By Hand Made

img_6161Brooklyn Artisan slipped out of the borough last weekend to attend the massive NY Now wholesale market held at Javits. Our mission: to locate designs and artisans that exemplified the best in handmade creativity. Result: a selection of beautiful products with a Brooklyn origin.

Above, a Brooklyn-themed card hand-printed by letterpress in the Bushwick studio of Lovewild Design. Lovewild characterizes itself as “family-owned, women-run” and has developed a range of handmade products that are highly sustainable. The greeting cards encourage reuse—seeds are embedded in the paper and will actually germinate into tiny wildflower patches when planted in soil. The cards provide charming and sometimes pointed sentiments—a favorite is “I’m so relieved you found someone to marry you. Really.” Lovewild founder Sierra Zamarripa insists that was what her grandmother actually said to her. It could qualify as Most New York Congratulations ever.

fullsizerender-12Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics displayed a wide range of bold, modern tableware in elegant forms and colors created in its Greenpoint studio. The style of ceramic is characterized by designer Kevin Wilcoxson as “New Modern,” a derivation of a traditional Japanese Mingei style and highly valued in museum gift shops. Another interesting activity of the studio is the schedule of workshops where participants get hands-on experience in the craft. Other craftspersons might want to consider how to incorporate similar real-world interactions into their businesses.

fullsizerender-7Jewelry definitely appears to be a growth industry in Brooklyn (viz. our piece from October). Swooping curls of sterling silver and gold are the creative product of designer Lucia Perluck, shown above in the Emerging Makers area at NY Now. Her minimalist designs under the label Lucia Pearl are available IRL in Crown Heights at Marché Rue Dix and online at Etsy. Especially notable is her collaboration with a Moroccan master engraver: Maalem and Maalema.

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Williamsburg-based designer Tracey Tanner showed an impressive array of leather products—wallets, clutches, pouches—in an astonishing variety of leather finishes. (And here I was thinking leather essentially came in brown and black. Anyone for sparkling magenta?)

As a footnote, all the designers featured in this piece in all their diversity work within a one mile radius in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint/Bushwick nexus. It is becoming difficult to grasp the volume of creative energy across the whole of Brooklyn.

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Open Studios: Plan A Happy Post-Election Weekend

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Windsor Terrace artist Susan Greenstein’s watercolor view from New York’s High Line (not for sale).

THIS WEEKEND (NOVEMBER 12-13) THIRTY-FIVE ARTISTS in Windsor Terrace and Park Slope will open their homes and studios and invite us in on Saturday and Sunday to have a look, talk about art or not, and maybe buy something, maybe not. The hours are 12 to 5 pm both days. Brooklyn Artisan is quick to attest on the basis of previous years that it’s a lot of fun to do and certainly should give you a good rest from politics.

To make a plan over brunch, check the map at parkslopewindsorterraceartists.com. (The map is downloadable. Most of the studios offer map printouts that you can pick up and carry with you.)

The site also has a Directory of Artists that’s set up to be fun to browse. Use it as a planning tool to choose studios most likely to interest you. In past years, Brooklyn Artisan has started our meanderings at the southeastern edge, 41 Fuller Place, with the dazzling watercolors of Joy Makon. Many of her subjects are local scenes, beautifully composed (and hard to resist. Ask Joy about giclée prints, too). One year we worked north and west to Park Slope, ending up with interesting conversation on technique in Simon Dinnerstein‘s impressive top-floor home studio (his Fulbright Triptych is world famous), and another year, we circled around Windsor Terrace, buying a charming Christmas book with illustrations by Dara Oshin and a watercolor by Susan Greenstein for Christmas gifts.

Warning: It may be hard to part with your gift purchases! (Susan’s watercolor view from the High Line hangs handsomely in this writer’s home even as she types. See homey photo above.)

Keep Calm … And Chalk On

Konditori Swedish Coffee Shop in Prospet Heights, Brooklyn

Konditori Swedish Espresso Bar in Prospect Heights

Konditori Swedish Espresso Bar, BrooklynFor Swedish espresso aficionados, or the merely curious, Konditori in Prospect Heights is on Washington Avenue between St. Marks and Prospect, where it projects a friendly attitude. “Keep calm and stay Swedish” is the message of the day. Cardomom Brod is a featured menu item. Or you could choose the hairy calorie bomb, aka the CocoBall.  Other Konditori locations are in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg and Greenpoint (plus one on the Lower East Side in Outer Brooklyn). (Photos: Brooklyn Artisan)

Stuckist Art “Against the Cult of the Ego-artist”

 

Judith Mills talks about her Stuckist painting on Open Studio day, Sunset Park (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Judith Mills talks about her Stuckist paintings in her Brooklyn studio. (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

“I’VE ALIGNED MYSELF WITH STUCKISM FOR TWO YEARS,” says Judith Mills, on Open Studio day at Industry City late last month. “It has really helped me,” she says, with emphasis. With your art?, Brooklyn Artisan asks. “Yes. It enabled me to narrow down my focus to the realistic—what’s real, you know—and then to pull out to the expressive.” She gestures energetically toward the wide range of large canvases around her, wonderful, colorful, magnetic, different from one another — all that and more —and to Brooklyn Artisan, not remotely realistic.

“But the biggest surprise?” Judith continues. “It unstuck me in other areas of my life as well.” “You mean with money?” a studio visitor asks. Judith is nodding. “Or with friends?” More nodding. Judith adds, “I’ve been much more — well, here,” she says, pointing to a wire in-basket with printed pages. “You can read it.”

It is titled “THE STUCKISTS,” referring to a quote from Tracey Emin: “Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!” The subtitle of the manifesto is “Against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego-artist.” The manifesto dates from April 8, 1999, and is signed by Billy Childish and Charles Thomson. (“First published by The Hangman Bureau of Enquiry,” it says at the bottom, and gives an English address, in Kent.) It advocates authenticity in one’s work, one’s art, one’s life and one’s self.

"Waterfall," by Judith Mills

“Waterfall” is large and hynotic in rhythmic strips of blue, indigo, violet. It measures 60×72″

Judith Mills is one of the artist-organizers of Open Studios at Industry City, the complex of lofts and warehouses at Bush Terminal, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. About 75 studios belonging to artists, photographers, stained-glass craftsmen, jewelers, musicians, and textile designers,were open to visitors.

And The Stuckists? Per Wikipedia: “Tracey Emin, CBERA (born 3 July 1963) is an English artist. She is part of the group known as Britartists or YBAs (Young British Artists),” and then it details a number of Bad Girl behaviors (such as being “drunk and swearing” on live TV), but not as many, apparently, as Tracey herself has revealed. For instance, in 1997 Emin showed  Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliquéd with quite a list of names, at the Royal Academy in London. More lately she was appointed of the Order of the British Empire, and is one of only two female professors—ever—at the Royal Academy since it was founded in 1768.  Functioning in such a culture might make anyone behave like a Bad Girl.

Ah, but Brooklyn Artisan doth digress. Open Studio day at Industry City on April 26 was a “first annual” — that is, a pioneering experiment — meant to foster community both within and outside the circle of creative tenants at the vast Bush Terminal industrial and warehousing facility in Sunset Park. Some studio hosts offered light things to eat and drink and were happy to speak about their work. [Update from Judith Mills:The show went better than expected. I was selected to do a live painting performance that will be May 30th on the rooftop atrium of the Park Restaurant in Chelsea for a fundraiser. I am very excited for this opportunity that developed out of the open studios.”]  

Megan Grissett, who lives in Sunset Park, saw a notice of the Open Studios event posted in a neighborhood cafe and was eager to come over. A graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Megan came to New York from Raleigh, North Carolina, about three years ago.  “I live up the street,” she explains, and says she ‘d always wondered about  Industry City.

“I work as a social media specialist at an ad agency in Manhattan,” she says, “and I don’t have much time for sketching, or a place for it.” But she had wondered if the atmosphere at Industry City would be too commercial. “Now I think it would be a great environment,” she says wistfully. “I would have to share space, though.”

As we sit and chat on one of wooden benches in a hallway on the fourth floor of Building B, Megan glances down at a fresh tattoo on the top of her right foot. Rendered in green and red, it is the image of a long-stemmed budding rose. “I just had it done,” she confides, “in memory of my grandmother, who died about a month ago. I’ll think of her every time I look at it.

“We were very close,” Megan says, in her soft accent. “I don’t want to ever forget her.”

See Brooklyn Artisan’s prior stories on Industry City Open Studios. More coverage of artists and their studios will be posted this week. 

Anne Mollegen Smith also writes personal finance articles for investopedia.com.

 

 

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.

Lingering After Images of Creative Studios at Industry City

 

The artist Dylan Vanderhoeck, with "Gibsonia," a 2013 work. (Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool.)

The artist Dylan Vanderhoeck, with “Gibsonia,” a 2013 work.
(Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool.)

 

“I CAN SEE THROUGH MY HANDS’ is what the young artist Dylan Vandenhoeck called the work he was showing Saturday in his @SO WHAT SPACE in Industry City Building B, where he has space B424 (that signifies his room on the 4th floor of Building B in the huge complex that formerly was the Bush Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn).

Yesterday was Industry City’s first Open Studios day. Organized cooperatively between Industry City and some of its creative tenants, the event was an invitation to interested visitors to “get a rare glimpse of works in progress, and discover how each tenant has customized a raw studio space to fit his or her medium and personal style,” its brochure said.

Two contrasting images form a single piece, the real and the after image.

Two contrasting images form a single piece, the real and the after image.

“Gibsonia” is based on a real place remembered, Dylan explained to Brooklyn Artisan. It was done in oil on canvas. The contrast is exaggerated between the dark room and the soft rug with vibrating colors, and the brilliant scene beyond the window sill’s plants.

In “Palm at the End of the Mind/After Image,” right,  a newer work in oil on linen, which appears to be two pieces joined into one, the contrast is as though you stared at the bright palm fronds on the left and then closed your eyes, seeing the after image on your retina and in your mind.

That concept sets a theme for the whole day’s happy experience of wandering from studio to studio, seeing work in progress and talking with the artists, photographers, designers and artisans practicing their craft. Over coming days, Brooklyn Artisan will report on more studios we visited.

Former editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine and the Art of Simple Living, Anne Mollegen Smith also writes about personal finance for investopedia.com.

Be an Operator, Not a Hustler…and Other Tips for Business Success

BUSINESS OWNERS SHANE WELCH, FOUNDER OF SIXPOINT BREWERY in Red Hook, Matthew Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread in Bed-Stuy and Charlie Sahadi, proprietor of Sahadi Importing Co. in Brooklyn Heights, showed their business scars and shared some hard-earned wisdom at a recent Brooklyn Public Library conversation, “Fantastic Food,” led by photographer Randy Duchaine, whose “Created in Brooklyn” exhibition of portraits inspired the series:

If the adjoining property comes up for sale, buy it.—Charlie Sahadi
Sahadi remembered this advice from his father when two buildings on Atlantic Avenue came up for sale in 1977 for what seemed, at the time, an impossibly astronomical price. “Owning your property is a very big plus. Landlords want to become your partner without doing the work. We scrimped and bought the buildings. Now when I look back at the price, of course, I feel as if we stole the property.”

“You have to innovate—adapt and change with the times,” says Charlie Sahadi (above). “Sahadi’s is an ingredients store, but then we opened a deli to show off what you can make with these ingredients.” Photograph © 2013 by Randy Duchaine

“You have to innovate—adapt and change with the times,” says Charlie Sahadi (above).
“Sahadi’s is an ingredients store, but then we opened a deli to show off what you can
make with all these ingredients.” Photograph by RandyDuchaine.com

When a cohort of producers grows up in a neighborhood, that’s good. —Shane Welch
“We all root for each other. If there’s only one place in a neighborhood, it might be hard to get people to come to you. But now in Red Hook you have roving bands of food tourists who make a day of it and stop at three or four places.” (Similarly, Sahadi talked about Trader Joe’s opening up near his store, which far from being a competitive threat, is introducing a whole new set of customers to Sahadi’s, he says, and helping make “downtown Brooklyn a foodie paradise.”)

“We knew Brooklyn would grasp what we were doing with beer,” says Shane Welch, front, with his Sixpoint Brewery crew. “And the mineral profile of the water here is virtually perfect for brewing.” Photograph © 2013 by Randy Duchaine

“We knew Brooklyn would grasp what we were doing with beer,” says Shane Welch, front, with his Sixpoint Brewery crew. “And the mineral profile of the water here is virtually perfect for brewing.” Photograph by RandyDuchaine.com

Don’t take yourself too seriously, but do serious work.—Matt Tilden
“Be humble. Work hard, focus on community betterment and sharing knowledge. A brand is a living breathing thing; for us, it’s a statement about food.”

Make the transition from hustler to operator—a perspective Tilden remembers Welch sharing with him over dinner one night.
Welch explains: “Everyone starts out hard-scrabble, hustling. But as you and the business grow and mature, you legitimize. Operators figure out how to get things done the right way. It can be poisonous if you remain a hustler. Say you do building without permits and then someone gets hurt. That could be the end of your business.”

Matt Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread: “Brooklyn is approachable sophistication. It’s a family culture with an edge. I relate to raw and rustic.” Photograph © 2013 by Randy Duchaine

Matt Tilden, founder of SCRATCHbread: “Brooklyn is approachable sophistication.
It’s a family culture with an edge. I relate to raw and rustic.” Photograph by RandyDuchaine.com

Give people a good product, at a fair price, with good customer service.—Charlie Sahadi 
When Sahadi says, “Our customers become our friends,” you believe him if you’ve ever stepped inside his store. “Shopping with us has to be a pleasurable experience. We’re part of our customers’ lives. Otherwise, we’d just be another store on Atlantic Avenue.”

Can’t the City Make It Easier?

This is one they all could agree on. Regulations are one of the biggest threats to New York City small businesses, they said. You have to be on top of them, and there are hundreds of them—city, state, federal—and they seem to change almost hourly. Dept. of Agriculture, NYC Dept. of Health, Landmarks Preservation, Dept. of Buildings, the list goes on.

Yes, of course these owners value their customers’ safety and health. But can’t it be easier? A 2008 update to the NYC building code complicated everyone’s lives enormously, they report. Sahadi’s first planned a store renovation in 1999; they got all the approvals, but then decided to postpone construction when they bought a big warehouse in Sunset Park. By the time they were ready to build, the 2008 revision was in effect. “It drove us a little crazy to get all the right permitting,” says Sahadi, “especially since our buildings also come under the Landmark Preservation Commission.” He credits his son, Ron, and his daughter Christine with managing the project and getting it done.

A sole proprietor can find it overwhelming to manage the contracting, building and running back and forth to city offices for permitting while keeping the business going—not to mention staying on top of the regulatory changes. Shane Welch finds himself dealing with the Dept. of Homeland Security now, since the Tax and Trade Bureau, which governs the excise tax on beer, was swallowed up in it. Day-to-day, it’s a little like being nibbled to death by ducks. For instance, SCRATCHbread got a ticket recently because its benches were three feet further out than they were supposed to be—one of hundreds of details a business must keep track of. “Now don’t you think the inspector could simply have pointed it out?” Matt Tilden wondered. “I’d have been happy to move them.”

The “Created in Brooklyn” exhibit is on display at Brooklyn Public Library until August 31. The conversations continue in June and July, on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 pm: June 26, Design Crafts; July 10, Urban Adventures; July 17, Art & Music.

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