Posts tagged with brooklyn
Heavy Leather: Strapping Rockstars Since 2008
Brooklyn native and heavy rocker Rachael Becker was just doing her thing — rising in the ranks at a fashion label, making the rounds at metal fests, fixing up her aqua blue motorcycle — until one day when her pals, jamming together in her living room, asked if she’d outfit them with leather guitar straps. Then everything changed. Rachael indeed strapped those friends; after all, she was well-versed in the leather arts from a previous apprenticeship. She made a few extra to throw on Ebay because well, why not?
The orders began flooding in. Rachael quit her job, invested in some heavy-duty equipment, crossed the East River to sift through rawhides in the fashion district, and lo, Heavy Leather NYC was born.
Based in Brooklyn (where else?), Rachael equips music-making masters — Cat Stevens, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top, and Slash, to name but a few — with leather straps that help their rock flow. “Sometimes I still can’t believe it,” she chuckled, cutting into a piece of hide with her Exacto. “I didn’t know it, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
A Day with New York City’s Pothole Repair Crew
Each morning, at a small depot tucked away under the Williamsburg Bridge, the New York City workers who call themselves the “pothole gang” pore over a giant spreadsheet known as “The Daily Pothole.” On it are thousands of potholes all over the city: giant gorges caused by rain and sleet, small interconnected divots that can flatten tires, and pretty much every other roadway wound you can imagine. The sun is barely up, and yet for these men — members of a street maintenance team tasked by the Department of Transportation with roadway repair — the race has already begun.
Over the next eight hours, they will hit the streets, filling giant yellow trucks with smoldering hot asphalt, navigating endless traffic, and smoothing as many potholes as they can before the sun goes down (only to do it all again the next day). Does it get tiring? Sure. But in a city that’s always moving, roadway repair is crucial. On a good day, the team might fill 4,000 potholes. In an average week, they could resurface 100,000 square yards of road. After Hurricane Sandy, their crews removed 2,500 tons of debris. And every day, on a Tumblr called The Daily Pothole — named after that early morning spreadsheet — New Yorkers can take a peek inside the workings of a city system few have likely thought about. We spent a day with six men who help make up New York City’s pothole repair team.
Nail Art as Activism
This story was produced as part of a content partnership with The Daily Beast.
Last May, at a high school in a small town just north of Winnipeg, Canada, a teenage girl came out as gay. When a group of bullies began taunting her, calling her “weird,” 20 students came to her defense. “We all decided to paint our nails rainbow to show our support,” says Nikki, 14. “We told the people bullying her that it’s so mean and wrong.”
Now, every month, Nikki and her friends continue to paint their nails rainbow as a show of solidarity. When other students have come out as gay, they know they’ve got a gang of defenders to back them up. “We’re like a big support group,” Nikki says.
Remember when neon nails were all the rage, plastered on the pages of every fashion glossy? Back then, it may have been little more than a chic fashion accessory. And yet today, the idea of intricate, complex, even meaningful nail art has taken on a life of its own.
Over the past three years, the nail art phenom has launched fan clubs and DIY communities all over the country. It has carved a niche in the fashion industry, with beauty editors paying as much attention to elaborate runway nail designs as they do to hair and makeup. (Chanel recently sent models down the runway with geometric, two-tone manicures.) It’s found celebrity endorsers, and prompted legitimate gallery shows (as well as sparked debate over whether nails can be a form of “fine art”). And even in a recession, nail art seems to be thriving: Nail care in U.S. department stores generated nearly $30 million over the first 10 months of this year, a 54% increase from the previous year, according to the NPD Group, a company that tracks cosmetic trends.
Dozens of salons now offer resident nail artists — a career that, only a few years ago, nobody believed existed. “I really kind of found my dream job,” says Brooklyn nail artist Fleury Rose, a fine art student turned nail artist who operates out of a salon called Tomahawk.
Nail art may seem like a new phenom — but it actually can be traced back centuries, when the Chinese were using enamel on their fingers to give their nails a pink finish. In the 90s, hip-hop artists like Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim started sporting airbrushed and pierced nails; Lil’ Kim had a set with dollar bills encased in acrylic. And yet, more recently, it’s celebrities like Zooey Deschanel, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé who are perpetuating the trend with the mainstream (Deschanel’s “tuxedo nails” at the 2012 Golden Globes went viral), while Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj both have their own nail polish lines. Even Michelle Obama’s nail choice — the greige nail polish she wore during her DNC speech — was enough to spark commentary from Pulitzer prize-winning politicos.
But it’s on the web where nail art has truly exploded. A quick Google search of “nail art” will yield subcultures within subcultures on Tumblr, YouTube, and other social-sharing forums: fingertips adorned with the iconic Les Misérables logo, book jackets of literary classics, miniature versions of Georgia O’Keefe and Warhol paintings, or colors and symbols to combat bullying or raise awareness against domestic violence. And let’s not forget political nail art.
The designs are an ocular feast, so much that they’ve inspired a “nail porn” hashtag on Instagram, and nearly 2,000 posts a day under the “nail art” tag on Tumblr.
If that weren’t enough, nail art will soon get its own anthropological dig — by way of a Kickstarter-funded documentary called NAILgasm debuting in February 2013. The film features interviews with leading nail stylists, independent nail artists, beauty editors, and nail-art aficionados around the world. Director Ayla Montgomery says she was first exposed to nail art on Tumblr (she regularly posts to her own page).
“People used to be kind of afraid of nail art or thought it was tacky, but now it’s become culturally acceptable,” says Montgomery, 27. “The Internet has created its own micro-community of people who don’t really know each, but they know each other’s nails,” she adds.
A tipping point may not be long off — ever heard of nail art fatigue? — with a trend that’s so ubiquitous it’s almost become a popular joke. “It’s kind of like when slap bracelets were all the rage, and then you could find one at any Walgreens and it wasn’t so cool anymore,” says Molly McAleer, who conceived the daily nail art feature on the entertainment website Hello Giggles, of which she’s a founder. Rose, meanwhile, says she’s recently seen an influx of men into her salon — requesting things like Jaws nails or intricate campfire scenes.
Intense? Sure. And yet it’s precisely that kind of community that inspires much of the work of Chicago-based nail artist Carlos “Dzine” Rolon. Last year, he recreated the salon his mother ran out of their living room when he was a child as an exhibition during Art Basel in Miami.
“I wanted to recreate that atmosphere in which people came to the house and chit-chatted and got to know each other,” he said, recalling how Tilda Swinton came into the salon and got nail art by Regina, whom he scouted from a low-income suburb of Miami. “These are the people who are so talented but aren’t always discovered.”
Dzine published a book in tandem with the exhibition, Nailed, which traces the history of nail art around the world, from Ming dynasty China to urban American communities in the mid-to-late 20th century.
“Regardless of how mainstream nail art has become, it’s always dictated a form of social class and social status,” he said. “People right now are just acknowledging the pop culture aspect of it. But what’s more interesting is how communities form around nail art, and it becomes part of their identity.”
Even, it seems, among young female activists. In October, during National Bullying Awareness Month, 24-year-old Casey Danton garnered thousands of followers on Instagram after nail polish mogul Leah Anne Rowe posted a picture of the woman’s “No H8” nails on her Facebook page. Danton then started a blog, “Dull Like Glitter: Saving the World One Nail at a Time,” where she posts pictures of her own nails along with tutorials on how to do it.
Feminist activist and organizer Shelby Knox, 26, has used nail art to spread the word about her causes, both on her Tumblr and in public. When Knox spoke at Brockport University earlier this year, days after a female student was murdered by her boyfriend, she painted the Brockport “B” in the school’s colors on her thumb and left the rest of her digits purple in support of Domestic Violence awareness. Her nails got more attention online than they did on campus, but Knox said students who noticed her nail art understood it as a modern feminist’s way of quietly honoring the young woman’s death and highlighting the impact of domestic violence.
“One of the reasons nail art is interesting is that it’s a conversation starter,” says Knox. “People ask you how you did it or what it means.”
And its meaning, as it turns out, can be as complex as the designs themselves.
The Creators of NYC: Sculptor & Designer Adrienne Antonson
Josh Wool spent a decade as an executive chef, opening restaurants across the south. But all that changed in 2010, when the carpal tunnel in his hands meant he could no longer work. To keep from going stir crazy, he picked up a camera and found his next calling. Two years, thousands of portraits, and a move to New York later, Wool is documenting the people who inspire him on a daily basis. In the spirit of Creators of LA, welcome to Creators of NYC.
I first met Adrienne in 2005 at a dinner party at her home in Charleston, South Carolina, where we were neighbors. We’ve each lived in a bunch of places since then — Tennessee, Florida, an alpaca farm in Washington state — but it turns out we ended up as neighbors again without knowing it until we ran into each other in Brooklyn one afternoon. Adrienne has spent the last seven years sculpting and designing, and the serendipitous meeting led to me shooting a lookbook for her clothing label, State. I met up with Adrienne in her Brooklyn apartment and studio space for the interview.
You’re a visual artist and designer. What does that mean to you?
Short answer is that I’m always making something. The longer answer is to say that I went to school for sculpture and taught myself how to sew, dye, felt, etc. That recipe of skills translates to me mostly making clothing under the label of State, with occasional breaks to make sculptural fine art work from nontraditional fibers, like human hair.
The Pumpkin Maestros
The year is 1992, and Marc Evan and Chris Soria are sitting next to each other in sixth-grade Spanish class. They don’t know it yet, but these two 12-year-olds are going to become best friends. They’re going to construct epic haunted houses each year, petrifying parents more than peers. They’re going to attend an artsy high school, study illustration at Parsons, grow up, and move to Brooklyn. They’re going to freelance and bartend and, per their favorite holiday, casually carve some pumpkins for bosses and friends. And then the Yankees are going to put in a double-digit order, and Maniac Pumpkin Carvers will be born.
Every year, in early September, the orders begin flooding in. Pumpkins are sourced from an organic farm just a couple hours from their childhood home. Clients range from colossal enterprises like CitiBank, Yahoo, and the BBC, to devoted girlfriends wanting a carving of their boyfriends’ face.
And all those pumpkin seeds? “Oh, we save them. We give them to our friends to roast. You can imagine, it’s a lot of seeds, but we’re not really getting into the business of selling roasted seeds, too.” And least, not yet.
Seared Scallops & Farro with Allswell Chef Nate Smith
Nate Smith is running late. I’m hovering near the bathroom at his gastropub Allswell on a weekday morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, while Smith plans the day’s menu. The corner isn’t the worst place to wait — it’s outfitted with natural wood and patterned Wes Anderson-lite wallpaper. But I should have seen it coming. In a restaurant where the offerings change near-daily, menu meetings take top priority.