The Maker City monthly blog takes a look at locations where makers are found in The Maker City and features some of Knoxville area’s outstanding makers – artists, crafters and so much more. This month’s blog features Honeymouth in the Old City, and Solana, one of the small businesses featured there.
AJ & Torrie Dreier of 865 Candle Company
How did you get started as candlemakers?
This is the best story! We were looking for favors for our wedding. We decided we wanted candles, but someone, Torrie, didn’t want to pay for someone else to make them. She said, “How hard can it be?” Well, it was a lot harder than we expected. But after research, trial, and error, we had our wedding favors. We were able to salvage one candle from our wedding for us, and the rest were gone. Friends started telling us they loved our candles, and we should start a business. We laughed and said no. Since we knew how to make candles, we decided to do a fundraiser for my daughter, Rhiley, and her husband, Dusty, to raise money for a pending adoption. People bought and again kept telling us to start a business. So, the wheels begin to turn.
What did you want to do in your candlemaking that was different from what you were seeing available in the existing market?
We wanted clean scents – an aroma someone could enjoy without the headaches – unique offerings that complement the candle line, affordability, less harmful, and hand poured.
You've branched out beyond candles as your business has evolved. What's your favorite non-candle product right now?
Easy – shower steamers! We can barely keep them in stock.
What do you hope your customers experience from using your candles/products?
We would love for the customer to find a scent that will elicit a happy or endearing memory of something in their life, or even create a new memory. We also want the customer to experience a cleaner and safer burning candle in their home.
In addition to being makers yourselves, why is it important to you to support other makers within your space?
“Makers” are a community, and we learn and grow from each other. So, supporting each other on our journeys is so important to us. We wouldn’t be where we are without other makers, and we want to support others in their endeavors as well. One of our goals in 2024 is to bring in more local makers to our space, whether through their products or offering classes in our classroom.
Where are your products offered for sale?
865 Candle Company 6204 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, TN 37920
Instagram and Facebook: @865candlecompany
Knoxville Soap Candle & Gifts, 714 S. Gay Street
Whimsy & A Dream, 2608 Sutherland Avenue
RALA, 112 West Jackson Avenue
KnoxFill, 3211 S Haven Road
Bliss, 445 S Gay Street
Sunago Coffee, 10736 Hardin Valley Road
Louisville Mercantile, in Louisville and Maryville
Michelle Baker of Wildtree Lane
How did Wildtree Lane get started?
For many years before we formed Wildtree Lane, probably decades, I had always found joy in being creative and loved to paint and pursue new and different avenues to express that creativity. But for most of that time, being in a corporate role that required almost constant travel, I never had time to devote to the pursuit of these interests. When our daughter, Madelyn, was born in 2015, I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom, and that allowed me the time to start learning and developing the skills and techniques to create the hand-crafted items I enjoyed making.
Over the years, I made these items as gifts for friends and family and started developing a small following that encouraged me to make items for them to give as gifts to others or for their own homes. So, in 2019, I started planning to elevate my hobby and consider how to start my own business, and in 2020 obtained a business license and started offering home décor, signs, and other products to the public.
The growth of Wildtree Lane over the past four years has truly been a journey of trial and error – lots of learning about our markets and being very flexible and responsive to trends and the changing world! We invested in our first laser machine in 2020 and added our second larger industrial laser in 2022, and that has considerably expanded our capability to create and bring unique products to the market. We have also worked hard to develop our retail presence, and we have developed a reputation as a maker for our handmade signs, unique woodcut designs, our locally-sourced, private-label gourmet food products, and have expanded our offering in the areas of hand-painted furniture and DIY products.
The next step in the journey is one I am super excited about: We now offer painting and DIY classes. I truly enjoy helping others to develop their own creativity, and I am excited to build out our class offerings in 2024. In this latest step of our journey, the summer of 2023 offered us an amazing opportunity to grow together and partner with another passionate maker. I had met and enjoyed knowing AJ Drier when we were both vendors in a previous location together. She mentioned that she and her partner Torrie had been considering moving into a brick-and-mortar retail location for the first time, and asked, if that happened, if I would consider joining them. We met and discussed how this might work, and then a few weeks later she called me to let me know they had secured a building that would give us a retail space as well as a full classroom, and we could be up and running in a month! Given our synergy and all that I knew about AJ and Torrie, I did not hesitate. I knew this would be a fantastic collaboration that would challenge and enhance all of us in our pursuit of shared goals. We are so grateful and excited to have this opportunity, and I am looking forward to sharing my creativity through our products and classes in this awesome space!
What types of items are available?
We offer a mix of products, with a focus on home décor – hand-painted signs, ornaments, décor, and upscaled furniture items. We also offer a wide range of DIY products and paint supplies for the DIY enthusiast. We are now a Dixie Bell Elite retailer offering CMP, Silk, and Terra. Additionally, from early on in our journey, we have carried private label gourmet food items to complement our maker product. Our goal is to provide a mix of unique products, hand-made and local, that make great gifts for your loved ones or just unique items for your home.
Describe yourself as a maker and retailer. How do you think about curating the products you want to offer to your customers?
We try to stay on (or ahead!) of trends and are always watching what is going on in the market and in the world of home décor and DIY. Lately, we are shifting our focus to provide more unique items, both in the décor we make and the furniture we select and upscale. Being a member of various maker communities is also a way to stay in touch with what is current and popular in the world. We work hard to find and make products that both inspire us as we create and complement our current lines, as well as those of 865 Candle Co. Over the past few years, we have worked to better understand what our various markets want. The recent partnership with 865 Candle Co., and the move to a brick and mortar, has helped us to narrow our offering, really focus on what our original customer base still wants to see, and really enjoy the journey to begin understanding what we can bring to the South Knoxville market.
How has being a maker and creative influenced the way you interact with people, your customers, other makers and beyond?
It’s been interesting to see how running your own business does influence your interactions within your circles. In the early days, we often did custom work to get our name out and try to expose new markets to what we were trying to build. As we have grown, it’s made more sense to draw back and focus more on a more narrow, intentional product line that still serves our customers and communities. All of it has been an awesome learning experience, and we are grateful for all of the support we have received to get to this point. One funny point, you do find that no matter where you go, you are constantly looking at décor and design and gathering inspiration and ideas from some of the most unusual or unlikely places!
Where can people find you?
We are located inside 865 Candle Co. located at 6204 Chapman Highway, Knoxville TN. 37920 and online at www.wildtreelane.com. We are in the process of rebuilding our website, but it will be up and fully running soon. All of our classes are published on the 865 Candle Co. website at www.865candlecompany.com . We are on Facebook and Instagram.
by Kathryn Sullivan