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 introduces three area makers who excel at making funky, quirky crafts.​

Octopus Baad Hatter jacket

Sonja Oswalt, Baad Hatter 

Sonja Oswalt mermaid hat

How did you get started as a hatmaker/wool felter?
In 2013 I lost my 18-year-old terrier mix to old age. My three-year-old son was devastated. I saw a little kit in the craft store for needle-felting a dog that looked like my Biscuit,  bought it, and made a really, really bad little felted dog for my son. He loved it and I was hooked. I sought out every resource I could find to teach myself this wonderfully tactile art form.

What do you make, and how?
I make any and everything that can be achieved with a handful of wool fiber. It’s versatile and can be used for 3-D sculptures, 2-D portraits, or wearables like hats, scarves, dresses and tops.

I use two felting methods. The sculptures are created by poking using loose wool roving with barbed needles thousands of times to tangle and shape the fibers. I also wet-felt with loose wool, soap and water, entangling the fibers to create durable fabrics and pictures.

Hats are fun because with one small accessory you can not only change your look, you can change who you are. Want to be a witch, a wizard, a gangster? Grab a hat!

Where are your products offered for sale?
I receive a lot of commissions for pet replicas, specialty hats for events like the Atlanta Dogwood Art Festival or historic reproductions, and 2-D landscape art. Also, visit and 

Brief Bio:
Sonja Oswalt was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She moved to Chattanooga at the age of two, then on to Knoxville where she attended the University of Tennessee for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She lives in Knoxville with her husband, 10-year-old son, 4 dogs, and 5 poison dart frogs.

Blanket Fort Studio Artwork Blanket Fort Studio Artwork

Kendra Barth, Blanket Fort Studio

Kendra Barth

How did you get started as a maker of quirky, fun art? 
I’ve always made things and been creative. As a designer I’ve made art for other people for a long time, but have really hit my stride in the past few years selling my own work.

What do you make, and how?
Quirky, colorful pottery, illustrations, paintings and prints -- all of it handmade by me. I have a childlike curiosity about the world and a love of all things silly and colorful, so my style is fun, goofy, naive, eclectic and unique. I love to learn and express myself through new mediums, and I make what I love to see. My goods are a visual reminder to enjoy the little things around us, and to love how colorful life is.

Where are your products offered for sale?
I sell locally at various markets and Rala, and have a studio here in Knoxville at Mighty Mud. Also, check and Keep an eye on my Instagram for where I will be next!

Brief bio:
Kendra Barth was born in McAllen, Texas. She attended West Texas A and M University and graduated magna cum laude with a BFA in Graphic Design. She met her husband in college and his job as a meteorologist took them to East Tennessee, where he worked for the National Weather Service and she did freelance design, with art on the side. They live in Strawberry Plains with their three-year-old daughter, Hazel.

Master Repurposers necklace Master Repurposers Artwork

Deb Meritsky and Marc RotmanMaster Repurposers

Deb Meritsky and Marc Rotman

How did you get started as a repurposer/reimaginer?
As young kids, we both individually learned the importance of finding value in all of the things around us, whether on a shelf at home or an object in the dirt by the side of the road. This perspective on value has at its surface ingrained in us the importance of “recycle, reuse, and repurpose,” but at its core it has taught us to see the intrinsic value in items that have been discarded or thought to be expendable.  We focus our creative energies on utilizing all manner of objects in our work, which in turn reinforces the one-of-a-kind nature of the results.

What do you make and how?
We create unconventional art in several mediums including mixed media, stained glass, and handcrafted jewelry using distinctive repurposed, found and recycled items. Often an individual element such as color, shape or texture will inspire the design of a piece. For instance, vintage chandelier crystals are incorporated into stained glass; reclaimed computer hard drive rings, combined with miscellaneous hardware, become jewelry; vintage buttons or old slate roof tiles show up in mixed media compositions. The interesting and nearly endless supply of second-hand materials keeps us interested.

Where are your products offered for sale?
Several local Knoxville Makers’ markets, like Old City Market, the Sustainable Future Center Maker Market, and Sunday in Old Sevier.  You can buy directly from our Fountain City Studio, and on our website, We love engaging with the community through “hands-on” classes offered in the studio. And we have upcoming month-long exhibits at the Arts & Culture Alliance in August, Awaken Coffee in September opening with the First Friday event, and October at the Fountain City Library.

Brief bio:
Originally from Cleveland, OH, Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman met while volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She holds a degree from New England Culinary Institute, and created and ran My Personal Chef, Inc., a personal chef service; he graduated from Kent State University with an interior design degree and a business minor. The couple ran the Black Sheep Inn and Spa in the Finger Lakes region of New York for 13 years, after a six-year renovation of the historic building. In 2013 they launched Finger Lakes Art, Vintage, Old and Repurposed (F.L.A.V.O.R.) Studio. They’ve both made stuff since the mid-90s, and after they sold their B & B around the same time that the pandemic hit, decided to move to East Tennessee and concentrate on their new business, Master Repurposers.