Keith Neltner of Neltner Small Batch

Keith Neltner of Neltner Small Batch has made a name for himself as an exceedingly talented, hands-on artist. Working with a multitude of mediums, he offers local-minded creations that speak for themselves.

How did you start your business?
For over a decade, I worked in branding firms and ad agencies. I also sought out every opportunity I could to create on my own. I honed my illustration skills and took the brand knowledge I gained and applied it to the work I was doing—much of it was in the music industry. Working with acts like Cake, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hank III, Shooter Jennings and Alice in Chains. The process of creating this work is very hands-on, labor intensive and tactile (evolving over my career), which is apparent in the layers and textures I use. This aesthetic emerged and now I apply it across mediums, film, typography, packaging, brand development and digital.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
My family's heritage is over 150 years in Camp Springs, a small valley in the northern part of Kentucky, and I'm still active in the farm and my studio is just down the road in a newly constructed barn. Many of the influences growing up on the farm, listening to music, the textures and work ethic were engrained in me. My hands-on approach and aesthetic emerged from this background. So the idea of "brands built by hand" and the notion of physically and intellectually being a "small batch" appealed to me. The vision is to create something sustainable that we can link to core design work, the farm as a destination or ideation backdrop, and products created by Kentucky artisans to be sold through Black Mule (an NSB brand offshoot). There is a movement or "trend" toward heritage, but we didn't have to go very far—it's been under our feet and surrounding us for decades.
What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
We source everything we can locally and are committed to supporting American-made products and services. Our studio is in a barn in rural Camp Springs. Many of our collaborators are local—writers, directors, photographers and editors. All of our prints are hand pulled by the BLDG in Covington and shipped worldwide. 
What would you do differently if you started your business again?
Take some business classes. That part has been self taught, and fortunately I've had some great mentors and I have that support system in place. But there is always a shorter distance between A and Z—but I've never been one for the easy path.
What’s next for you and your company?
NSB will be releasing various small batch items this year, some of which will be apparel, pottery, fine art prints and a vinyl pressing. We're partnering with a brewery in Ann Arbor to launch Bitter Old Fecker Rustic Ales, a small, hand numbered product. Also, the new release by Shooter Jennings called "The Other Life" (now available). We're super proud to have created that package and be part of his lineage.