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December 14, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

Sweeping success: Amelia Galvas is Knoxville’s broomsquire

Amelia Galvas' brooms bring customers back to the 'good-ole days' when everybody made their own household broom.

Everybody has a broom story, or so Amelia Galvas says. She’s built a career as a broomsquire based on connecting with people through her company Aviary Broom Co.

Broom making is somewhat of a lost art. Some people may remember and appreciate their grandparents’ old, home-made broom, but many of the newer generations don’t understand the artistry. It is Galvas’ mission to keep the broom making tradition alive.

She wasn’t always a broomsquire. Galvas taught in Michigan for about seven years before moving to Knoxville. She was an art teacher at a Montessori and at the Urban League. When she moved south, Galvas picked up the craft of broom-making during an impromptu apprenticeship.

“I met a man who made brooms 25 years ago, and he expressed wanting to pass down the tradition to an apprentice. I asked him, ‘What about me?’ And, now here I am six years later,” she said.

Galvas wanted to take the traditional method and add a modern flare. She started experimenting with new grass dies, ties, materials, and broom sticks.

“There was a whole group of older, traditional broom makers and I brought in dozens of samples of my work. Some of my brooms had rainbow dyed grasses, palms from palm trees as the bristles, just crazy, fun stuff,” she said. “To my surprise, they all loved it. They thought it was a modern, contemporary take on a traditional artistry.”

Galvas has been a broomsquire ever since.

There are many methods to making brooms. Now a days, broom makers can purchase an electric kick winder for thousands of dollars. They put the grass in, and it pops out a woven broom. However, Galvas prefers to do it the old fashioned way. She separates the grass called ‘broom corn’, uses a spindle on the floor, and knots it all by hand. It takes about 45 minutes for her to do each broom.

The process is very personal for her, which is why she is very keen to do in-person markets to meet the people who purchase the brooms.

“I like to think that each broom has a little personality. So does each customer. When I’ll be making a broom, I may get a song stuck in my head. Then, the person that buys it may say something related to that song.  I know it’s weird to say, but the brooms really do find the right people,” she said.

Galvas has found a lot of success selling her brooms at markets. She shared that many customers come to her with stories of their childhood broom.

“I never knew brooms left so many impressions on people, until I started making brooms and having conversations with people. Everyone has a broom story, whether they know it or not,” she said.

Not only does she participate in markets, she also visits schools, teaches groups, and regularly demonstrates the craft at museums – like the Museum of Appalachia.

If you are looking for a unique holiday gift, made by a local maker, you can find Aviary Broom Co. on Etsy or Instagram.

Also, Galvas said she regularly participates in the Market Square Saturday market, so stop by and say hello!

 


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