Handcrafted America

A look at the impacts of a production just passing through.

There’s a lot of talk about film and TV productions that are based out of Louisiana, but not as much about those that pass through — taking advantage of local talent and promoting our state in the process.

One such project came through New Orleans in mid-February, a TV show called “Handcrafted America.” The award-winning series is currently filming its third season of half hour shows that each spotlight three local artisans that make practical, usable products the old-fashioned way: with their own two hands.

The show is hosted by Jill Wagner (former host of the show “Wipeout,” and one of the stars of the TV series “Teen Wolf”).

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Wagner said she’s been to Louisiana for fun, but never on the job. On this trip, she said she was excited to film with three Louisiana artists. The production spent one day filming in Sunset, Louisiana, where Wagner worked with Tee Don, the artist behind Key of Z Rubboards washboards, a company started by Tee Don’s father, Willie Landry. Landry’s — and now Tee Don’s — creations have been the industry standard for washboards since 1946.

From Sunset, the crew of seven from the show’s production company — Susie Films, based out of Charlotte, North Carolina — traveled to New Orleans where they spent two days shooting at two different shops.

The first was Skimmer Studio (1241 Frenchmen St.), where artist Ross Lunz makes stools from salvaged items he found following Hurricane Katrina like license plates and street signs.

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The second was Derby Pottery and Tile (2029 Magazine St.), where Mark and Anne Marie Derby craft tiles inspired by the Victorian era, along with reproductions of New Orleans water meter covers and letter tiles found in city sidewalks.

Anne Marie Derby said Derby Pottery has attracted customers from around the globe over the past 17 years, but she is hopeful that the estimated more than 10 million viewers of Handcrafted America will result in further exposure for their creations, especially the street tiles that were featured on the show.

“The street tiles are recognized as a cultural icon throughout the city but I think they also resonate in other places,” she said. “It would be such a thrill to see them used in other sidewalks and home street numbers around the country.”

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Wagner said she loved shooting in Louisiana, and particularly in New Orleans. “It’s definitely one of my favorite cities,” she said. “It’s so filled with creativity and craftspeople that we could literally do a whole season here.”

Handcrafted America’s Director of Photography, Bill Ward, said the show had no problem finding local talent to fill their needs. “We hired local for everything from audio and gaffer, production assistant, second cameraman and hair and makeup.”

Handcrafted America runs on a basic cable network called INSP that features “programs with inspiring stories that honor timeless, traditional values and celebrate the American spirit.” Along with a few original shows, the network runs classic shows like “Matlock,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Waltons,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

The third season of Handcrafted America debuts in August. Since each of the Louisiana-filmed segments will be included in different episodes, as of now there is no set run date for them, but Anne Marie Derby says she’ll be awaiting the day.

“Maybe we’ll have a party or something,” she said. “Fall is Art for Art’s sake, so maybe something then.”


Just a Few of the Items Created on Handcrafted America:

Golf putters

Copper kitchenware



Music boxes


Rocking horses

Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.


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