“I want to help people fall in love with handmade,” says Smart & Becker founder Ryan-Ashley Anderson.
No stranger to the maker life – she’s handcrafted and sold jewelry for nearly a decade under the same moniker – Anderson capped off a successful 2017 with a “Maker Tour” hosted by recording artist Jewel.
Anderson, a social force with which to be reckoned, now is bringing together makers and business owners from many different industries in order to create the unique and inviting environment of her new brick-and-mortar store at 1154 McCalla Ave. Interior fabrications by Bird on the Wire Studios, DIYing printing through Striped Light and a mural painted by Paris Woodhull are among the creations made by the many local connections Anderson has forged through the build-out of her gallery.
You may have shopped for handmade goods at craft markets and local gift shops, but Smart & Becker aims to differentiate from the norm. By stocking only a handful of carefully curated items and avoiding the beloved yet often overdone “Knoxville-themed” products, the scene Anderson has created inspires the customer to buy what speaks to them. Abundant plant life and a minimal, clean display of products allow the artwork to draw you in, and the handmade goods tell their own stories.
Beyond the merchandising, Smart & Becker goes farther than any gallery you’re likely to have visited. In addition to their monthly artist showings and high-end handmade goods, Smart & Becker hosts DIY workshops, offers maker mentoring opportunities and encourages community development through unique social gatherings.
Social Justice Book Club, a free event Smart & Becker holds each month to bring together like-minded individuals to discuss a hard-hitting theme that affects us all, is one example of these gatherings. It, workshops like “Natural Light Product Photography” and “Embroidery V-Day Sampler” (with Hopebroidery, another local maker) and a stunning shopping ambiance provide options for just about anyone to find something they enjoy at Smart & Becker.
When asked about how many local versus regional and national artisans Smart & Becker would be hosting, Anderson says she will curate a principally regional mix, with some makers coming from as far as the West Coast. It will feature local Knoxville makers like ceramicist Mimi Knight of Junebug Designs and leatherworker Lan of Lann Designs, but primarily it will be bringing in a diverse selection artists and focusing on up-and-coming or otherwise undiscovered talent.
“One of the most important things for community building is exposure,” Anderson says. As a multi-dimensional space, makers and customers alike get exposure to cultures, styles and personalities they otherwise wouldn’t experience if they were to never leave Knoxville. Smart & Becker’s broad-reaching curation is rooted in Anderson’s belief that for our community to grow, we must open our ears to new voices.
Being an up-and-coming maker picked up by Smart & Becker affords unique opportunities. Anderson is placing a considerable focus on investing in the makers and artists she curates, providing mentoring in a variety of areas. Merchandising, product development, pricing and branding are a few ways Smart & Becker is helping its makers develop sustainable businesses.
Though this is her first brick-and-mortar establishment, Anderson is no stranger to the world of business – or retail for that matter. To fund and grow her creative enterprise, she’s worked a variety of jobs in the retail and service industries which she says have greatly informed her understanding of maker businesses. After a career in marketing as a copywriter, she began translating what she learned into consulting services for small businesses.
As an artist herself, Anderson knows that many creatives are just “one bad show away from quitting.” And as a marketer and businessperson, she knows that sometimes all a maker needs to experience success is a merchandising, pricing or website tweak. Anderson hopes to share her business hacks with as many people as possible to participate in the cultivation of a financially healthy Knoxville maker community.
Smart & Becker doesn’t invest exclusively in makers through consulting; though still under wraps, Smart & Becker soon hopes to host monthly educational meetups for makers so that even those who may not yet be in a financial situation to consult for business development can learn communally with their fellow makers. Potential topics could include merchandising, product photography, branding and marketing. Consider how much you could learn if you spent just one evening each month learning valuable tips to grow your maker business!
What does Smart & Becker sincerely want to accomplish in this new space? Accessibility. Anderson speaks passionately about making art accessible for all people, regardless of preference, affordability or understanding. Hosting events that range in price, curating handmade products/an art selection that conforms to all budgets and providing a limited-timeline layaway for art purchases over $100 is just the start for Smart & Becker’s mission to make art accessible to all.
Visit Smart & Becker by appointment Monday through Wednesday, from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 1-7 p.m. on Sunday. You can visit their website (smartandbeckercreative.com) in order to RSVP for your next creative gathering.