Tennessee Pewter: The Legacy Lives On
by Anna Cooper and Ciara Potter
From the very beginning, Tennessee Pewter has been about passing down their legacy through the generations. Kathleen Armour Walker said, “I definitely believe in the quality of the product and the heirloom value of the product, that it’s something where once you receive it, you definitely keep it forever,” and that passion shows in their product. Kathleen is the owner and lead designer of Tennessee Pewter. Along with her father, Jim Armour, Kathleen creates stunning pieces made from pewter, a metal made from tin, copper, and antimony. Kathleen said, “I handle cradle to grave.” In other words, there are items for someone at any stage of life. They have many unique items that vary from size and shape, everything from Christmas ornaments, Mint Julep cups, and elegant tea services, to antler candle holders. When showing the items her company has to offer, Kathleen told us,“We really pride ourselves on trying to have something for everybody. It’s really important to us that we don’t exclude anybody.” Which is why Tennessee Pewter creates custom items for any lifestyle and any price range. She went on to tell us that her demographic contains everything from people who are 50 plus to new mothers. Kathleen explained “we also have bridal parties, mom’s who want baby cups, and guys that like the deer antler candle holders. People want handcrafted, made in America and they’re willing to pay for that quality.” Kathleen then added,“Some of the biggest customers are the ladies that just text us their orders!” Customers don’t just come from our area, orders are shipped to Europe, and all over the United States.
The legacy of Tennessee Pewter has a lot to do with the fact that both Kathleen and Jim know how to make the Pewter and strive to make it something beautiful because this is their passion. They use two majorly different manufacturing processes for making it, casting and spinning. The processes take a lot of time, for instance, a pitcher can take up to two or three days! This legacy of hard work and dedication is something that they pride themselves on, Kathleen and Jim will often stay up all night to finish an order, spending days before holidays to make sure the job gets done and Christmas presents arrive on time. “It is a nasty job.” Kathleen smiled as she added, “I think the joy of taking something from a raw material to a beautiful item is really neat. Not everybody wants to do this for a living. This is a total labor of love.”
Speaking of the labor of love, there’s also a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes to bring this high quality, handcrafted, made in America product. As Kathleen took Cypress on a tour of the office and her workshop, she explained how Tennessee Pewter came into her care. The company has been around since 1973, yet Kathleen has owned it since 2008. “There are very few pewter companies because the tools are so old,” Kathleen explained,“When someone becomes ill or passes away, that’s when the company changes hands. Pewter companies absorb tooling from other pewter companies. You just wouldn’t go out and start a new pewter company. It would be nearly impossible.” When showing us the tools of the trade, we learned that Tennessee Pewter has handmade bronze molds that are around two or three hundred years old. She added, “We just knew we wanted to keep the product alive and in West Tennessee,” and she has done just that.