Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Studio Neighborhood

I work out of a shared studio space in New York City's Garment District, and have been taking photos on my way to and from work whenever I'm moved to do so. For a few months I have been meaning to pay a little tribute to the neighborhood in which I work, on this blog. This neighborhood is full of stores selling bootleg Dora the Explorer product, bootleg perfumes, wigs, watches, bling jewelry and cel phone accessories, and, of course, garments! I find the neighborhood stimulating and a bit frenetic-- there is so much human invention, production and entrepreneurship crammed into these city streets, and there is a lot of action on the sidewalks.

Along with connecting to the pervading wacky + inventive human spirit of this neighborhood, I discovered that I have a familial connection as well: my paternal Grandfather had a small shop for leather goods and tailoring about a block away from my studio, in the 1940s. He had been a tailor/clothes manufacturer working with leather before the family fled France during WWII. Here in NYC, he set up shop for a brief time, before returning to France after the War. Before the war, my Grandfather had produced leather helmets and jackets for motorcycle riders (picture 1930's leather helmets with straps) and pieced these goods together from scraps. Here in the States he was able to continue figuring out ways to make similar work, especially thanks to the opportunity and relative openness available in this country at that time.

One of the most worthy-of-celebration aspects of the human spirit, to me, is our ability to create and invent out of what's available to us. My grandfather and the generations of people from all over the world, working in this neighborhood to create and make available new inventions, are an inspiration to me.

Some leather-goods shops are still here (see the top image in this post and this one below), however dark and dingy they seem when I peek in... but the connection to my Dad's Dad and what his work represents, is palpable on these streets.

Tools for working with leather



Folk art motifs in the form of balloons!

A dramatic stage set for wigs

And below... Hair Mayonaise!