Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: A Maker’s Market

As the holidays roll into focus and we round out the year with Christmas cheer and the hope of a grand new year to come, we can’t overlook the reality of our situation. Namely, that gifts might be in short supply. The supply chain, people. Do you even understand it?

Let me whittle it down for you with simple minds:

• Construction companies are lacking joists to construct with

• Auto manufacturers are lacking chips to build cars with

• Appliance makers are lacking stainless steel

• Tennis shoe makers are lacking rubber

• Party cup makers are lacking Styrofoam

And they can’t get the parts because the parts are sitting on a cargo vessel, or the truck to deliver is missing vital parts to operate, or there is a shortage of workers to produce the parts to begin with. It’s all very complicated and complex, but even a child can understand this: Toilet paper is once again scarce.

But what a child of any age can’t comprehend is a holiday season without toys. Certainly, Santa is not having supply chain issues? The big man just makes it happen in his workshop at the North Pole. Surely Santa is not low on toilet paper.

As mega-retail operations across the country urged consumers to “buy early” and “be patient,” something magical started happening in the home of my in-laws. It started small. A candy bowl here. A placemat there. Undetectable at first. But a recent visit to their house revealed the old Singer sewing machine out on the dining room table, surrounded by supplies. And I knew: Sally Gordon was on the make.

Sally, or Nana, has a very long history of being quite industrious. She’s made homemade cheese that had to ferment for months; she’s crocheted scarves and hats for the grandchildren in advance of a skiing trip; she’s baked homemade doggy treats in the shape of a bone; and Nana and her sister once baked and sold “Sweet Mama’s Sweet Dough Pies.”

But her latest venture involves cotton rope.

These days, Nana is diligently sewing the rope together to weave everything from colorful cord baskets to coasters to oversized bags with handles. And the results are as impressive as they are stitched with love.

Which got me thinking: Now is the time for the makers to make their move.

Makers are the most creative among us, assembling original jewelry, homespun candles, carved wood tables and artisan cookware. Jars of bath salts, ceramic mugs and bowls, macrame wall hangings and, of course, local art. They whittle away the hours in the garage, in a spare bedroom or in a shop carved out of an old warehouse. They dream, they plot, they plan, they paint, and they break their backs—literally—bent over creating the items that they love.

If we are lucky, they will sell them to us.

So now is the time, if there ever was one, to negate the supply chain chaos and buy something made locally with spirit, with heart and with an eye for design. You will be supporting local makers while giving your loved ones a gift that actually was created in love.

But after this year of loss, of lackluster events, and of longings for our former way of life, I have more bad news: Nana’s bohemian baskets are not for public consumption. Family only. She only has so much cotton rope due to supply chain issues. 

Go ahead, put it on your list for Santa. Right next to the toilet paper.