Archive for November, 2009

The Trove: BertonGoods
November 9, 2009

I’ve known the gentle Berton of BertonGoods for many years, meeting him first in his incarnation as a milliner. Ever talented and gracious, he’d always allow me to pull in any hat needed for a show or photo shoot.  He has since moved on to other expressions of his creativity through dolls and other artful toys and accessories. His button-trimmed stockings are a holiday favorite at the American Folk Art Museum and ultra cool retailer, auto, stocks BertonGoods regularly.


The signature button doll is available at

Three years ago, Berton visited Guatemala and began a working relationship with a cooperative of women there. Most of his collection is now produced there.  “I work with really talented artisans, the indigenous people of Guatemala.  It really empowers them and I am grateful to them.”  He speaks lovingly of the country and its people.


Carved wooden letters (soon available at auto.) and numbers (contact for availability)


Year after year, the American Folk Art Museum stocks these popular Christmas stocking ornaments.


These multi-functional ornaments can be hung on the tree or used as ingenious “wrapping” for tiny gifts.  The Christmas tree features a zippered back and the mittens have a velcro closure at the top. Contact for availability.


This tote, available on Etsy, marries two BertonGoods favorites, buttons and ticking stripes.  The designer himself and his favorite fabric.

It is with great love that he speaks of most things.  And wonder.  “I am a very curious person.  I am obsessed with the computer and am constantly looking for things online.  If it exists, I’ll find it.”   A visit to his Brooklyn studio reveals some of his obsessions and delightful pockets of inspiration so who better to inaugurate our newest feature?

With this post we introduce, The Trove, a space for sharing the treasures of the fascinating people I’ve had the privilege to encounter.   When I asked the humble force behind BertonGoods to share his magical seven, I fully expected blue striped ticking fabric to make the cut, but here, in no particular order are Berton’s best loved:

1. Everything Batman. The late 60’s television series was his introduction to the Caped Crusader, reading the comics would come later. “My entire family would sit around and watch the TV show together. The colors, the dialogue really affected me. I learned things.  I remember an episode in Catwoman’s warehouse and the word ‘cat’ was translated into different languages.  His collection of memorabilia numbers around 50 pieces.


The lunchbox was a Ebay score; the Dark Knight Bobble-head, a gift, as was the musical snow globe; the very first item in his collection, the now dog-eared copy of The Official Batman Batbook, a companion guide to the TV series.

2. Music. “I listen to many different kinds, but it’s MJ, hands-down.  Not just because everyone is so Michael enthused right now.  I grew up with him.  I was the fan waiting for the comeback.  I said to myself I am going to go to Paragon Sports to a buy a sleeping bag to camp out for tickets whenever he comes here. I saw the Jackson Five in the seventies and the Victory Tour (1984) at Madison Square Garden… I’m so glad I got this before he passed” (gesturing to an Ebony Magazine special edition) “it was shot right here in Brooklyn.”


Michael, photographed by Matthew Rolston for Ebony at the Brooklyn Museum.

And then there’s John Mayer. “His music speaks to me.  Radio ruins things, but the songs not getting airplay are the ones I love.  ‘Gravity,’ is incredible.”

3. Guatemalan Mountain Range. During his twice yearly trips to Guatemala, “I stay in Antigua, its surrounded by mountains” (the Sierra Madre)  “The one to the south, a volcano, is breathtaking, you simply can’t not stop to look.  It is majestic.  I usually work outside in the courtyard: parrots, tropical flowers and a beautiful smell that is intoxicating.”


The long dormant Volcán de Agua, unobstructed by cloud cover.

4. Handmade, lightbulb doll. Though he’s collected a few Urban Faeries, works of dear friend and fellow doll artist, the late Adrienne McDonald, he particularly treasures this one.  “I received “Nisha” from Adrienne as a gift in 2000.  It is the one doll that I always wanted from her.  I thought it was such a clever idea.  This doll is a wonderful example of her amazing creative genius.”


5.Design*Sponge. The daily home and product design website has become a trusted friend.  “I go there everyday.  It’s very inspiring.”  He looks forward to the monthly downloadable screensavers.  “Isn’t this one beautiful?”


Berton’s October screensaver from

6. Chicken Roti.  “I grew up in Long Island.  I didn’t know about Caribbean food until I moved to Crown Heights.”


7. Converse Chucks.  In all incarnations. “I remember we used to wear cheap sneakers–there were six of us.  The three boys, we wore my mother down, we begged for Chuck Taylors.  It was a lot for her budget but she got them.”  He wears them year-round now. “I speak the things I want into the universe.  I said, ‘When will someone make Converse that can be worn in the winter?’  John Varvatos heard. I love the Varvatos elastic…this is lined with Thinsulate, genius.”


The Chuck Taylor All Star Bosey Slip-on, with its oiled leather uppers and Thinsulate lining keep Berton’s feet toasty in Winter’s chillThe rubber update is available now at

8. Thermal Shirts. “I have them in cotton and in cashmere. They are light and warm and are my Fall/Winter security blankets.

The Gap offers a striped thermal for Fall 2010.

9. The Brooklyn Museum. They always have great exhibits and I can walk there from home.

The beloved Brooklyn institution.

10. The Good Wife. The critically acclaimed CBS show is “sooo well-acted and amazingly written…this show really makes you think.”

folksoul Thursdays with ginaBreedlove
November 4, 2009

I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing her in Broadway’s Sophisticated Ladies in 1987, so I wasn’t introduced to the talents of gina Breedlove until 1996 in her astoundingly evil turn as a South African jailer in Sheila’s Day at the recently opened New Victory Theater.  As an actor, she clearly has chops.  The character she portrayed and her personal character are diametrically opposed.  Her surname perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy, gina is all peace and love.

I bore witness to more of her performance magic when she originated the role of the regal Lioness, Sarabi, in Julie Taymor’s brilliantly executed The Lion King on Broadway.


The Lion Queen.  Photo from “The Lion King” official website.

Years, world tours and a super-cool, self-possessed young daughter later, gina is focusing on her own music: writing, recording and performing.  Her gift from God, her pure, clarion voice; her gift to us, her song.  folksoul, her signature sound is “music that lifts & inspires, with moments of grown & sexy…”

She invites us to join her this month for folksoul Thursdays at Pillow Cafe Lounge:  “come bring some of your spirit & leave with some of mine.”  The no-cover evenings on November 5th, 12th and 19th begin at 7:30pm including special guests Karma Mayet Johnson, Ganessa James and Shelly Nicole.



Pillow Cafe Lounge

505 Myrtle Avenue

(btwn Ryerson & Grand)

Brooklyn, NY

718 246 2711

TAI™ Lip Shine
November 3, 2009

I’ve always been drawn to red metals: rose gold, copper.  Something about a ruddy shimmer that gets me every time.  I can get my fix this month while supporting a good cause.  It is National Diabetes Awareness Month and for the second year in a row, 20% of the proceeds from November sales of TAI™ Lip Shine will be donated to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

The lustrous copper lip gloss was created by Trae Bodge of Three Custom Color Specialists at the request of celebrity hairstylist Diane Da Costa, volunteer ambassador of the ADA.  The shade was selected for the beautiful way it complements a full spectrum of skin tones.  The burnished hue with shimmering flecks of bronze is a perfect lip color–autumn leaves and mulled cider–as we move from fall to winter.

To order visit or dial toll-free 888 262 7714.


Brooklyn Moment #14: A Portrait of the Blogger by a Young Man
November 2, 2009

A crowded internet cafe.  An occupied chair.  An artist.  A vacant sofa space.  A blogger.  A passage of time.  A departure.  An extended hand.  An excuse me, I drew a picture of you.  An ink sketch.  A thank you.  An exchange of emails.  A sweet Brooklyn moment.


Though I was given the orignal ink drawing, the lovely artist Unyenz followed up digitally with a colorized version.

Get on the Soapbox
November 2, 2009

I am happy to be on the host committee of SOAPBOX, the First Annual Art Auction of The Laundromat Project, a community based non-profit arts organization

committed to the well-being of people of color living on low incomes. Understanding that creativity is a central component of healthy human beings, vibrant neighborhoods, and thriving economies, we bring art programs to where our neighbors already are: the local laundromat. In this way, we aim to raise the quality of life in New York City for people whose incomes do not guarantee broad access to mainstream arts and cultural facilities.

We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, November 3 for a silent auction and celebration to support change through art in New York City’s most vibrant communities!  Tickets prices begin at just $25 for an exciting evening of drinks, hors d’œuvre, DJ Khary on the wheels of steel and of course, a selection of works from a stellar line up of donating artists including

Ifetayo Abdus-Salaam • David Abir • Dawolu Jabari Anderson • Petruskha Bazin • Aisha Bell • Nathan Bennett • Sanford Biggers • Louis Cameron • Saul Chernick • William Cordova • Pradeep Dalal • Stephanie Diamond • Stephanie Dinkins • Nathaniel Donnett • Sam Durant • Torkwase Dyson • Chitra Ganesh • Rico Gatson • Deborah Grant • Kira Lynn Harris • Wayne Hodge • Sheree Hovsepian • Jennie C. Jones • Nsenga Knight • Joseph Laurro • Simone Leigh • Shaun El C. Leonardo • Glenn Ligon • Carlos Martinez • Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) • Chris Myers • Glexis Novoa • Wura-Natasha Ogunji • Karyn Olivier • Kambui Olujimi • Jessica Ann Peavy • Micheal Premo • Rob Pruitt • Ronny Quevedo • Tanea Richardson • Marc Andre Robinson • Athena Robles • Paul Mpagi Sepuya • Xaviera Simmons • Shinique Smith • Anna Stein • Hank Willis Thomas • Zefrey Throwell and Eric Anderson • Robert Trujillo • Mary Valverde • William Villalongo • Deborah Willis • Saya Woolfalk • and others

Click here to view the auction catalogue and ticket levels.

So New Yorkers, go cast your votes in the morning and place your bids with us in the evening.  The works can be previewed from noon until 6pm; then join the event from 6 – 9pm.


Included at the $1000 contribution level, Mickalene Thomas’  Kalena, 2009 Archival inkjet print with hand-painted applications. 8 x 10 inches. Edition of 20.


A trio of works available at the benefit auction: Sanford Biggers’ Psyche, 2009  Lithograph 25 3/4 x 43 1/4 inches; Hank Willis Thomas’ Absolute Power (framed); Stephanie Dinkins’ Americana I, print no. 10, 2008  Transfer print on book page.

The Laundromat Project’s First Annual Art Auction

Envoy Enterprises

131 Chrystie St, New York City