BKLYN DESIGNS shines a light on borough designers in DUMBO showcase

May 10, 2013 Heather Chin
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This weekend’s return of BKLYN DESIGNS 2013 to its namesake borough was an exciting coup for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and its president/CEO, Carlo Scissura, who greeted first-day exhibit-goers on Friday, May 10 at St. Ann’s Warehouse at 29 Jay Street in DUMBO.

The 10th annual, three-day event had been held for several years in Manhattan at the Jacob Javits Center and now, said Scissura, guests could get the full experience in the “hottest” part of New York City, which Chamber co-chair Diane Arbesu noted is replete with a cultural “renaissance and diversity”  unrivaled elsewhere.

Making the exhibition even more family-friendly is the presence of live music yoga classes at neighboring Abhaya Yoga Studio at 10 Jay Street, an interactive outdoor kids lounge, food trucks outside, and various other mini-events.

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But the people who were perhaps most excited for BKLYN DESIGNS were the 37 designers selected to be featured in New York’s “premier exhibition of contemporary furnishings and home accessories that are designed or manufactured in Brooklyn.”

Among them were Tyagi Schwartz of Dog Tag Designs and Cassidy Brush of Urban Chandy, whose display rooms sat across from one another during the exhibition and whose designs are incredibly different, yet both made from reclaimed, once-discarded items.

Turn to the left and you encounter shelves full of mechanical objects that, at first glance, resemble mini-ETs or what Wall-E would look like if he became a light fixture. Schwartz’s whimsical and clever lights, tables, music boxes and other creations are the result of looking “high and low for these things that people don’t think are valuable” and are inspired by a general “fascination with phones and toys [that] represent the past and present in a tongue-in-cheek way.” For example, a phone receiver mounted on a toy truck is dubbed a “Mobile Phone.” And when you pick up the receiver on the Blue Phone, you hear blues music.

Turn to the right and you’re having a Eureka! moment with lightbulbs and light fixtures of various shapes, sizes, and lengths hanging from a colorful patchwork plywood board — creating a makeshift chandelier, or chandy — or adorning the wall. Brush’s “accidental business” started 18 months ago when she began receiving requests to buy the chandy she had made for her jewelry and clothing office space. Her pieces have an industrial rustic aesthetic — “like a farmhouse, but modern” – and are low-energy (an average piece is 250 watts with 12 bulbs), give off plenty of light, and are made of wood from places like M Fine Lumber near Bushwick.

Hand-crafted furniture and textiles are also well-represented with Mark Jupiter’s gorgeously hand-wrought wooden furniture and decor (he made a coffee table out of a storm-fallen elm in Park Slope, Pickett Furniture’s vibrant and 70s-meets-contemporary comfort, Kimberly Lewis Home’s chic yet grown-up patterns, and Chris Han’s award-winning and universally useful wooden spoons.

On a macro scale, there was Garrison Architects’ “Life Preservers” project complete with a small-scale model of their module design for storm-weathering bathrooms and lifeguard units, which will be replacing the ones washed away by Hurricane Sandy in Coney island, Brighton Beach, the Rockaways, and parts of Staten Island. The first units will be going up in time for Memorial Day weekend, said one of the designers, Marisa Ferrara.

“They are fast, durable, and above FEMA’s new flood level,” explained Ferrara. “They are all metal, with durable siding of corrugated steel and fiber reinforced cement.”

Following the event, one of these designers will be selected from the juried exhibition as “Found In Brooklyn” — to have their work featured at West Elm’s DUMBO location, at 75 Front Street.

For more on BKLYN DESIGNS, visit www.bklyndesigns.com.

Here is the full list of exhibitors:

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