First Edition of Craft in Focus Festival in Industry City, Brooklyn


This past weekend, the first ever Craft in Focus Festival took place in Industry City (Sunset Park, Brooklyn), bringing the New York City community back in touch with craftsmanship.

Founded in 2013 in Amsterdam by Wendy van Wilenburg, the idea for the festival came from the proliferation of Smartphones and desire to put people back in touch with a newfound appreciation for the process of making things by hand. There were no products for sale at this event. Rather, attendees could listen to lectures, watch films, participate in hands-on workshops and Masterclasses, and view demonstrations, performances, and exhibitions. Workshops and Masterclasses had a focus on a particular craft and were led by many famous craft masters.

Although navigating there proved challenging, Industry City was a highly suitable location for the festival. It’s a new, artistic community that focuses on cross-collaboration and consists of an astounding 6 million square feet, which includes artist lofts, workspaces, retail and food shops, living spaces, and courtyards.

The VIP kick-off party featured such diverse events as a Rijksmuseum talk about the first Dutch settlers to the U.S., a Star Wars origami demo, and live performances by famous Dutch vocalist Jennie Lena and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily. Lena had previously been a finalist on The Voice of Holland, so it is fair to say her voice brought the event to a new level of energy. The festival’s many activities took place over the following two days. The rich programming was designed for both novices and experienced craftspeople alike in many of the following areas:

Dutch Barn Model demonstration
Mycelium Pendant Lamp-Growing
Shibori with Natural Indigo
Designing a custom tie
Masterclass Mixology
Backstrap weaving

Notable events included a pleating workshop led by couture designer Mattijs van Bergen, who has designed dresses for the Queen of Holland. The workshop explained the detailed process of pleating garments, a timely process that consists of making hand-drawn carboard models for the garment to be placed inside. The process was much more complex and the different geomtric pleating styles gave new appreciation to this aspect of fashion design. In addition, I had the pleasure of making my own stacking rings with Brooklyn Metal Works, with the gentle and clear guidance of Erin Daily. Staring at the elegantly simple rings on my finger, I think about the whole 2-hour process that included sizing a ring blank, high temperature silver soldering, wire twisting, stamping designs, simple hammer forging, and finishing metal surfaces. It was tremendously meaningful to make something of my own by following steps I had never before taken.

Overall, the event was under-attended, perhaps due to the location or perhaps due to not enough publicity. I know this was a disappointment to the artists, but for those who were able to attend, it was a truly worthwhile and enriching experience. In the one workshop I was able to take, I learned so much and left it with a new sense of appreciation for the amount of work that goes into making things and a desire to spend more time doing that and less time on my phone and laptop.

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