In his song “Stuff That Works,” Texas troubadour Guy Clark pays homage to “stuff that holds up … stuff that’s real.” His description of a favorite blue shirt worn soft over time is enough to make you wince at the thought of buying a T-shirt made in an overseas factory. Clark’s sweet, simple lyrics honor things with integrity—the stuff that lasts.
And that is what we hope to do here—give a tip of the hat to eight Texans, either artisans or small companies, who are making real, enduring, one-of-a-kind products. Be they custom bicycles, Western couture, fine cotton guayaberas, or baseball gloves, these are things born and raised in Texas. What all of these products have in common can be summed up in one word: soul.
“If you can put a piece of yourself into what you are building, then whatever comes out is soul,” says Chuck Lee, a banjo maker in Ovilla. “It’s why one banjo might seem sterile and another feels alive. When I build something, I enjoy it, but not just for the joy of completing the project. What’s important is the end user: The banjo player has to go ‘Wow,’ and he needs to play it for other people who also go ‘Wow.’ Then I feel fulfilled.”
The pride and joy that these Texas makers gain from their work does indeed ripple beyond their workshops. Whether it’s hollowing out trunks of East Texas cedar trees to make ornate birdhouses, cutting leather into high-end bags in Panhandle ranching country, or using Texas-made windmill blades to harness the power of our West Texas desert gales, the works of these designers and companies leave a lasting impression and make people feel good—like putting on a favorite old shirt.