Over a hundred vendors showcased their handmade crafts in a square bordering Centennial Park at the 44th Annual Tennessee Craft Fair.
As he weaved together the colorful shaft of a broom connected to a silver flute used as its handle, Shannon Lewis shared the story of his business, Bluegrass Brooms.
Located in Ashland, Kentucky, Lewis creates handmade brooms with recycled, repurposed, and original handles made from sports equipment, musical instruments, and vintage trinkets.
“We get a lot of different things that people can relate to with an interesting design,” said Lewis. “They can find something they can use because it's meant to be functional and decorative.”
Lewis said 95% of Bluegrass Broom’s business comes from art shows, and the Tennessee Craft Fair is no exception.
The Tennessee Craft Fair is an annual opportunity for arts and craft makers to present their original pieces to fellow art lovers and the Nashville community.
The fair showcases work not just from local businesses but national businesses that have traveled to reunite with, or in the case of Flutterswine Artisan Leather, introduce themselves to Music City.
Flutterswine Artisan Leather made its way from a studio near Louisville, Kentucky. The business is run by music lovers Kristi and Steve Norris.
Steve said their main product is custom-designed guitar straps, so the couple knew they needed to bring their business to Nashville.
“We have both felt in our hearts that coming down here is going to be a game changer,” said Kristi. “I don't know what's going to happen. We just want to find those strategic partnerships and meet people that love to play and have an appreciation for leather.”
Flutterswine wasn’t the only business to bring its custom leather designs to the fair. Purple Onion Books from Brundidge, Alabama, offer hand-bound leather books for every writing need.
Owner and bookbinder Michelle McLendon said everything in Purple Onion Books starts with the paper. McLendon utilizes sustainable paper to create journals and sketchbooks ornamented with embellishments.
For Purple Onion Books, it is their first time attending the Tennessee Craft Fair, and they decided to enter the event without expectations.
"I never go to the next show with specific expectations, especially one I haven't done before,” said McLendon. “If I know the crowd and have customers, I know what to expect, but I can't really have any expectations anymore. I just want to talk to people.”
Nashville-based artist Maile Lani attends the craft fair because it allows her to connect with her local customers differently. Her self-titled business began during COVID after the former photographer began experimenting with art.
“My main series, 'the Guardians,' are all inspired by the aesthetic of space and weird sci-fi things,” said Lani.
Lani develops illustrations and paintings inspired by her family’s collection of Asian art and her love of Sci-Fi.
“I have a lot of fun with these creatures and trying to come up with names for them and personalities and just kind of like making them look like birds.”
Glassblower Thomas Spake doesn’t find his inspiration from the world beyond, but from the world around him.
“My focus is always on trying to establish my style and look for my work,” said Spake. “It's all inspired by the natural world.”
Spake, who has a studio located in Jasper, has been attending the Tennessee Craft Fair for several years. While sales focus has shifted to mostly online sales since COVID-19, Spake said he continues to attend the show because of the unique community it brings.
The Tennessee Craft Fair brings together a community of small businesses dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind crafted art and its supporters who value creative expression.