By Amy Wenk

Laura Martin, who runs Ties That Matter, works on a bag made from recycled neckties at her Buckhead home.

In the carriage house of her 1920s home, Buckhead resident Laura Martin operates a business that ties together art and community service.

“We feel that doing art can involve a whole community of people,” said the Atlanta native who has authored 18 books and numerous articles on nature, crafts and gardening. “I really think it’s an exciting business model.”

Her company Ties That Matter ( produces a variety of colorful bags and pillows from donated neckties. About 800 ties have been collected at churches like Christ the King and local law firms as well as from friends and neighbors.

Martin employs refugee and near-homeless women through the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center (OAC) in Atlanta to stitch the products. The center also receives a portion of her proceeds.

“Sometimes I feel like an intermediary between people who really need jobs and then these people who want to help but don’t always have a good outlet,” said Martin who designs the products and teaches the women how to sew them. “I love the idea that we have been able to be center circle of an expanding community.”

Her charitable art will be on display during The American Craft Council Show at the Cobb Galleria March 12 through 14.

“Sort of on a whim, we decided to apply to the American Craft Council show and much to our delight, we were accepted,” Martin said. “We’re so proud to be part of this show.”

Above, expert jeweler Debra Lynn Gold heats metal for jewelry making at Chastain Park Arts Center where she is an instructor.

She will be one of more than 200 artists, including 26 from Georgia, at the craft show that features jewelry, clothing, furniture, toy and home accessories as well as artwork made of glass, ceramics, metal, wood, paper and textiles.

“If you are interested in fine craft, this is the show to go to,” Martin said. “It will blow your mind the quality of craftsmanship.”

Other local artists will participate like Buckhead resident Debra Lynn Gold, a master of contemporary jewelry design.

“You never run out of room for jewelry. That is why it’s so seductive,” said the long-time instructor at the Chastain Park Arts Center and organizer of the Atlanta Contemporary Jewelry Show held each November.

Gold creates sleek pieces from sterling silver or anodized aluminum using simple hand tools. The result is “engineered structures that retain a playfulness,” she said.

Gold has been in ACC shows since 1985.

“It is really an admirable milestone in your career,” she said to be accepted into the juried craft show.

Martin said she is excited to show off her products as well as the company’s mission and business model.

Ties That Matter started in 2008 as a fundraising project for the OAC. With 1,500 ties and 100 volunteers, 1,000 reusable grocery bags were created and sold. Martin donated all $6,000 in proceeds to the OAC.

In 2009, Martin, her daughter Cameron McCord, son-in-law Michael McCord and friend Elizabeth Chrane turned that project into a business.

“Eventually what I would like to do is prove to people you can have a business model like this,” Martin said. “You can serve a community. You can be sensitive to the environment, use recycled goods and be financially successful. That is our goal.”