River City is excited to bring you a monthly series featuring some of our amazing artisans who sell their goods at River City! We wanted to showcase those who work tirelessly to perfect their craft and bring you a quality product that will last you for years to come. Hopefully, this will show a small glimpse of what goes into each product you buy, all while supporting a maker, their family, and your community! Here are a few of their stories:
PRETENTIOUS BEER GLASS CO. • KNOXVILLE, tennessee
• by Madison Snodgrass • videography by Uproxx •
Matthew Cummings is a successful small business owner and artist with a humble beginning. He is the owner of The Pretentious Beer Glass Co., creating unique, high-quality beer glasses to accent the goodness of craft beer in Knoxville, Tennessee. He also owns and operates The Pretentious Beer Co., a brewery also located in Knoxville. Patrons are served beverages in handmade glasses that define the taste of the drink and overall experience at The Pretentious Beer Co.
As a member of a small drinking club, Matthew was challenged to create a custom beer glass for each member of the group. After creating mind-blowing custom beer glasses for his friends, he noticed the shortage of unique, quality beer glasses on the market. Matthew spent the next six months designing intricate glasses and opened Pretentious Beer Glass Co. as a solution to the lack of exceptional beer glasses available. The glasses are created in Matthew Cummings Studios in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Mathew also creates elaborate glass blown sculptures.
Matthew attended college with the intention of becoming an architect, but his undiscovered love for glass blowing and beer would soon pull him in another direction. He signed up for a glass blowing class in college as an elective, and immediately became passionate about the material.
“The intense heat, physicality, and team work required in glass blowing all resonate with me.”
The Pretentious Beer Glass Co. has been in business for over five years. The company currently offers twenty different varieties of glasses, each designed to complement the complexity and diversity of craft beer. Matthew estimates that about two hundred new designs each year are created and tested, starting with a sketch and ending with a new beer glass. He handles all the designing and prototyping. Four other glass blowers help him fulfill orders, keep the shelves full at the shop, and keep The Pretentious Beer Co. brewery stocked with homemade glasses.
“Glass blowing is the definition of rapid prototyping. But glass has its own voice, and you have to let the material guide you.”
When asked what kind of materials are required for making a beer glass, Matthew replied, “silica, natural gas, and stubbornness!” Matthew begins the process with molten glass at 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass is shaped with the help of a wooden block and a deep breath, for both focus and the glass blowing process. Matthew blows a bubble into the glass to start the final part of the process of shaping. Wooden and metal tools are used to create the final shape of the glass, and the maker is constantly checking the temperature to ensure the best outcome. If the glass cools too much, it'll crack. If it gets too hot, it's fold in and the shape will fall apart. Matthew and his team work hard to create beautiful products despite the many obstacles involved in glass blowing.
The best-selling items change with the seasons, as different kinds of craft beers become popular. An overall customer favorite includes the aromatic glass- an item that sells out quickly at River City. This glass features a unique, mountain-like middle that protrudes upwards in the glass. Matthew claims that this glass was a challenge, and he tried several different images before deciding on the final design. While this glass makes a bold statement visually, there’s a technical design behind the beauty.
“The idea behind the aromatic glass was to create additional surface area that would cause friction and turbulence in the beer and maintain the foamy head,” Matthew explains.
Matthew stays busy with the brewery and perfecting the art of pretentious beer glass making. He plans on spending more time working with glass sculptures, creating large scale art for businesses and public spaces. He receives many custom order requests for glasses and larger glass work. Matthew is looking forward to starting a sculpture for a university that will stand twenty-five feet tall, his biggest project yet. River City is proud to carry products made by The Pretentious Beer Glass Co., and is delighted to bring these exciting beer glasses from Knoxville, Tennessee to Evansville, Indiana.
Check back next month to find out more about our makers!
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SMITH & HIDE leather goods • evansville, indiana
• by Madison Snodgrass • videography by Thomas Bernardin •
The holidays are upon us, and shoppers are seeking high quality, ethically made products that loved ones can enjoy for a lifetime. With these demands, it’s no surprise that Christian South-Alderson was thrown into business when he saw a need for quality and locally made leather goods. Christian is an outdoorsman, a husband, a father of three, and the owner of the renowned leather goods company, Smith and Hide.
Based in Evansville, Indiana, Smith and Hide began when Christian made his signature tote bags for his family at Christmastime.
“I made one for my wife and a few more for close family members with no intention of making more. After a lot of positive feedback, I decided to make a few to sell. It kind of snowballed from there.”
After brainstorming with his wife April, Christian began offering a variety of leather goods under the business name Smith and Hide in the summer of 2011. Christian set up a leather workshop in his garage. Business picked up tremendously in 2012, and in the early months of 2013, Smith and Hide opened an online store.
Most of Smith and Hide’s products started out as custom orders for local shoppers who wanted a specific product but didn’t want to compromise on the quality. He recalls the first baseball glove wallet he made. A local woman challenged Christian to make something useful from her son’s old baseball glove, allowing him to keep his childhood keepsake with him everywhere. The baseball glove wallet is now a signature item in Smith and Hide’s collection.
Recently, Smith and Hide began offering leather key chains fashioned after elephants, horses and other animals. They’re perfect for gift giving and they help Christian cut back on waste.
“I’m constantly trying to figure out how to utilize my waste down to the smallest piece, so I have come up with a few products to solve that problem. With smaller pieces of leather I make travel chess sets, key covers, and the newest addition: leather animals.”
While ten percent of Smith and Hide’s high quality leather is from Italy, Christian primarily uses leather from tanneries in the United States. He orders the bulk of his leather from tanneries located in Illinois, Missouri, Maine and Pennsylvania. In addition to creating leather goods, he also purchases and resells leather tools and equipment dating from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.
“Over the past six years, several thousand tools have passed through my hands, hopefully being put back into use.”
Christian plans to fully incorporate hand forged steel into his work over the next few years. He also aims to offer larger, more challenging products such as duffel bags and durable outdoor gear. River City is proud to have Smith and Hide as a maker in our shop. From unique wallets to adorable animal keychains, Smith and Hide has something for the whole family this holiday.