No more neckties. Please.

With the big holiday craft fair season on the horizon, artisans have been hard at work - firing up kilns, clacking away on looms, whirring steadily over lathes. At events across the area – from homespun church fundraisers to juried shows with professional makers, you’ll find one-of-a-kind gifts from jewelry to toys to pottery, salad bowls and blown glass. Nary a necktie in sight.

And, in true “shop local” spirit, your purchases come with some perks: many markets offer activities besides just opening and closing your wallet: kids’ craft-making, snacking options, entertainment and, of course, getting to know the maker of your unique gift.

“It’s really important to make this a festive, inviting family event,” said Melissa Shaw-Smith, creative director of Wickham Works, a consortium of local artisans who three years ago began the Love Local Holiday Market. This year's event will be held Nov. 23 and 24.

"There are children's activities and crafts, a café - people spend a few hours here." More than 30 local makers are participating in the juried market. Outgrowing its original setting, the third annual event will take over five rooms on two floors of a 1950s schoolhouse that is now the Warwick Valley Community Center.

“There are a lot of really phenomenal spaces,” Shaw-Smith said. They’ll be turning those spaces into a “holiday wonderland,” in silver and white, with inventive decoration -- recycled plastic bottles become snowballs, for instance. “We bring our making to everything we do,” she said.

Shaw-Smith, a Warwick resident, is a champion of the local makers community. “I grew up in a family of documentary filmmakers in Ireland,” she said. Of the 80 films they made, 40 focused on Ireland’s traditional crafts. “I have a great appreciation for them. Whether you’re making cheese or high-end furniture, it becomes your lifestyle. I know how important it is to have them in the community - and it’s so important we show this to our children,” she said.

Both days of Love Local will feature demonstrations. On Nov. 24, cooper John Cox of High Falls will provide insight into the trade of barrel-making. Cox is one of only 30 coopers in the country. The former cabinetmaker decided to get into coopering after hearing about the “barrel crisis” – the proliferation of craft distilleries created a huge demand for them. Cox bought a bunch of traditional barrel-making tools from a museum and learned by figuring out what they were for. Today he runs Quercus (scientific term for “oak ”) in High Falls.

He’ll be showing those tools, as well as talking about the importance of barrels to our ancestors at the show, one of very few he’s going to this year. Since every barrel takes a day to make, he can’t afford the time. “Still, it’s nice to get out and see people's reactions to the barrels. “They have a visceral effect; it takes you back to another time. There’s a romance to them.”

Joe and Vicki Botta also enjoy people’s reactions to their work. Joe is a woodturner. He says people actually smile when they feel the wood; sometimes they even smell it. Vicki works mainly as a potter, and, incorporating leafless trees into her designs The couple recently opened a shop, VJB Creations, in Goshen. They only go to a few shows a year right now, since they still work full-time (she teaches music, he is an electronics tech). “We found that if a fair has aspects like spirits, healing, we don’t do as well as when it’s specifically crafts.” For now, they’re honing their crafts business in preparation for retirement. They are always taking note of which items are most popular at the fair. Utilitarian items like bowls, spoons, cutting boards do well, but at this time of year, the hottest sellers are Joe’s intricate wooden ornaments – angels, snowmen, and, of course, trees.

Jessica Hengen used to work in New York's Diamond District, creating high-end custom jewelry. In 2010 she moved to Sugar Loaf and opened J. Hengen, a storefront and studio where she's busy creating jewelry with an "ancient" feel, using raw minerals and old mine diamonds. She's also reconnected with her love for pottery.

Although she attends a limited number of crafts shows each year, mainly because packing up her inventory is a major chore, Hengen says they're a great place for her to meet other crafters and equally as important - they're a testing ground for her designs. Catch her at Love Local, where she'll be selling jewelry, pottery items from bird feeders to sculptures and tableware. Otherwise, she sells online or from her shop, J. Hengen, in Sugar Loaf.