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Weekend edition December 02, 2022 | Shannon Smith

How to support local makers when Christmas shopping this year

'Tis the season to be shopping, fa la la la la, la la la la.

When you’re buying Christmas gifts this year, consider one of the more than 400 makers creating handcrafted gifts right here in East Tennessee.

“Maker-made items are created with an attention to detail and craft that you won’t find in mass-produced products,” said Courtney Hendricks, Director of Maker Initiatives with The Maker City.

The best place to start searching for your perfect gift is The Maker City Gift Guide, a curated list of all your holiday must-haves. Browse themed categories like wearable art, gifts for kids, animal lovers, and custom options. You’ll also find a list of all the brick-and-mortar shops that sell maker products. The Maker City Directory has a list of hundreds of makers selling products all year.

If surfing through all of those makers seems a little overwhelming, The Maker City has options to help you navigate all these small businesses that are hoping to help you celebrate this year.

First is the Monday Marketplace. Every Monday on The Maker City’s Instagram page, five products from five local makers are posted. Commenters have 12 hours to bid on those items. The winner gets the item, and the maker gets all the proceeds!

Hendricks said this idea for an online auction approach was born out of the pandemic.

“The Maker City saw a need for shoppers that were home-bound to have access to unique and handmade gifts to give to loved ones at a time when everyone could benefit from extra love and care,” she said. “There was also a need for makers that were unable to do markets to get their products in front of more people.”

It was such a success that Monday Marketplace grew into an annual event.

“This is the third year and each year has seen an increase in makers participating,” said Hendricks. “The first year had three items every Monday, and now we have five to nine each week with almost every item sold.”

Check that Instagram account every Monday through Christmas to see what’s up for grabs.

The Maker City also hosts a Secret Santa gift exchange where all gifts given must be from local makers.

“As last year was coming to a close, we saw an increase in the want for people to gather,” said Hendricks. “To get members of the community together and promote the act of making as well as support our local makers, we hosted a gift swap that focused solely on gifting maker-made items, either self-made or purchased from a maker. The range of gifts last year was impressive. It was such a joy to watch people open their gifts and find talent in a member of the community that they may not have known before or recognize the work of a friend. Secret presents are always fun!”

Secret Santa sign-up is closed this year, but while you wait for the 2023 event, browse the gift guides and help local makers this season.

“Many are unique, one-of-a-kind, sustainably made gifts. When you shop local, more dollars stay within our community, jobs are created, and dreams are supported,” said Hendricks. “The holidays are a time of giving and the best way to give is to shop local and maker-made!”