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New book explores what is made in New York

March 28, 2012 2:40:43 PM PDT
We have seen a renewed push to buy American and buy locally. Things made right here in New York is the focus of a new book.

"There's a lot of people who talk about the hands do the work of the soul because they're what sort of creates and transforms the world around us," Matt Dilling, of Lite Brite Neon Studio, said.

Call it the unofficial anthem of what many consider a secret society, one that is the subject of the new book Made in New York.

"We have people who are real artisans. Not everything is made in China anymore," author Nathalie Sann said.

The book takes an in-depth look at 50 masters. Each has a fascinating story, like the basket weaver.

"It's a dying craft because he's using black hash and all of the black hash is dying in the US because its sick so basically in 10 years it won't be possible to do this craft," Sann said.

Rod Keenan, like all of the other artisans, works with his hands, creating one of a kind hats. Because there are few, if any schools specializing in these trades, a mentor is a must. Matt Dilling fabricates and designs custom neon lighting.

How his Cobble Hill, Brooklyn factory came together is a different story. After dropping out of art school, Matt literally built his company from scratch.

"Originally most of our studio came from the trash at MIT," Dilling said.

Matt tells me this is a very labor intensive process that can take months to complete, but he's in it for the long haul.

"There are many ways you can work with lights as an artist this is one where you can actually work to produce the colored lights from the atmosphere themselves so it's a very alchemical process," he said.

And that's what makes each of the artisans so unique - the way they beautifully replicate timeless traditions in this very modern world.

"I learned in New York, you don't only have hedge funds and bankers, you have many people with real passions," Sann said.

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