On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about running an indie craft show with my guest Tricia Brancolini-Foley, the Executive Director of Handmade Arcade.

Tricia believes in the power of making things by hand. She has been a maker and crafter her entire life. She started at Handmade Arcade in 2010 as a volunteer and in 2014, she spearheaded the organization’s transition from a volunteer-run LLC to an official 501(c)3 and became its Executive Director. Since then she’s grown its budget significantly and doubling the number of makers the organization serves.

During COVID Tricia successfully guided Handmade Arcade through the process of creating a virtual craft fair, which we’ll talk about. Supporting and participating in the arts continues to be a central theme in all aspects of Tricia’s life. She is on the board of directors for the Brentwood Library, has volunteered for ten years as a Girl Scout leader, and is continuously creating new collaborations with artists, small businesses, and other nonprofit groups to bolster Pittsburgh’s maker community.

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We begin this interview by talking about the very early days of Handmade Arcade back in 2004. Tricia shares her experience as a vendor early on selling handmade items for moms and babies that she created with a group of women she met through a playgroup. We talk about what the indie craft fair scene was like at that time, including what products were popular and the overall level of professional expectations.

Next, we discuss how Tricia became more involved in the organization, eventually becoming its first Executive Director. She explains what it was like to take the organization through the process of becoming a non-profit, a complex multi-year process. Tricia explains all of the different aspects of Handmade Arcade today, including its venue, the jurying process, and the reason why there is no admission fee to attend the show. We talk about the classes attendees can take on-site and the youth program as well. Handmade Arcade offers programming all year long, not just once a year for the holiday show.

woman at craft fair

When COVID hit, Tricia and the planning board realized that the show would need to pivot and create an online experience. They started early, hired a local web design team, Imagebox Productions, and drew on Tricia’s background in multi-media technology, to create a high-quality online experience. The event was so successful, the organization will be hosting another one this spring April 30-May 2, 2021. If you’ve ever been curious about the inner workings of an indie craft fair, this interview will be very enlightening for you!

In this conversation, we reference:

handmade arcade

Of course, I ask Tricia to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Tricia recommends:

  • Focusing on self-care, including hiring a trainer
  • Drawing faces during Zoom meetings

Keep up with Handmade Arcade on their website where you can shop during the virtual show this spring, and visit Handmade Arcade in person in Pittsburgh when we can gather again.

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