Pittsburgh welcomes spring with annual Arts and Crafts Spring Fever Festival


TPN File Photo

A Pitt student browses through a clothing rack.

By Maya Valletta, Staff Writer

Even if the forecast calls for 30 degrees and snow, Pittsburgh is ready to welcome the spring season with Family Festivals Association, Inc.’s annual Arts and Crafts Spring Fever Festival

Visitors can browse and shop more than 160 exhibitors selling an assortment of arts and craft goods as well as food and beverages. The craft show takes place from Friday to Sunday in the Monroeville Convention Center. 

Trisha Cusick, the festival’s assistant promoter, said the show gives small businesses like Feel the Rain Studio and Studs N Stuff the opportunity to gain exposure while providing shoppers with a plethora of handmade and curated products. 

“We believe that many of our exhibitors represent the smallest of the small businesses. Most of them do not have a brick-and-mortar store to sell their merchandise,” Cusick said. “Promoting these shows gives those businesses an opportunity to showcase their products to a large audience.” 

When organizing vendors, Cusick said Family Festivals is always looking for new vendors who can bring timely home decor, fashion or food or beverage to the event. 

“We made every effort to include as many new exhibitors and vendors as possible, which is really the primary focus of the show,” Cusick said. “We look for exhibitors who bring something new to the table in terms of what is popular as it relates to home and seasonal decor, fashion … and food and drinks.” 

The 195 booths will showcase home decor, accessories, jewelry, clothing, food and more. Cusick said she is excited to try products from the new vendors this year. 

“Personally, I am very excited to have TMLeathercraft with handcrafted leather products in the show this year. And The Inside Out Cookie Co. has unique cookies, which I am very interested in trying for the first time,” Cusick said. 

Another vendor, Jill Hitt of Studs N Stuff, is attending the show with her blinged out clothes and accessories. She turned her hobby of decorating her niece’s clothes with crystals into a full time job. Based in Gibsonia, she primarily sells on Etsy, but she also travels to various craft shows across the nation. She’s participated in the Pittsburgh show for the past 15 years and said her favorite part is the community that has grown. 

“It’s kind of coming out of winter even though it might snow that day. But it’s coming out of winter months, people are ready to see pretty stuff like bright colored items,” Hitt said. “It’s just a wonderful day out for people.” 

Along with crystal-decorated shirts, bags, coats and hoodies ranging from $35 to $60, Hitt said she is introducing a new product — denim jackets. The line of jackets feature a sparkly patch on the back. She said this design comes from wanting to attract a younger audience. Initially, the sparkly garments were popular with those in their 40s, but expanding into denim jackets and purses generates a wider customer base. 

“Now we’re really looking to get the younger crowd because sparkly stuff people are like, ‘Oh, that’s blingy, that’s for old people,’” Hitt said. “But now when you put them on denim jackets, you put a logo on it, or you put it on a small purse, the younger crowd likes it.”

Hitt said her style is classic and perfect for someone who wants a little sparkle, but nothing extravagant. 

“I create logos that people have seen before,” Hitt said. “It’s more for a type of person who wants to wear something crystally and sparkly, but not over the top.” 

Hitt said the variety of shoppers that come to the show is one of the main reasons she keeps participating in the annual Pittsburgh show. 

“They have so much of a variety of vendors that you get all types of people coming in and that gives you the chance to sell them your items,” Hitt said. “Maybe they didn’t come for a shirt or a bag and they walk by you, and you say hi and they end up liking your item.” 

Emily Glass, an artist participating in the festival, also said she’s excited to connect with the Pittsburgh community. Based in McKees Rocks, she is the owner of Feel the Rain Studio and this is her second time in the show. 

“I really enjoy this event because the attendees are so friendly,” Glass said. “I love spending time meeting people and talking about art.” 

Glass originally worked in the information technology field until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and she decided to make her artistic dream come true. She’s bringing original artwork, prints and handmade jewelry to the show as well as tote bags, mugs and notebooks with her designs printed on them, with the majority of them within the $10 to $15 price range. 

“I make sure to have a diverse inventory of products to fit anyone’s budget,” Glass said. “I understand that not everyone is in need of wall art, but I think everyone needs art in their life.” 

Previously, Glass only painted realistic art but has since changed her style to include abstract. 

“Before I became a full time artist, I was strictly a realistic artist, always painting from pictures. It felt safe because I worried if I painted something abstract people wouldn’t get it or like it,” Glass said. “When I got laid off, I realized I had been playing by everyone else’s rules and I was doing this for me. So I started painting abstract as well.” 

She said she gets a lot of inspiration when she meditates or while she is actively working on a piece. 

“When I let my thoughts rest, creativity bubbles up,” Glass said. “I love to use a lot of color and create art with positive energy.” 

Glass sells her work on her website and various events throughout the year, like this show and I Made It! Market.

 Cusick said she understands she must balance two types of customers when organizing the event — the vendors and the public. She aims to provide exhibitors with a reasonable crowd through location and advertising while creating a positive experience for shoppers. 

“We are always working to provide shoppers with a broad selection of merchandise to brighten their homes, spice up their wardrobes, find one-of-a-kind and personalized items to reflect their interests,” Cusick said.