Meet Ryan-Ashley Anderson, she the founder of Smart + Becker, a Knoxville, TN bricks-and-mortar representing independent artists and makers. She is also the creator behind her jewelry collection, it is made with sustainability in mind, and her work consists mostly of hand-stitched beadwork, hand-cut salvaged leather, silk, and semi-precious stones.
Tell us about your favorite product from your collection.
My current fave is a blouse collaboration between myself and Grace Engel of Phlox. I created the shirt pattern and sew all the shirts, and she embroiders them! It’s incredibly comfortable, breezy, reversible, and one size.
What has been the most surprising aspect of starting a business?
It’s really hard keeping track of receipts and mileage! And, as a maker, I have to really be strict with myself about not spending more time creating than fulfilling the administrative needs of my business. That’s a hard thing to do. “Making” has always been my way of dealing with stress, and it’s the admin stuff that causes me stress! It takes a lot of discipline to tell myself, “No, you can’t make jewelry today. You have to do inventory instead.”
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I allow myself to start my morning slowly. I put the water on, take the dog out, brew the coffee, then sit in bed sipping while I work on business-related emails. Because I’m comfy, it doesn’t feel like work, and doing it before I leave the house helps me fully focus on my storefront during the day.
What is your dream project? If there were no restrictions on time or money what would you create?
I would travel the country, speaking to high school students as a creative mentor / motivator. I think the key to world peace is loving each other, and the key to loving each other is valuing ourselves. And I think the key to valuing ourselves lies in learning to find value in ourselves — our very hands and bodies — regardless of outside validation. Learning to make something with your hands and ‘practicing’ creativity helps create that value and self-confidence. Teens rarely get the opportunity to be vulnerable and just explore themselves and the world and I’d love to help give them permission to do that more. Learning to find value in myself through creativity really saved me and I know it could save others.
Who or what inspires you and your creative process?
My maternal grandmother Arlene Smart and now-deceased Great-grandmother, Hedwig Becker. They inspired and encouraged me and the creative habits they helped instill in me carried me through some of the toughest times in my life. It’s incredible being able to create something out of nothing — something both of them did both literally and metaphorically (especially, Hedwig as a first generation immigrant) — and the desire to lead a sustainable, creative life keeps me going.
Find Smart + Becker at the upcoming May 5th Patchwork Market at Fullsteam Brewery!