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Local Bowtie Maker Knotzland Expands Into Wilkinsburg

On today's program: A Homewood-born bowtie company is getting love from celebrities and yinzers alike; how risk managers assess the coronavirus; what happened when a Puerto Rican family bought a home in an exclusionary neighborhood; and local teachers share how they talk to kids about racism.

Credit Courtesy of Nisha Blackwell / Knotzland
Nisha Blackwell founded Knotzland in Homewood after the search for the perfect birthday gift inspired her to use a long-ignored sewing machine still sitting in its box. The company has since expanded to a store front and showroom on the border between Regent Square and Wilkinsburg.

  Entrepreneur Nisha Blackwell puts 'knotz' on display
(00:00 — 12:54)

When The Confluence first spoke to the entrepreneur behind Knotzland bowties in 2018, founder Nisha Blackwell said she was still adjusting to the idea that she was really running a company.

These days, Knotzland is shipping out artisan bows by the dozens from its new space on South Trenton Avenue in Wilkinsburg, as well as local shops like Make + Matter, Shop PG&H and Love, Pittsburgh. Founded in 2015, Knotzland centers salvaged and sustainable material to create unique designs for all occasions.

Her work is currently on display as part of the Frick Museum’s “Maker & Muse” collection and Concept Art Gallery’s “Origins” show. Blackwell will participate in panel discussions related to each on March 25 and March 28, respectively.

Coronavirus could leave a mark on local businesses
(14:54 — 19:24)

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County, but the number of suspected cases in other parts of Pennsylvania continues to rise. As local employers limit travel, update their cleaning policies and in some cases, cancel conferences, Schneider Downs IT risk advisor Eric Fair weighs in on which sectors he thinks should be most concerned. 

Breaking down the walls of a neighborhood
(19:25 — 26:33)

Only a few roads lead in and out of Philadelphia's Bridesburg neighborhood, giving it the feel of a quiet, urban cul-de-sac six miles from Center City. But the mostly white neighborhood also takes pride in its reputation for keeping out the rest of the world.

For Keystone Crossroads’ Embedded 2020 series, Max Marin spoke with a Puerto Rican family that recently moved in about how their neighbors have and haven't welcomed them

Local teachers use art to practice tough conversations
(26:36 — 31:18) 

A group of educators have been meeting for more than two years to practice what they call uncomfortable conversations so they feel prepared for future interactions in the classroom. The workshops, held at the Carnegie Museum of Art, use prompts inspired by the artworks to talk about issues like race.

WESA’s Sarah Schneider reports that the workshops allow teachers to resolve ignorances and challenge ideas while embracing the discomfort they might bring. 

90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque contributed to this program. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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