Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brooklyn Flea - Lumin's Pics 5/25/08

This weekend, I handed the camera over to Miss Lumin to shoot the things around the Brooklyn Flea she found most interesting for the blog. (She's a real life photographer -- check out her website!)

[Note: our next date at the Flea is June 8th...]

Here Jae and I are greedily sampling soft tacos from one of the Red Hook Ballfield vendors (before the throngs arrived -- the lines were riiiiiiidiculous all afternoon!)

It was sunny and hot and I got a sunburn (curses on you, inadequate SPF 15!) but we had fun, as always.

Here are Lumin's pics (and sorry I don't have links for them... You'll just have to come to the Flea to find these cool vendors yourself!)

I took this picture of some cute tykes playing with the toys on the astroturf in our booth before the day got busy.
And here's Lumin chillin' in a chair during the hot afternoon.
Thank you, Lumin, for your help and your pictures!

See you at the Flea on June 8th!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Photos by Lumin Wakoa and Amy Shaw.

Recap: Tyler Hays of BDDW at ACC's Summer Salon Series

On May 15, the American Craft Council kicked off Season II of its outstanding Summer Salon Series with a talk by Tyler Hays, the man behind the furniture company BDDW.

Tyler's story of how he built his business -- from scratch, through trial-and-error, without major money to make it easy -- was incredibly inspiring to me, especially since we are in the process of taking Greenjeans into its next phase.

Tyler arrived it seems straight from work in tee-shirt and jeans without a shred of pretension or a whiff of arrogance. He told his story as a winding tale, engagingly and organically, and very down to earth. The entire talk is available to listen to online through ACC's website, but I'll recap it here for you.

He started as a painter and morphed into a handyman and later a general contractor with workshop space located in "deep Greenpoint," (a neighborhood in north Brooklyn.) He and his friend and business partner Josh built a recording studio in the shop, where they also lived and worked and spent as much time as possible pursuing their most passionate goal: to "make cool shit." They built beautiful furniture, did interiors, and even restored a barn upstate.

But soon enough they realized one important lesson: that "creativity and profit are like oil and water." They found it impossible to make a living strictly doing art or craft because they could not make enough money to keep up with the cost of living and running their business.

So they started a full-scale construction company. But soon enough (in the late 90s) he realized that wasn't what he really wanted to do. So he quit the construction company and buckled down to figure out the business end of making cool shit.

Being in New York, he turned his attention to the possibilities of real estate. He rented an inexpensive space on Rivington (in the Lower East Side) with aspiration for a showroom, but left the space empty for two years, lacking the means to build it out.

And then he met his first "business investor:" an old house upstate which he bought, renovated, and took out loans against. He used the money to build out the Rivington space and opened his first showroom.

Not long afterwards in September 2001 he found another, more promising space on Crosby Street and shelled out several months worth of rent as a deposit. He also borrowed a large sum from a friend to finance the build-out. Fortunately or unfortunately, only time would tell, this was just a week before 9/11. He said he'd have thrown in the towel if he hadn't already invested so much money in the space, so he dug in his heels and carried on with the construction of his new showroom against all the odds and really wanting to quit.

With the new showroom complete, but the New York economy on the DL, he hired a talented guy to work for him who started getting the company name out there into magazines and other media. Customers weren't really buying, and so Tyler and his crew (now sans Josh) focused on making cool shit together.

Around this time they built one of the most inspiring pieces of furniture I've ever heard of: the Continuous Table. (I wish I had a picture, but I don't. Picture from American Craft Magazine's website, along with many more, right here.) Conceived as a team-building exercise more than anything else, the Continuous Table is like a quilt where everyone in the company, whether skilled at furniture making or not, could contribute a piece: bang in some tabletop, add a leg, etc. They built it from all kinds of materials and scraps, not worrying about it being perfect. The idea is that customers could buy the table by the yard. They could be making and selling the table, well, continuously! So cool.

They built a handmade flashlight. A turntable with wooden ball bearings. A handmade lightbulb. Not for sale, just for the love of exploring materials and how things work. And then they got into casting, and built a bronze foundry upstate. All the while, the furniture business was slowly growing.

And then suddenly, the business took off. He doesn't know exactly why, but as if overnight they had more orders coming in than they could handle.

Concerned about maintaining quality, he tapped into the old economics lesson of supply-and-demand and raised the prices to slow down the orders. But with the higher prices came even MORE orders. He had opened the Crosby Street space with the intention of making fine handmade furniture for average income people. But what was happening is that only expensive work was selling. And he could no longer afford to build the more moderately priced furniture.

Two questions dogged him as his business grew: 1) how could he maintain high standards of craftsmanship with orders flowing in and 50 people working in the shop; and 2) how could he pay his employees (and himself) a sufficient wage so they could afford to live in New York City?

The answer to the first question was automation. He needed to reconcile his obsession with making everything perfectly by hand and start relying more on machines to do rote work, focusing the handwork on the finishing details, "putting the craft where it matters." I liked his point that automation can be a good thing for craftsmen, because it keeps the hands from wearing out and can even produce tighter results. Besides, when cutting the same piece over and over it's no longer about craft, it's about automation anyway. So why not use machines when they can do a better job and keep your hands alive?

The answer to the second question was Philadelphia. He had been moving his workshop all over the place, outgrowing a new location before even getting all the machinery installed. And so finally he found a huge space (120,000 sq ft!) in Philly where he could have as much space as he wanted for dramatically less money that he'd pay in New York. Now he could afford to pay his employees a living wage, because the cost of living was less. And he could sufficiently pay himself too. And that is where he's at today.

Throughout his talk, Tyler emphasized that his showroom is the thing that drives much of the company's sales. At the end of his talk, someone asked how it is that he manages to sell so much. Tyler replied that he doesn't use a press agency for publicity, and only occasionally does trade shows like ICFF. But the biggest exposure comes through his showroom. That's where customers, interior designers, architects, and the like find his work. Right on street level, open all week.

As for how he manages his pricing, he told a story about how years ago his car broke down and he couldn't afford to pay his mechanic the $1200 at $80/hour to fix it. But he did realize that he should be making that kind of money too. And this is partly what drove his decision to raise his prices. It also explains why he no longer does custom work, because he just cannot charge enough to make it pay.

I liked Tyler's idea that his work is more about creating a language than making "an important object." I like the sense of creating work that all relates together without necessarily matching. I think we are evolving a similar idea at Greenjeans: creating a collection of works that all relate through this certain language, rather than looking similar in a superficial way.

I also liked Tyler's emphasis on using domestic wood -- why import exotic wood when maple, cherry, walnut, oak, etc. are so beautiful and durable?

Overall, I found Tyler's talk inspiring because his success is the result of sticking to his guns through many false starts and big risks, and because he has been able to maintain his integrity without blindly adhering to a set of staunch values that may not translate into good business sense. His work is guaranteed for life, and he takes pride in its essential craft, without being overpowered by the romance of the virtue of handmade and the corrupting potential of business success.

Kudos to the ACC for kicking of the Salon Series with such a great presenter, and for having the courage to invite someone in who challenges traditional ideas about craft. Again, you can hear the whole talk online right here.

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Photos from BDDW sourced here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Greenjeans is Moving!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

In order to allow our business to grow and evolve, we have decided, after months of deliberation, to relocate Greenjeans. Our last day in our current location in Park Slope, Brooklyn, will be Sunday, June 15th.

We are in the process of looking for a new location that will provide us with more space, more foot traffic, and greater accessibility. Our goal is to bring an expanded range of interesting, high-quality work to a broader customer base while maintaining our founding principles and values.

In the interim, we will continue to keep up the webshop, Greenjeans Blog, and our monthly e-newsletter the Greenjeans Gazette (which you can subscribe to right here). We will also continue doing the Brooklyn Flea (the outdoor market Sundays in Fort Greene).

There will be no “liquidation sale” as we are not going out of business, but in order to ease storage burdens we may be offering some great prices on certain items in-store, through the webshop, and at the Flea.

Please be assured that all gift certificates and store credits will be honored in the webshop or by phone/email order. All in-progress custom orders and wedding registries will remain unaffected.

On a personal note, we are very sad to be leaving this beautiful neighborhood and wonderful community. In the three years and two months that we’ve been here in the South Slope, we have made a lot of good friends and will very much miss seeing you every day. We hope you will keep in touch with us and come visit and patronize Greenjeans again when we reopen!

Again, please know that the webshop and blog will remain active. To stay right up to date with news from Greenjeans sign up for our newsletter ( and/or our RSS feed (

We look forward to sharing news of our progress, and we THANK YOU tremendously for your continued support!


Amy & Jae

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Image: Greenjeans front window

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Report from ICFF 2008

The ICFF, which we attended on Monday, is such an educational show. Not only do you get to see 99% of all the furniture and home accessories that will appear in shelter magazines over the next year. But even better you get to look UP CLOSE at the work, because in terms of craftsmanship, things that look good in print don't always hold up in person.

I like to check out the joinery and finishing with my fingertips, and examine the undersides for construction details. (Sloppy gluing is such a total deal-breaker for me, no matter how clever the design). And besides, you can't really judge a chair until you've sat in it.

In terms of trends, as we saw at Bklyn Designs, it was very obvious that as buyers crave more and more "green" product these days, designers are greenwashing like mad. Tell me, what is ecological about using materials like polyurethane, synthetic resin, styrofoam, acrylic, or exotic wood? Many designers using such materials are also claiming, rather dubiously, to be green.

Fortunately, there is also a good deal of work that's honestly eco-conscious, and that work stands out, often because they're the ones who have been green from their inception and as a result are the least noisy about their greenness. And hopefully the phonies will move on soon enough.

Also, eco-friendly or not, I noticed a great deal of wood-themed work in this show (more so than last year) and I don't mean furniture made from cherry or plyboo. I mean work using the aesthetic of wood grain and bark. For instance, CP Lighting is doing acrylic lights printed to look like tree bark (shown left), Brent Comber is making furniture that highlights the grain ends of logs (and I saw some, er, interpretations of his work in a couple other booths too), SMC Furnishings (highlighted below) is also very raw-wood oriented, and generally wood grain continues to be a big decorative motif everywhere.

All this woody-wood aesthetic, which I love in some places and find gimmicky in others, makes me wonder: how long with the appeal last? Will it start looking tacky, like it did after a similar rage in the 70s? Or do we now live in such a nature-starved society that highly articulated woodgrain and the wood-rendered-in-plastic thing will sustain? Hmmm...

So, what caught my eye? Well, as seems to be par for the course, the British exhibitors scored high in interesting booth design and amazing, tactile, craft-infused work. But there was plenty of good work to be found among the American and other international designers throughout the show as well. Here are some highlights:

(Note: I didn't shoot my own pics this time, figuring I'd be able to get them from the designer's website. Not so in all cases. Lesson learned.)

Stitching bits of fabric to floral wall paper, British designer-maker Claire Coles creates incredibly interesting and beautiful wall coverings and brooches. She also makes delicate unglazed porcelain teacups detailed with actual stitching or fabric. Very labor intensive, very well-executed, very appealing.

Another British artist, Miranda Meilleur's palm-sized bowls made from thin pieces of matted silver were totally atmospheric and lovely.

Furniture by SMC Furnishing, including their super comfortable and warm-looking May Lounge Chair featuring woven strips of suede or leather for the seat and back, and set at a very comfortable angle (not on their site yet). Based in upstate New York and using a lot of domestic and salvaged woods, and with a REAL commitment to environmentalism, these guys are ones to watch...

In their tiny booth, New York City Water Tower Furniture showed small tables and mirrors (and maybe more?) from, you guessed it, wood from old water towers. And they had the coolest give-away at the fair: their business card made from a chip of water tower with a magnet on the back. Rad.

Jae and I loved this elegant rocking chair by Philadelphia-based furniture maker Leslie Webb. Echoing the lines of a Morris chair but with about one-tenth the heft, it's comfortable, airy, and lovely. I want one.

We also loved the Hida Collection by Enzo Mari. Italian-designed and Japanese-made by a company as old as the hills, this line of furniture is made of sugi wood that is light and easy to compress. The chairs are forgivingly comfortable, the dining table modern yet homey, and the craftsmanship overall very tight. Fantastic. (Images sourced here.)

Using metal from car bodies and leaving the paint just as it comes, Andrew of Brooklyn's Nine Stories Furniture makes killer coffee tables and end tables (that aren't on his site yet). When we came by the booth he had one overturned so people could admire his craftsmanship as well as his design. I wish more designers would do this -- I spend a lot of time at the ICFF on my hands and knees looking up into the undersides of tables...! (Image sourced here.)

Part of the Nine Stories collective, dform also showed interesting work at ICFF, with their luminous punch pattern lighting, made for very thin veneers of wood and fitted together with mathematical elegance.

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Images sourced from designer's website unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Davistudio Sample Sale!!


Gorgeous slipcast porcelain tableware by Mary Anne Davis (Davistudio) all at
50% off!!

Come mix & match and score some fabulous new serving dishes, platters, and cups for spring!

These samples are NOT in the webshop, but if you want to order anything feel free to call or email me.

Also, today we bid a melancholy farewell to our neighbor, Rare Device. Rena is just about all sold out now at her Brooklyn shop, and soon will return to San Francisco to focus all her attention on the branch of Rare Device she started there a year ago. We wish her (once again) great success and happiness as she moves on to the next chapter!

Posted and photos by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Arrivals! (Coasters, Jewelry, Octopi)

Over the last two days we've had loads of new arrivals! I'm working on getting them into the webshop, but in the meantime contact us or come by the shop for the best selection of...

- Restocked wooden toys by Frank Ridley (including helicopters, paddle boats, choo choo trains...)

- Adorable octopi made from reclaimed fabrics by Judy Geagley (shown below)

- Limited edition coasters/conceptual sculpture by Anders Bergstrom

- Sweet silver rings by Sarah Lierl (shown top)

- New jewelry by Lisa Crowder

- Restocked soaps in every variety by Have Some Patience

Kindly note that we will NOT be at the Brooklyn Flea this weekend, so if you need some toys, soaps, or wine barrel folding chairs, we're here at the shop 12-7 on Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday.

Posted and photos by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Greenjeans Review: "Shaker Design" at Bard

Last week I stole away from the shop on a sunny afternoon to go see the exhibition “Out of This World: Shaker Design Past, Present, and Future” at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. I was really looking forward to seeing it and was not disappointed, but it left me craving more.

Organized by Jean Burks, senior curator at Vermont’s Shelburne Museum, the exhibition presents a solid, concise introduction to Shaker furniture and material culture along with interesting examples of contemporary furniture influenced by Shaker design. It also shows a group of far-out Shaker “spirit drawings,” and for context, a room full of early 19th century “Fancy” American furniture which stands in sharp contrast to the pared-down economy of the Shaker designs evolving during the same period. A catalogue and schedule of programs accompany the show.

A small but rich exhibition, "Out of This World" is highly worth seeing if you want to learn more about Shakers and see their work in person. It will immerse you in Shaker aesthetics through a dozen different angles, not only in the form of chairs and cabinets, but also packaging design, sweaters, drawings, and color. It also offers an extremely rare opportunity to see some outstanding examples of Shaker furniture and material culture from multiple villages all gathered in one place. And then it delivers you into a room full of well-chosen Shaker-influenced furniture by a range of designers from George Nakashima to Roy McMakin. (I especially loved the classic Candle Stand with an inverted wine bottle serving as the pedestal by Chris Becksvoort, and the perfectly irregular chest of drawers by Roy McMakin.) It’s an interesting, valuable show.

However I was surprised by the flat, unimaginative exhibition design, with furniture grouped in rooms by category and displayed on low pedestals along the wall (and occasionally on a Shaker peg board), a choice that doesn’t match the forward-thinking concept of the show. I think the comparisons might have been better presented with, for instance, the long Shaker bench right next to the George Nakashima Conoid Bench rather than a floor apart, or the “Fancy” chair next to the Shaker chair next to the Danish Modern chair.

I also found the presentation of “Fancy” furniture way overdone. I’m not sure we needed to see so many dozens of examples of hysterically painted pottery or faux wood-grain drop-leaf tables. It felt like the Shelburn Museum, a major lender to the show, became subject not lender, and it distracted me from the very point – historical context – this section meant to make.

Similarly, while very interesting as an aside, I failed to understand how the spirit drawings fit into the conversation. It might have made more sense if, as with the furniture, the drawings were shown with contemporary examples of art or design they have influenced. The same might be said of the commodity design section.

Perhaps the show tries to take on too much in too small a space. While it certainly does the visitor a great service in offering a strong introduction to Shaker design, with the exception of the furniture component it seems to fall short of its goal to present the past along with the present and the future. (And to be a little nit-picky, I’m not sure it offers a “future” view at all.)

So while I do recommend the show as well worth seeing, it left me with more questions than it answered. Although perhaps that is as valuable as the chance to see all that amazing furniture up close and in person.

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Images courtesy of the Bard Graduate Center. From top: Armless Rocker from Watervliet village (closely resembles the Eberhart Rocker by Brian Braskie at Greenjeans); Six Drawer Chest by Roy McMakin; view of first floor installation.

Upcoming Events (Design Week, etc.)

This past weekend BKLYN Designs kicked off "NYC Design Week," which is really a month-long convergence of shows, exhibitions, events, and parties all over the city. I've been filling up my calendar with things to go check out and thought I'd share...

ACC Salon: The Industrial Complex, with Tyler Hays (discussing the relationship between handmade work and industry)
May 15 (6-8pm) *This Thursday!*
American Craft Council Library, 72 Spring St.
RSVP: or 212.274.0630 ext. 272.

International Contemporary Furniture Fair
May 17-20
Jacob Javits Center

Design Week Exhibitions / Events / Party Guide
May 17-20
Core 77's invaluable city-wide listing of what's up during Design Week

May 29 - June 1
Park Ave. Armory

I'll add more events happening around SOFA as I discover them... Feel free to leave comments with tips!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Report from Bklyn Designs 2008

Today we opened late so we could go check out Bklyn Designs, the multi-venue show taking place in DUMBO this weekend. It was our first time at the show, and we were impressed, especially with some of the furniture makers and lighting designers.

There is a broad range of styles and approaches among the 70 exhibitors, from high-end custom work to more product-oriented designs, and from well-established furniture makers like Michael Puryear to emerging talent (there are 30 first-time exhibitors) and student work from Pratt. Most all exhibitors have their studios and workshops in Brooklyn.

It may not be surprising to note that many designers are showing work made from sustainably-harvested wood, reclaimed or salvaged materials, or other "green" alternatives, with largely successful results.

Bklyn Designs is going on all weekend (and tonight until 8pm), so pop on over and get your first fix of the upcoming NY Design Week (or, more like Month)!

Below are some of our favorite highlights from the show today. To see all our pics, check out our photo set. Enjoy!

This LEED-certified Bamba chair by EcoSystems ships flat! You pop out the pieces and assemble it yourself without tools. It's made from bamboo plywood, and the metal joints are formed like dovetails. Perfect for waiting rooms... (See photo set for more details.)
[Update from the designers: "Bamba chair can contribute to LEED points and certification, but no furniture can actually be LEED certified, only buildings." Thank you for the clarification!]

I love this rectangular blown-glass lamp by Kanik Chung.

Incredibly comfortable, exquisitely built, and gorgeously upholstered, Jae and I swooned over this chair by Robert Martin Designs. We also loved the compass-like lamp, which we were told was designed and built by the workshop foreman.

This excellent table made from purpleheart and salvaged walnut departs from a familiar American studio furniture concept and cruises into total rock 'n roll territory. One of several pieces by Eric Manigian we admired. (See more in the photo set.) Major thumbs up!

These cleverly-designed teapots by Joey Roth are made like big pieces of jewelry from pyrex glass and cast stainless steel. They seem like they'd be fun to use, and they remind me of turtles. Cool.

Also super cool, this listening booth (right) and undulating room divider (left) made entirely from LPs and their covers by Nicholas Furrow. Fantastic.

Wanna see more? Click right here...

Posted and photos by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans. Top image sourced here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Special Hours Friday May 9th: 3-9pm

Since this Saturday we're at the Prospect Park Craft Fair, and Sunday we're at the Brooklyn Flea, tomorrow is the only day we can go to check out Bklyn Designs.

So, we have special hours for Friday May 9th: 3-9pm. (Sorry to be opening so late!)

We're open until 9pm tonight as usual, too. So if you're still looking for the perfect Mother's Day present but are pressed for time, come by during our evening shopping hours!

Now I'm off to go see the exhibition "Out of the World: Shaker Design Past, Present, and Future" at the Bard Graduate Center. Look for a review here on the blog soon.

I'll report on Bklyn Designs, too... Stay tuned!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Riding Camels

Back in September 2006, I wrote a blog post relating the possibility of peak oil sparking a boom for local craft movements.

In it I mentioned a Saudi quote that goes, "My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son rides in a jet. His son will ride a camel."

That quote has kinda haunted me ever since I first read it.

Then today, in Grist, came this story (sourced from the Financial Times):

"Rising oil prices have many Homo sapiens in a tizzy, but at least one species is celebrating high fuel costs: the camel. Finding it spendy to fuel their tractors, farmers in India are turning to ungulate power. "It's excellent for the camel population if the price of oil continues to go up because demand for camels will also go up," says Ilse Köhler-Rollefson of the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development. That's good news for Indian camels, which have seen their population drop by more than half in the last decade. Camel supporters hope that pushing the animals' usefulness as transportation will get them over the hump to a sustainable population."

It's funny writing, but serious support of that ominous quote.

My point back in Sept. '06 was that as travel and shipping become more and more expensive, we will rely more and more on local producers for the things we want and need. And that's absolutely fine by me. But today it feels like it's coming very very very fast...

That's a real downer, sorry. Here's something hilarious to counter-balance it...

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Image by Hakanu sourced here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mother's Day Gifts from Greenjeans

Mother's Day is Sunday, and here's a hint: Mom's LOVE presents from Greenjeans!

If you place an order BY PHONE by 1pm Wednesday, we can ship it to her in time... (718-907-5835). If you order online, be sure to indicate it's a Mother's Day present and we'll do our best to ensure timely delivery.

Or stop by to select the perfect present! Our hours are here.

Some ideas to get you started...

NEW! Beautiful picture frames made from reclaimed hardwood by Heather & Matt King ($69 - 79).

Vintage Key Brooch by Connie Verrusio ($52).

Organic, sculptural Family Pendant (gold & oxidized silver) by Melle Finelli ($340).

Delicious Natural Soaps by Have Some Patience ($10 each, gift box of 4 for $40).

Bring her breakfast in bed in this great Oval Basket with walnut bottom and handles, which she then can use for mail or magazines ($180).

Raku clay sculpture by Jane Kaufmann, like this Poppy Orb. Huge selection at the shop ($25-375).

A Gift Certificate in a nice card always works, too!

Happy Mother's Day!

Posted by Amy Shaw, photos by Greenjeans.

Prospect Park Craft Fair - Saturday!

Join us this Saturday along with 50+ vendors from around Brooklyn for the Prospect Park Craft Fair!

The fair will take place from 10am-5pm, rain or shine, at the Bartel Pritchard Entrance Drive right across the street from the 15th St./Prospect Park F train stop and the Pavilion movie theater.

Organized to benefit PS 154's arts enrichment programs, it promises a great mix of local craft and maybe even that perfect last-minute Mother's Day gift!

Click here for a list of vendors, directions, and more info.

Hope to see you there!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.