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 Rala, a shop where you can find many local and regional makers, and features painter Ryan C. Blair as one of the creatives in that space. 

Featured shop: Rala (Regional and Local Artisans) 

How did Rala get started? 
Back in 2010, our owner Nanci Solomon owned Reruns Boutique on the corner of Market Square. After witnessing the success and excitement of the newly established Market Square Farmers Market, Nanci had the idea to provide a place for local craft vendors to sell their work all year long. Thus, Rala was born! Since then, we’ve moved down to the Old City, and we’ve expanded to carry small makers from across the country. 

What types of items are available? 
We say that we specialize in creative gifts for creative people. We carry local and regional original art pieces, as well as unique cards, prints, t-shirts, ceramics, jewelry and much more. 

Who are some of the artists whose work can be found at Rala? 
Some of our most recognizable Rala “staple artists” are Cynthia Markert and Brian Pittman. However, we’ve added new artists every year since we opened, and we love to find and feature new artists for First Friday. 

We’re so grateful for all of our wonderful community of customers, artists, makers, neighbors, and friends who have supported Rala for over 12 years. We’re always striving to help grow the strong creative community in Knoxville and to continue to provide a space for local and regional artists. 

Where can people find you? 
112 W. Jackson Avenue  
@shoprala on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest 

Ryan BlairFeatured Maker:  Ryan C. Blair 

How did you get started as a painter? 
I have always been a maker but really became interested in painting as I pursued a degree in art education with an emphasis in painting in college. I worked for a business owned by Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, and had the opportunity to show early work alongside his team of artists. Several years later I had a dedicated studio space and was able to paint every day. I enjoy making what I want, and I make it for me. The colors, visual textures, lines, shapes, and subject matter excite my senses and keep me looking forward to the next day in the shop. 

What do you make and how? 
Most of my work falls into three categories: cutouts, canvas, and box sculptures. I incorporate architectural salvage, found objects and acrylic paints using a handheld jigsaw to complete my cutout pieces. My commissioned paintings vary in subject matter; however, my current work is best described as inspired by the people of Appalachia and their relationship to southern identity and culture. 

Where are your products offered for sale?   
Rala, 112 N Jackson Avenue 
The Maker Exchange at the Marriott Hotel, 525 Henley Street 

Artist Bio: 
Ryan Blair was raised in Indiana and earned his art degree from Ball State University. He has been an artist and art educator since 2001. When not in the studio, he teaches art full time to 600 local students at Claxton and Dutch Valley Elementary schools, and has twice received Teacher of the Year honors. Blair’s current work consists of paintings and mixed media pieces based on his observations and experiences of living in the South. He lives in South Knoxville with his wife, two sons and daughter. 

“As a child raised in the Midwest, we often traveled to a small East Tennessee town to spend time with family. Those early visits along with my experiences living in the South for the past twenty-five years influence the subject matter, mixing real and fictional stories, characters, attitudes, and beliefs.”