A Troy University teacher and Troy alumnus are the owners of a bottling company, a business they started with one goal in mind – having fun.
Greg Skaggs is an art professor at Troy and Walter Black is a local artist. Their company, Killer Robot Studio, is the product of their creativity and has been in business for four years, becoming an independent LLC within the last two.
“Walter and I were trying to find a way to collaborate on a project,” Skaggs said. “Walter is a Troy graduate and an extremely talented ceramicist and sculptor.
“After many ideas, we ended up with a Troy, Alabama, twist on a moonshine jug.”
The two soon developed a way to make a label using a laser cutter and designed a series of jugs. Their first introduction to the public was selling their bottles and jugs at Troy Fest about four years ago.
“They sold out quick,” Skaggs said. “We knew we had something special.
“The business kind of fell into our lap. We had to make sure Killer Robot Studio was square with taxes, so an LLC seemed the best way to go.
“It’s a lot of work and lots of late hours. We now have two part-time assistants that help with production.”
The studio is located outside Troy’s downtown square at the Henderson-Black Grocery Warehouse and the company has grown from a small-town business to working with companies from outside the area.
“From that experience, we were approached to make jugs for people, which eventually led to sending prototypes to distilleries. We sell to Key West Distillery and to Chattanooga Whiskey Company. A few others with limited numbers.
“The distillery in Key West has been quite a partnership. It’s a very creative group and always interested in new ideas. They are a rare client to have and pretty much give us a lot of creative freedom.”
The company produces all different kinds of bottles, ranging from antique-looking bottles to ones in the shape of a bull’s head, conch shells and potions. Skaggs said the bull head bottles were some of his favorite pieces.
According to Skaggs, owning a business was never in the plans for him.
“(It wasn’t), not really,” he said. “Walter has more of a background in business than I do.”
Black’s father is a businessman, so he had the knowledge and experience to make the idea a reality. Skaggs said that he has done freelance design work for many years, but he never quantified it as a business.
The name, Killer Robot Studio, came from the artists’ shared love of B movies – low budget movies, especially ones made for use as a companion to the main attraction in a double feature.
“Killer Robot Studio sounds like an epic B movie,” Skaggs said.
Skaggs is an active artist who has shown his work throughout the South, Southwest and internationally. His work has been featured nationally in New American Drawings and regionally in Drawing on Alabama, both showcased up-and-coming talent from the United States and throughout the South.
He has also had shows in Sweden and Canada, as well as having collaborated with artists from England and Germany.
“In some ways (this business is an extension of my art),” Skaggs said. “Walter throws the jugs, but I have made a handful of hand-built jugs.
“These works have been shown at the Alabama Contemporary Arts Center in Mobile and at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. I plan to work in clay in the future. I never liked working in clay because I don’t like getting my hands dirty, oil paint is another story, but this work has helped me move past that.”
More than anything, Skaggs said he wanted to have fun with this company, and so far he and his business partner have been doing just that.