The New Handmade

By Laura Childers


 

No matter how advanced we become as an economy, there will always be something special about handcrafted goods. They take time, skills, and passion to bring to life. They embody human connection and experience. Where our grandparents made their own furnishings and apparel out of necessity, today’s craftsmen do it because they demand higher quality, love the craft, or have stories inside that need telling.

Here in Chattanooga, champions of the “new handmade” can be found in home studios, garage workshops, local craft markets, and small warehouses filled with imported goods. Often quiet and unobtrusive, they breathe color and life into the forgotten and overlooked places in our world.

The products featured here are just a few of thousands made or developed by people in our city who are passionate about quality craftsmanship. Some are made by local artisans themselves. Others are designed locally, made abroad, and sold worldwide. All embody the heart of people who care about creating something truly meaningful.

Boehm Block & Board

Est. 2008

It began as a love story with wood. In 2000, Andrew Boehm was working for Walden Log Homes, building antique log homes, when he began taking home piles of hand-hewn cut offs. He began experimenting with scraps in his shop, asking himself which type would work best for various home furnishings. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I thought they were so cool and beautiful.” Today, the self-taught craftsman has channeled his love into a thriving side business, Boehm Block & Board. Working out of his shop behind his Signal Mountain home, he transforms recycled woods into tables, lamps, coasters, cutting boards, and more. His freeform approach to craftsmanship is about celebrating the materials themselves. Often, he’ll look at a piece of wood for months before figuring out how to use it. “I keep the original saw marks so you can tell how old it is, and sometimes the wood isn’t even milled. I don’t finish anything either, because the woods are so good the way they are. Each piece has its own story to tell. I want people to see that.”

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Cutting boards are finished in a non-toxic mineral oil. (left) This rock maple cutting board has a teak drip groove and center stripe. (below) This figured black walnut cutting board has a thumbhole accent.

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Nineteenth century poplar is reimaged as a lamp base in this creative piece.

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Boehm uses an adze to make hand-chipped bowls of reclaimed pine.

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This 20×20 inch cocktail table with a herringbone top is made from hart pine reclaimed from a local grist mill. 

Danyelle Woods Designs

Est. 2014

When Danyelle Woods traveled to Italy in 2014, she went with the intention of studying portraiture and other classical art forms. Instead, she found herself renewing her first love: using recycled materials to make old things new. She created sculptures out of recycled tea bags. She fell in love with natural dyes. When she began experimenting with a wood burner, using it to burn mandalas and other patterns onto pieces of scrap wood, she began an entirely new chapter in her artistic career. “I realized just how drawn I was to textures – the details around me which had been created with such care,” she says. Today, Danyelle sells her own line of woodburned plaques and earrings on Etsy. Self-taught in typography in lettering, she uses natural wood grains to create contrast between positive and negative space (the subject and background). “Much of my inspiration comes from nature – the juxtaposition of light and dark, life and death,” she says. The past year has seen her expanding her line with watercolor prints and screen-printed Ts. She’s also gained an enthusiastic following on social media, which she uses to tell stories about her own creative process and the personal encounters that inspired her art.

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Hand-painted designs are printed on creamy, textured watercolor paper. Basswood plaques, featuring original and customizable wood-burned designs, measure anywhere between 13×9 to 11½ x 8½.

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Handmade tees are screen-printed locally with Danyelle’s designs.

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Pine pendant earrings are woodburned and then hand-painted with natural stain, matte, and metallic paints.

Clever Raven

Est. 2014

It’s easy to geek out on Clever Raven’s line of industrial robot lamps, furnishings, and décor. Made from repurposed galvanized pipe, reclaimed wood, and various found objects, each piece feels sudden and unexpected – like coming across a genius’s home project. And yet, the craftsmanship is so precise each piece might as well have been made by a machine. Founder/owner Brit Sigh puts his own blood, sweat, and tears into each item, drawing on his love for Sci-Fi and his professional experience in construction and retail. “My pieces are eclectic, but the last thing they are is thrown together,” says Sigh. “I’m very particular about the mix of color and materials and texture.” Sigh didn’t intend to start his own business – he fell into it two years ago while looking for furniture to outfit his new home. “I was tired of overpriced pieces that were cheaply made, so I decided to create my own,” he says. Today the self-taught craftsman works out of his own studio and Clever Raven has become his full-time job, thanks to buyers worldwide who love his ingenious  creations. He sells his custom wares on Etsy and is working with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center to expand into new markets.

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Sigh’s first-ever industrial style lamp was made of repurposed books, like the one pictured here (left). The lamp shade on this Found Object Pipe Lamp (right) is made out of an old oxygen tank cap. The old stop valve is now the light switch. 

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Sigh’s signature robot lamps are inspired by the 1986 film Short Circuit. One of these lamps will appear in The Book of Henry, a feature film starring Naomi Watts,
in theaters June 2017.

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Inspired by steampunk, this industrial lamp with a unique pipe configuration is designed to mount on the wall.

Dekko Trading

Est. 2013

Dekko Trading sells 35 different products handmade by artisans in Jaipur, India. From purses, scarves, rugs, and pillows made from recycled saris to jewelry made of sterling silver and semi-precious stones, the company’s wares are skillfully crafted abroad and imported for sale to the company’s warehouse on the Southside. Chattanooga natives, Shane and Alisha Hatton, traveled to India out of a love for the people and a desire to use their business background to provide income to marginalized people groups. Today they work in partnership with their friends, Steve and Lori Bower and Susie Helton, who manage operations and sales on this side of the pond. The business’s artisans work on a contract basis. Raw materials are sourced locally in India and then assigned to the business’s artisans, all of whom the Hattons know personally.

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3×5 rag rugs are made from upcycled saris.

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Pillows made from upcycled saris tightly rolled together.

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This coral beaded necklace is made from hand-carved bone beads and colored with organic dyes.

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Handmade journals made from recycled cloth come in prints inspired by the Taj Mahal. Featured here: Teal mosaic.

Stray Dog Designs

Est. 1994

Stray Dog Designs designs and manufactures charming lighting and décor made from recycled hand-blown glass, papier mâché, iron, and tin. The brainchild of Chattanooga natives, Jane Gray and Billy Pritchard, the company works in partnership with fair trade artisans in Mexico who craft each item by hand. In the early years, Stray Dog imported products from Mexico, which the couple sold out of the back of their pickup. But after some time, the couple began to wonder: Could they use the same talent to create extraordinary, imaginative pieces? Today Jane designs each piece herself. “The ideas come out of my squirrely head,” she says. She draws something on a piece of paper and gives the dimensions to her partners in Mexico, who then divvy them up between artisans in their homes. Each artist interprets the design as she sees fit, and the company’s workshop in San Miguel de Allende does the final painting and packing.

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Handmade in Mexico, this paper mâché ceiling light was inspired by the Dogwoods that bloom in the Chattanooga area every spring. Designer Jane Gray says she often draws inspiration from plants she sees while hiking.

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The bestselling Esme Glass Lamp has a clear gourd base and glass ball finial made of recycled glass (left). The Shelly Glass Lamp pairs a classic clear base and finial made of handblown glass
with a hand-embroidered Otomi fabric shade (right).