Open Studio at Maria Castelli: Elegant Bags to Covet

 

Cobalt blue bag is soft and chic.

Cobalt blue bag is soft and chic. (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

SORRY, FOLKS, THE DISCOUNT WAS JUST FOR THE DAY, last Saturday, the first Open Studios at Industry City in Sunset Park, and you missed it. But you can feast your eyes anyway, as Brooklyn Artisan did, while talking about the Maria Castelli business that just launched last month.

“We just launched,” daughter Veronica explained, “but we’ve been working on it for about a year and a half.” Though her lovely face was free of bags under her eyes or furrows in her brow, her expressive body language managed to suggest some weeks of round-the-clock effort.

“It’s a lot of work,” she confided, as her mother talked to a handful of serious-looking people on the other side of the room. Retail buyers, we hoped, who’d put dozens of these handsome bags into distribution.

Maria Castelli leather bag in black

As some Belle Dame d’Industry City might say, Chic is the thing with feathers.

The bags are rich looking with thick pebbled leather, yet flexible and almost slouchy in construction so that they’re easy to wear on your shoulder. (Just don’t load up with the Yellow Pages or bags of river rocks and you’ll be fine.) Although some small pouches on another table had the ubiquitous industrial zipper as design statement du jour as well a closure, the handsome shoulder-able bags were clean and as zipperless as Erica Jong’s famous **** (Fear of Flying).

We also liked the alternate bag in black that we spotted on a side shelf. The leather tassel of the blue version was replaced by two bunches of feathers on the black. Irresistably touchy-feely—in fact, we were quite tickled by them.

A co-founder of the erstwhile Getting It Gazette, Anne Mollegen Smith also writes about personal finance for investopedia.com. 

See our other Industry City Open Studio coverage, with more to come later this week.

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Abrupt Farewell from 3rd Ward

Apparently that WAS the wolf at the door, and someone let him in. Several blogs and the New York Observer have reported that following a brief frenzy of fundraising that most thought was just crying “wolf,” 3rd Ward has shut down abruptly. Members who have based their businesses there must scramble to get their inventory and gear and find new locations on the shortest of notice. Industry City, anyone? 

UPDATE: In an email yesterday, 3rd Ward notified members that they must remove their stuff by day’s end October 11, and there will be no membership refunds. Gothamist reports: “Even 3rd Ward’s instructors were kept in the dark, many armed with lesson plans they’ll never use—and compensation they’re worried they’ll never see.” Nigel Shamash, an agent for the building itself, not 3rd Ward, is also scrambling to provide spaces for ousted 3rd Ward members.

Naturally there’s a website: SAVE3RDWARD.com.   It is intended for the community, not for the 3rd Ward sponsors or administration, as businesses using the site figure out what to do. Some would like to retain studio space in the building, at least in the short term.

Ask the Experts: Food and Drink Entrepreneurs Dish About the Hard Times – and the Good

WHAT’S IT TAKE TO TRY TO MAKE IT AS A SMALL FOOD MANUFACTURER in New York City? That was the theme of a panel discussion last Tuesday at Leonard Lopate’s popular annual event series about the New York food scene. Three entrepreneurs came together with the broadcaster at WNYC’s Greene Space in Manhattan: Steve Hindy, cofounder of Brooklyn Brewery, Mark Rosen, a family member from the second of three generations making Sabrett hot dogs, and Anna Wolf, founder/owner of My Friend’s Mustard.

Lopate and Locavores: Discussing the ups and downs of running a food or drink business in NYC, with (from left) Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Brewery, Mark Rosen of Sabrett hot dogs and Anna Wolf of My Friend’s Mustard.

Later in the evening, Scott Bridi of Brooklyn Cured gave a lesson in sausage making, and Siggi Hilmarsson demo’d how to make Siggi’s Icelandic strained yogurt.

Sometimes, you do want to see the sausage being made. Before launching his company, Brooklyn Cured, Scott Bridi ran Gramercy Tavern’s charcuterie program for two years, then moved to Marlow and Daughters butcher shop in Williamsburg. Born in Bensonhurst, Bridi says “the borough with all its diversity is endlessly beautiful and important to me.”

The evening’s conversation frequently circled back to two pressing issues: distribution and struggles finding the right space to work in. Here are some snippets from the conversation:

How’d they get started?
Anna Wolf began making beer mustard as a hobby “for fun, shopping it out at the favorite watering hole,” she said. ‘You’ve gotta’ try my friend’s mustard,’ the bar owner would tell his customers. Hence the name. “He became my partner. We did a Kickstarter campaign. I made my first kitchen batches in March 2009, and we delivered them to the first six customers in his jeep.”

Steve Hindy was a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, where he worked in Beirut and Cairo for six years. It was in Cairo that he met American diplomats who were avid home brewers—a skill developed “out of necessity” when they were posted in Saudi Arabia. Hindy got interested. Back home in Brooklyn, he began to brew beer at home with his young downstairs neighbor Tom Potter, who had an MBA. They founded Brooklyn Brewery in 1987. “We raised $500,000 from colleagues and friends, but that wasn’t enough to build a brewery. We contracted out to a brewery in Utica and then trucked it down to an old warehouse in Bushwick. We went out in a van with our name on it and delivered to our first five customers.”

Mark Rosen is part of a family business started in 1926. Founder Gregory Papalexis, Rosen’s father-in-law, was the son of a baker who also had a hot dog business. Sabrett now manufactures 45 million pounds of frankfurters a year out of two plants in the Bronx, selling them up and down the east coast and wherever “New Yorkers are hiding out throughout the country,” said Rosen, but most visibly from pushcarts with the iconic blue and yellow umbrella all over New York City.

Their biggest challenges?
Hindy: “It took a lot longer to get licenses than we planned—six months instead of three—because NY State hadn’t approved a brewery in decades. There used to be 48 in Brooklyn alone, but the last one closed in 1976. To get approved, our investors had to reveal their deepest, darkest financial secrets, they had to be fingerprinted, which turned a lot of people off.” [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.”

 

Understanding the Hollywood Smoke

I WAS REMINDED by John J. Kochevar’s comments in An Artisanal Author Confronts His Pencils of how many traditional skills are fast disappearing these days. Here is another.

Montgomery Clift shows the classic cowboy roll on the set of Red River.

How to Roll a – uh, a Cigarette like a Pro.

The intent here is not to skirt Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to ban public smoking in New York City , but rather to address the high cost of a pack of cigarettes as well as record some ways of working with one’s hands once glamorized by Hollywood. 

Rolling  a smoke is a two-handed operation (see inset). Remove the cigarette rolling paper from its pack. Gently spread the paper horizontally,  and delicately grasp it between the tips of both index fingers and thumbs, roughly at the paper’s midpoint. The gummy strip should run along the top facing you. Carefully—yet  confidently—roll the paper back and forth three or four times with your thumbs and index fingers until it forms a U, with the gummy strip higher than the un-gummy side.

Gently now, gently, very gently, grasp the paper by one end. Remove one hand and take a pinch of tobacco. The tobacco should not be lumpy (and chewing tobacco should not be substituted. Nor should hamster food or your grandmother’s loose black tea—you will be discovered and publicly humiliated). [Read more…]

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.

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