Photography by Kathy Tran.

WHEN CHRIS UNRUH introduces herself to patrons of Makers Connect, they sometimes ask if she’s related to Jack Unruh, an illustrator who lived in Forest Hills for 35 years. He’s her father. It makes sense that Unruh, a Casa View neighbor, jewelry maker and owner of the shop, ended up in a creative field. What more people don’t know is that Unruh’s mother also had a creative side. She was an art major, just like her dad. 

Makers Connect opened in the White Rock Shopping Center on Garland Road in May. Originally, the spot was a craft store called Beads of Splendor, where Unruh used to purchase supplies for her Truly Unruhly Jewelry. Now, it’s a gallery filled almost floor to ceiling with all sorts of one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces. The items that stock the shop come from more than 50 local artists. About 80% of them are East Dallas neighbors.

“I love the trees and the people and the creative spirit,” Unruh says. “It’s just everything they say and then some. It’s the funkiness, the cool architecture.”

After one step inside the air-conditioned shop, which Unruh sees as a must for selling art in Texas, it may not seem like there’s logic to the product placement. Decorative objects made entirely of things found at estate and garage sales are immediately to the right. Leather bags, letters carved out of books and hanging planters are to the left. A table displaying an assortment of objects is directly ahead. Vests are placed not next to the aprons but near the lounge area in the back of the store. That’s because the artist who makes the vests is an older woman who sits while she tells visitors about her work. 

“I wanted to alternate so that you had hard and soft, colorful and not as colorful, and try to keep the personalities of people,” Unruh says. 

Stories don’t just illuminate the reasoning behind the layout of the store. They also play a role in the selling process. Customers purchase work they find in Makers Connect because they unearth some link between themselves and the artists. They hear where the artists found their supplies, how they created the pieces or what inspired them. 

Unruh doesn’t require the artist sellers to work in the store. Rather, she has a mix of volunteers and artists, all there voluntarily. 

“I want people here who want to be here,” she says. 

Unruh asks the artists who display work there to have multiple fronts to sell their items, like an Etsy store and craft shows. They also need to keep plenty of inventory in stock. The financial agreement is simple: Proceeds are split 50-50 between Unruh and the artist.

“I hate the word ‘blessed,’ but I kind of am because I get to meet all these nice people,” Unruh says.

Some of the artists who sell their work at the store have known Unruh since she opened the first Makers Connect, which closed on Northwest Highway in 2017. Others met her through local craft shows, like the one at Hexter Elementary, where she showcased her jewelry. 

Uhruh has been producing jewelry for years. She began in high school and continued through a program tailored to post-graduate students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, after receiving a degree in environmental design. When she finished at FIT, she worked for six years creating pieces for Robert Rose, Lord & Taylor, Donna Karan, Van Hill and a supplier who sold to Sundance and Ralph Lauren.

Art brings the creatives together, and they support each other. Unruh recently hosted an informational session at Makers Connect to help the artists learn how to use Instagram. They can also use the space to teach classes on silk dyeing and other crafts. 

“There’s not any competition,” Unruh says about the artist community at Makers Connect. “And if there is, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Makers Connect, 9047 Garland Road, 972.803.5325
HOURS: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday