The Art of Sleeping on The Factory Floor

Materia Designs's centerpiece was made of reclaimed chestnut.

Materia Designs’s centerpiece was made of reclaimed chestnut.

AT THE BROOKLYN DESIGN SHOW LAST WEEKEND this beautiful bed was practically a show-stopper for Brooklyn Artisan: We wanted to kick off our boots and lie right down in the calm surround of the Materia Designs booth. Manners prevailed, however, so remaining upright, we talked with owner/designer and craftsman Matthew Enser of Materia Designs.

The accents of black metal wrapping the bedposts made of reclaimed chestnut added a touch of elegance to the spare design with its handsomely mortised lattice headboard. The booth also showed good-looking three legged lamps, a sweet rocking horse, some chairs, an eye-catching striped storage bench, and more. A beautiful complement were the graphic textiles selected and/or designed by Megan Sommerville, Matthew’s partner. The confident metal zippers on the reading pillows came off looking industrially chic rather than scratchy or snaggy.

So…Kerhonkson?, we asked (thinking, Bless you!). Right outside of Kingston, he said, a little ways up the Hudson. Not Brooklyn?, we pushed. “Oh, Materia Designs used to be in Brooklyn,” Matthew assured us, “we love Brooklyn.” Before Brooklyn Artisan could probe about whether cost was a factor in the move, Ensner explained: “We were driving up that way, and—well, we fell in love with a big barn.” Enough said.

More Brooklyn Artisan coverage of the recent show: Alexandra Ferguson profile and The Factory Floor: Meet the Makers, overview by Bruce A. Campbell.  The Factory Floor is part of artisan-friendly Industry City within the Bush Terminal complex in Sunset City, Brooklyn.

‘Done Is Better Than Perfect’ Proves It’s a Winner’s Slogan

Alexandra Ferguson started small on etsy.com but now it's her full-time career.

Alexandra Ferguson started small on etsy.com but now it’s her full-time career. She has more ideas in the pipeline and at least one already in production.  (Photo: Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

INSPIRED BY  Bruce Campbell’s report, yesterday another Brooklyn Artisan team visited the design show at The Factory Floor (Industry City, 241 37th Street in Sunset Park, just across from Costco), and there encountered Alexandra Ferguson, about whom we’d written earlier. Hers  would easily win a “Cheeriest Booth” award, with its colorful pillows enticingly arranged. You could almost hear the mental clicks of recognition as visitors to the show read them, nudged their companions, pointing out favorites to each other.

As Alexandra has recounted in her blog, she started her business in 2009 just about on a whim and a dime, posting on etsy.com a few pillows she’d made and expected to give friends as surprises. Business plan? Nada. Capitalization? Ditto. “Done is Better Than Perfect” was her slogan.

Sales were great, so she added more designs—sticking to environmentally friendly materials, of course—and her business grew and grew until it became her full-time livelihood. She moved it out of her apartment and into Mom’s garage in Westchester.

Alexandra Ferguson: The Business has taken another great leap upward, Alexandra (the person) says. Last summer she had four people working for her, but now to keep up with fall and holiday demand, she has added nine more employees. Her office and production space? Right here in Industry City. She moved it back to Brooklyn in July of this year. There are new product ideas, too. A makeup case, for instance.

Brooklyn Artisan had to ask: Where did she get her mantra? From Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In, Alexandra said. And yes, we couldn’t resist; we told the story of originating the “Done is better than perfect” saying at Redbook magazine in 1979. You can read that backstory here.

Until we were starting Brooklyn Artisan, we had no idea the quote had gone viral. Cool.

Anne Mollegen Smith is editor and publisher of brookyn-artisan.net, and is a former editor-in-chief of Redbook, Working Woman, McCall’s, and the Art of Simple Living. 

The Factory Floor: Meet Makers This Weekend

FURNITURE TAKES THE STAGE at The Factory Floor in Industry City in Sunset Park. The ground-floor venue is a former industrial space newly converted to showcase local design work. Sponsored by Industry City, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, The Pratt Center for Community Development and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, The Factory Floor is presenting primarily Brooklyn furniture makers, designers and builders. Last weekend’s show coincided with the Sunday opening of the Coming Together: Surviving Sandy art exhibit in the adjacent building. If you are interested in the art and craft of design, this is the weekend to make it out to 241 37th Street, Sunset Park, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 6pm. Bring the kids, Construction Kids has set aside an area where they can build their own objets d’art.

Here are a few highlights from Brooklyn Artisan’s visit:

Annie Evelyn at New Colony Furniture takes hard materials and makes soft seats. Really.

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Diverse objects, from seats and shelves to vases and trivets at Souda’s space.

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Funny and quirky pillow commentary from Alexandra Ferguson.

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Beautiful maple stools and a passel of refrigerator magnets made from the leftover bits by Bower.

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Brooklyn Aerodrome: Taking to the Skies of North Brooklyn

Forget Area 51, this is North Brooklyn's mystery aircraft, built from Kit 145.

Forget Area 51, this is North Brooklyn’s mystery aircraft, built from Brooklyn Aerodrome’s Kit 145 ($250.).

BROOKLYN HARDLY SEEMS THE PLACE TO TAKE FLYING LESSONS, given the utter and complete dearth of airports in the borough. But that hasn’t stopped computer scientist Breck Baldwin and schoolteacher Andrew Woodbridge from starting the Brooklyn Aerodrome Flight School. It offers training, clocks hours of flight time and then issues pilot licenses – to middle-schoolers.

The program began in 2010 with 15 students. Most of the curriculum is online, and the textbook can be bought online for $30. In complete and utter contrast with No Child Left Behind, the law of the land in which students study for nothing but the exam, the new Brooklyn Aerodrome Flight School actually teaches real-world applications for science and technology in a context that interests these students: making and flying planes. Brooklyn Aerodrome showed at last fall’s World Maker Faire in Queens and got a lot of attention, including from Wired Magazine. But a failed Kickstarter campaign in the first quarter of this year was a setback. Despite that they’re still up and running; for more info go to brooklynaerodrome.com.

Okay, there’s no functional Brooklyn airport, which goes to say no full-size airplanes either. So the kids go to the other most logical site, Brooklyn’s own McCarren Park in Williamsburg, and fly their own easy-to-build model called Flack, for Flying Hack. “It’s an electric-powered remote-control airplane built out of recycled trash,” Baldwin says. “Kids can build one in three to four hours.”

“It’s about aeronautics, that’s the core of it,” says Baldwin. “But the whole thing is trying to get kids to think about math, science and engineering  and make it fun and play—not sit in a room and be lectured, but to go outside and do it.” In other words it’s not rote book learning, but real-world, hands-on knowledge and experience.

“Solving workbook math problems is not how the world works, but students might have to do a lot of math to get something to work,” Baldwin adds, the “something” being their airplanes.  The program is not ignoring the liberal arts either: the students write reports, too, technical ones, not a “My Favorite Superhero Is…” essay.

And what do the kids get out of it? Not only math and science (and lots of fun), but they learn how general aviation really works, along with its rules and regulations. That last part may not be glamorous but it is essential, Baldwin says: “It makes it more real, adds depth to it, but it also provides structure. You have to have permission to enter the ‘runway,’ then you have to get permission to take off, and then the next plane goes.

“There’s a lot of necessary structure to flying,” Baldwin says, before he pauses and adds, “Imagine 30 kids with powered airplanes.”

Executive Editor Phil Scott has clocked some air time himself, not only in airplanes but also a replica of a Wright Brothers glider at Kitty Hawk, N.C.,.

Joy’s Best of Brooklyn for March 21 through March 24

This weekend starts early on Thursday and it’s also the last day for Dine-In Brooklyn.
Winslow Homer, The Unruly Calf, circa 1875. Graphite and white opaque watercolor on blue-gray wove paper. Brooklyn Museum, part of Fine Lines: American Drawings. See below.

Winslow Homer, The Unruly Calf, circa 1875. Graphite and white opaque watercolor on blue-
gray wove paper. Brooklyn Museum, part of Fine Lines: American Drawings. See below.

Three reasons to go out on Thursday, March 21

steamboat1 • Brooklyn Museum stays open until 10pm on Thursdays so that visitors can linger in the galleries and take advantage of special evening programs. Several new exhibits have opened in the past few weeks including Fine Lines: American Drawings and the spectacular Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui. At 7:30, a Drawing Workshop for all ages will explore the drawing process and help budding artists develop professional techniques.

2 • The March edition of Steamboat, the comedy series, at Greenlight Bookstore gets down to funny business with comedian and author Bob Powers hosting some of the city’s best humor writers. Tonight’s roster includes multi-tasking Brooklynite Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking With Men: A Memoir, and Dave Bry, author of Public Apology: In Which a Man Grapples with a Lifetime of Regret, One Incident at a Time. Fort Greene. 7:30pm.

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A different take on a traditional Hagaddah.

3 • Brooklyn by the Book: The Bronfman Hagaddah. In time for Passover, author Edgar M. Bronfman and illustrator Jan Aronson will speak with Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim about this contemporary retelling of the Exodus story. With its underlying message of human rights and freedom, The Bronfman Hagaddah brings together readings from diverse sources such as abolitionist Frederick Douglas to Ralph Waldo Emerson and poet Marge Piercy. At 6:30 there will be a kosher-wine tasting by Slope Cellars, food from Brooklyn-based Gefilteria (read more about them, below) and a book sale by Community Bookstore. Discussion begins at 7:30. Park Slope.

Three things to do involving seams, screams and Bob Ross

storefront21 • Saturday & Sunday Learn to Sew a Vintage-Style Men’s Shirt at Brooklyn General Store. This two-day intensive, for those with intermediate sewing skills, will cover techniques including felled seams, a lined back yoke and sleeve plackets. Instructor Heather Love is a Brooklyn-based mixed-media artist. Her Etsy shop hellomello handspun features her knit-based crafts and materials. North Red Hook is the home of Brooklyn General Store, the former Frank’s Department Store, and is an updated and welcome throwback to the era when Union Street used to be a thriving shopping block for food and goods. 9am-6pm.

lunaPark2 • Sunday Season Opener at Luna Park. Normally I might wait until warmer weather arrives to get excited about Coney Island, but this year’s opener has significance after all the rebuilding and restoration after Hurricane Sandy. The 86-year-old Cyclone is back in full operation, along with the Soaring Eagle and Steeplechase, a spinning disk called the Zenobio, and the Human Slingshot. As is the tradition, Marty Markowitz will christen the Cyclone by smashing a bottle of egg cream on her bow. Coney Island. 12pm-10pm.

PaintingTakedown3 • Sunday 1st annual Painting Takedown, a charity event to benefit Citymeals-on-Wheels. You remember Bob Ross, right? Twenty Brooklyn artists will be asked to throw away all taste and aesthetics by creating a painting à la Bob Ross. Audience members can bid and buy the finished canvases, while the painters will receive prizes for crowd favorites. Expect drinks from SixPoint Brewery, lots of chili, and goofy bad art. At former-feather-factory-now-arts-center The Active Space, Bushwick. 6pm-9pm.

caption and credit for Vermatzah goes here see item below

Eco-Kosher Vermatzah connects modern ecology with Jewish dietary laws and ethical standards.

Three purveyors of note for Passover and beyond

1 • Way Outer Brooklyn Vermatzah, small-batch, wood-fired matzah from Naga Bakehouse, Vermont. Locally-sourced wheat and farro go into the hand-shaped rounds produced by this eco-kosher baker. Albeit not kosher for Passover, this matzah is produced with care. With each order, the company attaches a small bag of wheat seeds to give home growers and cooks a chance to farm in their own homes. Order by Thursday for mail delivery for a seder, or revisit after the holiday.

carpInBathtub2 • Gefilte fish is a Jewish food that does not have any religious symbolism, but is a part of traditional Eastern European cuisine, especially at holidays. My grandmother used to purchase live carp and whitefish and keep them swimming in the bathtub until it was time to cook and grind the fish for the quenelle-shaped pieces. My mother resorted to jars of prepared gefilte fish that contained an unappealing aspic-sort of jelly and a couple of slices of limp carrot. No wonder we resorted to massive amounts of horseradish, jarred of course, to make it palatable. Forward to 2012, and three Brooklyn entrepreneurs open Gefilteria to specialize in artisanal gefilte fish with freshness, sustainability and flavor added to the traditional food. The founders describe themselves as “a trio of New York foodies, reimagining Old World Jewish food by adapting Ashkenazi classics to the values and tastes of a new generation.” Fish as well as several styles of horseradish are kosher for Passover and can be purchased at local retailers and online, but hurry, as supplies are sure to be snapped up.

caption credit goes here

(Photograph, Katie Sokoler/Gothamist)

3 • We can still go stand in line at Zabars or Russ & Daughters on a Sunday morning for a novy fix, but the neighborhood appetizing store, stocked with smoked and cured fish and dairy products, has largely faded away. Enter caterer Peter Shelsky in 2012, and he’s returned appetizing back to Brooklyn with Shelsky’s Smoked Fish in Carroll Gardens. Shelsky’s extensive kosher-style Passover menu offers tempting dishes such as Grandma Yetta’s savory gefilte fish, house-pickled herring in cream sauce, fresh apple horseradish sauce, vegetarian matzah ball soup, strawberry rhubarb matzah crumble, and homemade matzah. Beyond Passover, there’s always the sandwich menu; try the Brooklyn Native: eastern Gaspé salmon, smoked whitefish salad, pickled herring, sour pickle all piled on a bialy.

2todoNOTEJoy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

Joy’s Best of Brooklyn for March 15 through March 18

CSA Signups • Maker Opportunities Big and Small • Art and Literary Openings

heartwalk-1Now on location in DUMBO: Heartwalk, a 30-foot art installation made from Sandy-salvaged wood. Situ Studio, a DUMBO-based design studio was commissioned to create this piece for the Times Square Alliance and the Design Trust for Public Space where the Heart was installed in Times Square. Boardwalk boards from Long Beach, NY; Sea Girt, NJ; Atlantic City, NJ were repurposed for the installation. Through April 30, DUMBO visitors are encouraged to interact with the piece and tweet/instagram photos to #DUMBOHeartwalk@DUMBOBID.

Art and Literary Happenings
Elizabeth Welsh. Quilt, circa 1825–40. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society

Elizabeth Welsh, Quilt, circa 1825–40.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society

Friday, March 15 Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts at Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Until the late twentieth century, much of quiltmaking was thought of as a craft, and makers were often anonymous. This exhibit of 35 quilt masterpieces will explore the way quilts have been seen and understood as both an art form and a craft. Traditionally, quilts have been displayed horizontally to represent the beds for which they were originally designed. Workt by Hand displays some quilts vertically—in the manner of a painting or print—to encourage viewers to think of them as art objects. Opening Friday. On display through September 15.

Friday, March 15 Currency, juried solo exhibition by Denis Beaubois at New York Art Residency & Studio Foundation. Currency asks us to consider: How much is an hour of your time worth and what is the worth of each dollar you make? This exhibit examines thoughts about economy and labor, the value of a work of art, the worth of one day’s work, all on a global scale. Sydney, Australia-based artist Denis Beaubois will talk at 7pm. Sunset Park. 6pm-8pm.

Saturday, March 16 Gotham: Writers in the City at the Brooklyn Public Library. Novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander discusses his latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate. Grand Army Plaza. 4pm.

CSA signups happening now

The Vernal Equinox is on Wednesday at 7:02am. Balancing eggs on end: urban myth? Better to eat locally-sourced eggs—you could sign up now and get them through a Community Supported Agriculture group. CSAs work something like a magazine subscription in that members buy shares at the beginning of the season and receive regular deliveries of produce directly from the farmer. Now is the time that many CSAs are signing up customers for spring and summer shares. Just Food is a useful site listing all the CSAs in Brooklyn, and there are a lot. Here’s a short list of a few; check the site to locate more.

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Monday, meet New Paltz-based
Partners Trace during Huckleberry
Bar’s CSA Happy Hour.

< • Partners Trace CSA at Huckleberry Bar, Williamsburg. New Paltz, NY based Partners Trace offers produce and flowers with an under-two-hour travel distance to Brooklyn. On Monday, March 18 from 5pm-7pm, Huckleberry Bar will host a CSA Happy Hour for signups and information.

iliamnaIliamna Fish Company, a family-owned fishing cooperative on the Bering Sea in Bristol Bay, Alaska, offers shares in their wild red salmon harvests. The sockeye salmon from Iliamna contains the highest Omega-3 oil content and naturally occurring anti-oxidants of any Pacific salmon species. Customers include Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Applewood, and Dean & DeLuca. Shares will be available in late summer with pickup location in Brooklyn.

beetBrooklyn Beet CSA, serving Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn. Season starts June 3 for 26 weeks.

Clinton Hill CSA, for Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. Check out their informative newsletter The Beet.

For Makers and DIYers

craftCampSaturday, March 16 Brooklyn Craft Camp. This is a day-long DIY chance to craft your heart out, socialize and have fun. This may not start you on the road to Etsy-ville, but it sounds like a swell way to spend a Saturday learning some new techniques with like-minded craft lovers. The day will consist of four classes (with four finished projects); a chance to meet and work with craft-focused authors, bloggers and designers; and tastes of local food and drink. Brooklyn Craft Camp was founded by Brett Bara, a lifelong crafter turned DIY professional. Sponsors include West Elm, Purl Soho, Juice Box, The Crochet Dude, Vogue Knitting Live. Classes are filling up, so registration asap is advised. Greenpoint. 10am-7pm.

Sunday, March 17 Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Class: Easter/Spring Equinox Edition, part of The Morbid Anatomy Art Academy. The Academy offers a fascinating series of classes that reflect an interest in taxidermy, animal and insect anatomy, fine art techniques and arcane subjects. This 3-hour workshop will have you working with Rhinoceros beetles (thankfully they are provided), to make a shadowbox diorama. The class is taught by a former insect preparator from the American Museum of Natural History, and may cause you to see nature’s tiny giants in a whole new way. At Observatory, Gowanus. 1pm-4pm.

Gyroid, by Bathsheba, an example of 3D Printing by Shapeways.

Gyroid, by Bathsheba, an example of 3D Printing by Shapeways.

Monday, March 18 The Future of 3D Manufacturing—Brooklyn Style: an evening of panel discussions and demonstrations hosted by Brooklyn Futurist Meetup. This energetic, well-attended Meetup will be joined by Brooklyn Tech and Volumetric Society Meetups for a lively session with all-star 3D enthusiasts. Robert Steiner, from MakerBot will speak and demonstrate a MakerBot. D-Shape, Shapeways and Make editor Brian Jepson are among other participants. The event is wait-listed, but you can attend by following the instructions on the site. At Brooklyn Law School, Moot Court Room, Downtown Brooklyn. 7pm-9:30pm.

letteringLDBASunday, April 28 Lettering class at L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts. Classes at LDBA fill up and sell out almost immediately, so consider this a heads up if you’re interested in attending any future sessions. This 90 minute class, for 6 students only, will provide instruction and materials to learn classic hand-rendered lettering and font techniques to produce cards and envelopes. LDBA is a hardware, housewares and artist supply store and site founded by artist Sara Moffat. “We provide tools, techniques and materials to allow people to excel in their medium,” says Sara. Other unique classes are offered for all age groups, and include Knot Tying (a hot topic, apparently), Make Your Own Bow and Arrows, Picasso and Kandinsky Study for ages 5 and up, and all seem to fill up right away. Williamsburg.

October 1, 2012 (Photograph, Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool.)

October 1, 2012 (Photograph,
Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool.)

A post-Sandy update

Monday, March 18 Nathan’s Coney Island location on the Boardwalk is scheduled to reopen. And next weekend, as part of Coney Island’s opening weekend celebrations, the first qualifier round of the 2013 July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest will be held. There’s nothing slow-food or artisan about these dogs, but what’s better than enjoying one by the Atlantic’s surf? Nathan’s main location on Surf Avenue is still being repaired and will reopen Memorial Day Weekend.

2todoNOTEJoy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

Happy 32 Sol ♥

The Town’s Biggest Cigar Booster Since Fiorello LaGuardia?

Cigar entrepreneur David Diamante, creator of the Brooklyn Cigar Lounge a few blocks from the Barclays Center, is a fifth generation Ft. Greene resident. (Photo-illustration for Brooklyn Artisan by Mollie Ann Smith)

Cigar entrepreneur David Diamante, creator of the Brooklyn Cigar Lounge just a few blocks (some say “crawling distance”) from the Barclays Center, is a fifth generation Ft. Greene resident. (Photo-illustration for Brooklyn Artisan by Mollie Ann Smith)

Cigar in hand: Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in his famously messy office.

Cigars and the City: Three-term NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in his cluttered office. A Republican, the former congressman (6 terms) was mayor from 1934-1945, and during a newspaper strike, famously went on the radio to read the Sunday comics. Only five feet tall, and sometimes called “The Little Flower,” he had a personality larger than life. He defeated the Tammany Hall political machine, united the transit system, built parks and public housing, reorganized the police and – an advocate of employment on the basis of merit – overcame the patronage system.

ON A RECENT FRIDAY NIGHT IN FORT GREENE, I sat in a leather lounge chair with David Diamante in his comfy Brooklyn Cigar Lounge and got a few pointers on rolling cigars. Diamante’s traveled to Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic to master the fine art of rolling. “It’s one of those things that you need to know the nuts and bolts to talk about it from an educated perspective,” he explains. And here’s what I learned:

1. Shred the tobacco into a uniform size. Spread it on a clean, flat surface, lightly mist it with filtered water.

2. After removing the center vein of the binder leaf, lay that on the same clean, flat surface, and sprinkle the shredded tobacco on it.

3. Wrap the binder leaf around the shredded tobacco and check it for consistent density. With thumb and index finger, squeeze it at one end and work your way to the other.

4. Spread a light coat of a binder such as bermacol, tragacanth, guar gum or egg white along one edge of the binder leaf, and ever so gently press against the rest of the cigar.

5. Trim off the excess leaf.

6. Roll the wrapper leaf around the binder leaf and seal it with bermacol, Tragacanth, Guar Gum or egg white, just like the binder leaf.

7. Overlap the ends of the wrapper leaf.

Using the Cigar Former

Place the cigar inside a former of the same size, which retains the cigar’s shape while its tobacco dries. (The former is made by nailing wooden strips onto a board. The former is  covered with a top and clamped down.) Wait for about 30 minutes, unclamp the top of the former, turn the cigars over, reclamp the top for another 30 minutes. Then place the former inside an oven just hot enough to warm the former, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. When the cigar is dry, trim the ends. Store the finished cigar inside a humidor for a few weeks.

Diamante's Brooklyn Cigar Lounge on Oxford Street in Ft. Greene

You’ll have no trouble spotting Diamante’s Brooklyn Cigar Lounge on Oxford Street.

Diamante, who imports his own special blends for the lounge,  is not giving away trade secrets here. Rolling takes hours of practice, and seriously, where are you going to find good leaf tobacco in Brooklyn? It’s really better to just head over to Brooklyn Cigar Lounge and talk about the process with David — he’s the tall, skinny, well-dressed guy with dreadlocks down to his back pockets—while toking on one of his selection. As for the lounge, it’s in a restored brownstone at 108 Oxford Street, Brooklyn, 11217. (Call 646 MADURO, for Brooklynites who prefer dialing letters to numbers, or 646 462-3876, for out-of-boroughers.)

Executive Editor Phil Scott has previously written for Brooklyn Artisan about canning, shaving, glider-flying, and other manly pursuits.

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