Landon feeds off the excitement of those around him, including his mother, Marilyn. Marilyn tried her hand at making cards and what started as a small hobby just snowballed from there, picking up Landon in the excitement along the way.
Now nearly two years into it, Landon has his own microenterprise: Landon’s Home Run Crafts. A Vaya member with autism, Landon gets to share his excitement with others through his handmade cards.
“At the beginning, I wasn’t sure if he would even like it at all,” said Marilyn. “I tried him out on some ideas, and he stuck with it and was really interested. He seemed to really enjoy it.”
Neither one of them had ever done anything like it before. His parents were looking for a job for Landon during the downtime of his seasonal work when Marilyn came across some card kits online. When she tried it and realized she could make them, she got hooked. Once Landon got hooked along with her, things took off.
“I said, why don’t we give this a shot and see if it goes,” said Marilyn. “He was selling cards like crazy!”
Landon decides on what type of card he wants to work on, and Marilyn narrows down ideas for him. Once he picks out the card he likes, she creates a template for him to see the finished product. She then gives him all the pieces for the rest, just like the kits they used when they started. This makes it easier for him to put together like a puzzle. In fact, it has worked so well that Marilyn started selling her own kits online and marketing them for people with disabilities. This gives people like Landon the ability to create something with their own hands to give to others, creating a sense of pride while also being therapeutic.
To streamline the process, Marilyn put together a kit for Landon, complete with all the tools and instructions for any workers who might be helping him out that week. Landon gets to work making an assembly line and seeing his chosen design come to life under his own hands. He loves being able to make something himself and then share it with someone else.
“I’ve been really impressed with the amount of focus he has on what he’s doing,” said Marilyn.
Landon is good at visualization and is precise in his work, but even so, there’s an occasional mess up. Marilyn likes to remind him that it’s part of life and she makes one on her own cards every once in a while. Sometimes it can be covered up, but other times she tells him to leave it, so that each card is unique, just like Landon.
When he first started, Landon was going around town with his workers to sell the cards and leave them in businesses who agreed to sell on consignment. Les, his father, said it was always exciting for Landon when a small check came in the mail after one of his cards sold. But the real excitement came from his interactions with people and sharing something he loves with them.
“He was successful going around town to businesses, seeing people, and all the social interaction he had with them was part of selling,” said Les. “In some respects, having this business is a sense of purpose. He looks forward to doing it. The downside is with COVID, he doesn’t get to see the people he sells the cards to.”
During the pandemic, Landon built up his inventory but didn’t have a way to sell them like before. Instead, Marilyn asked if he wanted to leave cards out at their church for fellow members to take. It was a way for them to give back and for Landon to share his excitement and keep up his skills. They let church members know the cards are free to take, although sometimes members want to compensate him anyway.
“He’s having fun and enjoying it, and it’s benefitting people,” said Marilyn. “If we make money, we make money. If we don’t, we don’t. We’re not in it for the money.”
Although Landon enjoys making all types of cards, his favorite is “thank you” cards. Because those are the kind that you can share with anyone at any time.
Landon’s Home Run Crafts can be purchased at Quilt Square Girls and the Watauga County Arts Council in West Jefferson. To watch Landon in action and view more photos of his handmade cards, visit his Facebook page.