Kickstarting Brooklyn: Hyperachievers

A Scott Terpin donut. His website has many, many more. Yum.

IN THE SINGULAR ECOSYSTEM that is Kickstarter, one will encounter many evolutionary dead ends—projects, visions and dreams that wither away unfunded. Then there are the mysterious campaigns that don’t just meet their targets, they blow by them and reach double, triple or stratospherically higher funding results. Why and how do these hyperachievers succeed, and can we learn any lessons by studying their success?

Here’s one that caught our eye at Brooklyn Artisan. Scott Teplin was creating his massive, quirky and highly detailed drawing called Big Canal and asked Kickstarter support for a hefty $4,500 to complete it. On the face of it, Scott is like many an artist—with a pen, a brush and a dream. But by the end of the campaign, his project was overfunded 11 times, garnering more than $49,000, which is a goodly chunk of the annual salary for a Brooklyn artist.

Big Canal, by Scott Terpin, a very successful Kickstarter project

Big Canal is one of those drawings with lots of quirky details that demand hours to explore—Where’s Waldo? without the people, Richard Scarry without the cute animals. What is the secret of its funding phenomenon? The campaign video stars Scott and, though mildly amusing, won’t win a Palme d’or. Maybe it’s the many photos on his Kickstarter page that engage the viewer in the overall process. Or it could be his suggestive marketing that positions the reward as a great poster for a kid’s room. Or maybe it just appealed to the random whim or previously undetected want of the Kickstarter audience.

One thing is certain: The man can sure draw donuts.

Kickstarting Brooklyn: Candles in a New Mold

Lace: an elegant example of Andrej Ulem’s architectural candles

ANDREJ UREM IS BUILDING CANDLES THAT ARE DEFINITELY IN A NEW MOLD. Straying far from the traditional cylinder shape, they explore form and texture in intriguing directions—creating what the artist terms “livable art pieces.” His Kickstarter campaign seeks funds for a 3-D printer that will enable him to create more precise and complex molds for future designs. Backers are rewarded with their choice from his current line of candles.

3rd Annual Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair Saturday, Dec. 6

THE OLD STONE HOUSE near the edge of J.J. Byrne playground in Park Slope is once again the historic venue for independent Brooklyn bookstores and booksellers to offer their choices to holiday shoppers,  including second-hand volumes sadly out of print. The New Yorker calls them “literary gems.” Look for booksellers Honey & Wax, Freebird Books, Faenwyl Bindery, and more than a half dozen others. Speaking of the New Yorker, at 2pm artist Maira Kalman will sign copies of her latest, My Favorite Things.  The Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair‘s hours are from 11am to 5pm. (See Brooklyn Artisan’s past coverage of this event)

Washington Park, Third Street (@Fifth Avenue), Park Slope. theoldstonehouse.org

Today! Open Studios Makes a Great Afternoon

WINDSOR TERRACE WAS OUR STARTING POINT yesterday, the first weekend day of the Open Studios event. (From Manhattan, take the F train to 15th Street and follow the map from the OS website.) Walk down Fuller Place, one of the most nearly perfect blocks in the area, with its contiguous front porches, to #41 where you’ll meet watercolor artist Joy Makon, who speaks interestingly and unpretentiously about her work and technique. After a long and successful career as a magazine, online and book cover designer, and columnist for Brooklyn Artisan, last year Makon began to bloom as a painter as well. Some of her pieces are for sale (several were snapped up yesterday),  and for a few, excellent giclée print reproductions can be bought at very reasonable prices.

From there, using our map, Brooklyn Artisan made our way down Windsor Place to 229A, to see the city-themed watercolors of Susan Greenstein,  an artist with 440 Gallery, and the rural landscapes of Phil DeSantis. Once again, the friendly and accessible artists were on hand to talk with you. (Many pieces were available with prices in the hundreds and some very good print reproductions were priced as modestly as $20.)

Simon Dinnerstein‘s house at 415 First Street (follow your map and stretch your legs a bit) serves as home, gallery and studio. You can hang your coat on the garden floor and wind your way through that floor, up to the parlor and then on to the top-floor studio, seeing his paintings and black and white graphite brush pieces all along the way. Dinnerstein is internationally known, especially for his The Fulbright Triptych, and locally beloved as a teacher as well as fine artist. Once again, the conversation was a wonderful supplement to the art. (His daughter, Simone Dinnerstein, is also known as a concert pianist.)

ALTOGETHER A SPECIAL AFTERNOON of visual adventures, good art talk, and a house tour as well! You can retrace our steps today or make your own itinerary from among the many more studios open today.

 

Confessions of a Man with a Guitar — and a Dream

Park Slope resident Winslow Browning was able to teach this writer a thing or two about classical Spanish guitar.

How Brooklyn resident Winslow Browning, above, managed to teach this writer a thing or two about classical Spanish guitar. (Photo by Goodman/Van Riper Photography)

GROWING UP IN A SMALL KANSAS TOWN, I wanted to learn to play an instrument because all the smart kids knew how to play an instrument. My parents ignored me, but they let me get a car instead. I really didn’t do anything about the whole music thing until one Saturday morning here in the big city when I walked into a music store in midtown Manhattan and bought the cheapest guitar possible (“You can pay more,” a college friend said, “but you can’t pay less”) and toted it back to my apartment. Then I sat on my couch and stared at it for a while and realized I might’ve made a mistake since I didn’t have a clue how to play it, but I refused to accept that idea.

That’s when I found Park-Slope-based Winslow Browning on the internet. We talked and he asked me what style I wanted to learn—Rock? Classical? Country? Um, Easy Listening?

Gee, I hadn’t thought about that. “I like the Beatles?” I said, except it did sound more like a question.

“Okay,” he said.

“Yeah. I have a T-shirt with their drum logo on it and everything.”

“Okay,” he said.

TWO DAYS LATER HE SHOWED UP AT MY APARTMENT at the appointed hour with his guitar, which looked to me like the most beautiful instrument this side of Spain. He examined my guitar critically, then he showed me how to sit properly, how to hold it, and how to play the notes of a scale — you know, Every Good Boy Does Fine. He showed me flats and sharps. Then he told me to pick up a music stand and First Lessons for Guitar (Las Primeras Lecciones de Guitarra) by Julio Sagreras.

We never spoke of Rock, Country, Easy Listening or The Beatles again, but he did do his best to teach me how to play Spanish classical guitar.

AND 15 YEARS LATER BROWNING IS STILL AT IT, as he has been all his life. “When I was growing up, my parents had a string guitar lying around my house,” he says, “and I learned chords and stuff playing with my friends, then I had a chance to take classical guitar lessons and it made my heart flutter.”

Browning went on to study music with renowned classical guitarists Fred Nance and Juan Mercadal, the latter a Cuban master. “I was so totally steeped in the classic music field and so hungry to reel that all in and take all these classical classes, all this pop music stuff got tossed out on the other side,” he told me.

SO THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LEARNING TO PLAY “DAY TRIPPER” AND “I FEEL FINE.”  I wouldn’t say I was an abject, miserable failure at classical guitar (although the pieces Winslow did manage to teach me sounded nothing like they did when he played them) because he taught me how to play scales and tune it and change strings when I had to. And I can still do all that stuff when forced to at knifepoint. He also taught me that it was a good thing my parents didn’t waste money on music lessons for me and let me waste it on a car instead. But in his hands even my cheapo axe sounded beautiful.

IT’S A GREAT THING THAT WINSLOW’S STILL AT IT, sometimes giving lessons in his five-floor walkup, or anywhere around the city really — he comes to you. Also, he and his wife, accomplished flautist Suzanne Gilchrest, present a limited concert series with their group Guitar Among Others. Like Paul McCartney’s later career, or Steely Dan’s, GAO’s lineup always changes. And each summer they travel to Summerkeys, a summer camp for classical musicians in Lubec, Maine, where he’s the only guitarist who teaches solo playing.

“In the Brooklyn Eagle a few years ago there was an article that talked about how Brooklyn was made up of a bunch of small towns and villages,” he says. “I love telling the story in Lubec because it really is a small town;  it’s very comfortable, and you’ll walk up the street and someone will say ‘Hey, that was a great concert last night.’” No wonder they say that to him: Like I said, the guy really knows how to play a mean Spanish classical guitar.

Today, Executive Editor Phil Scott plays a mean keyboard  — of the qwerty sort — and  as you can read for yourself here he also knows how to twirl a dial.

Walt’s Words: “Election Day, November, 1884”

The Cyclone, Coney IslandAs Ample Hills Creamery oft reminds us, Walt Whitman wrote admiringly about our Kings County homeland. The words below, however, are Whitman speaking of the country as a whole and what makes “America’s choosing day” so quintessentially American: “the swordless conflict” to be resolved at the ballot box. 

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

 

A small footnote: 1884 is the year that Coney Island started building its roller coasters, a perhaps-too-perfect political symbol. 

Next weekend’s Artists Open Studio Tour

Joy Makon

Park Slope Windsor Terrace ArtistsGetting ready to hang a lot of paintings for next weekend’s Park Slope Windsor Terrace Artists Open Studio Tour. Hope you can stop by!

Saturday November 8 and Sunday November 9 from noon to 7pm each day.

Full information, including a map listing the two dozen participating artists, is on the group’s website.

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Neighborhood artists open their studios for one weekend

©2014 Joy Makon. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Watercolorist and Brooklyn Artisan executive editor Joy Makon will be participating in the Open Studio weekend.

Park Slope Windsor Terrace 2014 Artists’ Open Studio Tour
Saturday, November 8 & Sunday, November 9, noon to 7pm each day.

The artists and photographers of the Park Slope Windsor Terrace Artists Group invite everyone to visit their studios on November 8 and 9.

This unique urban experience will be a chance to visit over two dozen studios located in Brooklyn Artisan’s neighborhoods of Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. Studios are within easy walking distance of each other (see the tour map) and accessible by several subway lines. There is no fee for the tour.

This is an excellent opportunity to visit active Brooklyn artists and view new, local art. Expect to see a wide selection of art—painting, photography, ceramics. By going to the artist’s studio and meeting the creator, you will discover the history and story behind each piece.

Samples of the artists’ works, printable maps of the studio tour, contact information for each artist and details of this event may be found at the Open Studio Tour website.

For more information, please contact: tomkeough@tomkeoughartist.com or 718-768-6171

Rinken’s Wrench N’ Ride Gets ‘Em on the Road Again

"The Wild Ones" with Marlon Brando imprinted the American imagination  with the sexy biker image.

The Wild One: Marlon Brando didn’t need no fancy ‘lectronics on his bike.

MY 1979 KZ 750 WASN’T MUCH TO LOOK AT BUT it was clean with no major dents or scratches and nice chrome fenders and a seat in fine shape. Some days I’d ridden longer than 12 hours at a stretch. The bike always made it better than me. Besides burning oil it was mechanically sound. Except the irreplaceable mechanical ignition points—which lasted a decade. The bike’s book value was $70. One final time I file the points and barely made it to the nearest shop that would deign to take it.

That was 13 years ago. I still have the manual.

 Now Chris Rinken tells me $30 would put it back on the highway.

The author sitting atophis ex-motorcycle, a '79 Kowasaki KZ-750, Blue Book value $70.

The author sitting atop his ex-motorcycle, a ’79 Kawasaki KZ-750, Blue Book value $70.

“[Expletive deleted],” I say.

“I’m sorry,” he replies.

Rinken, owner of Wrench N’ Ride Motorcycle Repair, a small garage beside his home on the corner of Seigel and Bogart streets, works exclusively on pre-electronic, vintage motorcycles—anything ’81 and older. He tells stories that start out like mine.

“One guy kinda had no idea what to do to get his ‘72 CV 350 running. It was in storage for six years and he paid $600 for it and owned it for two years but it never ran. He was pushing it around from apartment to apartment, and—a total fluke—luckily for him there happened to be motorcycle shop,” Rinken says. “He was super pumped about it.”

Rinken didn’t replace a part, he just cleaned the carb. “The bike just needed some care,” he shrugs. And that’s all he does. Rinken stays away from body work or welding, but he can recommend someone.

“If it runs I completely leave it at that,” he says. Rinken first started riding at 11 and learned to work on bikes from his dad. Basic, simple stuff. “Nobody knew how to do vintage maintenance,” he says. “They weren’t raised with a dad who knew all that stuff.”

After graduating from law school in ’12, into the worst economy this side of the Depression, he opened Wrench ‘N Ride. Today he has eight vintage bikes in the garage. One ‘64 Honda 90 cc that he laid hands on is worth $2,500 dollars now.

A shop like Wrench N’ Ride is rare, unique even, considering the sheer number of motorcycles in Brooklyn. To help people buying vintage bikes make sure they weren’t being scammed, Rinken offered a second set of eyes. “A couple of customers wanted to learn basic maintenance, basic inspection stuff,” he says, “just as a way to make sure to get it on the road and avoid really expensive bills from the repair shop.” He’s starting classes now. “We have motorcycles in the shop, and we have extra tools. We get people here who want to learn about bikes, who maybe want to get into it, try it to see if they like doing it. It’s all about getting people into the community.

“I’d rather have a bike that’s worthy,” he says. “The last bike the shop sold was an old Honda 360 that had flames on it. It does a hundred miles an hour if it needs to.”

Wrench N’ Ride Motorcycle Repair

315 Seigel Street

Bushwick, Brooklyn NY 11206

608 695-8392

 Phil Scott is an executive editor of Brooklyn Artisan, a former managing editor of Omni magazine, and the author of seven books, mostly about the history of aviation. He lives in Rockaway.

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