Brooklyn Makers at Martha Stewart’s American Made Show

THE DETAILS: A huge American Made sign in Grand Central Station gets
a going-over by Brooklyn Artisan inspectors. (Photos for BA/Mollie Ann Smith)

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNDERGROUND BUZZ about Martha Stewart’s big Grand Central Station event is literally that – underground: in the food court, where I am buying a quick chicken caesar. Something (the Brooklyn Artisan tote bag over my shoulder?) must’ve tipped off Maria who is taking food orders at Tri Tip.

Martha Stewart's American Made was a big event for Maria, working at Tri Tip.

In the food court, Maria is excited that Martha Stewart’s upstairs.

“Have you been up to the Martha Stewart exhibit? It’s really fun,” she confides. “I made a key chain and I’m going back after my shift to make a necklace.” Usually she knits or crochets, but she says she has gotten a bunch of new ideas from the show. No, Maria didn’t see Martha Stewart in person, but to know she was there was…a good thing.

Up in Vanderbilt Hall, one long line snakes around to the silkscreening of custom tote bags, another waits on the food tastings, and a third crowd will attend the next class session in a screened off area behind the silver Toyota. Toyota, Westin Hotels, and JCP (as in James Cash Penny) are among the event sponsors. The craft tables are on the eastern side of the hall along with the UPS and Avery sponsor/information tables.

Foxy & Winston towels designed by Jane Buck, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s Red Hook is the creative home of Jane Buck’s whimsical designs. (BA photo: Joy Makon)

Brooklyn is well represented at the craft tables. Red Hook’s Foxy & Winston display, for instance, shows tea towels, children’s aprons, pillow covers, wispy neck scarves, and letterpress cards printed with whimsical designs by Jane Buck: artichokes, hedgehogs, paddleboats, tugboats, peacocks.

Jane tells us her designs are printed in India on Indian cotton, and then the bolts are cut and the pieces sewn in the USA. She herself is an import, she mentions. As an art history and fashion student in London for five years, she was making a living by waiting tables. She met and was courted by a New Zealander. When his English visa ran out, he had to go home, and the closest spot to her he could find to live was New York. He is a wine importer. They traveled back and forth and then made the leap: 13 years ago on October 1, they were married in Central Park. It’s a love story that stretches halfway round the world and ends up in Brooklyn.

Jane Buck set up her design studio in Red Hook and opened a little retail area in the front. Now through that store and other outlets, her business has enough volume for her to afford an assistant three days a week. “Before that,” she says, laughing, “‘I’d be working in the back and when someone came in, I’d have to pop out from behind the curtain: ‘Hello, may I help you?'” [Read more…]

The Littlest Makers at Maker Faire

FOR A MOVEMENT THAT THE ECONOMIST magazine has declared may “herald a new industrial revolution,” there appears to be an inordinate amount of fun in the maker world, at least in the examples on view at the recent World Maker Faire 2012. Apart from the rolling cupcake-mobiles and the explosive “science” involving Diet Coke and Mentos, there were robots dancing Gangnam Style, a range of steampunk gadgetry and clothing, and a large number of—not to put too fine a point on it—toys.

Play appears to be a central value for makers, for many it may be a blast of fresh air from the spreadsheets and word processors of “adult” worklife. Get in your garage, create a robot or an autonomous helicopter, assemble a music machine that uses sunlight to generate music, put some flashing lights on your t-shirt that advertise your heartbeat. Why not?

Robot makers engineering the future at the booth of Brooklyn Robot Foundry.

In fact, of the many perspectives on fun at Maker Faire, the one from sub-four-feet was ever-intriguing, as thousands of children can attest. Brooklyn Robot Foundry was a substantial presence at Maker Faire, winning two Educator Awards, [Read more…]

Move Fast! 50% Off Basic Rate at 3rd Ward Right Now

URGENT UPDATE: The Good News: Will Sansom of 3rd Ward has confirmed with that people who join as new Basic Plan (usually $99 a year) members today through midnight, Monday night, October 15, can get a special rate of 50% off. Mention Brooklyn Artisan when you inquire.

The Not-so-good News: Thursday night’s session on using Kickstarter to raise funds for your business project was so packed that even people who’d registered in advance, like us, (but arrived two minutes late) were unable to squeeze in even to stand among the spillover crowd in the back. Craning our necks to peer around the corner, we could see the edge of a chart on a slide, couldn’t hear a bit better, and did become an annoyance to the people we were leaning on to get a peek.

Speaking of numbers, though, here are some stats on 3rd Ward. (Also, scroll or click down to our earlier story, below.)

Member transport: Bikes locked to the radiator along a 40-foot hallway.

It’s a story of 2’s. 3rd Ward recently took over Floor Two of the warehouse building, doubling their space overall (to about 30,000 square feet). Staff? Around 20 people. Courses offered? About 200. Membership? 2000. Members who work there fulltime? 200. How long has Will himself worked there? 2 years. Doing what? A lot of construction such as putting down plywood patches on the strip oak floor upstairs.

Insider's View of Bathroom Door

A somewhat, er, collegiate aesthetic on a bathroom door.

So all of the old wood strip floors upstairs are rough and patchy, yes, but still kinder underfoot than the gleaming polished concrete downstairs.

You can pay less now, but soon get moreSansom also outlined expansion plans, some visibly under way, others still under (plastic) wraps. A members’ cafe. More classrooms. An expanded shop for metalworkers, to match the new woodshop. A brand new sculpture room. And new, better bathrooms are promised, forgoing the, um, old college radio station aesthetic. [Read more…]

The Makers Find Their Way to Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward

SOME PEOPLE ARE MAKERS, SOME ARE TAKERS: We’ve been hearing that a lot from the top of the Republican ticket this fall. But however you plan to vote, there’s no denying that the hive of activity that is 3rd Ward comes from the makers. It’s a school, it’s workshops, it’s a hangout space. The membership is diverse in age, ability, and skills, but they all come to the repurposed warehouse in Williamsburg to work, to learn, and usually to share. Brooklyn Artisan visited on a recent Sunday evening and the place was buzzing.

3rd Ward customer service specialist Erica Eudoxie

Customer service rep Erica Eudoxie has worked at 3rd Ward for 18 months and taken 13 courses. Her long-term interest is jewelry making.

The only takers, if you can call them that, are the folks taking the classes that range from an intense one-day session up to courses that run over eight weeks. You can take Embroidery 2.0, or choose one of 20 offered in Fashion, or 8 in Welding & Fabrication, or 20 in Woodworking, or 10 in Web Design, or 16 in Drawing, Painting & Illustration.

One category is called simply Bike = Love. offering Basic Bike Mechanics, Intermediate Bike Mechanics, and Badass Bike Lights. (“With the right components, you can build your very own bike light which outshines all the others. In this class, you will make your very own hi-power LED bike-light which runs off a 9v battery.”)

For 3rd Ward members, the pricing structure is an incentive to commit to the community for the long term. (Basic membership, $99 for a year; co-working, $149 a month, or $119 at the annual rate – for the longer stay, you get a lower rate).  There are work stations as simple as library carrels, shared computer stations well equipped with big-screen Macs, conference areas, and even dedicated office spaces for micro businesses. My favorite presently on-site is Susty Parties, which sells colorful party goods made from sustainable materials, of course. (You can see why the business owners might like having this frou-frou stuff  Out. Of. The. House. Please!)

Like wallflowers at the eighth-grade dance, dress dummies huddle against the wall between classes. The sewing room serves some other purposes, too.

The  wood and metal makers’ professional spaces have recently been separated from the student spaces. To work in either area, you must pay the Pro rates ($599 a month, or $479 monthly at the annual rate) and demonstrate your skill level to a shop manager so that you are not a danger to the high-powered tools, to other workers or to yourself.

The metal shop includes a large work area with metal cutting and welding tools and shielded work stations. The even larger woodworking loft has materials-storage racks, table saw, lathe, drill press, mortising machine, an advanced dust-handling system, plus shop brooms and industrial size dustpans neatly stowed in plain sight. Separately vented yellow lockers stash potentially toxic and fume-producing wood finishing chemicals; a covered can that’s emptied every night takes care of oily rags.

Business training is available as well, both in structured classes and in informal, water-cooler consulting. Small-business bookkeeping. Using social media in marketing. Presentation skills for attracting investors.

Erica Eudoxie explains why she has taken so many courses herself: 13 and counting. “It’s not just the typical ADD skill set,” she says, laughing. “It’s the impulse to make something. I have it, and most people here do. It’s why they come.”

Have there been any big stars to brag about, any bold-face names who’ve passed through 3rd Ward on the way to success? “It depends on how you define success,” Erica says. “If it’s being able to quit your office job and make a living with your craft, then yes, definitely.

“And I’d say there are a lot here now who’re on the trajectory to success.”


The Cutest Little Library in All of Prospect Heights

Is it for the birds? Or the bees? No, it’s a super-small library.

WITH BROOKLYN LATELY ABUZZ ABOUT BEEKEEPING, at first I thought this was a hive mounted on a post. Then I read the signs and was charmed [Read more…]

Brooklyn Makes It…to Queens at World Maker Faire 2012

WORLD MAKER FAIRE is a West Coast import that is becoming a huge event here every September. Now in its third annual appearance, the Faire this weekend drew massive crowds and it seems to have hit the city just at the crest of the “artisan” phenomenon.

Much of it is best described as “Geekstock,” with booth after booth of electronics gear and gadgets that whir, flash, beep, scuttle, fly, and roll. There were so many robot and science teams from MIT, Columbia, City Tech and other colleges and science high schools as well as random software and hardware aficionados packed into Flushing Meadow Park that for a few hours the average IQ per square foot must have spiked enormously. There were also squadrons of environmental activists, artists and craftspeople, and families dragging their kids around in hopes that enough science, math and engineering will seep in to improve the chance of admission in 12 years to the previously-mentioned elite schools.

Brooklyn was well represented among exhibitors and visitors, making it the ideal event for kicking off coverage of this very exciting part of the artisan movement, the convergence of science, engineering, art, and manufacturing that is best categorized as the “maker” movement.

The booth for Makerbot Industries of Brooklyn was mobbed with visitors evaluating the latest version of the 3D printing machine that is on the wish list for nearly everyone.

3D printing is the hot technology right now, garnering extensive interest at the Makerbot space and at many other booths showing competing printers as well as materials, software and creative output. Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot and coverboy of Wired magazine’s current issue, was a star attraction at the Faire.

Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot, presented show awards.

In coming months, Brooklyn Artisan will be covering 3D printing often as these products gain wider acceptance. At the Faire, there were clear signs that 3D has moved from the hobbyist stage. A few exhibitors in the craft area showed jewelry, small plastic vases, and even an espresso cup created using clay laid down in a printer and then fired in a kiln.

3D printing may be the cutting edge, but there were plenty of maker projects applying tech to old technologies. Brooklyn design consultancy Pensawas demonstrating a computer-driven wire bender they have been developing and releasing into the public domain. I would love some personalized wire coathangers!

The DIWire Bender bending.

Watch for more of my coverage of interesting high-, middle- and low-tech from World Maker Faire coming soon.

How to Shave with a Brush and Soap in Today’s World

EVER NOTICE HOW some people can smuggle an AK-47 in their checked luggage but you can’t sneak a can of shaving cream past alert Transportation Security Agents without them tossing that and your toothpaste in a large plastic garbage can? Well, I have. Also, and this is more important, I’m so cheap I won’t even pay attention.

That’s why, after wasting my third can or so in the TSA trash, I’ve taken to shaving with the old-fashioned brush and shaving soap. Not only have I never been wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by alert agents trying to confiscate my beaver-hair shaving brush, but past the initial investment I’m pretty much home free.

Plus – and this is a big plus – I’ve found it gets my day off to the proper artisanal start, taking this time to work with my hands. So here’s how you pull off that close shave the authentic, old-fashioned way.

BB00 96.tif

The man seen shaving here is not Phil Scott, nor does he play him on TV.

1. You’re going to need a shaving brush, a ceramic mug of some sort, and a bar of soap. I prefer a thick china mug with an old Air Force logo, but you can maybe find one with a Brooklyn Dodgers logo or a Yogi Berra quote. Whatever you choose, the majority of the mug must be a light color.

And don’t forget the razor. That’s really the most important part, the razor. I prefer the triple-blade types. Disposables blow. Straight razors are dangerous and scary and you’ll never get one through an airport anyway.

2. Place the soap inside the mug somehow. I prefer to nuke the combination in the microwave (no need to carry this authenticity thing too far) for maybe 20 seconds until the soap gets a little soft, then flatten it with my thumbs into what is called a soap puck. You’ll have to do this each time you add a new bar of soap, which means maybe twice a year. (See, it’s already less expensive than canned shaving cream.)

Even toss in soap scraps from the sink or shower. If your mug’s dark (see no 1. above) it will block the magic hot rays that are supposed to turn the soap into a soft goo. Same with metallic elements, like gold rims. I’m not sure why, just take my word for it.

Now you’re ready to shave! Fill the mug to the top with hot water, and work up a lather with the brush. Brush the lather all over the area destined for shaving. Really work it in there, too – coating those whiskers makes for a smooth shave.

3. It is not strictly necessary to don long pants, a dirty wifebeater, and suspenders that you can drop off your shoulders while you lather up, like in those early episodes of Mad Men. Today you can do this in boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or a towel, or less.

4. Scrape all the soap lather off with the razor. And there you have it! You’re done! And your face is smoother than if you’d used shaving cream, or an electric razor.

NOTE: A styptic pencil is what you need to control the bleeding.

Executive Editor Phil Scott has written seven book and numerous articles for national magazines.

Alchemy Creamery at Smorgasburg

DESSERT CAME FIRST. And why wouldn’t it? Last Saturday’s beautiful weather was a perfect excuse to hop on the NY Waterway East River Ferry and explore Smorgasburg in North Williamsburg. I’d made plans to spend some time talking with Giuseppe Maione of Alchemy Creamery, and of course had to sample some of his potions. It was easy to (temporarily) ignore all of the meaty, savory aromas that is Smorgasburg and dig in to the cup of creamy sweetness that Giuseppe offered me.

Alchemy Creamery's Apple Cinnamon with Caramel

Caramel Sauce topping Apple Cinnamon,
from Alchemy Creamery

Alchemy Creamery, started in April 2012, is a small-batch, non-dairy ice cream, sold through Smorgasburg and select retail locations in New York City.  All-natural coconut cream, unrefined sugars, and natural plant extracts go into the product, along with locally sourced flavorings. On Saturday, I sampled Apple Cinnamon topped with caramel sauce, along with Fixation—a dark chocolate chai. These flavors are developed, tested and produced at Organic Food Incubator in Long Island City in a leased, professional kitchen space used exclusively by Alchemy Creamery. The selections change based on season and ingredient availability. Currently 15 to 18 gallons are produced weekly by Maione and his two Alcreamist partners JD Gross and Jesse Goldman. Maione’s got the fantasy wish that he could clone himself, but until then, he considers his partners crucial to bounce ideas off of. He borrows his father’s pick-up truck to transport and deliver to Smorgasburg and retail locations.

Giuseppe Maione at Smorgasburg

Giuseppe at Smorgasburg.
Photograph by Vlad Weinstein

Giuseppe, 28, has found that getting to know and work with other Smorgasburg producers has helped showcase and grow his product. He prefers to source flavorings from his fellow vendors. The chocolate in Saturday’s Fixation came from Raaka Chocolate. Currently there are no plans for a brick and mortar storefront, as Giuseppe wants to market and sell through other sources, like Champs Family Bakery. He likes the idea of small-batch deliveries to other like-minded food stores, as well as picking up the occasional catering gig. He’d love to have a chance to create one-of-a-kind flavors for someone’s wedding. “Twitter and Instagram have been amazing marketing tools. The foodie culture is migrating to sharing what you enjoy,” says Maione.

Alchemy Creamery is no casual endeavor on Giuseppe’s part. It’s an outcome of a lifetime of learning about food and restaurants from his father and the family’s restaurants. Using dependable suppliers and resources, developing aesthetics, pricing the product, working with staff and customers—Maione encountered all of this working in the family’s restaurants, where he was the head waiter for 11 years.  “Food is complex and multi-layered,” says Maione. “On one hand, it’s about nutrition, but it’s also about comfort and pleasure.” And with that, Alchemy Creamery is being developed to keep health in mind (non-dairy) but also fun. One ice cream flavor, or two, is not enough. Maione experiments to create unique flavor mixes, so that one tastes one flavor at first, and then another, and perhaps yet another. Additions like caramel, or chocolate balsamic sauce, or salted walnuts—displayed in chemistry beakers—work to add texture and flavor.

Alchemy Creamery

Toppings, made from ingredients from fellow vendors, add flavor and texture to the weekly “potions.”

Giuseppe and I are colleagues at a retail store; like so many of us lately, he works part time to earn some money to fund the other interests in his life. He’s an incredibly warm, friendly person and takes pleasure when a customer smiles after tasting the flavor mixtures—potions—he crafts. At work, he’s known for bringing in tastings to the employee lounge, and we’ve gotten to taste Stone of Jupiter (a roasted red pepper chocolate chili powder ice cream) and Heart of Mars (Rooibos Red Tea). I’m waiting to taste Saturday Morning Cartoon (Fruity Pebble Tea). It won’t last long.

In Appreciation

Taking advantage of this beautiful day to put some of the Brooklyn Backyard garden to sleep for the winter. Spent two hours gently digging up and separating and cleaning small oxalis bulbs. A very labor-intensive, though (for me) satisfying task that I do every fall. Repetitive, solitary, quiet with birds and rustling leaves.

And later on I intend to sit quietly and knit for an hour or two before Yom Kippur arrives this evening.

I think of those who use their hands and lovingly create amazing things for all to admire, use, taste, share.


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