Hustling into the nearest department store to pick out presents for the holiday season is tradition for some, but nothing compares to the unique gifts created by the hands of “makers” in the 209 — area residents who have started their own businesses dedicated to creating and selling self-made products. In this issue of 209 Magazine, we’ve highlighted a few local makers offering handcrafted clothing, jewelry and stunning woodwork this holiday season, as well as craft fairs in the region that will help shoppers bypass the long lines during the holidays and deliver one-of-a-kind gifts.
Smith Woodcraft and Design (Hughson)Since he first began working with wood during his sixth-grade year at Ross Middle School in Hughson, Kevin Smith instantly found a way to feed his creative side. After years of creating favors for friends, Smith and his wife, Linzi, decided to open their own side business creating corn hole boards, wine stave projects, end tables, charcuterie boards — the list goes on.
“We enjoy working with your customers to make their visions come true,” Smith said. “You dream it, we make it happen. Who doesn’t like a homemade gift for Christmas?”
Smith Woodcraft and Design offers a variety of customizable products that would make fantastic holiday gifts for both men and women, like adult- and kid-sized versions of the popular yard games like corn hole, yard dice and Jenga. Chalkboards and wine barrel candleholders make for charming home décor, and a lazy Susan or custom shelf can provide more options when it comes to organization.
Most recently, Smith Woodcraft and Design had a hand in making corn hole boards for the new Ten Pin Fun Center in Turlock. The experience highlighted his favorite part about being a maker in the 209, Smith said.
“I enjoy working with our community and seeing my products be put to use,” he said.
To see more of the Smiths’ custom woodworking or to place an order, visit @smith_woodcraft_and_design on Instagram or Smith Woodcraft and Design on Facebook.
Emmrycloth (Ripon)Tawnya Van Houten taught herself how to sew when her daughter, Emmry, was born. Both of her grandmothers were gifted with a needle and thread, and Van Houten’s mother encouraged her to continue the family tradition — something Van Houten has accomplished and then some, making comfortable, unique clothing for not only her own child, but others as well with Emmrycloth.
Using second-hand material, Van Houten creates dresses, bloomers, skirts, rompers, aprons and bows for children, complete with elastic and adjustable straps that allow the pieces to grow with the child.
“I love to use material that is repurposed, taking something that may have low value and creating something new from it,” Van Houten said.
As her business has grown, Van Houten has expanded her machinery collection to help elevate the quality of the clothing, she said, and she constantly is challenging herself to incorporate vintage finds and innovative designs into each new piece. For the fall and winter seasons, Emmrycloth features textures like knit sweaters and colors like cranberry, mustard yellow and olive green to match the changing leaves. Her pieces rival big-name dress manufacturers in quality and design, Van Houten said, yet sell for half the price.
“These dresses would look great in your Christmas pictures,” she said.
Van Houten often sells at craft fairs, she said, and meeting the supportive shoppers who make her business a reality is the highlight of her job.
“Acknowledging the work and thoughtfulness in the pieces I make is uplifting and encouraging. Nothing beats when customers send me back pictures of their sweet little smiling in an Emmrycloth dress,” Van Houten said. “I’m blessed to be able to do what I love.”
Valeria Jewelry (Turlock)Valeria Jimenez is a Turlock entrepreneur who first began making jewelry in junior high, though the pieces she sells today are far more intricate than the wire-wrapped rings she used to offer. Jimenez specializes in customized earrings, bracelets and necklaces with a self-described “simplistic, yet elegant” style, taking cues from her customers to create pieces that can’t be found anywhere else.
“My products are perfect for holiday gifts because I can create a customized piece for everyone on that Christmas list,” Jimenez said.
Using personalized touches like the customer’s birthstone or other small details based on the buyer or wearer, Jimenez makes jewelry that truly feels like a gift. This is a sentimental feature Jimenez enjoys offering to a community that has supported her throughout the years, she said.
“I love that the 209 celebrates and supports its makers. There is this attitude of generosity and belief in what we as makers are doing for ourselves,” she said. “It’s not like this in big cities where everyone is fighting for each piece. There is more than enough and this area understands that.”
To shop Valeria Jewelry’s pieces, visit
Upcoming Craft FairsIf you like the idea of buying from a local maker but haven’t quite found what you’re looking for yet, here’s a list of approaching craft fairs where you can keep an eye out for that perfect gift.
Sutter Creek Craft Fair
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 12 and Nov. 30;
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 13 and Dec. 1
Sutter Creek Auditorium
18 Main Street, Sutter Creek
Country Folk Art and Craft Show
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2
Stanislaus County Fairgrounds
900 N. Broadway, Turlock
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2
19840 Dayton Ave., Hilmar
Crafty Chicks Holiday Show
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 16
Calaveras County Fairgrounds
2465 Gun Club Road, Angels Camp
20th Century Arts and Crafts Fair of Hughson
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 23 and 24
Hughson High School
7419 E. Whitmore Ave., Hughson