Video produced by Knoxville Weekend
Written by Susan Alexander / Photos by Maranda Vandergriff
Three Knoxville makers share their passions and reasons for shopping local
A $100 watchband she saw online led Joanna Warren to make her own leather goods.
“$100?? I knew I could make that for a whole lot less. So I got started, and one thing led to another. I made wallets and home décor items. Flyswatters. Then I moved into purses.
“In May of this year I started getting pushes to start a business, make some money. So I’m giving it a shot, and it’s going okay. I sell at local markets and the holiday market on Market Square. And on my website.” She also makes belts for Marc Nelson Denim.
Joanna’s leather bags are handcrafted at her West Knoxville home. “I do everything from making a pattern, then I make a paper version of the bag first. Then I find leather that’s a good match for the style. I cut it and bevel and paint the edges of the leather and hand punch the holes and sew the leather,” she said. “My favorite thing to make is the handles; I weave them out of shock cord. It brings color into a neutral palette.
“I never really thought about shopping local until I was a maker myself. But now that I am, I see people around me who’ve put their heart and soul into what they’re making. Their work is supporting the community as well as themselves.”
It’s that community connection that matters to David Harman, owner of Native Maps.
Native Maps take an up-close look at the neighborhoods that make up a variety of cities. His first neighborhood map was of his hometown of Dallas. Now he produces them for 25 cities, including Knoxville. It’s been his full-time maker business for about four years.
Every map is screen printed by hand at his shop in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood using 100% recycled paper from French Paper Co., one of America’s last independent paper mills, and water-based ink.
“We use no solvents. It’s a product you feel proud of and comfortable bringing into your home,” he said.
“I love the idea of shopping local,” he said. “The maps themselves are founded out of a love of local surroundings. And buying local is super important; when you shop locally twice as much money goes back into local economy as when you shop at chain stores or online. It functions like blood pumping through a body; it’s the lifeblood of the community going to people you know, empowering them to do what they love and in turn support other local makers.
“It’s a rising tide that lifts all boats.”
Knifemaker John Phillips of Phillips Forged acknowledges the support the local community has given him in establishing his business. He also supports local pickers who supply the raw materials – steel, wood, etc. – for the kitchen knives he makes in the garage of his Lonsdale home.
He points to one knife made from a 200-year-old wagon wheel forged onto a 100-year-old sawmill blade. The handle is made from a piece of burled cherry that was going to be firewood.
“It blows my mind how you can reuse and transform materials and turn junk into an art object that will last another 200 years or more,” he said.
“I think when you’re buying local you’re buying a higher quality product that’ll last longer and people will cherish. Stuff from China gets trashed. Handmade goods become heirlooms.”