Stop in at Frankies 457 on Court Street in Brooklyn, where artisanally cured meats are celebrated and the general manager keeps bees for honey on local rooftops. Swing over to Greenpoint for pickled beets at Brooklyn Brine Co., and then to Williamsburg for chocolate from Mast Brothers (ever notice how many pairs of brothers there are in the artisanal world?). Visit the Brooklyn Flea to check out new furniture designers and artisanal foods. When your feet get tired, spend some time on etsy.com, perusing the "storefronts" of hundreds of thousands of independent artisans, craftspeople, tinkerers, and part-time geniuses who would otherwise have no outlet for their wares.
For all its Amish-like affectations, the artisanal movement is clearly driven by technology (see "Artisanal 2.0," opposite). What would all those people with niche obsessions do without the organizing power of the Web? It brings a nation of local crafters and consumers together, and intimacy, however far-flung, is the glue of the artisanal community.
Daniel Lewis and his fiancée, Brenna, run a small handcrafted-clothing business called Brook-lyn Tailors. As he sees it, his suits and shirts are special because they bridge the gap between consumer and artisan. "Recently a customer, after receiving his first custom garment from us, said, 'I can't wait for our next collaboration,' as opposed to his next purchase," Lewis says. As the artisanal aesthetic expands, the lines between art and commerce, maker and user, blur. "This stuff is blowing up right now," Spade says. "You can make something inside your apartment, sell it online, have a business, and grow it. Then a company like J. Crew can come along and say, 'We'd love for you to make a thousand of 'em.' "
But no more than that, please. There is the delicate matter of managing the enthusiasts' enthusiasm—the worry that early fans will seek ever narrower niches as artisans partner with bigger brands, Spade says. "Now the purists in the world are saying, 'Dammit!' They're thinking, Now I have to make my own moccasins. They're heading down to the local leather shop."
Get thee to a tannery. The spread is inevitable, since every authentivore's true dream, as the cliché goes, is to direct. "I think it's a natural progression," says Ryan Conder, of South Willard. "To be perfectly honest, I didn't want to buy clothes made in China," he says of the original urge to open the shop. Then he wanted a black backpack, but the only ones he could find were mass-made and had "stupid mesh water-bottle things on the back." So he collaborated with sculptor Ricky Swallow and launched the Altadena Works line of bags and packs. "We wanted to do it with minimal shapes and a California sensibility," he says. It's slippery, this slope from accidental enthusiast to actual artisan. You're going to need good shoes. Perhaps I could interest you in a very-limited-edition pair of handmade bluchers?Read More:
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