Echo Glass Works at 253 Greenpoint Ave. offers a dazzling variety of one-of-a-kind custom glass jewelry, kiln cast glass, along with blown glass vessels that simply stun. However, this is not the first time that beautiful glass has been created in Greenpoint, which has a history of glass blowing dating back to the Civil War. One of the best-known glass factories in America in the 19th century was the Greenpoint Flint Glass Works located on Commercial Street.
The founder of the Greenpoint Flint Glass Works was an immigrant from Alsace, France Christian Dorflinger who set up his first glass blowing plants in downtown Brooklyn in 1852. Benefiting from growing demand for glass between 1856 and 1860, Dorflinger, looking to expand, constructed a new factory on the then undeveloped Newtown Creek at Commercial Street in Greenpoint. This factory was larger than his other two and also enjoyed a waterfront location with docking facilities. Because this area of Greenpoint was sparsely developed, Dorflinger also built housing near the factory for his workers, many of whom were also French immigrants.
Quickly, Dorflinger’s annual output reached $300,000, a huge sum for that era, and the quality of his glass was so highly regarded that Mary Todd Lincoln commissioned the Greenpoint firm to produce table settings for the White House. It helped to establish his company’s reputation for fine cut and engraved lead crystal. Many pieces of the Lincoln pattern glassware still remain in the White House collection today. Continue reading →
For years brilliant avant-guarde murals lay hidden inside a local housing project, but thanks to an intrepid art history detective they were rediscovered and everyone today can enjoy their genius. It is a local story worth recounting. In 1936, America was suffering the effects of the Great Depression. No one was harder hit by the depression than artists who watched the market for their work shrivel and completely dry up, but Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal offered artists a lifeline.
Their art would be used to beautify the massive building campaign that was at the heart of Roosevelt’s recovery plan, called the Works Progress Administration or WPA. One of the buildings that artists would beautify would be the Williamsburg Houses (164 Ten Eyck St.), which contain 20 buildings in an area around Leonard and Scholes streets. The chief architect of the project was Richmond Shreve, and the design team of nine other architects was led by the pioneering Swiss-American modernist William Lescaze, whose Philadelphia Saving Fund Society building of 1928-32 was one of the first major International Style buildings in the United States.
The design of the buildings was bold, daring and futuristic for the time and the design team wanted to decorate the interior of the complex with art that was equally bold. The four-story houses Lescaze designed included basement community rooms decorated with murals in “abstract and stimulating patterns” designed to aid relaxation.
The Federal Art Project (FAP) commissioned a series of murals, to be painted in the community rooms at the Williamsburg Houses. The head of the New York Murals of the FAP division in 1937 was Burgoyne Diller, who bravely decided to commission a series of abstract murals from avant-garde, relatively unknown artists. Abstract paintings, like those in the murals, were hard for the general public to appreciate. The artists who painted murals in the Williamsburg Houses eventually won recognition as giants in the field of abstract painting. The painters were Paul Kelpe (1902-85), Ilya Bolotowsky (1907-81), Balcomb Greene (1904-90), and Albert Swinden (1901-61). Diller, an abstract artist himself, put his own art career on hold in order to promote the abstract style in murals before it was accepted in the United States. Diller faced criticism and had to justify every abstract mural he placed in the houses, but he won and the art was installed. Continue reading →
The first Greenpointer was a woodworker: Norwegian immigrant, ship’s carpenter and master carpenter of the City of New Amsterdam, Dirck Volckertszen, built the first house here Near Franklin and Calyer Streets in 1645. Before settling locally, Volckertszen had often crossed the East River from Manhattan to cut local stands of timber used to build some of the first houses in New Amsterdam. Saftuik is a local woodworking shop that follows an old tradition in Greenpoint, but pioneers something new and socially responsible as well.
There is another connection between Volckertszen and Saftiuk- getting into trouble with the law. Volckertszen was often arrested and had multiple appearances in court; once for stabbing a man in the stomach in a bar brawl. He was also a reputed smuggler and might well have been a fugitive from European justice.
Saftuik would warm the cockles of old Dirck’s heart because it trains formerly incarcerated people to create one-of-a kind- home furnishings from discarded wood and other reclaimed materials. Saftiuk is the brainchild of Sebastian Saftuik Paulson, who grew up in the very woodsy North of Michigan where he developed his talent for carpentry and a social conscience.
So how did Greenpoint get to be the woodworking capital of New York City anyway? It all goes back to wooden shipbuilding. In the 1850s, there were 12 shipyards that lined the East River waterfront, building clipper ships and schooners, as well as requiring tons of wood. Mountains of wood were floated into Greenpoint and the waterfront resounded all day long with the sounds of wood saws and hammers. Naturally, lumberyards became important businesses. Continue reading →
Greenpoint does not seem like a very likely place to have a tradition of taxidermy, but this is an area that is always full of surprises and it turns out that Greenpoint made a major contribution to taxidermy.
Taxidermy is defined as the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form. One of the finest practitioners of this art is Amber Maykut of Brooklyn Taxidermy (681 Morgan Avenue). Amber took lessons from George Dante and John Bollman, taxidermists for NYC’s American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian.
At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Amber interned in the special exhibitions/fabrication department and studied the art of the diorama under Tom Doncourt. She also became certified in bird and mammal taxidermy. Brooklyn Taxidermy has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The LA Times, VICE Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Time Out NY, and many other publications, but Amber is neither the first nor the most famous, local taxidermist.
Greenpoint’s legendary taxidermist John Rowley created many of the great dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History and wrote two of the most important texts about Taxidermy.
I came across Rowley’s story in an old edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Old Timers Recollection series in which Greenpointer Alfred Preston in February of 1940 recalled growing up with Rowley. Information on Rowley’s youth in Greenpoint is sketchy, but it appears he was born in 1862 and was largely self-educated.
Taxidermy began to establish itself as a science and art form in the 1880s just as Rowley was reaching adulthood and New York’s American Museum of Natural History was being founded. One can surmise that he visited the museum, which first opened in 1871, as a boy and like millions of other children, was fascinated by the animals he saw there, but the state of taxidermy was primitive then. Animals were simply stuffed and they were not exhibited in the lifelike dioramas that have enthralled millions of visitors for decades, so creating realistic dioramas was one of the important early tasks of the museum. Continue reading →
Eckford Street Studio, the Greenpoint gem with Drink and Draw Tuesdays, is opening up its doors at 70 Eckford Street to host a Community Open Studio on December 21 from 7 to 10 PM. Have access to studio materials, enjoy free beer and snacks, and take classes in zine-making. Professional artists will be on site to consult, and the community-building event will be taking a suggested donation of $5–25 to support our Scholarship Fund for kids from local Title I schools. “More than anything,” Education Manager Stefanie Lewin says, “we are just excited to welcome community members into the studio for a fun, creative evening.”
Before heading off for the holidays, bring a project you’ve been meaning to complete before the new year and meet local artists!
There’s only one week left to catch the Green Point Projects exhibition featuring the paintings of esteemed Polish Modernist painters, Jozef Czapski and Teresa Pagowska, at Green Point Projects (27 Gem St.).
The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday, from 12 pm – 6 pm, and the current show entitled “Returning to New York” is curated by Marek Bartelik.
The exhibition runs through December 15 and marks the gallery’s fourth show. Green Point Projects has also displayed the work of Polish artists Eugeniusz Markowski, Stefan Krygier, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Stanisław Fijałkowski.
You won’t want to miss the Looking Glass presentation where participants can touch and interact with digital 3D worlds and characters. In the Summer of 2018, the team launched the world’s first desktop holographic display for 3D creators and are excited to spread the word of the hologram with the greater Greenpoint community.
This weekend Greenpoint has a plethora of local popup shopping destinations to pickup a gift for that special someone for the holiday season. Whether you’re looking for the perfect hand-spun gift, organic cotton children’s clothes, obscure home decor, rare teas, or group acupuncture you’re in luck!
Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market Sunday, Dec. 2 | 1-7 p.m. 67 West Street, 5th Floor FREE, dog-friendly, More info
Enter our immersive winterscape inside the cozy Greenpoint Loft (67 West St) that will be donned with an ice castle, snow, snowmen and polar bears, thanks to designs by scenic artist extraordinaire Art of Mano. 60+ talented makers & crafters will have beautiful creations ready for sale and there will be no shortage of FREE things to do throughout the day! RSVP on Facebook and stay updated!
Oddities Flea Market Saturday, Dec. 1 – Sunday, Dec 2 | 12 p.m.-6 p.m. (10 a.m. entry for VIP ticket holders) 150 Greenpoint Ave. (Brooklyn Bazaar) $10 entry at the door and tickets for Saturday and Sunday, Children under 10 are free, More info
Feast your eyes on medical history ephemera, anatomical curiosities, natural history items, osteological specimens, taxidermy, obscure home decor, jewelry, one of a kind dark art, and more. Inside, you will find three floors of unusual vendors from across the country, hand-picked by curator Ryan Matthew Cohn.
The Brooklyn-based band Love Always is only a year old, but its seasoned members are a supergroup of sorts, crafting musical vibes with Jamaican/roots, rocksteady, reggae and lovers rock influences.
Patricia Verdolino (vocals), Michael O’Connor (guitar), and Andy Shaw (bass) are original members of 90s Ska band Metro Stylee. Shaw also plays bass in the popular Brooklyn band Bikini Carwash, while drummer Ron Salvo plays with .357 Lover and keyboardist Jeannie Oliver played in Si Se.
Love Always is currently in the studio recording an EP and is testing out their new songs live. What better way is there to warm up this weekend than with live music from Love Always? The band will perform two sets this Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market at 67 West St., we hope to see you there.
Intermediate School 318 (101 Walton St.) is now hosting a large-scale mural by street artists ASVP spanning five stories and featuring balancing endangered species to start a conversation about the earth’s sustainability.
The mural, entitled “Equilibrium,” was one of two murals painted at the school last summer as part of #THEPOINTNYC, a Climate Week NYC project produced by Greenpoint Innovations in partnership with Comics Uniting Nations, Hypokrit Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Vintage clothing retailer Walk the West (150 Franklin St.) is currently displaying a large framed print of “Equilibrium” that is for sale and the store is helping to sell the smaller signed 15″ X 20″ prints. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the prints will go toward the parent-teacher association of IS318. The limited edition signed 15″ X 20″ prints can also be purchased online.
“We hope that in addition to raising money for the school, these prints will help us continue raising awareness about human-driven climate change and the urgency for all people, particularly the youth, to take action,” said Stephen Donofrio, founder of Greenpoint Innovations. “We’re grateful to ASVP for their support, talent, and ongoing generosity with this project.” Continue reading →