NY NOW Podcast

First Time Exhibitor... from SoHo to the Javits Center

August 25, 2021 NY NOW Season 1 Episode 50
NY NOW Podcast
First Time Exhibitor... from SoHo to the Javits Center
Show Notes Transcript

Robert Stolarik is a man of many talents. Growing up in restaurants, and on the back of a motorcycle covering conflicts and general news worldwide. As a photojournalist he focused his reporting on social and criminal justice issues. But his need to produce dimensional art brought the world he saw into a very special and unique aesthetic. Robert started one eighty five after spending years building his own home accessories. When I found him set up on the streets of SoHo making and selling his one-of-a-kind journals, I knew they needed to be seen by the NY NOW buyer community. Join us in learning about Roberts profound time as a photojournalist and his experience of doing a tradeshow for the first time.   

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| Guest
Website:
https://www.instagram.com/one_eighty_five/     
http://oneeightyfivenyc.com/     

| NY NOW :
https://nynow.com     

| NY NOW Podcast Page:
https://nynow.com/podcast     

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Dondrill Glover:

Welcome to the new york now podcast, a modern wholesale market for retailers and specialty buyers seeking diversity and discovery, gathering twice a year in America's design capital, New York City. It's where buyers and designers on earth have refreshed and dedicated collection of eclectic lifestyle products.

Amy Loewenberg:

Welcome to the new york now spotlight podcast. I'm Amy lowenberg relations and partnership development manager at New York now, and I'll be bringing you important information, conversations and perspectives from both sides of the aisle. I treasure the relationships I've established and I relish in the new ones I make every day sharing information introducing our amazing community of retailers, buyers, vendors, artists and makers through my spotlight podcast that New York now and my store tours on Instagram. Today we're going to meet artist and veteran photo journalist and founder of 185 Robert Storaklik 185 is a Brooklyn based woodshop offering a variety of handcrafted wood products, eclectic and one of a kind pieces that will add a vintage feel to your environment, and award winning photographer. Robert was a regular contributor to The New York Times for 20 years. Born in New York City, he began his journalism career covering conflicts and general news in the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Balkans. For the past decade, Robert has focused his reporting on social and criminal justice issues, including groundbreaking coverage of stop and frisk policies, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Haitian earthquake and the unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore. Robert started 185 after spending years building his own home accessories. His unique aesthetic combines romantic notes with vintage wares. While Robert creates with his Brooklyn home in mind, his craftsmanship is influenced by an extensive career that has taken him all over the world. Robert is full of spirit, which you will hear as he shares with us his photo journalistic life and how he's moved into his second career. He is a very interesting man. And I couldn't be happier to have met him and to have played a part in his journey to exhibiting in New York now, and actually exhibiting anywhere for the first time. So let's get to know Robert. So Robert, welcome. Thank you for joining us today. Oh, thanks. Thanks for having me here. I totally want to dive into your New York now experience as a first time exhibitor and talk with you about your handcrafted products. But first, I think we need to learn just a little bit more about you. You are a talented artist, in many ways. You create a variety of handcrafted items for personal use and the home. But you're also an accomplished photojournalist. And you have a pretty grand resume that has taken you into some hard circumstances and environments where you've recorded the aftermath of significant and cataclysmic events, and very adeptly shared with us the human experience. How did you get started on this path?

Robert Storalik:

Well, I was young, I was wanted to be a chef, my father on restaurants, and I worked in restaurants, almost all of my young life. And when I was around 20, I don't know 20 something years old, young in college, my sister got a computer for Christmas is kind of how it started. And my sister got a computer for Christmas. And my mom felt bad that she you know, I didn't need a computer. It was back in the days but nobody had computers. So my mom bought me a camera for Christmas. And, and I was I always wanted to paint I was a painter while I was working restaurants. I thought I fancied myself kind of like this artist. I had a loft in Soho, I had these giant canvases that I painted on, and I really wasn't very good at being a painter. It really frustrated me because I liked like artists like Salvador Dali, and surrealism, and I was incapable of doing it. And it really was the most frustrating time in my life, you know, for art. And so I started shooting pictures and and I traveled so it's pretty young age I took off and we take breaks off from college and go away and and travel. And I was like I want to when I went to go travel, I didn't want it to just be with a bunch of friends and see things. I went away on my own. I brought this camera, I brought, you know, 400 real 400 foot reels of film, black and white film that I hand rolled in closets, all around Europe, and I headed east first to go see my family for the first time. I never met my family. I'd never been really anywhere in the world. And I wanted to cover like the post Cold War life in the Soviet Union with former Soviet Union. So I traveled to places like you know, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic. So that's the Republic, Ukraine. Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and all the way through to Turkey to Romania, Hungary. And then I did this and I worked in this restaurant on the corner of West Broadway in Houston called the meeting me I, it was a big, you know, it was a spot in Soho. And it was a place where all these artists came in to visit. And I was a bartender there. And all these famous artists would come to the bar, and I got to know them like a tour de Monaco was a regular customer of mine, and Alberto reseau, a famous fashion photographer. And when I came back from this trip, I had all these pictures, and I was in school at Stony Brook University. And I developed all the film myself, it was part of my senior thesis, I developed all the film, and I got myself in an exhibition at flowers upstairs and flowers in a restaurant I was working at. And I was really great. I mean, I was standing on the bar, bringing these pictures every weekend, and sharing them like Arturo, and with Alberto and other people that were there, and they were like, good. And they really helped me, you know, to develop the sense that these were good pictures, and these were something worthy of showing. And so I did the first exhibition, and, and a lot of these people came to it, my professors came to my friends came to it, I was kind of excited, I was looking at more from you know, I guess I was getting more into doing art photography, more than it was like journalism, I didn't really understand the difference at that stage in my life. I wasn't like schooled in this. So. So I was like getting into it. But I really like the concept of travel. I like the concept of shooting. And I was like, I'm gonna continue to do this, I think I started doing a little more research and seeing what it was that I could possibly do. And I thought, Oh, I want to be a war correspondent. And often I had these ideas. And they were kind of, you know, crazy ideas to my family and friends, because I was sort of lazy, sort of, you know, I worked in restaurants. As a bartender,

Amy Loewenberg:

listen, I know about working in restaurants, not personally, but because of family members. And that is not a lazy industry by any means.

Unknown:

I was lazy in it, though. I was good. I mean, I did a good job, I had a good background of food. So I worked in all these great places, and mici was where I was at that time. And so I decided that I was going to go to South America the following year. And I was going to drive them I met had met a girl in Europe the year before she lived in Argentina. And I was going to visit her and I was going to drive my motorcycle from New York to Nicaragua, from New York to Argentina. And I was gonna document like the children of Central America. So that was like kind of the idea, I didn't really have a direction to what I was doing was kind of whimsical. And I was like, I'll do this because it'll kind of make sense for me to be on this motorcycle trip. So in November of 2000, note, in November of 1995, I got on a motorcycle from the corner of St. Mark's Second Avenue when he drove south. I just kept driving until I couldn't drive anymore. And I I documented all of this I got very sick on the road. And I ended up coming back to New York early after five months on the road. I was supposed to be gone for like years, and I never made it down to all the way south america at that point, I made it to Nicaragua. And when I came back, somehow I I put together another show the city of New York, along with I think it was the Mary Anthony gallery, there was a guy named Tom McMahon, who also was customer to meet Jim EA. And he was like, I'm gonna get you this combined show. It was like a group show in the city. And I did this group show like this big, you know, group show for the city of New York. I then got another show at the mamilla Galleria, which was this older man that ran that gallery. And he was like, it was another group show. I never did anything single. And then another show came where I was doing it at ozone gallery. And I was kind of excited you like, like, anything was new. And I was like, excited. But I really was feeling like, you know, I this is not what I don't really want to do gallery shows and I don't want to be an artist in the sense I don't really want to be a photojournalist. And I was really getting into it and the motorcycle trip kind of defined. I was like, if I could do that and be on the road, then I feel like I'd be okay in a war zone. And, and yeah, I don't know, I came back and nothing was going in that direction. Everything is going in the art direction. And then I started working. I lived in East Village at the time. And I was covering like the parks and like, you know, the police and the city and we're taking over these local gardens. And I was working for like the villager in the downtown express the next thing I knew, and it was my first newspaper jobs and then I was like I really wanted to work for like more of a daily you know, cool newspaper in addition, and I got signed on somehow to sell the audio the printer, which I later became staff photographer, and I was getting the cover every single day. I was going out to crime scenes all over New York on a motorcycle. And I would just go and shoot and I was getting I have like hundreds of covers from there. And then I was Yeah, and I was outgrowing it a little and I really still wanted to be a workhorse responded, I really couldn't figure out how that would happen. So I decided that in 1999, the Kosovo conflict was happening. And I was like, I need to figure this out. And I put our family pretty much in debt. I charged like bulletproof vests and helmets and plane tickets and all that night. And I went to all these different agencies around New York and asked him if AP and AFP like all these places to see if they would work with me, and everybody was like, you're gonna get killed kid, you know, it was a different thing. So nobody would, nobody would send me. And then I finally spoke to somebody from EPA, which is European press, photo images. And it's actually European Press Agency. And, and there was a woman there. I think her name was christianna. Sinhala. And she said to me, I will look at your photos when you get there, which was, I felt like that was like I saw, you know, going here. So I went, and I flew there, I took a fluid to Greece. And then I took a train up through Macedonia. And I was on my own and I was I didn't really know anybody in the photojournalist world, I'm, you know, restaurant guy. And I was like, trying to feel it out. And I just shot all these, these pictures of like, refugees going, I tried to cross into the border into like, I wanted to get to Pristina, but it was just too dangerous. And I spent, you know, I don't remember exactly how long I want to say, two months, I just at this point, I just got married. So I was married in March in April, I was in Kosovo. And I was like, Okay, I'm gonna do this, I went to Albania, I went to Macedonia. And then I came back, the portfolio of images from that were pretty incredible, they've been a mess. And I was pretty excited. And I mean, this part of it really brings me into I did an exhibition, I set up for an exhibition right after that. And what I saw were a bunch of these posters that were on the walls of like buildings that that were blown out. And then you know, that just things that the like, were broken down from time, in a sense. And then when I looked at those, I was thinking to myself, Oh, I want to kind of create that in some way. So I took that I printed in sections on eight and a half by 11, piece of paper sections of photographs, and then transferred the polyp on to wood. And imagery looks like he was 100 years old, I beat up the wood a little and put it together. And I was like, Oh, this is an effect that I really like. And that's the effect that I do with the past.

Amy Loewenberg:

Well, this is, this is an amazing segue because it's very much that your camera, your eyes, an extension right to your arms and your hands. Yeah.

Unknown:

Yeah, it was a cool thing. For me, it was like, I was looking at it for the first time and saying, This is how I what I saw. And this is what moved me while I was shooting those things. And, and I was like I was into it. I was, I found it extraordinary to not just you know, I felt like photographs were good in magazines, and then newspapers, as photographs. But when you are going to do an exhibition and show it somewhere, it needs to be more than that it needed to be, you know, more three dimensional in the sense it needed to have like depth to it that was greater than the depth of the photo itself.

Amy Loewenberg:

Your life is is vastly interesting from you know, the streets of Soho, and a restaurant, on the back of a motorcycle in Nicaragua to you know, heading to Greece. And I mean, to me, it just sounds like you've been going and going and going and it makes perfect sense of where you are right now from where you were. And clearly you're you're you're still doing everything along the way. You're still a photographer, you're still taking pictures, you're still, I'm assuming traveling when when you can write Yeah,

Unknown:

I mean, all of it. I mean, there's been a lot of hiccups throughout time. And so when I came back from Kosovo, I was broke. And I had to go take a job in a restaurant again, I had to give up for journalism. I took a job as a manager in a place called phoebes. In the East Village,

Amy Loewenberg:

oh my gosh.

Unknown:

And I was really excited to have this job and make money. But I always wanted to be a journalist. And in the fall of 2000, September, I worked with a kid. His name was Peter. And he was like, young, he was in college. And he was like, he hits he knew that I traveled and then I did this war. And then I had all these pictures. And he was like, Oh, I want to go away with you next time. You go away. And I'm like, dude, I'm a restaurant guy. No, I'm never going away again. And he kept it throughout the year of working with him and nine months, it was always like, Oh, we got to go somewhere. We got to go somewhere. So I said to him, I was like, Okay, if you could figure out a place that would be good for me to go, then maybe I'll consider it. And he had a friend that worked for the United Nations within the Council of Foreign Relations. And the guy said, there's going to be this thing that that the US is implementing called Plan Colombia. Colombia is going to be the next hot spot. There's going to be you know, there's a civil war there, and the Americans are going to go in and eradicate the you know, the gorillas reason and eradicate cocaine. And so I asked my boss who knew both of us work there. And he was he was a really good guy. His name is Tony de Nicola. And I said to him, I said, Listen, I'm going to ask you something, you can say no, because I know everyone your restaurant, but can I take off like six weeks, and go and try to be a journalist again, and he said to me, he was like, I had no idea. I want to be a journalist anymore. I thought restaurant was your life. He goes, how could I say no to you. He's like, your job will be here in six weeks, we need to get back and go. And so I went, and I took Peter with me. And when I got down there, I just headed south, I got into it again, I went with two of my friends, we went down, and we broke the green lines in south in the country. And the times, picked me up at that moment, I flew back to New York, six weeks later, I met with a foreign bureau chief and, and she said, and I'm not the bureau chief, the foreign editor at the New York Times, and she asked me if I would go back and stay there for the New York Times. And it was like a dream come true. Like, I was gonna be a war correspondent for The New York Times and not. And I had to go to my wife and to my boss, and first was going to the light and saying, hey, you think, hey, if I do this, and she was like, absolutely, we need to go. And I went to the boss next. And I said, I know you gave me this six weeks, and he's like, I knew this was gonna happen. He's like, I wish you nothing but the best. And I went, and I took off and went to Colombia, and I stayed there from 2000 to 2002, and covered the Civil War, the cocaine trade, the Korea and all of that. And then I went on to Venezuela and uncover the coup in 2002. And then I came back to New York. And, and yeah, I don't know where to go from there.

Amy Loewenberg:

I mean, I am I'm truly I'm truly taken with the path of your life and you think about who you came in contact with? And who said yes, and who said I wanted to go do this. And just all that spurred you into that last time, Mike, it all fell into place.

Unknown:

But that's this too. I mean, when I look at being this guy who's making books, there was another whimsical thing I wanted to make birdhouses. That was the concept at the beginning is I was gonna make

Amy Loewenberg:

birdhouses on that table. We're gonna turn on the car. Yes, yeah.

Unknown:

I thought I had this great idea. I drove down to Florida to go visit my parents with my girlfriend, I'm not married any longer. And I had a girlfriend and we drove down to visit my parents. We took the old military highway and on that old military highway coming back home, I was like, I think I'm gonna make birdhouses for a living. No, I retired journalist, she's like, you're gonna make birdhouses and like, Yeah, I think that's a great idea. And then I came, I came to the realization that you really can't make a living making birdhouses, but that I was going to at least go out and see if people were interested. And I took the birdhouses to a bunch of different stores. And I got out to this place, in Greenport long island called the weathered barn. It was like a perfect fit for somebody like me, and I went in there and the owners, Rena and Jason, are about my age. And they looked at me, she looked at the birdhouse, and she was like, I'm absolutely taking these in the store, as she said, Can you can you make trades? Can you make these? Can you make this Can you make that, and I really had no idea what I couldn't make. And I just was like, this is a great opportunity for me. And I have a little woodshop down in the basement of my home here. And I just started making stuff for her. And she was selling it meant that other people were seeing it, and other people were buying it, but I really thought it would work was great. And I'm still doing it. But I wanted to do something that was you know, a little more artistic but something that really like I got to kind of realize something, put it together and and really have a lot to do with in wood was hard to describe what you were doing not that the books are easy to describe what I'm doing, but I just I morphed into me making the journals after there's more to it I

Amy Loewenberg:

share. Well, let's let's get into talking about your product a little bit. I mean, you've you've you've clearly seen our world in its rawest form. And I do see your artistic sense of parallel from from your photography to your products, it's very clear to say, and there was something even a little poetic about thinking about how you look through the lens of a camera and see the people who've been broken down by real life events. And then looking at these journals, which we're going to talk about and how you create how you create them. They're, you know, exposing their framework and their structures. You know, you have a bunch of products, we started just talking about birdhouses. But let's talk about your journal a little bit on on, dive in a little bit more about this vision of this deconstructed journal.

Unknown:

Okay, so, so, I started doing the journals. The first journal that I ever made was actually a photo book for a colleague of mine at the paper, I shot her wedding. She said to me, can you make me an album for the photos that go in and I was like, I don't know how to make no, I know I can't make you know, and she's a really good friend. And and she was like, come on, you're artistic. You can figure it out. And I did I work I remember. thinking how am I going to do this? I can't give her something that's not you know, good. It has to be as good as everything else that I want to do. I don't want somebody to have something forever. And it be like something that's not, you know that Oh, thank you for the, like for the, for the album, but it's, you know, Greg, you put him in the corner. So I spent a lot of time learning how to sew these six, I had some background in stitching, it's a background in building stuff. And I just spent a long time trying to build the first you know, like this first journal, in a sense, it's an album, but same technique. And I was really into it. And when I finished making the album, my girlfriend who is a poet, she was like, Oh, can you make me a book for me to you know, to do my, put my poetry in? And I was like, absolutely, I'm gonna make a book for that. And then I started making other books. And then I was like, I wonder if the weather bond would be interested in these books. And I and so I brought her I brought a couple of them out to her. And when I brought them to her, she, she looked at them, and she was like, these are the most amazing things I've ever seen. She's like, they looked like they were dug up from underground, she's like, that's perfectly the store, like, this is exactly what I want. And this and so I was like, Okay, I'm gonna spend some time doing this, it's going to be something that I really, you know, this is going to be my focus more than the other things. So I figured out sizing, I use this wonderful paper I use, like I had any old biblio paper, I wanted to use a heavy watercolor paper. But too heavy a paper is really hard to fold, and really doesn't really give that same texture, how it folds and how it ages. So I did some research, I bought this paper I when I was in college, I took a printmaking course, like a mythography course. And I always loved this transfer onto paper and working tearing it and the deckled edge. So I made sure to find the paper that was affordable and good, like really high quality. And so I got sheets of paper, I remember doing the first books with it, and it comes 30 inches by 40 inches, I hand tear it, and then score it and then fold it and there was an issue because the deck was only on one side of this, and the deck on the left side is a little bit shorter. So then I realized that you needed to arrange these papers in some way so that the deck will is ever present in it. And that was a task and I have a chart that I made. And you know, I remember bringing it up the first time the chart to my girlfriend, she's like, what is that it had all these letters on it, because there are all these different sheets once as long once in short, and they're all there and I follow this chart to this day, they're like seven signature signatures with three pieces of paper, they all get folded over. And they're you know, everything's ABCD. And it's it's got like structure to it. So you know, it's not only just it's not even though it's whimsical, it's still, it's structured in a way. And so I made it so then I cut the covers, and I and I was doing more textures, I use glue, I burned the covers first. And then I use glue to glue on first layers of paper. And then I'll just use I use New York Times newspapers. For most of it, you know, all these papers that I you know, I keep in boxes, I sort them for colors, I sorted them for letters, big letters, small letters, numbers, imagery that has color in it, and I cut out things I like to be rough with it, I didn't want to be so delicate with it because I burned it and sanded afterwards. So a lot of times I'll see like an image that I like, and I'll tear out the shape of it. It's got really rough edges to it. And when I first put it on to the to the covers, and like the imagery usually comes on the fifth layer on the final layer. And when I put it on, it looks terrible. I get it. I remember the first time I looked at it, I was like this is this is gonna look terrible. Yeah. And then I was like, wait, just give it time trust, you know, like, I just like trust what you're gonna do, and I just sanded it away. And then you know, we burned it a little bit more and sanded away more I realized, the more you send it away, the less that was left, it was what made it more, you know, like, important in a way. And then I layer it with this stuff beside Mo. It's called, it's to reinforce the spine of books. And I thought when you break apart a book, which I do, I break apart everything that I started with, when I wanted to learn how to dovetail I would break apart the dovetail and see exactly how this was done. You know, it's the most important way to learn about something is to rip it apart. And when you report an old book, not that I would tear apart a book for the sake of tearing it apart. But when you see it fall apart, I always kept the journal when I was away, and those books are falling apart. You see this deconstructed nature and I wanted to reproduce that to the truest nature that I could something that would start this way but would be in effect the opposite something that would last forever instead of something that would fall apart. And that's why I chose to do this external stitch almost like a Copic stitch.

Amy Loewenberg:

I love it. I love it. So actually I feel like I feel like the longer one owns one of your journals, the more life continues to come out of it, you know?

Unknown:

Yeah, I hope so, you know, I want it to be precious, but not I want it to be special, but not precious is the real way. It's two and a half weeks to make one of these from start to finish. It's a real process. And, and I thought, you know, it was often a time, where are we think? Is there a way to make it less expensive? Is there a way to do this in a way that everybody can have them? And the reality is, there's just no way to do that, you know, there's no way to make this a less expensive item. Truthfully, I should, it should be more expensive, but I want people to have it, but it's, it just takes it takes a ridiculous amount of time to put together

Amy Loewenberg:

a lot of steps. I can only imagine. But I mean, you do have some other options that you you do provide like your, your hot foil and and your you can customize.

Unknown:

Yeah, Rex, yeah, customize them, I suppose the newer things that I put together where I could put it, where it makes it worth it for people, so I'll do custom books and and I'll put their names in it like a hot foil their names into I get branding irons, which I brand my own logo into. And originally it was I needed a dye to build the thing for the for the branding, but then I bought a hot foil machine so that it could lower the cost a little. And you can bring that to people and it looks beautiful. It's almost like a letterpress that goes into the book. So yeah, it's I'm trying new new things I'm still relatively new is trying new things and trying to make it more accessible.

Amy Loewenberg:

I think it might be time to share with our listeners how we met.

Unknown:

Yes. So I was I so on the weekends, in Soho, I went back to print Street. When I when I want to do this, I decided that I would be a vendor that I would go out into the street and sell books and and show people what I was doing. So I decided to set up this table with a stitching station. So it's a sewing stand that I built myself. I came to sell how you know because it brought me back to my roots essentially. And I thought, if I'm going to make this grand change in my life from being a photojournalist, to being a bookmaker, I wanted to be somewhere where I felt like something a foundation of where my life began. And so I so in Soho, and lots of people come past me. So lots of people are, you know, stopped by the table, they buy the books, they ask questions, a lot of people are like, Oh, can you do this? Can you do that? Oh, I'm gonna make you famous. I'm gonna make you rich. Everybody says this. And then Amy shows up at the table. Amy was like watching me for a while. I didn't even know where we are. Now once I mean, I didn't know anything about this. And, and you really were calm and very, like, just sweet about it. It was a very interesting, your approach was and I'm going to make you rich and famous. Your approach was, I think this is extraordinary. I want other people to see it. Yeah. And that was a nice approach. And, and, and you gave me a card. And I don't remember how we got in touch again. I think you wrote me again, or called me. And and I was like, you know, I was nervous about it. Because it's like, oh, this is bigger than I thought it was. I don't know what to do with this. You said do you want to do the New York now you were gonna hook me up with the people who did the handmade version of it. And I was kind of overwhelmed by it to be the to be MC, to be honest about it. I was overwhelmed. And I was a bit nervous about how I would even go about doing. So

Amy Loewenberg:

we're gonna dive into that. But before we do, I just want to say that I took myself down to Soho because we all go down to Soho, right? And it was a beautiful day. And here I am walking down Prince Street and I saw the tablecloth that you had it was this red and white wall kind of fabric. And I saw it before I saw you and what was on it. Because I spotted it a mile away and and I personally liked red and white wall. So I was like what is this and then I just I just kept getting closer. And then I saw this table with you behind it like sewing and working with books and this exposed construction and these planters filled with succulents. And I mean and there you were right in front of 120 Prince Street, it was pretty amazing. And you were actually selling a journal to somebody and I I listened to the way you spoke about your product and and I just I really felt how important it was to you and I was taken with its beauty. So I just I couldn't be happier that we met. I couldn't be happier that you were on that street. At that time that I was walking down and jump forward. I introduced you to Allison, the director of the designer maker section for New York now and and I didn't find out until afterwards that you actually signed on to the market and I was so excited. So tell us a little bit about that journey.

Unknown:

So it wasn't just out so you've done that and I went to go look out Allison sent me a bunch I like facts about the show. And honestly, I was just overwhelmed. I'm like a one man show here. And I was like contemplating whether or not I could get if I would have enough time by August to make enough books, which I didn't even know what that number was, like, how many books do I need to make, I was like, I had no idea. And I was like, okay, I've never, I usually do like, you know, small batch, I do like 25 to 30 books for the month, if it's a month that I feel like doing it. So once I make less than that, you know, I'm just, you know, it's kind of whatever I feel like doing. And for the show, I was like, I have to make a lot of books. And I also need to try to be out there and show people, you know, what I'm doing, I still need to be in so so time was an issue. So I called my sister who's like, one of my best friends. And, and I said to her, I said, I have this opportunity. I you know, I met this woman, she reminds me a lot of you, you might be really you're very similar to my sister, in a lot of ways, just your personality and your warmth. It's very, you have a very similar way your

Amy Loewenberg:

sister sounds like an amazing woman.

Unknown:

I just tell I will talk about you for the future after I get to the point of where this brought me to. So I went to her and I said, You know, I was offered to do this show. I don't really know much about it. And it's expensive. And I have the money to do it. But I don't know if I could really afford it. And my sister was like, I think you should do it. I think you're absolutely going to do it. And I'm not going to let you think about it. She just wrote me a check. And I had the money. But this is what my sisters like it. My sister just wrote me the chat. And then I immediately wrote back to Allison. And I said, I'm going to do it. I guess that was me. And I was going away. I have a trip planned to go to San Francisco all the way down to LA for a film that I'm working on. And, and I was like, Okay, I got to do that. And while I was there, I was all stressed out, I'm like, I only have like two months to make all these books. And I'm in having a good time with all my friends in California, you know, driving this Pacific Coast Highway and all of this

Amy Loewenberg:

great highway. I never did it before. It's my highway now two years amazing. It's my favorite place to be outside of New York.

Unknown:

It's now my favorite. And I didn't know that I always hated the West Coast. And then I did this I went to Big Sur I did all this I was like I was I couldn't believe I'm 52 years old. And I was like a newborn baby. And it's like experiencing the world for the first time. It was a greatest trip ever. But I was underlying I was like, I gotta get home. And so I came home and I just put together like a plan, I bought a bunch of wood. And I decided that I would set it up in a way that I never did before. I just I cut all the wood, I cut all the angle all the way I drew, I lay down the foundation for all the books, and I cut them. And all I did was focus day after day on figuring out how what type of covers I was going to do, how they were going to look, what portion of them would be lined paper, which portion would be, you know, blank pages, which ones would be hand sewn pages. And I went through it. I just kept building and building and building. And the next thing I knew was like a week before the show, and I still hadn't had an idea of how the booth would look and how, you know, maybe two weeks before

Amy Loewenberg:

Yeah, that was that was the next thing I was gonna ask you that that can be really daunting if you've never done it before. So what did you how did you figure that out?

Unknown:

Well, I'm good with space, I decorate and I built furniture and stuff. And I knew that I wanted to. So I had spoken to people about it. And I wanted to kind of bring Soho to like the Javits Center. And I was like, I'm gonna, you know, the central part is all about me sewing, but I usually have a pretty big table where the books are on top of the table, and it makes me feel kind of at home. And I realized, like a three by 10 foot space that I would have to shrink that table and, and figure out a way to put books up on the wall that way. So I spent the week before the show, kind of making a sign that would hang above me. And I wanted it to be true to brand in the sense I had been assigned for a really long time. Like, what I was going to do was I going to do cut out letters, I have a friend that's a graphic designer, and an artist so and I was like, how should I do this, and he's like, we could laser cut, and we're going through all these different plans. And I was like, I'm gonna just make it, I'm just gonna do it. Like I do the books, I'm going to transfer the pole barn to the wood. But, you know, I was like four, four foot two inches aside, it was really hard to get those individual letters to be straight and put them on and it was very frustrating. And I was like, you know, trying to build that books withdrawing. And I was just like, Okay, I'm just gonna, whatever, whatever happens happens. I have we have this saying with my friends we always say trust the river. And it usually it's a failure. We trust the river and we crash and burn every time. It's like it's a disaster. Like I figured, you know, like disasters are often the best things that happened in life. Really? Absolutely.

Amy Loewenberg:

I mean, it sounds like you've been learning through trial and error the majority of your life here so Yeah, why not? Don't go through a trade show like that.

Unknown:

I feel the same exact way. I mean, all of it, I had no background in photography when I started in photography, and no background in journalism, when I started in journalism, no background in cooking, when I started in cooking, I mean, I'm kind of, like just jumping in and learning something, I feel like, you know, what you're made of, when I did the painting, I felt that I knew almost immediately that it was just too, you shouldn't be doing something that you're supposed to feel like, artists was to be creating something, and you're passionate about it, I only felt when I was painting, I was so frustrated all the time. And that's not a place that I want to be, you know, like, I, when I retired from being a journalist, I was like, I want to be, you know, I want to do something that feels as good as I did. I felt when I took pictures, when I was in the middle of, you know, getting beat up by police, by, you know, people in protests, I want to do something similar to that. So I approached the show in that way. I was like, I'm just going to jump in and do it and set it up. And I got there the first day. And you know, before when everybody else I was looking around at all the booths, and some of the booths were pretty intricate, people like built entire sets, yet I was like, You know what, I'm just gonna go with this and figure it out. And you know, the most important focus is to be here, and maybe do it again. And maybe, you know, see, you know, if this works for me, I didn't have I had an interesting attitude toward it. I was excited and kind of depressed in a weird way. Because it was like, I looked at it. And I was like, Oh, I hope this doesn't sound like there's a lot of, you know, question of like, it's so people love the books. And I sell a bunch of books and stores that I mean, love the books. But now there's going to be a larger scale where lots of people from all over the buyers.

Amy Loewenberg:

Yeah. And it is it is a really great snapshot of your work and how it's how it's perceived, not just by the individual, but regionally as well. I think you had a via I think you had a fairly good show. Why why why why don't you talk about the buyers a little bit. Who did you meet?

Unknown:

Yeah. So on the first day, I remember sitting down. So this is Sunday, I remember the first day of putting down the paper and I was stitching. And I was looking around and all the tables were kind of busy. People were like, there was like, people were all around and nobody was really coming to my table. But it was like 930. And then, like 945 came. And this first gentleman came to my table. And I kind of take him by surprise. And I just went into like the mode of what I do on the street. And he asked me a couple of questions about the books. And then he was like, there's gonna be a show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art I looked at his tag is to the Museum of Art. I remember I was kind of like, Okay, this guy's interested in my dream of going to the show, I was always like, imagine I got like, you know, I could get in a museum or something like that, and they get chopped, or, you know, somebody would recognize it from that. And here's this dish to help me with, look what

Amy Loewenberg:

happened robberies.

Unknown:

And he's going through it. And he's like, I really like these. And I was like, okay, and he was he was grabbing stuff and photographing stuff. And I sort of overwhelmed other people started coming to the table at the same time. But I was focused on him. And I was talking to him. And then he I thought, well, do I have to be pushy? Do I need to say, Okay, let's do this, now pick your books, and let's go. And I decided that I would not take that approach. I don't do it at the table. And you know, like when I'm in so I don't do it at any stores, I want it to be kind of true to who I am in it, just like people kind of do what they you know, what comes natural to them. And then other people were at the table, and they were from other parts of the country. So there was a there, there were people from, I guess the first people that came they were from Westchester, Pennsylvania, and they bought 10 bucks, they spent a lot of time I told them that each of the covers were individual, and they were you know, like I unique. And that day that I was like you have to really go through all of them through picking. And they were picking the books, and they were taken down and I was like, Oh my god, how am I going to keep track of what's there, I know, I could make a form of charging how much the book is, but they're not taking the books. So I had this rule of masking tape. And I just put a masking tape with a red Sharpie and writing their name and, and writing.

Amy Loewenberg:

Robert

Unknown:

I didn't expect that I was gonna sell anything. And then one after the other people were coming to the table that morning, between 945 and like 12 o'clock, I had already had three new stores that were carrying my stuff. And then a woman from uncommon goods came and visited me and and and it was expensive for them and but we had a real conversation about it. And we talked about like, you know about the some of the other items that I had, I had these guest books and they more met their price point. And so it seemed like we we don't have a deal with them yet as of yet. But there was a real interest and it was you know, pretty moving for me, you know, like and overwhelming at the same time that they were like real places in the place like uncommon goods which is so large to have an opportunity to even speak to a buyer you know, that can go I mean, I had a hard time going to shops when I would bring the stuff and or call somebody And say, I have journals that want to bring them to you. They're like, No, we have plenty of journals don't come into the store, please, here, you can send this through this email and do this. And that never goes anywhere at all. And here you are in the middle of like a marketplace for this. And I guess even though I am educated, and have an understanding of how things work, I didn't really put two and two together that this is really what this is, it really is like you're just in a marketplace, where people they're actually looking to stock their stores and stuff. And you really it's a it's a real window into what your future can be. And what your future is, you know, is

Amy Loewenberg:

100%. It's also a window into, you know, some of the conversations that we can have as New York now with our new and emerging artists, and we are working on many programs so that perhaps the pathway in might be a little less unknown, when when you actually stepped foot on the floor. Tell me and tell us, what would you do differently now to prepare yourself for the next market?

Unknown:

Well, I think I kind of liked the way it went, I would like it to look a little bit more my style, like I'm not wanting to buy cheap shells, everything in my house is like 100 years old or older. You know, like I'm really into antiques and you know, or building something that looks like an antique, you know, it was a little bit. It was a it was a stretch for me to go buy cheap shells, they looked cool. They looked like they were supposed to be old shells. But I think I would do that differently.

Amy Loewenberg:

But other than Robert, by the way they did so just so you know. And outside I it really did look like your aesthetic.

Unknown:

Yeah, I think I felt that way. You're right. I'm hard on myself. Sure. But, but I think that I wouldn't do much different. I think that it worked. And I think that one of the things about me as an artist as a person is that if I if I think too hard about something that I'm going to do, it doesn't tend to come out all that great. There's a lot of, there's a lot of missteps in and often when I just go with the, you know, with the organic way that things come together. For me, it seems to work out best. I mean, I have a lot of passion, like really? You know, and I just feel like this is, you know, I

Amy Loewenberg:

don't know that I would do that much different. I would like to look more like I wish it looked How about the way you work with buyers? Like how how would you situate yourself so that perhaps you because you've gone through it and you learn through trial and error. So what are the what are the operational procedures that you might put into place or tools that you might equip yourself with now?

Unknown:

Well, I'm not sure if it was that people were gracious, the buyers and people out there were gracious because they realized it was my first time I did a show. And they were tolerant of that. But I think that it went well the way that I was kind of slightly disheveled and that it is really a one man show. I think it kind of worked for the brand. And I don't know like I I'm uncertain like I perhaps I'll go this route again. And then I'll find they'll be like Robert, it's your second show, you should have known better and think everything's a learning experience. Even when you're you're well versed in something you should always be willing to learn. So next time I go to the show, I might be a little bit more organized with how I handle people's you know, like the way when they buy how maybe I'll have a sticker already designed so it looks a little bit more professional. So they don't get a book that's coming to this store with a piece of you know, masking tape or or maybe

Amy Loewenberg:

like a file, so you don't have to write on masking tape. But the red marker

Unknown:

here, maybe I mean, I like the concept of it. Now I made this intricate like ordering form that would get sent out like I wrote the Acrobat wrote it. It's like a sign and fill form. But that proved to be really difficult. So the first day after I got home, I rewrote it so that I could fill in the book names because they were a straight line. So little things, I think minor things, but I think overall, for, for me this the path that I took this time worked pretty well,

Amy Loewenberg:

it sounds like it did. I mean, I think the thing that that you'll continue to experience is that buyers are very tolerant, especially when it's somebody new coming into the field who may not have as much experience per se at a market. But you will also learn that the easier you make it for them, the easier it is to place an order and that is ideally what the goal is. So I have no doubt that your disheveled mind is going to continue to evolve and revolve I should say and you'll you'll perhaps think of things that might make it easier for you because your books are so unique. It's not like you're ordering one style and then ordering, you know two dozen of them. If each piece is unique, your price point is different. And that really does elevate your product in a very lovely way. Robert It really does. So the easier it is for the buyer to actually make that purchase or to understand from beginning to end what the process They can funnel that into their own operational systems in their stores. And it just becomes an easier process.

Unknown:

Yeah, I learned that from a very big buyer from common goods, particularly from, I don't know, she had said to me that she said, What would make it easier is the cost. So I, because of the time margin, she's like, you know, you could give us the lead times for stuff. And I was pretty fascinated by the fact that such a large operation was willing to, to, you know, like, work within the scope of what I'm capable of doing. And I was like, well, that's pretty interesting, especially since, you know, they don't even know what they're gonna get out of this, right. So, you know, they're gonna order 100 books, which is like the minimum or 50 books, which is like their minimum and, and they're not, you know, pick and choose, like, going to the shelf and picking 50 books, they're gonna have to trust that the quality and the, and the integrity of what I'm doing is going to be there when they get that stuff. And I found it fascinating that they, they were so willing to, to, to, they were so flexible with the way that they were running their own business and made me really like them, it made me want to go out and tell everybody, even if they don't take myself that that's a place that you have to go when I came back and told my sister because my sister, I share every aspect with a knot. And she said that she'd been buying from my common goods forever. And then a lot of things that she bought me three years, or from there, and she was like, Oh, these are these are great, you know, products, it's things like yours, that you know that that could be, you know, like available to people that would never get to see it. I was like, Oh my God.

Amy Loewenberg:

That's amazing. That is kind of like a full circle story right there with with. If you think about it, that's Yes. You know, also you get to also decide how you want to do your business, you know, how you want to sell, you know, and after working with a group or a buyer, and you find that that particular style works well for you, you know, you just start working in that manner, there is no doubt that your product is not being seen as its own special, unique entity as it is. And so I just want to say congratulations, I think it's amazing that you made it through your first market. And I'm I'm so proud of you. If I can say that.

Unknown:

I really want to thank you for bringing me in. I mean, I really felt like I never would have, it's not something that I ever would have done on my own, I would never have made a decision or even thought about it. I was pretty content, being on the street and doing it. And now I'm kind of thinking about I'm definitely gonna do this next year, I would definitely do this every year. I mean, it's, it's something and I'm not, I don't like plugging New York now. I'm plugging the experience. Okay,

Amy Loewenberg:

you can plug in Robert.

Unknown:

But it's like a but it really was it was it was a great experience for me. And the overall I was sort of sad. I remember the last day, you know, you become friendly with the people that are working next to you and talking to them about their lives. And it was like, you know, the last day of school, it reminded me of, you know, everybody was excited to get out of them said that they were going to not see each other. And it's like I didn't, I met some new friends and and experience was pretty jarring. But it was a it was a good experience. And I've been talking about it for like the last week while I build this bunch of books that I have to make for the for the Philadelphia Museum right now, which I'm so excited to be making the books for them. And I II and the emails that I've been getting from the people that I sold to, they just I already shipped out the books and people have received their books, and people are really excited to put them in the store. And they're you know, it's just it's really nice to get all the feedback from all these new people. And so I I have a place in Chicago, I have a place in in Mississippi that's going to be sending me paper, so I could do a collaboration with them. There's a in upstate that wants me to make their menu cards. So there's other things that came from it, you know, and there's Pete that a jewelry person asked me if I can make she saw my wooden cards, and she asked me if I can make wooden cards for her with her company. So it's like there's a lot of things other than just the books that that were kind of, you know, birthed from this. And it really felt good it was that it really had real reinforcement that okay, this late in my life, like 52 and I'm starting over, you know, it's a big deal. I mean, I was a journalist, I thought I was gonna retire as a journalist and things just didn't work out that way.

Amy Loewenberg:

It just sounds like this has been a really great experience for you. It sounds like you took this on just as you take on life and you kind of jumped in, you did it, you figured it out along the way. And look at where you've come now. I mean, you've made all these new contacts, you've probably have different vision as to some of the other items that you can create, or even start thinking about creating like those wooden cards that that could actually be a whole nother element of your mind.

Unknown:

Yeah, it could be I mean, that's what the bookmarks became the bookmarks were a giveaway for the show. So I wanted to give out something to people that we might it was a car so it was a you know, they're just a nicer car, you know that so I want people to be able to get that and have like a you know, all of this is 185. So I made the bookmarks and now it's going to be a part Have my product line where I could brand for people and do? And yeah, you never know. I mean, you just never know what, what life brings you in a sense, and you came to my table that day. And that, you know, brought me a whole other, you know, like, I think lease on on what I'm going to do for my future, you know, in my 50s really, it's a it's a huge move is a huge step for me.

Amy Loewenberg:

Well, it was meant to be, can, are we still gonna be able to find you on Prince street? Or? Yes,

Unknown:

absolutely. I'm gonna, I'll be there this weekend. So I go on. Yeah, well, I like doing that. And truthfully, I do most of the sewing on the street. Because it's something I really don't like I build here, I make the covers, and all of that the sewing is I like doing it, it's therapeutic to some degree, but it's a real test. And it's the same thing over and over. And it's really just, it's a hard, you know, it's it's a constant. So being on the street for eight hours. And so and meeting people, and so I could produce a handful of books, like more than a handful of books, I mean, I got good at it. So I could sell a bunch of signatures together in the time that I'm out there. And I try to get out there on Saturdays and Sundays on you know, every week, but there's a lot of other things that come up that I don't get to do it. And I do it through the winter. And they're out in the cold. I have a heater underneath the table like a propane heater. And I like being out there and it feels Yeah, I have a lot of friends on the street there to show out of our artists and it's nice. And it's a different, it's a different portion of life. Now, it's uh, you know, as a journalist, I got knocked around a lot, arrested a lot and beat up a lot. You know, this is this is a different, you know, this is a different mindset, I go there and be so very different. Like, it's a very different mindset.

Amy Loewenberg:

But we're definitely not going to beat you up, we're just going to appreciate what you produce. And for those who are not in New York City, and are going to walk down Prince Street to find you. Where else can we find your products.

Unknown:

On my website at 185 NYC calm, I have like a list of all the stores that carry my product. And if it's local to you, I prefer that you go local, because I have stores around the country. And if you can't get it around the country, then pick one of those stores and order from them. It will help me sell in the future. Absolutely,

Amy Loewenberg:

you heard it here. I'm really proud of you. I think it's amazing what you've done. And I'm just I'm so I'm so pleased that we crossed paths on that day. And and this is where we are right now. So I just I just want to say I wish you the best I want to thank you for sharing your life with us, you really did share a lot of your life with us and the path that you that you've taken and to other countries and and back again and all over the place to creating these amazing pieces of art. And that is what your product is they are pieces of art. I just want to say thank you so much for sharing them with us and and being a part of New York now and sharing your time with us today. Thanks, I appreciate it. I really appreciate you coming to me. Thank you so much for joining Robert night today. I hope you enjoyed our conversation as much as I did. I told you that he was full of energy, and his passion for his work is more than evidence, but you should definitely see it for yourself. So go to 185 NYC calm that spelled out 185 nyc.com to see his hauntingly beautiful journals, but then definitely make it a point to look at his photography, as you will see how his hands are clearly an extension from what he saw through the lens of his camera. And you can view his work at ny press.org. So thank you again for joining us. And don't forget, New York now is now an online 365 sourcing and connection platform. Make sure to sign up and sign in and definitely connect with me when you do. Thank you so much and I will talk with you soon.

Dondrill Glover:

Thank you for listening to the New York now podcast. Make sure to tune in weekly for engaging and insightful conversations touching on the most relevant topics facing our community today. Is it through your mouth comm to learn more about our market, and how you can join in on the conversation