Smoky Mountain Artists Transform Crafts into Thriving Business

Buckhorn Ridge Studios in Athens, Tenn., combines the work and gallery spaces of Paula Marksbury and Jim McGie. These award-winning artists design original works for clients across the country. The GoPayment Blog recently talked with Marksbury about her kiln-formed art glass and McGie’s handmade rocking chairs.

GoPayment: How did Buckhorn Ridge Studios come about?

Marksbury: Jim and I have been artist friends for some time now. We chose my log home in east Tennessee as our business location, built an additional studio, and got to work. I specialize in unique fused-glass designs, drawing inspiration from the Tennessee hills and things that I love, like vibrant places, colorful fabrics, and powerful works of art.

What are “fused-glass designs”?

I take sheets of glass, cut them, form designs, and then fire them in a kiln. Each piece is usually fired three times. During the last firing, I make a shape out of the glass by slumping it over a form. Although I craft functional pieces like bowls, plates, and platters, I’m also drawn to larger, multidimensional, one-of-a-kind art sculptures designed for walls, tables, floors, and architectural installments. I’m best known for wall pieces, but I do lots of commissioned work, such as windows and light fixtures.

And Jim makes rocking chairs using only traditional hand-tools?

Jim is an Appalachian craftsman who still works by the old ways of Smoky Mountain woodworkers. Each rocker is signed and dated and has a hand-rubbed finish. His rockers are the centerpiece of many collections, including the permanent collection of the Tennessee State Museum. As he likes to say, “I’m not as concerned about selling my rocking chairs as I am making sure they will be given the same love and affection that I have given them.”

How do you spread the word about your business?

We participate in juried art fairs across the country, from New York to Texas to Florida and everywhere in between. Our numerous awards (such as Best of Show at the Dogwood Arts Festival in Knoxville and Best in Art at the Mecca Fine Arts & Crafts Festival in Carrollton, Ga.) help attract interest. In addition to our website, we use mailing lists to notify previous clients when we will be in their area. My work is featured in a museum and gallery in Knoxville, and we’ve built up a word-of-mouth reputation.

How does GoPayment fit in?

GoPayment really saved us on the bottom line. Our previous credit-card machine collected information, but it had to be downloaded later with a phone landline. The reporting from the credit-card company wasn’t easy to read and didn’t provide much information, so we could only hope that our credit-card transactions went through. With GoPayment, we use our iPhones to complete transactions in real-time. When we’re ready to look at our reports, the data is accurate and easy to sort. Deposit time is quick and comes at a very reasonable cost. GoPayment is the best move we’ve made for card processing and business reporting.

What’s ahead for Buckhorn Ridge Studios?

We’re always looking for new ways to market ourselves, though we don’t aspire to being more than a mom-and-pop kind of operation. One avenue of growth we’re considering is opening an internet shop as part of a larger internet gallery. We plan to stay small and lean, but always want to be ready to take advantage of bigger and better opportunities.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
This entry was posted in Spotlight Stories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>