APRIL 2010 | Be Our Neighbor
Influencing Bridgeport — fiZz, Blip and The Weather sKwirl™
Bijou Square asks: Where were you before you lived here?
kHyal: Born in CT. Lived in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven — then for a long stretch — a block away from the Wesleyan University campus in Middletown.
Karl: Born in Brooklyn. Raised in Stratford. Fourteen years in Fairfield before moving to Bridgeport in 2003. First in Brooklawn, then Black Rock.
Bijou Square: What brought you here?
kHyal: 1) Karl 2) Large, beautiful, affordable space in a semi-urban environment with an ocean view, and in close proximity to New York City by train.
Karl: I lived in Bridgeport briefly right after college, right across from Beardsley Zoo. I later bought a house in Fairfield as an investment, then sold it when it made sense so I could move to a community that was more my style. More like Brooklyn.
Bijou Square: What do you do in Bridgeport?
kHyal: I have a communication design firm called fiZz www.GetfiZz.com. I also work on public and private art projects www.kHyal.com, design objects and apparel, write stories and develop characters. Since moving here in 2007 I have launched the Blip™ www.blipworld.com and The Weather sKwirl™ www.weatherskwirl.com and friends.
Karl: Although I have owned a creative recruitment firm called creativeplacement www.creativeplacement.com for 22 years, which has been primarily in SoNo, kHyal and I have an office and studio in our Black Rock home where we develop products and incubate ideas. We partner on public and private art and design projects here. I have also spent the past three years working on renovations inside our home, including prototyping and installing new designs using reclaimed architectural salvage, plastics, metals and woods to incorporate into our kitchen, bathrooms and other spaces.
I have also worked with local manufacturers to reinvent uses for their equipment and create products that designers embrace. An example being custom accessories for kHyal’s BlipWear™ line.
Bijou Square: What’s one spot you could be in Bridgeport all day and why?
kHyal: Our house. It’s a big ol’ Victorian built in 1856 by Captain William Hall. It was once the pinnacle of the neighborhood, and is featured in history books and documentaries about Black Rock. In the 1980s it was also a brothel. I found the records online from when the FBI raided it and indicted madam Melody Law. Some of the windows have graffiti from the 1850s and 1930s scratched into them. It has a view of Black Rock Harbor and Ellsworth Park and our office and studio. I don’t think I could be anywhere all day without access to tools to create with.
One of our favorite walks is from our house, around Seabright Beach, a block away, and then down Grovers Avenue to Saint Mary’s-by-the-sea. It only takes ten minutes to get there, but we like to do the loop back through the Ash Creek tidal estuary and then through the middle on the way home so we can stop at Harborview Market for coffee. They open at 6am, which is perfect after a sunrise walk in summer.
Karl: Saint Mary’s-by-the-sea and the Ash Creek Tidal Estuary because I like being close to the water. It is home to dozens of species of birds and other wildlife, including over a dozen types of egrets.
Bijou Square: What do you think we’re missing here?
kHyal: From my perspective as a creative professional, I think the area lacks a certain sophistication that comes from having a more densely populated creative scene. The benefit of being challenged by competition is that the work produced gets pushed to a higher level and is influenced by greater diversity. I still work and play in New York every week to get that.
I do tell people that Bridgeport is the next alternative to Brooklyn for artists, in that there is affordable studio space with a relatively short commute to the commerce centers of New York, Boston and Providence. However, we need to convince a lot more people to settle here to incur a culture that is as rich and vibrant creatively as those communities.
We are the early settlers, it can be a bit rough cut and rocky, but I’m thrilled to have neighbors like Bananaland, Meredith and Keith Saunder’s Exotic Recordings, Margaret Bodell’s Public Art and Design Center, Joseph Celli, Jin Hi Kim, Susan Breen, David Ryan, Liz Squillace, Eileen Walsh and The Gallery at Black Rock, Madeline Rhodes, Yolanda Petrocelli, Denyse Schmidt/Denyse Schmidt Quilts, The Bridgeport Design Group — to name a few. They are the bedrock and the bones of building a prosperous creative center.
I’d also like to see more technology companies make Bridgeport their home. Partnerships between artists and technologists are key in building modern Meccas — the alchemy between them creates smart solutions that lead to a better quality of life and to the commerce that is necessary for our economy to thrive.
Karl: I think we’re missing a cohesive art and design community. We have to build a stronger PR initiative for Bridgeport to get away from the stigma of its downtown being dangerous.
In addition, we need to develop a stronger network within Bridgeport to better utilize our small and large manufacturing, design and production channels. Bridgeport has a rich history with an abundance of companies but lacks a centralized routing system to keep work and jobs in our own backyard. We also need to make Bridgeport an attraction for growth in all sectors, and to make use of the creative force that exists here with more public art projects.
As the largest city between Manhattan and Boston, Bridgeport has the most available space for incubators and manufacturers to take full advantage of, and to bring back the spirit of commerce experienced in Bridgeport’s earlier days.
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Image: ©Marcella Kovac 2010