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pizzas with pizzaz by Heather Hannah

Cheesy, yes. But no matter how you slice it, Barbara Fellman's soft-sculptured pizza potholders and hot pads are novel kitchen gadgets.


barbara with pizzas

Designed to handle hot items, Fellman's creations look tasty enough to eat. But she warns, despite a nearly real look, her pizza potholders and hot pads are definitely inedible.


"I can't tell you how many times people say how close they look to the real thing," said Fellman, who is in her 40s and from Squirrel Hill. "That's what usually draws them in for a closer look."


The sponge-painted designs come by the slice or in 9-inch rounds and cost $7.00. They are packaged in pizza boxes and topped with fake pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and black olives.


On a recent shipment delivery to the Kitchen Wizard in Squirrel Hill, Fellman arrived carrying her PizzArt in a thermal bag.


"Just like the pizza man would," she said as she unloaded her stock of pizzas on the countertop.


"They really are put together well," said Marsha Shrager of the Kitchen Wizard in Squirrel Hill where Fellman's PizzArt sells. "She does a great job at making them look so real."


The potholders and hot pads are also available at Crate in Green Tree, Pizzaioli in Mt. Lebanon, Whodunnit in Shadyhside and Campy's Pizzeria in Lawrenceville.


Fellman, a web site designer and technical writer for CDS Technologies in Findley Township, originally cooked up the idea for PizzArt while she was an art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.


Her first creation was a round pizza pillow. "I don't know why. "I just like the way it (pizza) looks. I like the shapes - the melted cheese and sauce splattered on it."


Perhaps it's a forbidden allure that draws Fellman to pizza. After all, her allergy to wheat restricts pizza from her diet. "I know it's sad because I really wish I could eat it," she said.


But that didn't stop her from ordering it. Fellman used pizzas from area pizzerias as models for her own pies.


It takes Fellman two hours to assemble, hand paint and quilt each topping on the pizzas. Along with pillows, pot holders and hot pads, she designs pins and earrings. She contracts out most of the work now to cut down on cost and time.


"Ultimately, I'd like to create a whole menu of food items," said Fellman, whose faux food art also includes chocolate glazed doughnut cushions and birthday cakes. "But I realize it's not cost-effective yet. I know I have to start out with just one thing."


In 1991, she put PizzArt potholders and hot pads in specialty shops and pizza outlets. Pillows and jewelry with select toppings need to be special ordered.


Fellman hopes her other functional fake food will follow her pizzas. "I like the concept of having a line of kitchen items that look like food," she said. "I think it's fun because you're working with food using items that resemble them." Barbara Fellman, president of InedibleArt, shows off her pizza-shaped potholders.