Olivehill, Tennessee. Population 675. 15 miles east of the Tennessee River on US route 64, it’s a community defined by rolling hills and farmland in the heart of the Volunteer State, but for Joseph Riley Land, it’s his hometown and childhood. A representation of his roots, Land's line of heirloom kitchen utensils are an ode to past generations and his farm life upbringing, but above all, they are a coming to life of his dream to create “functional art” that makes cooking as enjoyable as the food itself.
Joseph grew up on an 800-acre family farm in Olivehill. “I lived the organic lifestyle before it was cool”, he told me with a laugh. He remembers as a child being confused why they ate brown eggs, thinking they couldn’t afford white ones. With the nearest grocery store 15 miles away, spontaneous meals at restaurants that many of us indulge in today were replaced with home cooked meals from scratch on a nightly basis. He loved this way of life, but as life goes, Riley was presented an opportunity to move away and continue a career as a manager at corporate brands such as Godiva and Williams Sonoma. “I was able to learn from the best— Chuck Williams (founder of WIlliams-Sonoma). I soaked up the culture of Williams when I worked there: the importance of having a voice and story to each and every product— to explain where that product came from.”
After a successful career in both retail and event planning, Joseph moved back to Tennessee. One day when visiting his mother, he noticed a new cutting board he’d never seen before. It was a stunning piece that could have only been made by a skilled woodworker, but also an artist— one who saw the importance of the utility itself, but also the timeless, enduring design. This skilled woodworker was their neighbor.
Joseph proceeded to ask the neighbor to build him a few products for his own and in the process, he had an idea: to create a marketplace with products inspired from both what he learned from the luxury lifestyle brands he worked for and rustic childhood. Riley/Land Collection was born. Described by Joseph as “functional art” that will last for generations, his rolling pins, biscuit cutters, utensils, and barware— handmade by his family farm’s longtime neighbor— are derived from the farm’s walnut, cherry, maple, and spalted hackberry trees. True to their intention, they are both beautiful and timeless— upscale, but ready for down home cooking.
“I refer to my products as new family heirlooms,” he said. “I have my grandparent’s dinner plates and their glassware in addition to antiques from my great grandparents. I think about my mom’s sugar scoop that’s been sitting in a family member’s sugar canister for 60 years. All of my siblings want that sugar scoop one day— it’s a classic piece in our house.” Land’s woodworking, like the sugar scoop, will also be passed down and coveted by generations to come.
From his humble beginnings as “the bowl guy” at Middle Tennessee fairs when he only sold one product, to now having dozens of products— one of which (the biscuit cutter) being named as a Top Christmas Gift of 2020 by Carla Hall in Food Network Magazine— Joseph Riley Land has created a great something from nothing, but that “something” is more than a livelihood; it is a testament to American craftsmanship that provides us with not only heirloom kitchen tools, but a reminder that what we use to cook and bake in the kitchen has a story as much as the food itself. For Joseph and his woodwork, it is a story that traces back to a family farm and devoted neighbor in the small rural town of Olivehill, TN, but the story can continue and evolve in your kitchen through memories made for generations to come. You can view the complete collection of products here.