Nashville is the Music City, Chattanooga is Gig City, and Knoxville is now known as The Maker City. Each got its reputation over time based on what people came to understand as a defining trait of that region.
Knoxville has a long history of makers – dating back from native inhabitants and diverse peoples of Appalachia to modern day manufacturers and creatives. But what exactly is a maker? What makes a “maker city”? And of the several maker cities in the country, how has Knoxville come to be known as THE Maker City?
Let’s start with makers: a maker is a person that makes or produces something creative or that they may have even invented, using either traditional crafts or technology. From food and beverage to macrame, photography to pottery, leatherwork to letterpress; the categories of different types of makers are broad and the levels at which they work are varied.
To qualify as a maker city, a municipality must be a hub of innovation and ingenuity. It requires collaboration between makers and local government and builds creative culture while simultaneously boosting the economy. A maker city must be rich in resources and open to experiment and change. Makers aid in shaping the city. This type of environment brings like-minded individuals together to work towards the greater good.
Knoxville has all these components to be a successful maker city, but a specific series of events and actions are what brought it to become known as such.
In 2016, when the country was kicking off an initiative to build a nation of makers, three creative leaders from Knoxville were invited to take part in the first Etsy Maker Cities Summit in Brooklyn. At this Summit, attendees from Knoxville joined 12 other cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Little Rock, and Memphis to discuss new ideas and best practices in revitalizing rural and urban spaces through creative entrepreneurship, public policy, redefining manufacturing, and maker spaces.
From that conference, Knoxville’s Maker City initiative was created and the Mayor's Maker Council formed. Recognized by Etsy as the first “Etsy Maker City” in the US, and since branded as “The Maker City”, Knoxville has risen to be seen as a leader in the maker movement.. Today, The Maker City is the greater Knoxville-area community of makers, artists, creatives, and small-scale manufacturers and supporting entities. Led by the appointed Mayor’s Maker Council and facilitated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center – The Maker City builds equity in our creative economy by fostering relationships between makers and consumers, by building networks of public, technological, and financial resources, and by creating educational opportunities and partnerships.
Featuring over 400 local makers, The Maker City Directory hosts new makers alongside seasoned experts such as Paris Woodhull, A New Hue, Pretentious Glass Co., Cold Gold, Marc Nelson Denim, and Honeymouth in a location that is easy to shop and find inspiration from. Retail locations that house local makers are also listed throughout. Rala: Regional and Local Artisans, Jacks of Knoxville, the Maker Exchange, and The Knoxville Visitors Center are well worth a visit, as well as Maker spaces like Able Trade, Mighty Mud, and Knox Makers that provide necessary tools and open up opportunities for the collaboration of creative minds.
These people and places are integral to Knoxville’s culture of making, and we can’t wait for you to meet them, experience their art, and take their creations home Welcome to Knoxville, THE Maker City.