Must-have info for makers interested in applying to Handmade Arcade’s 2023 Holiday Market
Applications are now open for one of Pittsburgh’s largest and most popular holiday markets. Handmade Arcade’s Holiday Market brings over 10,000 visitors to Downtown Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Center every December, providing the opportunity for nearly 250 vendors to sell their handmade works. But competition can be fierce. Who can apply? What should they sell? We got tips from Handmade Arcade’s Executive Director Tricia Brancolini-Foley ahead of the July 17 deadline.
Tips for applicants
Tricia Brancolini-Foley says new applicants should take clear pictures of their work, and reapplying artists should add new work to their portfolio before applying again.
She stresses the importance of "making sure your photographs are high quality in focus and really focus on your art."
“Don’t add too much background stuff," she adds. "If you want us to really see what you’re making, don’t put anything in the picture that might confuse us.”
Artists looking to come back and resell will need new work to show to jurors.
“I always tell people, 'Always show us new stuff.' If you applied in the past and you didn’t get in, don’t use those same pictures,” Brancolini-Foley says. “Use this opportunity to show us something new, either a design or a new product. It's important to see new work from returning makers. We want to ensure that every Holiday Market provides a different experience, with a mix of returning and new makers.”
She also recommends that applying artists have social media accounts so jurors can see more of their work to help make a decision.
“It’s not required for you to have an online presence, but it really helps for makers, artists, and craftspeople to have an Instagram account,” Brancolini-Foley says. "When we are making touch decisions between two artists with similar work, we ask our jurors to look closely at social media accounts to get a bigger picture of the maker's scope of work."
A big thing for artists, makers, and craftspeople to consider is also the prices of their artwork and remember that the Holiday Market is primarily a gift market.
"We recommend that vendors bring products to sell in a range of price points," Brancolini-Foley says. "For example, if you are a painter with larger, more expensive pieces, you should bring those. But we also recommend making smaller prints of large pieces that can be sold at a lower price point, making them more accessible to a wider audience.”
Attendees, she adds, are often coming to the Holiday Market to buy unique gifts for not just themselves, but for a list of friends and family.
"Vendors with a good range of prices often do much better in their sales," she says.
Artists can find a direct link to the application here.
How the application works
Though the applications are competitive, the jurors try to make the decisions fair. With around 450 applicants per year and only 250 vendor booths, artists need to ensure their work stands out for their application.
A big factor in the decision is that those applying for the market must have handmade work.
“I think the most important thing that we would want to call attention to is the fact that we are a handmade gift market for the holidays,” Brancolini-Foley says. “On the application, we have a bulleted list of what we consider to be a handmade business, and we don’t want any mass-produced trademarked or licensed items. Your product has to be 80% or more your original creation.”
After applying, jurors look through each application and make a decision.
“At least six people look at every application and then they rank them, and we bring in jurors from outside of the Handmade Arcade volunteer poll. We’ll bring in guest jurors from the community who are either artists or makers themselves,” Brancolini-Foley says. “So we really try to make sure that we always have different jurors every year.”
New programs for this year’s event
Handmade Arcade has its first-ever BIPOC Maker Accelerator Program hosted in partnership with Sustainible, a minority, woman, and immigrant-owned startup in Pittsburgh. This program will allow five BIPOC entrepreneurs to receive benefits, including $1,000 for business development and a 10-foot-by-10-foot vendor booth at the Holiday Market.
“We’ve been wanting to do scholarships for BIPOC makers so that we can stay true to our values of being diverse and inclusive,” Brancolini-Foley says. “And so this program is exciting and, if it goes well, I’m hopeful that neighborhood allies will continue to fund it and we’ll be able to grow and get more makers in that way.”
The organization's other newer offering for the Holiday Market is its youth maker program which is for artists aged 13 through 19. Benefits for this program include $500 in scholarship money for materials and a free standard booth size at the market.
“The youth maker program has such a diverse group of kids,” Brancolini-Foley says. “They come from everywhere with different backgrounds and different ways of doing, thinking, and creating, and it’s been sort of magical in some ways because some of them have continued to make art.”
What to expect if you get in
Artists must be available during the two-day Dec. 1-2 event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and must fill out a detailed vendor information form when payment is due. Brancolini-Foley says they should expect to make a profit after their vendor space fees.
“Last year, we had a reported income of over $680,000, and that’s just what was reported. Not every vendor takes the post-survey,” Brancolini-Foley says. “Some vendors make over $10,000 at the event, and the average amount is about $3,300.”
Those who are accepted will pay either $350 for a standard vendor space, $700 for an expanded vendor space, or $175 for a craft corridor vendor space. Each of those spaces is described in detail on their website.
In addition to the in-person market, makers will have a virtual listing on HandmadeArcade.org so attendees can see their work before the event to plan their shopping.
“The virtual catalog is really cool because every maker who gets in has an opportunity to build a page and it’s basically their own page on the Handmade Arcade website,” Brancolini-Foley says. “It’s a dynamic way of exposure because we have so many people coming to our website, and so many makers will tell me after the event that they will get clicks through our website.”
For more information, artists can visit their website at www.handmadearcade.org.