City Pulse

By Gillian Weeks

For New Yorkers, a pair of blinders is as essential as a cell phone and shades. Try walking down Broadway without one. You’ll find yourself buffeted by dudes slinging homemade hip-hop, hit up for spare change, and lured by the siren song of handbag pushermen (“Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton…”). But while our streets have indeed become a commercial gauntlet, there are still some roadside attractions worth giving a sideways glance.

Street vendors aren’t all black market and cheesy trends, though it does take a keen eye to spot the gems – the Birth of Venuses among the Dogs Playing Pokers, if you will. Here are a few vendors that are worth dropping the blinders for.

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Fernando Maigua puts a lot of muscle into his creations. After all, bull horns and coconuts are something less than malleable. He uses traditional Equadorian techniques and materials to craft the raw objects into pieces ready to be worn on your person. Don’t group these in the “vacation wear” category along with Puca shells and lais – these are office-ready looks with all the sophistication of a Kate Spade briefcase (plus, they look a lot better under those fluorescent lights). Check out Maigua’s wares on Prince Street in Soho.

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If Maigua’s goods are a little too Apocalypto for your tastes, opt for a piece of Constantinople on Prince. Turkish designer Emin Kartal makes hand-painted pendants that are truly one-of-a-kind. Inspired by traditional Turkish designs, he first sketches his miniature artworks on paper and then transfers them to the ceramic pendant. Just don’t ask him to do a caricature. That sort of thing belongs in Times Square.

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I don’t know about you, but the last time I trolled the streets looking for “rock,” it ended in a knife fight and an unfortunate case of Hepatitis C. Liza Saniefard has thankfully redefined this activity to mean something ever more wholesome. She designs jewelry that showcases the natural beauty of raw gems and stones, juxtaposing different colors, shapes and textures to create an almost accidental grace. You can also find her table in Soho on warmer days – you know, in case you jonesin’ for some quartz.

Originally published January 2007
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