Friends & Neighbors / Brooklyn Art Library.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In Friends & Neighbors, I'll introduce you to some of my favorite creative businesses in Williamsburg. With a new expensive store or chain restaurant opening seemingly every week, there's been much talk these days about how Williamsburg is "over." This series showcases shops, restaurants, and studios that make the neighborhood special, and prove that integrity, creativity, and an artistic spirit are still alive and well. They're places that make me proud to live here, and to call the faces behind their counters neighborsPhotographs by Jacquelyne Pierson.


Thirty-two thousand books line the walls at 103 North 3rd Street — to take it all in is to spend a lot of time squinting, staring, standing back in awe. "There's so much amazing work here," says co-founder Steven Peterman. "Just looking at the shelves really captures the beauty of the project as a whole. Each book is a story. Each book is a voice."

The Brooklyn Art Library, as the space is called, is home to The Sketchbook Project, an eight-year-long undertaking that has resulted in the collection and cataloguing of tens of thousands of artists' sketchbooks from around the globe. Anyone — regardless of artistic background — can submit, so long as he or she meets the annual deadline and a small fee. Once turned in, each 32-page volume is made searchable by subject, place of origin, key words, and other various categories — then, it's added to the library so that anyone who visits can find it and flip through its pages.


Stationed in their current location since 2010, the Art Library serves as both storefront and community space, inviting locals and tourists alike to browse. Teachers bring students on class visits; shoppers stop in to peruse an assortment of paper goods and art materials. Each time, they're greeted by a friendly staff (a small one, with less than ten members total), who are at the ready to help navigate the shelves.  

As a neighbor of the shop since it opened, I've come in many times, often just to look around, but also to share it with visiting friends — it's a perfect, only-in-New-York gem, and though it's built on an idea that seems larger than life, the library itself manages to somehow make the city — and the world — seem smaller. "I love the idea of connecting the community," Steven says, "and of finding people who have the same thoughts and ideas as you, all over the world, who haven't been dead for 100 years."


"There's no way we could have predicted that we'd get here," he continues, "that we'd end up in Williamsburg, with this many books. It's been a little like we're on a ship moving through the fog." When asked whether he's seen everything in the space, he smiles. "Definitely not. When the deadlines come, we get bags of mail at once. So we're always finding things we've never seen. There's always a treasure to be found."


Brooklyn Art Library, 103A North 3rd Street, (718) 388-7941
Mon-Sun 11am - 7pm 

Five Minutes with Steven Peterman:

Where did The Sketchbook Project originate? We started in 2006 in Atlanta. We opened up a gallery where you'd pay us a monthly fee for wall space, but it wasn't really what we wanted to do. We wanted to work more with the community, so we started a series of projects — the first was called A Million Little Pictures. We sent out disposable cameras with a simple idea in mind: that many different people would come together to create something. The Sketchbook Project was just one of many things we were doing at the time, but it was one people kept relating to. And it continued to grow — between 2009 and 2010, we grew from 3,000 people doing the project to 28,000. In the art world, often you have to know someone or pay to have your work seen, but we wanted to create something fun and non-intimidating. Eventually, we moved to New York in 2009. And here we are.

What's been the most exciting part of the journey thus far?  It's allowed us to travel and meet people all over the world. We met a woman in Australia in her 60s who did the project and then decided to go to art school. I love that there are great illustrators and artists participating, but there are also people who are just looking for a way to tell a story.

Do you keep a sketchbook yourself? I have three books in the collection. Everyone who works with us has made one over the past few years. Every late winter, we get together as a staff and share them. It's really changed my perspective on the project — it's so much work to make a 32-page book.

Visit the Brooklyn Art Library website, here, and The Sketchbook Project, here.

If On a Winter's Night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nick Turpin's photographs of London bus passengers on winter nights are gorgeous and ghostly, full of mystery. They remind me of those fleeting moments on trains when you catch the eye of someone in a passing car — you wonder, what are they thinking about? or where are they going? or did they see me, too? Those moments — connecting with strangers, however briefly, and dreaming up their stories — is one of my favorite parts of living in a city.


See more at Nick Turpin's website, here. Thanks, Ignant.

Recommended Reading / 11.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Every Monday, words to start the week.

This week, from Omid Safi's The Disease of Being Busy: Reflections from a Duke University professor on the downfalls of constant busy-ness. Says Safi: "What happened to a world in which we can sit with people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?" 

 He continues: "I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports. I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life." Read the piece in its entirety, here

Three more links, just because:
-Slumber Party Games: A Taxonomy.
-Thanksgiving-themed ramen, burgers, and a turkey wrapped in proscuitto.
-Hawkeye Hurley, the four-year-old son of a National Geographic photographer, has an Instagram account for his own shots, which he takes on a Fujifilm Instax.

More recommended reading, here. Photos by Max Wanger. Have a lovely Monday!

Non-Career Advice: Deb Filler.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.

Deb Filler / Writer + performer + comedian
Also: Singer / teacher / world-class cook
Age: 60

Celebrate all that you have — including your complaints. “My mantra is, I’m so lucky. Feeling lucky — celebrating that — is something that was handed down to me, because my father was an Auschwitz survivor.  Day to day, it’s easy to complain. I could list 20 things right now: My computer is too slow. My feet are cold. The window needs repairing. I didn’t want the tobiko on my sushi today. Listen to that: it’s all so incredibly unimportant. There are people in the world who live on 20 cents a day, who live in fear or in garbage, or are dead by the time they’re 30. What the hell have I got to complain about? We have freedom. We have choices. We can be artists. It makes me think, I’m so fortunate to have these problems. It’s about perspective, and remembering that we have a responsibility to give back on whatever level we can. Be generous. Volunteer.

Also: be a good listener. Connect with people emotionally and intellectually and physically and spiritually by putting your entire body into listening to them. Be completely awake.”

Thank you so much, Deb! More from the Non-Career Advice series, here.

The Giant Birdsnest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Think of the Giant Birdsnest, designed by OGE Creative Group, as the ultimate conversation pit. I'd bet it'd also be the most relaxing place to read, or nap, or to stare out the window — or, as its makers encourage, to create ideas. ("The Giant Birdsnest…is a fusion of furniture and playground," they say.) My favorite part of the whole thing? The fact that the nest comes in four sizes (the biggest can seat 16), and that the color of your cotton-lycra eggs can be customized. Sign me up. 

Learn more about OGE's Giant Birdsnest, here

Recommended Reading / 10.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Every Monday, words to start the week.


Keeping it short this week, from Ricky Gervais: a tiny tidbit of really, really good advice. 

Three more links, just because:
-No.
-Movie theater etiquette of way-back-when.
-Pico Iyer writes about Leonard Cohen's decision to spend five years in seclusion under the tutelage of Zen teacher Kyozan Joshu Sasaki: "Sitting still with his aged Japanese friend, sipping Courvoisier, and listening to the crickets deep into the night, was the closest he'd come to finding lasting happiness, the kind that doesn't change even when life throws up one of its regular challenges and disruptions. 'Nothing touches it,' Cohen said, as the light came into the cabin, of sitting still…Going nowhere, as Cohen described it, was the grand adventure that makes sense of everywhere else."

Have a happy Monday! More recommended reading, here.

Non-Career Advice: Liza Lubell.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.


Liza Lubell / Floral Designer
Also: Crafter / world traveler  / apple pie & whiskey aficionado 
Age: 32

Focus on what has staying power. (Hint: it's not money.) "When I first began my flower career, I didn’t really have much in mind in the way of goals. I knew I loved flowers and thought supporting myself vis a vis “playing with flowers” all day sounded like a good idea. As I dove deeper into my work, though, I put my professional hat on a little tighter and started to create some goals: wouldn’t it be nice to have my work in a magazine, or to travel to another country for a job, or have people write articles about me, and so on.

At first, checking some of those items off my list was exhilarating. But while I'm certainly proud of my work, I've realized something over the course of the past few years: the more we rely on external forms of praise to validate ourselves, the less it works — and the exhilaration I get from those sorts of successes doesn't have much staying power. The things that do are much simpler (and, it turns out, right under my nose all along): family, friends, a sense of home. The happiness I get from cultivating and nurturing personal relationships is much longer-lasting than any I could derive elsewhere. It makes me feel rich in a way that's much more special than money."

Thank you so much, Liza! More from the Non-Career Advice series, here.

Photo by Matthew Williams.

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