A selection of Brooklyn-produced picks from our favorite makers | Details below

Industrial Strength

As Brooklyn ascends in population and popularity, its denizens celebrate the borough’s master makers.

Words: Amy Perry
Images: Andrew Ingalls and Ryan Mikail

Neon and glass letter by Lite Brite Neon Studio, litebriteneon.com
For 100 years Brooklyn ranked among the nation’s manufacturing hubs, from ship builders to sugar refineries, girdle factories to breweries. But during the second half of the 20th century, the borough’s output slowed, then shuttered, leaving in its wake an economic and creative inertia.

But now Brooklyn is returning to its roots, albeit with a more small-batch POV. Walk its neighborhoods and see sawdust whirl. Metal bent. Concrete poured. Pillows and papers painted by hand. Inland factories in Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. Waterfront warehouses in Greenpoint and Gowanus. The echoes of Brooklyn’s maker past can be heard through cracked windows in Red Hook and loading ramps in the Navy Yard.

And the real estate market is responding. As artisans nestle into these industrial nooks, retailers and residents follow. Brooklyn’s appeal is so powerful that last year the Chamber of Commerce debuted a Brooklyn Made certification for indigenous wares. “There’s a real appreciation for Brooklyn, a place crafted by the people living in it,” observes Compass agent Christine Blackburn.

Most of this resurgence has happened organically, with local designers, landlords, community boards, and zoning officials playing their roles, explains fellow agent Chris Benfante. Add to that landmark regulators, says agent Lindsay Barrett. “Brooklyn has a rich history, and maintaining its industrial relics is important.”

As Brooklyn positions itself as a place to live and make, developers and policy-makers are also taking note. “Rethinking a turn-of-the-century facility as a modern manufacturing center, Sunset Park’s Industry City is a response to that, of public and private entities agreeing to foster it,” continues Barrett.

Representing decades of living and working amid these artisans, this trio of agents discusses the makers behind the movement and how they’re remapping Brooklyn.

“There’s a powerful drive for uniqueness within every human being. It’s the fundamental impetus behind why people want to buy, create, and live among these items. And people who are drawn to Brooklyn share a certain mentality, a prioritizing of design and quality.” — Christine Blackburn
x3 solid copper watering cans by Paul Loebach for Kontextür, $145 each, kontextur.com
“Brooklyn residents are looking closer to home for more interesting things, and so we see more of these bespoke goods because the market for them is here, and the quality expectation is high.” — Lindsay Barrett
Contour lacquered wood and tinted glass side tables by Bower, $1,650, mattermatters.com
“Although the artisans were always here, as Brooklyn became its own brand, these wonderful products assumed a certain cache.” — Chris Benfante
Compass agents and Brooklyn residents Lindsay Barrett, Christine Blackburn, and Chris Benfante
Ring tinted-glass and walnut mirror by Bower, $1,625, mattermatters.com Aurora mylar wallpaper by Calico Wallpaper, $32 per square foot, calicowallpaper.com
“Artisans colonize, and everybody else follows. At the end of the day, this has made Brooklyn what it is and ensures that people will continue to make real things here.” — Lindsay Barrett
Walnut candleholder by Todd St. John, toddstjohn.com
“The beauty of Brooklyn’s design evolution is that it’s scalable. The whole country has derelict manufacturing districts ripe for transformation, and they’re all looking to Brooklyn as a model.” — Christine Blackburn

Brooklyn quilted-cotton throw by Haptic Lab, $249, hapticlab.com

Mapping Our Makers

Red Hook
Calico Wallpaper
calicowallpaper.com

Token
tokennyc.com

Williamsburg
Sarkos
sarkos.nyc

Bedford-Stuyvesant
Paul Loebach
paulloebach.com

Haptic Labs
hapticlab.com

Gowanus
Lite Brite Neon Studio
litebriteneon.com

Todd St. John
toddstjohn.com

Workstead
workstead.com

Greenpoint
Object + Totem
objectandtotem.com

The Principals
theprincipals.us

Bower
bowernyc.com

Navy Yard
Avo
avoavo.com


Cover image credits Cosmos hand-painted wallpaper by Sarkos, sarkos.nyc | Smoke Ring Doorknob, $260, and Infinite Dollop, $190, hand-thrown vases by Object + Totem, objectandtotem.com | Stella inlaid-ash and ebonized-oak cabinet by Token, tokennyc.com | Sling leather and walnut chair by Workstead, $2,950, workstead.com | Hand-painted leather and linen pillows by Avo, from $235 each, avoavo.com

Explore the borough’s diverse neighborhoods at compass.com.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Amy Perry’s story.

Responses
The author has chosen not to show responses on this story. You can still respond by clicking the response bubble.