Knoxville, known as Maker City, named #2 in the United States for artisans

Siobian Jones has worked on cutting-edge stage productions all over the country, and it took moving to Knoxville to feel like she had finally found her creative home.

“This is the first time in my artistic journey that I feel truly fulfilled,” Jones told Knox News.

After working with Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas, stage productions in Chicago and Utah, and with other theaters across the country as a custom wig artist and hairstylist, Jones returned to Knoxville there. three years old. The Maker City is garnering national attention because of his work and the design contributions of so many others.

Design sets recently named Knoxville the #2 city in the nation for crafts, thanks in part to a strong arts and crafts community.

But what makes Knoxville the perfect place for people like Jones?

Siobian Jones, owner of The Mighty Wig, works with the structural yarn she uses to make wigs.

Networking, support and determination to make Knoxville a better place for artists.

Uplifting Artists

When theaters closed at the start of the pandemic, Jones, 39, poured his money into launching The Mighty Wig. She makes custom and artistic wigs and does repairs. It’s a labor of love because a fully hand-tied wig can take around 200 hours to build.

But the work is rewarding. Often, Jones’ clients suffer from alopecia or undergo chemotherapy.

“There is a bond that forms, and I have a lot of respect for that. I try to honor it as much as possible,” Jones said.

Some customers need special wigs for photoshoots and runways, or just because they want to express themselves. Jones presents herself as an artist – the first time she has done so in her career.

Recent wig designs are on display in the studio space of The Mighty Wig in North Knox.

“Coming here felt like I was fully myself in the creative process and no one is going to kick me out,” she said. “They embrace me and feed my creativity.”

It’s a feeling Allie Chamberlain knows well.

“Support creates the Maker City because everyone builds themselves, which only encourages more and more people to do so,” Chamberlain said.

The 24-year-old runs her business Retrieve creation with a clear mission: “to educate people about the exploitation and injustice of the garment industry, while reusing waste to reduce what goes to landfill”.

Coming from a long line of Kentucky quilters, Chamberlain became known for his coats made from tattered quilts.

“I didn’t realize how great Knoxville was until I started talking to policy makers in other cities,” said Chamberlain, who has lived in Knoxville for six years.

Allie Chamberlain, owner of Reclaim Creative, poses for a portrait with a quilt hat she makes at her West Fifth Studios space in Knoxville, Tenn., Friday, April 29, 2022. Chamberlain reuses vintage textiles into clothing, including coats from duvet and a bucket Hats.

Based on networking and conversations with friends, she says artistic entrepreneurship in other places is competitive and “a lot more cutthroat.” This makes him appreciate the spirit of collaboration.

“It’s so exciting to be a manufacturer here because I’m having no trouble getting by. I feel like I’m thriving and feeling really supported in this community,” Chamberlain said.

Artist Jackie Holloway says she’s also getting more support. Holloway runs the non-profit art gallery The canvas can do miracles. The Art Studio northeast of downtown provides space for artists of color, promotes personal enrichment through art, and is a safe place for residents.

Holloway, 62, started his project in 2008 and supported it by selling his own work. Grants, donations and financial support from city-wide initiatives now help him do more for the community, such as the city’s spring break and summer grants, which aim to reduce violent crime among youth at risk.

Canvas Can Do Miracles executive director Jackie Holloway, left, and program director Audrey Wallace, right, are pictured among the artwork on display inside the building at 1218 Magnolia Avenue in Knoxville on Monday December 13, 2021.

“The art climate is changing here in Knoxville for African Americans,” Holloway said. “Now that the funding, the reins are loosened, I’m hopeful for the arts in our community (based on) what I’ve seen over the past two years.”

Holloway admits she was somewhat surprised to learn Knoxville’s ranking.

“It’s kind of an eye-opener (for Knoxville) to consider,” she said. “I’ve been trying to boost black artists for so long that’s why I probably haven’t thought of it, because we’re underrepresented.”

But she hopes to change that. “My goal is for Knoxville to have a healthy artistic community that is like everyone else,” Holloway said.

The influence of art

Creatives don’t just craft; they work to make a difference.

Chamberlain uses Reclaim Creative and its social media platforms to raise awareness about sustainability and the reuse of discarded textiles.

Destigmatizing wigs is Jones’ goal. Many of her clients understandably feel some shame about their hair loss, and negative comments and misguided opinions don’t help.

“Everyone knows someone who’s struggled with alopecia or chemo,” she said. “There must be no stigma with (the wigs). …People need to stop being judgmental about it, and I’d like my art to be able to create a conversation around that.

For Holloway, she hopes Canvas Can Do Miracles will not only show the importance of black art, but also be a haven for young artists in her community. The art gallery’s youth program provides educational support, mental health support, community service projects, food, and even gives children the opportunity to earn money for their artwork. art.

“It’s a pleasure for me to be able to speak to these children through art, but every part of their life,” she said. “I think that’s where the beauty of Canvas comes in, because we’re not just trying to get art for you and send you home and tell you I’ll see you next week We really want to be a part of their life, for the rest of their life.

Jackie Holloway, Executive Director of Canvas Can do Miracles, views a student's artwork last year.

Jones, who is currently experimenting with banana fiber and constructing a wig from hand-spun silk with a guild of weavers soon to come to Knoxville, hopes Knoxville will continue to push artistic boundaries.

“I want to see crazy stuff here,” she said. “Let’s be a little crazy.

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