By Emily Bastaroli, Point Park News Service:
Amid the bars, restaurants and tattoo parlors on Pittsburgh’s South Side, residents have taken over an empty storefront at 1711 Carson St.
Colorful chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Shiny multi-colored glasses in blue and orange sit atop handmade wooden tables. Graphic T-shirts printed with unique Pittsburgh images are folded on the ledge in the window. Felt mustaches pop out of a wooden box, and business cards are scattered throughout the window.
Along the glass window right above its yellow-painted woodwork, QR codes are printed on stickers for each item. This is no ordinary shop.
The Mom and Pop-Up Shop on Carson Street is a project of the I Made it Market. The nomadic craft fair is renting out the space for local artists and crafters to display their wares in a “shoppable” window, organizers said.
“It’s a high-traffic area, so it’s a creative way to activate a space that’s not being used,” said Carrie Nardini, co-founder and director of the I Made It Market.
The building is home to the LaFond Galleries and in order to make use of the space, the owner wanted to give I Made It Market’s artists and crafters a place to advertise their goods.
Window shoppers can scan the QR codes on their smart phones and view certain items online.
A large majority of the artists and crafters within I Made It Market are local or regional from Pittsburgh and the surrounding suburbs, said Nardini, 37, of Brookline. The collective also has a partnership with Cleveland Handmade.
One of the local artists is Tanya Guzzi of Bullabags, a start-up business described as two girls who have “finally found an outlet for what [they] love,” according to their page on Etsy, a website for crafters. While the girls are known online for their messenger bags with solid graphics of bicycles, feathers, cassettes and more, they also sell graphic T-shirts, guitar straps, magnets and pillows.
The crafty ladies silk screen everything by hand and upcycle and recycle as much as they can by reusing zippers, buttons and fabrics, Guzzi said.
“Any exposure we get helps,” said Guzzi, 34, of North Versailles.
Nardini started I Made It Market with a friend in 2007. She was selling items at a craft show at Carnegie Mellon University and started talking to the girl in the booth next to her about the lack of opportunities for local crafters to show and sell their wares. From there, the idea for I Made It Market blossomed.
“There’s a community created around it to collaborate on projects,” Nardini said.
The market also hosts business workshops for its artists, so they can learn how to develop and grow their crafting business. Being a crafter by trade is becoming more popular, Guzzi said.
I Made It Market’s website lists more than 370 local and national artists that have been involved with the sponsors at some point. Its main focus is on the local artists.
“I Made It Market is really hyper-local,” Nardini said. “These people are your neighbors, friends, teachers and people you know.”