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 Raina Nief, Project Manager for Dogwood Arts, the Maker Exchange, and ceramicist Diahn Ott of Diahn Ott Studio.
Raina Nief - Project Manager, Dogwood Arts
Dogwood Arts isn’t just the annual festival in April. Please tell visitors to Knoxville about your organization’s year-round work to promote arts & culture in the area
Dogwood Arts has been promoting and celebrating the art, culture, and natural beauty of East TN since 1955. Today, we produce over 20 events and programs spanning the entire year: from youth art programs and emerging maker initiatives to music festivals, public art, and a vibrant Trails & Gardens program. We have something for everyone at Dogwood Arts!
What is the Maker Exchange and why is it important? Why should people make a point of visiting there?
The Maker Exchange is a vibrant hub for creativity and innovation. It provides a collaborative space where makers, artists, and entrepreneurs can come together to share resources, knowledge, and ideas. Dogwood Arts came on board to help curate the art at Maker Exchange, because it fits so well with our mission of promoting local artists and giving them a platform to sell their work. It's such an exciting space because its position between the Marriott and THE TENNESSEAN HOTEL exposes the rich talent we have in our community to a whole new audience and helps put Knoxville on the map as The Maker City. We hope locals visit Maker Exchange as well - it's a great connector from downtown to World's Fair Park and the Knoxville Convention Center. Stop by for a cup of coffee or dinner and drinks in the Tavern!
Who are some of your favorite Knoxville artists?
Andrea Larsen creates beautiful ceramic pieces that are inspired by quilt patterns and textures while creating beautiful commentary on societal issues. Douglas Lawrence has a beautiful series of bud vases that are a daily challenge of carving a vase from the same size block. Beth Meadows creates playful observations of common spaces and items. But how can I pick only a few? Knoxville is rich with talented artists, and we are lucky to get to work with many of them. (Check out the Makers index at the Maker Exchange for a full list!)
Raina Nief comes from a long line of artists. Growing up in Loudon County, she remembers her home always being filled with countless art projects. Her high school art teacher inspired her to participate in Dogwood Arts' Chalk Walk and Synergy Student Art Exhibition events. She then earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from ETSU. Coming full circle, she joined Dogwood Arts as the Visual Arts Project Manager in November of 2022. “As a young aspiring artist at Chalk Walk and Synergy, I never would have imagined that I would be a part of making these events possible for artists in our community.”
Diahn Ott of Diahn Ott Studio
How did you get started as a ceramicist/clay artist?
I have been a maker of one variety or another for most of my life and had focused on drawing and painting. After my father passed away in March of 2015, I found that I needed to shift my thinking in order to find joy in creative work again. A friend invited me to go with her to a beginning throwing class at Mighty Mud. It was exactly what I needed. I bought a pottery wheel within a few months of starting that class and got a kiln a couple of years later.
What do you make, and how?
I make primarily functional, wheel-thrown pottery, although I also play with the sculptural aspects of clay through hand-building and slip-casting. I’m an avid hiker and traveler; clay is the perfect medium to embody the beauty and inspiration I find in rocks, trees, misty mountains, wildflowers, sandy beaches, the deep green-blue water of the ocean. Every time a mug is used for morning coffee, a bowl of pasta is placed on a dinner table, or a bouquet is arranged in a vase, the joy and beauty of my world are reflected there.
Where are your products offered for sale?
Diahn Ott is a former geologist whose resumé includes working at the University of Alabama’s Natural History Museum during graduate school. While Diahn’s education was in science, her love of art has been a life-long passion, and she has spent the past 20-plus years as an artist.
“Bones of animals from millions of years ago were the obvious signs of past lives on our planet, while delicate flowers and plants of that time were rarely preserved. I love the idea of combining the two on a pot -- the ephemeral and the permanent. Working in clay has been the medium that became the junction for all my work to unite.”
She lives and works in Knoxville.