threadbare Holiday Market
Price range: $12-$22

When Rachel Arnold Sager launched 2468 Kids earlier this year, she was tired of being banished to the boys’ section in search of her daughter’s favorite dinosaurs and rockets.

“Boys aren’t the only ones that enjoy bugs or robots; girls aren’t the only ones that like to rock a vibrant color palette—including pink!” she says.

Inspired by her daughter’s eclectic tastes, Rachel designed a line of T-shirts and art prints in a rainbow of hues, with punchy graphics including ambulances, chameleons, and skateboards.

“I’m trying to make pieces that all kids can enjoy,” she says.

Lilac scent molecule earrings by Sorcery Science

Sorcery Science

Items: Lasercut wood and acrylic jewelry
Where to find them: I Made It! for the Holidays, Handmade Arcade and local shops including the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Science Center’s XPLOR Store and Robin’s Nest Gallery and Gift Shop
Price range: $17.99-$45.99

Carrie and Joe Parker started Sorcery Science in the fall of 2014 as a way to share what they were making at TechShop.

“We both love science and are super geeky, so we started playing on the laser cutters by making molecular structure jewelry pieces,” says Carrie.

Beginning with the “happy chemicals” serotonin and dopamine, the couple expanded to more than 30 molecules, including caffeine and adrenaline. Children gravitate toward items like Jane the T-rex skull earrings and jewelry infused with the fragrance of the compound it represents.

“Kids love to smell that jewelry and then they show their parents and they’re always surprised that something their children tells them to smell actually smells!” says Carrie.

“Party Sloth” print by Hey Beast Studio

Hey Beast Studio

Items: Giclee prints and greeting cards
Where to find them: I Made It! for the Holidays, Handmade Arcade
Price range:
$5-$25

Jeff Brunner has been making art since he was a child, so it’s fitting that Hey Beast Studio would have kid appeal.

He loves drawing animals and plant shapes. Jeff says he takes inspiration from poetry and other visual artists. He especially admires Yayoi Kusama for her use of patterns and Henri Matisse for his color palettes—and both influences are evident in his playful art.

His work has popped up all over town since 2012, from Wildcard in Lawrenceville to the Three Rivers Art Festival, I Made It! and Handmade Arcade. And last year, he began hosting workshops and camps at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the Union Project, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Mattress Factory.

“Sleigh Ride” card by everyday balloons

everyday balloons

Items: Art prints, greeting cards, and apparel
Where to find them: I Made It! for the Holidays, Handmade Arcade
Price range: 
$2-25

Cute animals, the illustration style of graphic novels and comic books, and the simple pleasures of everyday life—taking a hike, listening to your favorite record, or making a pizza—are just a few of the things that inspire Chris Bencivenga and Becki Hollen of everyday balloons.

“Many of our ideas are pulled from childhood memories, which is why our work appeals to children and the young at heart,” Becki says. “Seeing a shopper excitedly pick a piece of our work as a gift for their friend or family member is a great feeling and makes all the late nights in the studio worth it.”

Finger puppets by Peg and Pin

Peg and Pin

Items: Wooden peg dolls and whimsical toys
Where to find them: I Made It! for the Holidays, Handmade Arcade
Price range: $10-$38

Jessica Lepak’s obsession with wooden toys started when her first daughter turned two.

“I built her a dollhouse and had a hard time finding occupants I liked for the new digs, so I decided to paint my own,” says Jessica, of Peg and Pin.

In addition to the classic peg dolls, Jessica offers finger puppets, tooth fairy boxes, holiday ornaments, wooden blocks, and custom gifts. She paints each item by hand with non-toxic materials. “It brings me joy to get back to basics during play with my own kids and I like to share that passion with others.”

Vampetz creatures and book. Photo by Addie Anderson. Book cover design by Dina Colangelo.

Vampetz

Items: Colorful stuffed creatures and a companion book
Where to find them: I Made It! for the Holidays
Price range: $9.50 and up

When Addie Anderson started Vampetz in 2010, she was still in high school. What began as a clever idea for a friend’s birthday gift blossomed into a business, with Anderson selling regularly at craft shows and anime conventions.

“They are just silly, colorful, funny little vampire creatures and no two are alike,” Addie says.

Over time, Anderson and her mother Dina Colangelo grew the collection to include a full cast of characters. Ninja and cow characters inspired their latest venture: a self-published book called “Vampetz: The Legend-Dairy Tale.” The gist of the story? “The Vampetz loved milk and the ninjas would protect the cows,” Addie says.

Holiday-themed outfit set by The Humble Lemon

The Humble Lemon

Items: Apparel
Where to find them: I Made It! for the Holidays
Price range: $4-$68

For Katie and Nick Barber, necessity was the mother—and father—of invention when Katie was laid off before their son Owen’s first birthday party in 2013. Since money was tight, they borrowed Katie’s grandmother’s vintage Singer sewing machine and made him a one-of-a-kind birthday shirt, complete with bow tie.

Eventually, they started making cardigans, hats, swaddles, and hoodies (Katie designs and Nick sews) and launched The Humble Lemon.

With most of their sales are online, the Barbers look forward to interacting with their customers face-to-face at shows.

“We love to talk with our customers and see the joy that our pieces bring them,” says Katie.

Printed leather moccasins by Trilleypads

Trilleypads

Items: Baby moccasins
Where to find them: Handmade Arcade, I Made It! Last Minute Holiday Shopping
Price range: $20 per pair

Emily Lockerman started making Trilleypads baby moccasins in 2013 after her first daughter was born. Today, she still makes the leather booties at her dining room table.

She will debut a holiday girls’ collection at Handmade Arcade, showcasing metallic leathers and printed moccasins featuring designs like dinosaurs, unicorns, and woodland critters. Like the rest of her collection—which includes loafer, bow and fringe styles—the new items fit feet from 0-24 months.

“My moccasins stay on little feet but they’re also super easy to slip on,” Emily says. “They are great for indoor or outdoor play and the most perfect shoes for beginner walkers.”

“Pizza party with Mario Kart and Gameboys” print by Hannah Grace Clark

Hannah Grace Clark

Items: Art prints and limited-run handmade ornaments
Where to find them: Handmade Arcade
Price range:
$25-$80

Hannah Grace Clark creates narrative oil paintings that capture the lives of “gentle giants and fantastical beings.” Her paintings’ subdued color palettes and intricate details give them a magical quality—a perfect canvas for kids’ imaginations to run wild.

Hannah first began selling her work in 2014, when she was accepted to the Three Rivers Arts Festival through its “Emerging Artist” program. Over the past three years, she’s sold her work at festivals and shows across the country.

In addition to prints in various sizes, Hannah will debut painted holiday ornaments and a new painting at Handmade Arcade.

Ultrasuede hair clips by Little Bit Kids

Little Bit Kids

Items: Hair clips, art cases, and metal stamped jewelry
Where to find them: Handmade Arcade
Price range: $6-$25

Shivika Asthana has dabbled in jewelry-making and sewing since her own childhood, but it was only after having her daughter—now 11—that she dove into making handmade accessories, from upcycled clothing to ultrasuede hair clips.

“It’s always a fun challenge to think of cool things for your kids to wear or play with that don’t look like a craft project,” says Shivika, owner of Little Bit Kids.

Another challenge has been making items that appeal to girls and boys equally. She’s found that sweet spot with her fabric art supply cases: “People always appreciate finding art-related activities in a boy-centric package.”

Chalk mat by Momma Fox Toys

Momma Fox Toys

Items: Toys, apparel, blankets, bibs, nursing covers
Where to find them: 
Handmade Arcade
Price range: 
$10-$120

Alea Morren founded Momma Fox Toys in 2014, two years after her son Adlai was diagnosed with Fox G1 Syndrome. She donates 50 percent of her annual profits to scientific research on the rare neurological condition.

Alea started out making bright, sensory-rich toys to meet Adlai’s needs, but once she had her sewing machine out, she didn’t want to stop.

“Sewing became a really important outlet to me—something adult in a life dedicated to my children,” she says.

Now, Alea offers a range of items for children of various ages and abilities. She’s participating in Handmade Arcade for the first time thanks to its new Craft Corridor program, which offers space to emerging artists.

“I can’t wait to be a part of something that celebrates the ingenuity and creativity of so many people,” she says.

Top photo: Girls work on a project at Handmade Arcade’s free Hands-on Handmade activity area. Photo by Joey Kennedy.

Emily Stimmel

Emily fell in love with the written word as a teenager, when she published zines and wrote for her school paper. Today, she is a freelance writer with a decade and a half of experience in non-profit communications. She enjoys cooking, reading, crafting and exploring Pittsburgh with her husband and two sons.