Hark back to an age where tradesmen, artisans and food producers spent a lifetime perfecting their craft to become specialists in a chosen field. Being master of your domain wasn’t a punchline from Seinfeld but a calling that drove customers to travel great distances to acquire something unique and magnificent. The work was labor-intensive, time-consuming and not profit-centric. Rizzoli’s latest book, Made in New York: Handcrafted Works by Master Artisans turns the spotlight on a charming collection of book binders, hatmakers, ceramists, glove makers and more who all live and work here in our backyard. In author Natalie Sann’s own words, "We have people who are real artisans. Not everything is made in China anymore."
Here’s a quick snapshot of New York’s finest. For additional information, check out a short video segment by ABC Eyewitness News.
Claim to fame: Madhatter to the stars.
The process: Begins with fitting wet fabric on a hat block. Once the form has dried into position, it is cut then, ironed, steamed and sewn by hand. Ribbons or colored thread are added on as embellishments.
Need to know: Each hat is individually made, so no two are alike!
Featured in: Harper’s Bazaar, New York Times, Wallpaper, Vogue, Vanity Fair.
Client list: Alicia Keys, Brad Pitt, Prince, Sir Elton John, Bill Murray...the list is really endless.
Available at: Barney’s New York, Browns of London, Harvey Nichols, Maxfield in Los Angeles.
Lite Bright Neon Studio
Claim to fame: The kings of neon lighting in New York.
The process: Colored glass tubes are filled with neon, which are then bent into shape. Electrodes are added and it is heated to 400 degrees. Gas (helium, argon, phosphorous, etc.) is then pumped into the tube to give the neon its color before it is put through an aging process to stabilize the gas.
Need to know: Lights made by this team last for up to 40 years (with only minor repairs needed).
Signature items: Floor lamps, wall scones and chandeliers made out of neon.
Claim to fame: Furniture maker of timeless pieces.
Inspiration: Frank Lloyd Wright, American Arts & Crafts movement, mid-century Danish design.
The process: Working with cherry, maple and walnut trees, the wood is left to dry which creates natural cracks. The wood is fashioned into the desired shape. It is oiled repeatedly so it looks alive.
Need to know: Spends hours sanding each piece of wood until it feels like silk.
Work featured in: Blue Hill farm restaurant at Stone Barns.
Claim to fame: Basket making.
Inspiration: Spent his youth watching artisans in the Shaker and Taghkanic areas ply their craft.
The process: Trees are left to dry out for 6 – 12 months. Logs are then cut along the length so reedlike strips can be peeled off. The strips are pounded into shape and then soaked. Using an amazing amount of strength, each strip is then hand-woven to create a basket.
Need to know: Uses American Black Ash trees, which is expected to become extinct in 10 years. These pieces are destined to become cult collector items.
Claim to fame: Tableware maker based in the Peconic Land Trust in East Hampton.
Need to know: Studied art at Paris’s Atelier de Sevres and spent a year making frescos in Florence.
The process: Outlines are sketched in black pencil on each dish. With the design in place, paint is then applied to the porous clay. Preferred glazes include crystal which explode during the firing process producing imaginative patterns.
Available at: Barney’s New York and through private orders on her website.
Harry’s Pleating & Stitch
Claim to fame: Purveyors of early 20th century fabric pleating experts.
The process: Patterns are drawn onto two large pieces of cardboard which are mirror images of each other. Sandwiched inbetween is the fabric at a very precision level of tension to create the perfect pleat. This is then placed inside a steam box which is set at 60 degrees celsius for a few minutes.
Need to know: Pleating was all the rage during the age of Madame Viollet.