For one weekend in May, The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Novità Communications showcase the borough’s unique artists and makers at BKLYN DESIGNS – The Brooklyn design event for contemporary furniture, lighting, accessories and art. Founded by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in 2003, it was one of the first design fairs to shine a spotlight on the creative economy in Brooklyn and serves as an incubator for emerging designers. Designers range from furniture, lighting, tableware, art, textiles, jewelry and more.
The weekend will feature inspiring collective exhibits, pop-up lounges, installations, hands-on demos and a diverse conference program for the aesthetically-minded of all ages. Children and adults, alike, can interact with installations, with food and drinks available from Brooklyn vendors on site. This year, BKLYN DESIGNS will be held in the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, from Friday May 5th through Sunday May 7th.
“Brooklyn is a vibrant community of makers. Whether they’re creating a luxury piece or one for practical use, the products from BKLYN DESIGNS’ exhibitors are thoughtfully designed and meticulously crafted by the most creative people on the planet…Brooklynites,” said Andrew Hoan, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “We’re proud to feature artists and designers who help people reimagine the way they live and work.”
Attendees can shop at the popular BKLYN BUYS marketplace, returning for a third year. It will feature designers and makers specializing in jewelry, ceramics, and other items for sale. Attendees can also enjoy pop-up shops featuring modern design goods, attend workshops on textiles and 3D printing, or listen to panel discussions on a variety of subjects relating to design, architecture and technology.
Behind the creations are the artists that bring them to life. Let’s meet some of the artists, designers, and companies that represent what it means to live the creative life in Brooklyn.
A turnkey solar installer based in Gowanus since 2015, Brooklyn SolarWorks has patented an innovative solar canopy for the flat rooftops of urban environments. With over twelve years of solar experience and a commitment to excellence, its regularly considered Brooklyn’s flat-roof solar experts.
But how exactly did such an idea – to turn an expanse of flat and relatively unused roof space – into a solar revolution come about?
We caught up with Davis Saltonstall, Solar Consultant, and captured the insight on the inspiration behind such a unique product.
“Our founding partners were helping to manage SunRun’s Northeastern Sales and living in Brooklyn. They were frustrated that they were not building more systems in the city on flat rooftops. The canopy was developed to focus on these rooftops and was the impetus for starting the company,” said Davis Saltonstall. “There are several existing restrictions on flat rooftops regarding fire code that make our canopy a unique solar solution in the city.”
To learn more about the Solar Canopy stop by booth exhibit #3 during BKLYN DESIGNS, May 5-7.
In the Spring of 2016, after creating a concept for a kitchen island in a Connecticut client’s home, Adam and Sofia Zimmerman – founders of OT/TRA – applied it to a table for their own conference room. Adam and Sofia fell in love with the process, which she simply calls “a true labor of love, and a lot of hard work” and in their spare time developed a business plan and continued designing pieces. It was the love for the process that led them to found Ot/tra.
Ot/tra – named after son and daughter, Otto and Petra – by Zimmerman Workshop creates furniture that can be used in a variety of settings, from residential to hospitality to corporate offices. Applying their techniques as architects and furniture designers they create memorable and innovative designs, while being meticulous with details, and offering a look that’s contemporary yet soft and inviting. All products are designed and handcrafted locally in DUMBO by a dedicated team, and built to last for generations.
Although officially established in 2016, Sofia and Adam have been designing furniture and helping clients furnish their homes and offices since 2010, when they founded Zimmerman Workshop Architecture + Design. What they bring to their architectural projects they offer at Ot/tra as well: technical rigor, meticulous detailing, quality construction, and a softened contemporary aesthetic making Ot/tra a natural extension of their brand.
Make sure to stop by booth exhibit #7 during BKLYN DESIGNS, May 5-7 to check out the pieces from their first line – the 9-piece Catenary Collection, including the table that started it all, various seating and a little area sectioned off for Lego or crafting for the little ones.
Fascinated by lilacs and other spring ephemerals from an early age – Rebecca Bullene – loved being outside helping her parents weed and plant their home garden in Rochester, NY. Although she knew from an early age that plants would be her passion, it wasn’t until her late twenties that Rebecca would be working with plants professionally.
Having worked as an editor for seven years at Random House, she decided to follow her love of horticulture and took a position at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was then, as she worked out on the grounds, that visitors would often approach her with questions about their personal plants and gardens. “I started moonlighting as a private gardener on afternoons and weekends, my referrals kept growing and growing until I woke up one day and realized I had a thriving business,” said Rebecca. Seven years later, after striking out on her own with the help of a few hands, Rebecca founded Greenery NYC.
Greenery NYC was founded in 2010 as a botanic design company with the mission of helping re-connect New Yorkers to their inherent love of nature by providing plants that thrive in urban spaces both indoors and out. “In a world that is increasingly focused on technology, I feel that engagement with nature is essential to our connection to the earth, and to each other. Nature turns our attention to the present. It’s the antidote to the stress many of us feel working in front of screens all day.” – Rebecca Bullene.
To learn more about Rebecca, her story, her passion and love of horticulture, and her products – Green Dividers, Live Edge Planter, and many plants and containers from Greenery NYC’s online store stop by booth exhibit #18 during BKLYN DESIGNS, May 5-7.
Kahen_Design features handcrafted concrete jewelry with a focus on material, texture, and process. Founded by Ryan Kahen, all pieces are handmade in his Brooklyn studio. Ryan works to balance the digital and analog aspects of design, utilizing modeling software and 3D printing technologies together with traditional casting techniques.
Kahen_Design stemmed from a design/build course during Ryan’s architecture Master’s program at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. The class looked at the ideas of site, scale, materiality, and place in relation to each other in order to translate the experience into built form. “It was a result of exploring through making for this course that I fell in love with the process of casting,” said Ryan.
After moving to Brooklyn in 2013, Ryan became inspired by the built environment, and continued this translation of experiences learned in school. “I started working with concrete as a challenge to push a ubiquitous building material to ways in which it is not normally experienced. Concrete is typically thought of as robust and heavy, yet through working at a scale of jewelry, I became fascinated with the lightness and detail I was able to achieve with this material.”
Stop by booth exhibit #b13 during BKLYN DESIGNS, May 5-7 to learn more about Ryan’s constant material research and exploration of casting processes. This year’s show will be Kahen_Design’s first public showing of its products and will feature hand crafted concrete pendant necklaces, including pieces from the Geo and Dwellings series. It will also showcase a few jewelry pieces from a new series in the works, as well as planter design.
BKLYN DESIGNS is a testament to all the talent that’s here in Brooklyn. It provides an excellent opportunity for exhibitors to expose their products and to work more intimately with Brooklyn’s vast network of designers, and architects. The show provides a window into these artists’ hard work and passion on display for all to be inspired.
Meet these innovators, and many more Brooklyn artists and makers, at BKLYN DESIGNS. For all the details on where to go and the full lineup of participating brands, installations and pop-ups events and exhibitors, check out the BKLYN DESIGNS website.