It seems like everyone in Brooklyn these days is either making something and selling it, teaching other people how to make it, or learning how to make something with plans on selling it. While this boroughwide DIY drive to become more self-sufficient than a frontier tinker can occasionally approach self-parody, we're just going to go ahead and say "fuck that." As trends go, self-suffiency is pretty hot. The best way to do something is to do it yourself.
Don Wood at Fat Dog Fabrication
The appropriately named Don Wood regularly sets up shop at the Brooklyn Flea, selling his custom concrete-and-wood Fat Dog Fabrication pieces and offering valuable home improvement advice to fellow DIYers. And the man gives back to his community: last summer, glass collected in a Fort Greene Park community clean-up was donated to Fat Dog. Wood then built a limited-edition Fort Greene bench using the glass that was later auctioned off to the public. Wood began as a set builder back in the day, but after moving into finish carpentry (and moving to Brooklyn) he found himself on the PBS early American pioneer reality TV experiment Colonial House, an experience which inspired him to to "work with rougher woods, stone, mud straw and, well, goat dung as building materials." And we're very glad he did.
Danielle Cefaro and Benjamin Stutz at Brooklyn Homebrew
Professionally trained chefs Danielle Cefaro and Benjamin Stutz carried their culinary skills over to the brewing arena—Bing cherry Belgian Ale, anyone?—and have been brewing their own beer for over nine years. The husband-and-wife team's Gowanus shop carries everything from start-up kits to an extensive list of hops and malts, allowing both first-time BIY-ers and experienced homebrewers to concoct their own special beer. Think of the money you could save having your own keg of beer around all the time... (Also, you're a drunk.)
Erica Bradbury at Species by the Thousands
Erica Bradbury uses sustainable materials to create her Species by the Thousands line of t-shirts and accessories. Her hand-drawn apparel designs are inspired by "outsider worlds of moons, 70s guys, witchcraft and bearded men" (which also happens to be the guiding inspiration behind The L Magazine), while her reclaimed-metal fox pendants and oxidized silver rings are a perfect fit for the uber-hip Oak boutique and mainstream hipster supplier Urban Outfitters. Bradbury's affinity for eco-friendly DIY might just inspire you to go to the next Etsy craft night and whip up your own mix of precious metals.
Masha Radzinsky at Bushwick City Farm
Community gardens and small-time farms are fixtures in Brooklyn. But Bushwick City Farm isn't interested in selling its organic produce to local sustainable grocers. Founded by the indomitable Masha Radzinsky (who's only 26) the farm is truly a communal one: all produce is free to those in need, and local volunteers can be found at any given moment working hard on everything from mending chicken wire to turning compost. Nestled under the juddering shadow of the JMZ, just off Broadway, this project is an inspiring example of what any given community can do with hard work and purpose—the BCF gets no financial aid from the city, and doesn't receive any significant patronage. On top of all that, the BCF offers free ESL classes to the community. Stop by and feed the rescued chickens and maybe you'll walk away with a few eggs. (To get involved, you can also email BushwickCityFarm@gmail.com)
Justin Green at Build it Green
The appropriately named Justin Green is the main man behind wonderfully sprawling non-profit salvage warehouse Build it Green. Located in Astoria, B.I.G. is a renovator's treasure hunt, with thousands of rehabilitated objects for use (or construction) in your home—from shiny new fridges (at a third the price) to fasces of rebar. If you have even the slightest DIY fix-it-up bone in your body, start at Build it Green. Or even if you just like looking at a bunch of random, salvaged goodies...
Kheedim Oh at Mama O's Premium Kimchi
Oh kimchi, you wonderfully potent pickled cabbage miracle... The team at Mama O's Premium stays faithful to Chef Kheedim Oh's mother's traditional kimchi recipe while keeping the cabbage fresh and the ingredients all-natural. Not only does Oh make perfect kimchi, he also DJs with The Beatards, thereby raising his Brooklyn hipster quotient to, like, a million points. Until the Greenpoint Food Market returns (sigh), you can find Oh's kimchi at Marlow & Daughters, Brooklyn Kitchen and other fine borough groceries
Colin Spoelman and David Haskell at Kings County Distillery
The men behind the revitalization of New York City's oldest whiskey distillery produce artisanal whiskey, bourbon and moonshine in small, plainly labeled bottles. And their hand-crafted grain alcohol tastes as mellow as its packaging, surprisingly sweet for a white whiskey. Bars and liquor stores across Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan have begun to carry the Kings County brand, so make sure to order a White Manhattan next time you swing by Marlow & Sons. And don't fret about northern interlopers messing with the holy water of the south—Spoelman's from no less a whiskey mecca than eastern Kentucky (even if all the ingredients are sourced in New York state and the distillery is in Bushwick).
Adina Grigore at Sprout Wellness
You wouldn't eat pesticide-ridden tomatoes, would you? (Sadly, you probably do more than you think). Well, given the choice, we're sure you wouldn't treat your skin with unnatural chemicals either—that's Adina Grigore's philosophy. Her Sprout Wellness skin care line (handmade in Greenpoint!) prides itself on its organic simplicity. Grigore uses only natural ingredients that you've heard of (weird shit like "salt" and "honey"), and is committed to keeping the price lower than your groceries. She also gets her shea butter from a self-empowered women's collective in Togo. Which is in Africa. Which rules.
Tobias Arturi and Nick Shimkin at The Kings County Cinema Society
We've always wanted to run away and join a traditional roving Indian cinema, watching Bollywood under banyan trees from Bangalore to Orissa... But that probably won't happen. At least we have the KCCS, which provides Brooklynites with free weekly screenings of local shorts, documentaries, and cult and classic films. The film nomads unroll their screens in locations all over the county, often with free booze to boot. Their website promises a wealth of outdoor DIY film shows over the coming summer, including a screening of Sufjan Stevens' documentary on the BQE and documentaries on sustainability efforts projected from a Brooklyn rooftop.