This monthly blog from The Maker City features a look at some of the Knoxville area’s outstanding makers – artists, crafters, and custom builders. This month’s blog showcases efforts that the Mayor’s Maker Council is spearheading on behalf of military veterans. Details on how to become involved with the Yellow Ribbon Project to be announced in the coming months on The Maker City Instagram account. Follow @themakercity to stay in the know.

Name: Derek White

Business: Bird on the Wire Studios

Derek White Bird on the Wire Studios

How did you get started as a maker/fabricator?

I love the smell of metal, its forgiveness, that it had an organic aspect that departs from the industrial. I had never touched a welder or metal until I moved to Knoxville.

I started working with theaters and concerts and did some sculptural work for Ijams Nature Center. They brought me in as their contributing artist, and after that it blew up. I started working with the Dogwood Arts Festival, did Rhythm ‘n’ Blooms. It was only when I moved here that I decided I was going to be an artist and a creator of beautiful things for the rest of my life.

What do you make, and how?

Sculpture, fine furniture and a lot of retail display -- architectural signage and lighting. I’m UL-certified -- the only creative manufacturer within around 600 radial miles  that can custom-make UL-certified chandeliers, sconces and pendants based off the collaboration between myself and my clients.

I do corporate and public sculptures. We have several at Ijams, one at the top of
Vol Landing on Hill Avenue, one at the Quarry; we have sculptures all over the place. We’re doing one now for Ford in Detroit. I work with up and coming businesses doing tangible branding so that everything within the retail space -- hotels, breweries, distilleries, local businesses here and abroad -- stays within their vision and lends to their brand.

Where are your products offered for sale?

We’re located just six blocks out of the Old City on McCalla Avenue. Everything is commissioned by appointment only.

Brief Bio:

Originally from Birmingham, Ala., Derek White attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts, majoring in visual arts and minoring in dance. White has extensive experience as a business owner, having owned and/or run women’s clothing boutiques, graphic design and advertising companies. In 2012, he moved to Knoxville to be near his parents. A bike accident derailed his plans to go back to school for photography, and he started Bird on the Wire Studios in 2014. He was on the first board of the Mayor’s Maker Council and has worked with the city trying to enhance the warehouse district in order to develop a space in which the creative can find success.

“We work together so that we have a solid industry. We don’t all do the same thing, but we all support one another in our efforts; instead of operating out of lack, we operate out of abundance. There’s plenty of business here. And as the Maker City we are in the spotlight across this country as the place to go.”

Name: Bentley Brackett

Business: Elemental Design Company 


Bentley Brackett Elemental Design Company

How did you get started as a designer/maker? 

I always had this desire to build and create things; it just took me a long time to discover the medium that was fulfilling. I am thankful the mediums we now work with fulfill my personal needs as well as the wonderful clients we work with.

What do you make, and how?

The majority of our work is custom one-off pieces for both residential and commercial clients, ranging from a unique piece of furniture in the entrance of a home to custom storage solutions for a restaurant. We work with steel, wood and high-end concrete, which allow us to be creative and meet the clients’ needs with materials that are engineered to last a lifetime. 

Where are your products offered for sale?

You can reach us through

Brief Bio:

Bentley Brackett graduated from UT with a degree in advertising and business. When he realized flying a desk was not for him, he looked to the trades and found his niche. Bentley enjoys mountain biking in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness and the wonderful trails that surround Knoxville, and camping with his son, daughter, and wife Jessica. 


Name: Karly Stribling

Business: Soil & Steel

Karly Stribling Soil & Steel

How did you get started as a designer/maker?

I started welding in the nineties after a local sculptor came to our high school looking for apprentices. I later decided to focus on sculpture in college where I really fell in love with blacksmithing and metal fabrication. I worked many side jobs as I was getting my shop established, but am happy to now work metal daily. 

What do you make, and how?

I make whatever is needed, really. Most but not all of my work has a functional aspect to it. But whatever it is -- railings, lighting, furniture, etc. -- I try to always give my work an artistic touch that is unique and takes my products beyond your usual metal work. I have a shop on our property that isn't anything fancy, but meets all my needs and gives me a daily thrill every morning I walk in.

Where are your products offered for sale?

I generally work on commission. Someone may get in touch with a need, and I will usually come to where the piece will be located to get a sense of their style. Then I come up with a few hand-drawn designs the client can choose from and we take it from there.

Brief Bio:

Raised in Louisville, Ky., Karly Stribling has been designing and fabricating metalwork since 1998. She moved to Knoxville in 2001 and graduated with a BFA in sculpture from the University of Tennessee in 2005.

Stribling’s paintings and sculpture can be found around the city of Knoxville, as well as in commercial settings and private collections around the United States and Sri Lanka. She lives in Knoxville with her husband, RB Morris, well-known writer, musician, playwright and former Poet Laureate of Knoxville, where they both make art and are raising their daughter. 

The Maker City is the greater Knoxville-area community of makers, artists, creatives, and small-scale manufacturers and supporting entities. Led by the Mayor’s Maker Council, we create collaborative partnerships, programming, and opportunities in support of Knoxville’s maker community. For more info, visit us at Makers featured in this space can be found in The Maker City’s online directory.


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For more on where to find goods by artisans of The Maker City, please click here.