Day 4: Our adventures in three boroughs / by Heather Taylor

Yesterday was a blur. We started with Bagels and coffee for Michelle (yes
– I am still caffeine free for the NSPCC Kick bullying campaign) – Nick
went out on his scooter to go and pick them up for us. I had an
all-dressed one with all the toppings including onion. The thing about
these bagels that make them stand out is the salt. It’s just a thin
sprinkling of it, but it makes all the difference. And you don’t even need
to put anything on it, in fact I’d argue it’d sully the taste if you did.

First interview of the day was in Redhook with Jen and Brian Gubicza of
Zooguu (thanks to John DeYoung who set it all up!). They work out of a
warehouse space with around 12 other artists making stuffed toys to be
sold on Etsy, their own online shop and in craft fairs. The warehouse is
in an area that only a few years ago was known for crime – On the
Waterfront was based on that area and bodies have been known to wash up on
shore. More recently, gritty crime chases are filmed there – Matt Damon
was filming down the road the week before so I’m going to keep my eye out
next time I’m watching a chase scene down by the docks. A large amount of
the area was bought up by a retired cop who wanted to regenerate Redhook. 
So anyone wanting to rent his properties has to put in a proposal to show
what they will be using it for. Which is why Jen and Brian found
themselves in a warehouse over looking the water (and the statue of
Liberty).

They are starting to get some interest from wholesalers, which can be
trickier as Brian traces and cuts all the patterns for Jen to sew by hand. 
Yes, that’s right. All Zooguu toys are hand-made. Lately they have been
doing more collaborations with illustrators (Brian being one of them), to
make stuffed toys out of their 2D work. The results have their own
Zooguu-esque quality that still keeps the aesthetic that the original
illustrations have.

All of the toys have a quirky appeal that makes them loved by adults and
children alike. And because they are homemade, you can pick what colours
you want each part to be. Jen always knows when a kid put the order in as
the colours are not ones most people would ever put together. But that’s
what makes these toys so personal and something you could grow up with. 
Though Brian teases her about it, Jen always makes sure she packs the toy
so when you open it; it looks up at you like it’s greeting you like an old
friend. If you want one of your own, you can order them online and you can
get one sent to you anywhere in the world. Go. Do it. I’m going to. 
www.zooguu.com

After lunch in midtown with my old friend Reisha, we met with Jill of
www.jillwrites.com, who is born and raised in Brooklyn and lives on Staten
Island. We took the ferry over to Staten Island with her and looked back
across the water at Manhattan. To me this ferry is the starting point of
my favourite movie: Working Girl. Well, one of my favourite movies. The
film opens up with Carly Simon singing her heart out as Melanie Griffith
makes the journey into Manhattan to work her way to the top. She has
brains and beauty but no one takes her seriously because of where she’s
from. Honestly, the Carly Simon song went through my head the whole way
there AND back.

On the way to the Tweet-Up at BBH in the AT&T building (32 Avenue of the
Americas), Michelle and I made a special stop inspired by Zooguu’s Brian – 
the Ghostbusters fire station! Yes, photos and video were taken. It was
much narrower than I expected but what a beautiful little firehouse it
was. And just around the corner from where the meet up was.

Thanks go out to Dan, who helped make the tweet-up in New York happen. We
did a live feed as the night progressed so anyone, anywhere in the world
could be a part of it. I found that by capturing it and interviewing, the
two hours go by too quickly and I actually met very few people there. And
everyone I spoke was so interesting that I wish we had more time to meet
and talk with everyone there. But I guess that’s how it all goes and the
people you meet are the right people to meet at the time. And in less
than 2 days, I’ve met so many wonderful people that I would have never met
under other circumstances.