Down in the Lower Eastside, at a ground-level shop with a large “HERE NOW” window display out front, there is a mess of visually appealing wallpaper prints lying about that announces you’re somewhere unique. Step into the store, which was a popup shop running in the month of October, you find a beautiful collection of handcrafted jewelry and clothing for sale in a minimalist and lovingly curated space. In the back of the shop, proudly boastful and open to the public, there’s a group of people sewing, knitting and stamping while singing along loudly to music from a handcrafted wooden picnic table. These are the curators, artists and designers behind the Here Now Popup space, breathing life into a bold concept seeking to bring the crafting and making
Finishing design school is an exhilarating experience. Starting your career afterwards can feel like a daunting task. Alexa Stark, a 2011 graduate of the Integrated Design program, shows that you don’t have to sacrifice your creativity and art in order to start a career. You just have to do what you love, do it well, and then work harder than you’ve ever imagined.
For Alexa, a native-born New Yorker who lived in the city her whole life, this involved a bold decision: moving across the country to Portland, OR and starting her own business. This entrepreneurial boldness was a trait she gained while in the Integrated Design program, when as a junior she was required to, more or less, start a business. Working with Professor Pascale Gatzen, she started to sell her clothes at the Brooklyn Flea Market and other events, where to her surprise she would sell out in a matter of hours.
“That’s when I realized, ‘I can do this!’ and after that it simply became a matter of doing it,” she says. For someone that recently graduated from school, she is unusually precocious about the ambiguous roles of designer, artist and craftsperson, as she muses on the challenges of maintaining authorship over her artistic practice versus the demands of selling her designs. She considers herself an artist, first and foremost, an aesthetic cultivated in the experimental curriculum at the School of Design Strategies, whose practice is in designing sustainably sourced clothing.
Being pushed entrepreneurially in school taught her to push herself in her own business venture, which led her right back to NYC with the HERE NOW popup shop. After planning for a year with collaborators and friends, they successfully raised funds through Kickstarter and, with the help of a local organization called MiLES, found a suitable vacancy to lease for the month. It’s largely an experimental space that tries to bridge the divide between consumer, artist and designer, with a physical layout in which you can browse for jewelry, clothing, sunglasses and other crafts, while watching the hands and minds behind them at work.