The mood inside Downtown Kingsport's Dirtwerks Clay Studio and Gallery is mellow; indie music is heard playing and trees hung with mirrored ornaments and lights break up the space and lend an artistic nod to nature. The shelves don pottery pieces, the walls paintings and Molly Noseworthy, the store's sole proprietor, a potter's apron.
The 24-year-old artist turned business entrepreneur found that her joy in life is, as she put it, “to be able to make art and sell it.”
Noseworthy, a transplant from her hometown of Gatlinburg, Tenn., apprenticed at Buie Pottery in the tourist town for four years while attending East Tennessee State University (and worked there another year). She graduated in the honors program with a visual art major and anthropology minor in May 2012; her thesis was written on “the importance of handmade items, specifically pottery, and how it can hold on to your town's heritage.”
After graduation, Noseworthy sought her own way to carry on the age-old custom of personal creation and found it in Kingsport. Not only did her sister and fiance both live in the town, but “there wasn't much pottery up here.” She decided to open up a clay studio at the corner of Commerce and East Market streets on Aug. 1, 2012.
“I think it's a nice addition to Downtown Kingsport,” Noseworthy said. “To have variety in their stores [and] not just antique malls, but to have galleries and pottery shops.”
As both both artist and single owner/operator of the business, her two roles often overlap.
Dirtwerks is half gallery, half studio - and Noseworthy spends her days exhibiting finished art at the front and sculpting new pieces of work at the back.
“I always have stuff to work on here,” she said. “This dirty half is my studio and I sit here and make stuff all day long.”
All products for sale at Dirtwerks are handmade, not ordered, and the majority of artwork, especially the pottery in the gallery, is made by Noseworthy's own hands. She also features pieces by both reknown and local underground artists. Among the art is pottery by Buie Hancock of Gatlinburg's Buie Pottery, prints by widely-acclaimed artist Jim Gray, and painted antique furniture, polymer jewelry, sculpture, figurines and paintings by local artists.
Noseworthy and former employer and pottery guru Hancock also collaborate on a line of “critter jars.” Hancock throws the clay body of an animal and Noseworthy sculpts it into a uniquely animated piece (often in the visage of a customer's pet at their request). The tops of the jars are removable and, as with everything made in the store, they're “fully-functional.”
“It's [the handmade items are] all dishwasher-, oven- and microwave safe,” Noseworthy explained.
Custom orders are encouraged, but so is one's self-expression. Noseworthy teaches wheel-throwing classes and even rents out equipment and studio space for those advanced enough to sculpt on their own.
In the future, she plans to teach some non-wheel and kid-friendly classes and create even more products herself - translating to an even busier schedule. But Noseworthy wouldn't change a thing.
“I want to be able to give people a piece of art that I've made that they can use and that way keeping along with the tradition of handmade items,” she said.
Dirtwerks is located at 119 E. Market Street in Downtown Kingsport. For more information, visit http://www.dirtwerksclaystudio.com or call 423-765-2194.