A Downtown Business Expands, Opens at a New Address

Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

As the “maker” scene spreads and expands around the city, one business that’s been around quite a while recently moved in order to expand – and they could already use more space. It seems Knoxville wants to make things in a big way. Mighty Mud recently moved from its four-year home on McCalla Avenue to its new digs at 127 Jennings Avenue in the building best known as the Lusk Body Company building.

The area, as I’ve discussed before, is sort of eaten up by “makers” of one sort or another. Just next door is Ironwood Studios where John McGilvray does his woodwork and Preston Farabow does his metalwork. Just around the corner in one direction is Maker’s Donuts. In the opposite direction a block away is Magpies and Holly’s Corner. Tomato Head’s bakery will soon be on a nearby corner. High tech printing and design is two blocks away at High Resolutions and beside that is old school printing at Striped Light. That’s not to mention the Hive.

Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

I talked to Barron Hall, owner of Mighty Mud to see what prompted the move and what’s up with the business. He bought Mighty Mud from Jessica Kortz, who he thinks was about the fourth owner. Once he purchased it, he moved it to McCalla from its previous home on Sutherland. An artist himself, he was operated Gallery 1010 for UT at the time, he wanted it to be nearer an art scene.

Originally from Auburn, Alabama, Barron grew up in Tampa, Florida. He obtained a BFA in Ceramics and Sculpture from the University of South Florida. When he was offered a full scholarship to pursue his MFA in Ceramics at UT, he moved to Knoxville in 2004, completing that degree in 2008. He worked at the Cumberland Avenue Starbucks during this time, becoming the store manager. He’s worked as an adjunct instructor at Roan State and Walter State and currently at Maryville College.

Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Glaze Shipment, Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Masks by Jacene Phillips, Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

He’s excited about the new location and has already seen a considerable increase in support. They are hosting First Friday and other events and classes are often filled. The building is leased for five years and currently includes twenty-two studio spaces – which are currently used by forty artists.

Where the old space on McCalla had about 2200 square feet, the new space is about double that. Usable space is even more of a contrast because the previous location had no storage beyond the 2200 which meant a forklift and art supplies, for example took up a good bit of that. The new location features a storage building in addition to the studio building.

The additional space was immediately filled from a waiting list and Barron is already looking at the possibility of adding more studios. Artists pay per square foot for a studio the size they need. Some artists share space. Use of kilns, wheels and glaze carries an additional cost. All artists are given a key and a code and 24/7 access.

Mighty Mud Gallery, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Mighty Mud Gallery, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Mighty Mud Gallery, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

While I wasn’t surprised to learn about that part of the business, I was interested to learn that there are additional income streams. Mighty Mud sells clay and ceramic supplies to the artists, but also to local schools and, increasingly, to college programs across the country.

They also have an on-site gallery and operate a booth at the Market Square Farmers’ Market and artists working in the gallery are selected for each based on the quality of their work. Artists get 70% of sales and Mighty Mud gets 30%. While most artists apply their earnings toward monthly rent, three are making significantly more than rent from their sales.

Work by John McRae, Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Work by John McRae, Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Work by John McRae, Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

Classes are also offered through the course of each week on such topics as Handbuilding/Sculpture, Raku Firing, Wheel Throwing and more. A Friday night “Wine and Wheel,” class is particularly popular. There are also Friday night activities and lots of other ways to get involved. Class sizes are generally small due to the nature of the topic and the constraints of the equipment.

In addition to these other sources of income, Might Mud offers the Mighty Mud Mixer. It’s a way people around the country can obtain specialty glazes to their own recipe without having to store supplies. Mighty Mud also has a list of stock glazes for sale.

Barron says that when he purchased the business, the recipes they use were manufactured by a company in California, but they went out of business last year. Recognizing a gap in what is available nationally, he made the decision to become the provider and that portion of the business looks to do very well. The company is advertising the service nationally.

Mighty Mud, 127 Jennings Avenue, Knoxville, September 2017

It’s appropriate that we feature a Maker business today, as the second Maker City Summit will be held from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM today at the Mill and Mine. But call it what you will, Knoxville and people like Barron are making things. In this case, beautiful things. And they are making our city just a little cooler in the process.

Get over to 127 Jennings and check them out. Look for them at the Market Square Farmers’ Market, “like” them on Facebook or check out their calendar for a class you might like to take. Mighty Mudd is closed Sunday and Monday, open 11;00 AM to 6:00 PM Tuesday through Friday and 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays.

Comments

  1. I’m a little behind but thanks for the mention again!

  2. Hope they keep the cool sign!

  3. I didn’t know Mighty Mud moved! It sounds like a great new space.

  4. And…no mention of Bar Marley practically across the street? Things that make you go hmmmmm.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      To be fair, it’s just down the street, but it isn’t something that I would have mentioned in a list of businesses that make things. I also didn’t mention Remedy Coffee, for example.

  5. Jessica Kortz says:

    I’m happy to see the business thriving and expanding! Just to clarify, Barron is the third owner. I had purchased Mighty Mud from the national ceramics distributor Campbell’s Ceramics. They are based in Richmond, VA and this originally was one of their satellite stores.

  6. Oren Yarbrough says:

    I’m so glad this space is being given a unique tenant to give it life!
    The space across the street has recently been cleaned up and renovated as well (The Yellow Building). The listing online for the building says it would make a good “venue space” and I quite agree. The architecture inside is amazing with an exposed structure with what look like bow trusses and a large curved roof. I personally think this would make a fantastic nightclub or a new tasting room for one of Knoxville’s more established breweries, given the architecture inside. The outdoor space is massive and would work well for a larger volume of clientele. If parking wasn’t a big issue I could even see this building being a small grocery store on par with the “Turnip Truck” in Nashville or “3 Rivers Market” right down the street. The volume is big enough for commercial retail as well, but the outdoor space is so nice I would like to see something that uses it beyond just parking.

  7. Shannon kelley says:

    Great looking business! I’ll have to check them out. Also, I love what’s been done with the old Lusk body shop; I like to just drive by there sometimes.
    I think Harvey Lusk would have loved it.

  8. Bryan Holland says:

    I’ve been renting a studio for almost 4 years at Mighty Mud, and it’s an amazing place with amazing artists. Do yourself a favor and come check us out!

  9. I love Mighty Mudd! And the Friday night Raku class is a blast, highly recommended. John McRae, who sadly just lost his wife, is a Raku genius. Glad to have all of them closer to downtown!

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