pencil factory

Studio visit & interview with artist Michael Hambouz

Michael Hambouz in his element, the studio ©Markus Weaver

(A version of this interview appeared for boygirl Magazine)

Late in his life, Henri Matisse would turn to creating cutouts, which eventually covered the walls of his lofty studios from floor to ceiling inside the Hotel Excelsior Regina Palace at Cimiez in France. Matisse would direct his numerous assistants and his Russian mistress, Lydia Delektorskaya, with a 12-foot long bamboo cane from his bed, and they would all rush to adjust his colored paper compositions. Echoing Matisse in his own way, and paying homage to the beauty of industrial America, multimedia artist Michael Hambouz has created a series of 18 large-scale, cut-paper collage works called Factory Made using paper stock from the mill located in his hometown of Niles, Michigan. We met in front of The Richardson, and walked to his studio a few doors down, where his cat, Pickles, was waiting. Continue reading

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Monuments Interview and Brigadune Album Review and Cameo Show Tonight 5/9

If you aren’t familiar with Greenpoint band Monuments, now is a perfect time to get to know them. They have a new album out called Brigadune, they play tonight at Cameo Gallery, and they did an interview with us. Check it out. Continue reading

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Mega-Records, Future Hotel? Local Relief, Pee Wee, Drinking Agists — The Hook-Up (11/25)

 

Artwork by Tamara Garvey

 

Vinyl is alive and well. Besides a smorgasbord of little and medium-sized record stores throughout north Brooklyn, today marks the opening of Rough Trade, a 10,000 square foot monster of a music store with all the bells & whistles.  (NY Times)

Speaking of big buildings, the Pencil factory building next door to where Kickstarter has opened for business on Greenpoint Avenue is for sale.  “The three-story structure includes 17,485 square feet of space and is zoned for hotel, retail or office use” As long as it doesn’t become a Duane Reade I’m good.  (DNA Info)

The push to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan continues locally with the help of the owners of Dalaga who are asking for much needed supplies, including: energy bars, tents clean blankets, towels, batteries, soap and medications. They will also be donating 100 percent of the proceeds from the store’s own line of jewelry, greeting cards and tote bags to the cause. Awesome.  (Greenpoint Gazette)

Our friends at Brokelyn let us know that somebody in Greenpoint was selling their Pee Wee Herman Chairy Chair on Craigslist and that’s news because Pee Wee Herman rules.

And finally, a rowdy bar in Red Hook hiked their drinking age to 25 because it was too noisy late at night. It’s a controversial move, but I’ll admit it, it sounds kind of nice.  (Time.com)

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Hey, Handsome: Owen & Fred

© Lacour Studios

For all of you gentlemen and gentlewomen, there’s a hot-to-trot new face in Greenpoint and it’s called Owen & Fred. The clean-cut, utilitarian men’s brand stocks minimal but cheeky shaving kits, understated but classic duffel bags, and a no fuss carry-on. Not to mention, Owen & Fred also sells cheeky wares (coffee mugs, stationary, toiletries) with subtle 1960s influences while maintaining a contemporary attitude.

With many Brooklyn made products, Owen & Fred launched a Kickstarter campaign to solidify their products and commitment with customers. The brand recently relocated to the Pencil Factory and I sat down with the founder, Michael Arnot, to talk about the brand, being a Greenpoint start up, and more.

Continue reading

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“We All Need More Craftiness!” Chat with Brett Bara of Brooklyn Craft Company

When I met with Brooklyn Crafting Queen Brett Bara in her newly occupied sub-level HQ in Greenpoint Ave’s Pencil Factory studios, the space was empty and Brett was diligently working on her laptop, planning away, at a folding table near the space’s generous wall of windows. Despite its lack of stuff, the large venue was filled with Brett’s enthusiastic energy in anticipation of her soon to debut Brooklyn Craft Company. Continue reading

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Kickstarter HQ – What’s On Deck

Progress on Kickstarter’s forthcoming Greenpoint HQ at the old Pencil Factory on Kent Street has been ongoing, but perceptible improvements have been hard to report for the last few months.

Well that and my lack of snooping around…

Architect Ole Sondresen has released a portfolio for the Kickstarter project. Visit the link to see an illustrated rendering of what their vision for the roof deck/courtyard seen above will morph into.

This isn’t the only urban design project Kickstarter is getting behind. Check out these 6 recent Kickstarter projects for cities from This Big City.

Follow (intermittent) progress reports on Kickstarter’s new Greenpoint based HQ at buildingkickstart.

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Kickstarter Furthers Brooklyn’s Tech Boom!

Fellow Greenpointer Nathaniel Ziering tipped me off that Kickstarter is moving their headquarters from Manhattan to Greenpoint! The fast growing company provides crowd-sourced funding for creative projects, many of which have come from Greenpoint.  In March, plans were approved for Kickstarter to renovate 58 Kent Street, a Landmarked, vacant building located between Franking & West streets. As you can see from the picture, this one could really use a tune-up! Kickstarter’s move to Greenpoint is a big vote of confidence for the neighborhood, will be great for the local economy and continue the momentum of businesses choosing Brooklyn as their new home. Continue reading

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94th Precinct Community Meeting

Tuesday night’s regular meeting between the 94th precinct’s residents and police officers came loaded with a clear mandate conveyed through signs posted around the neighborhood and seen earlier this week on utility poles and local blogs.  After a remark that Bedford Avenue on New Year’s Eve looked more like Mardi Gras than New York, the presentation compared crime rates between 2010 and 2011, highlighting lowered rates for most major crimes and pointing out that the 94th precinct enjoys the 9th lowest (out of 76) rate for the major crimes that the department is required to report to federal authorities. 
The news wasn’t all good, though, and pedestrian strikes and motor vehicle accidents were both up by 63% and 5% respectively.  Also mentioned were the two fatalities caused by motor vehicles, a hit-and-run on Calyer and the fatal collision between a drunk driver and a man doing deliveries for the Chinese Musician restaurant.  The driver in that case, who lived on the block where the accident occurred, was subsequently arrested and charged with manslaughter. The police also pointed out Greenpoint’s continuing problem with car theft.

While the statistics from the police department were illuminating, the meeting got interesting once the floor was opened for questions.  By far the most vocal attendee of the night came with a strongly-worded case against the Production Lounge, whom he claims is responsible for serious and sustained noise issues.  The issue seemed to strike a chord with the audience who raised familiar concerns about the changing nature of the neighborhood. 
However, new and interesting points were raised in what has become a common discussion on the nature and effects of gentrification and the danger of Greenpoint becoming like “a weekly frat party” or like “the Lower East Side,” to paraphrase examples given at the meeting.  One resident pointed out that poor urban planning and a lack of response to demographic trends on the part of the City are directly to blame for some of these issues; while an influx of new residents may not be avoidable, it is certainly exacerbated by poor transit, antiquated zoning, and odd rules that require historic preservation of such things as building facades while allowing for noisy new neighbors.  
A perceived lack of response by Production Lounge owner Joe Ariola has certainly contributed to local ire, and this matter may well find its resolution in front of the Community Board 1 liquor licensing committee in the future.

Interestingly, it wasn’t only longtime residents who voiced concerns about noise.  Owners of recording studios operating within the Pencil Factory lofts at the corner of Franklin and Greenpoint Avenues, who come under fire themselves for noise at times, pointed out that for legitimate businesses who care for both their neighbors and sound quality within their own establishments, straightforward engineering solutions exist for noise problems.  My favorite quote of the evening was from a recording studio owner who said that he was not in business to make noise but to make “music that your kids listen to,” and that business adds jobs and revenue to the community.

Other issues raised included drug-buying Access-A-Ride drivers, the questionable legality of short-term vacation sublets, police response to car break-ins, and coordination between police and community watch groups.  I would be surprised if the Production Lounge didn’t see increased scrutiny in the near future and in the meantime residents should continue to call 311 and the precinct with noise complaints.  Even if no immediate action is taken, calling 311 helps to establish data on noise patterns and helps guide future planning decisions.

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