If you happen to be walking on Third Street in Brooklyn, the sight of the two industrial garage doors of The Old American Can Factory opening onto a white hangar-like space arrayed with market stands will likely stop you in your tracks. Inside, to the left, you are confronted by a behemoth machine: resurrecting turn-of-the-century manufacturing, the members of Sway Space step on the pedal of their letterpress to crank out customized stationery. Towards the front, a swatch of blue sky gleams through panels of Nancy Nicholson’s hand-blown glass, on which she paints the graphic bustle of a cityscape or the kaleidoscopic patterns of tree branches. The garage’s white walls especially complement the airy palette of Nicola Ginsberg’s prints, drawings, and delicately embroidered ephemera, which are on display beside Nicholson’s glass.
Further inside, Meow-Meow Tweet’s wafts of synaesthesia—fragrant bars of lavender lemon soap—are wrapped in whimsical cartoons inspired by their scent. The passion fruit limeade of Whimsy and Spice has a wonderful tart finish, especially if you’re leafing through one of the artfully bound poetry collections of Ugly Duckling Presse. And, truly, the sea-salted caramels of Nunu Chocolates earn the accolade from Time Out New York’s 2009 Eat Out Awards, “Best New Reason to Court a Cavity.”
In addition to the fine art and edibles at the market, there are “wearables” and “ware-ables.” The collection of AngelRox offers flowing bamboo jersey private label clothing (and well-cut skivvies). Other adornments include hammered geometric jewelry from Shaya NYC, intricately inlayed jewelry from Louise Fischer Cozzi, and delicate, stone-set silver and gold pieces from Christine Vasan. Several artists work on site: Marc Schreiner tans and stitches unique handbags for which he also carves handles and makes fittings; in the back of the space’s street level, Ed Ledner wields an oxyacetylene torch to make silver cuffs, cooling the metal off in a pebble-filled basin; and May Luk and Lois Aronow, whose brightly hewn and cleverly considered ceramics are hot items, fire their wares in the kiln above on the third floor.
Appropriately, the slogan of the Market’s next flyer, with a nod toward the deification of the creative individual, exhorts the shopper to “Meet your Maker.” In fact, meeting the person who has made the clothes, food, pottery, accessories, and fine art that can be purchased here at the Old American Can Factory is a refreshing experience. With an emphasis on locally sourced materials as well as labor, the curators of the market screen the vendors by process as much as product. The Market restores the connection between an individual’s labor and its cultural context by allowing the customer to buy something directly from the hands that made them and in many instances on the site of their manufacture. It’s an antidote to the homogeneity of big box stores and precious boutiques.
In a world of junky street hawkers selling wholesale-to-resale goods that are often as generic as what you would find in stores, The Makers Market is providing a new prototype for local industry, especially retail. One major sign of distinction is how invested these Brooklyn-based makers are in their new enterprise, often defining their work by what it is not. Ceramic artist May Luk distinguishes the professional-grade quality of the makers’ wares from those of elementary DIY-ers’ or crafter-enthusiasts’, insisting “it’s not about happy hands at home.”
If supporting a local market is not on your to-do list, consider that this ground-up model of trade can be a curative for our ailing economy. The Makers Market is a good example of the demonstrable all-around benefit of being connected to what we make, buy, and live with. The makers are engaging, sometimes divulging trade secrets of how an object comes into being, and they have been known to make custom items on request. Sharing their locally produced exquisites along with a proper dose of food and optimism, they can be found of the corner of Third and Third every Sunday.
For more information, visit www.thecanfactorymarket.org.
Located at the Southeast corner of Third Street and Third Avenue, between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.