Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Out and About in the East Village

In this ongoing feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village or Lower East Side.

By James Maher
Name: Sierra Gilboe Zamarripa (and Cecilia)
Occupation: Owner, Lovewild Design
Location: La Plaza Cultural, 9th Street and Avenue C
Time: Tuesday, June 13 at 4 p.m.

I’m from 10th and A. In high school my dad bought a house in the South Bronx, and we ended up leaving because when I was a baby we were stuck in a drive-by. So we moved to the East Village to be safe, and it was still scary then, but it was better than the South Bronx.

My parents had a store on 10th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A called Wandering Dragon — it was an antiques and oddities store. There was lots of taxidermy, two-headed calves, weird medical instruments, general antiques, wax heads — just every weird thing. The store was a constant array of characters wandering in and out, street people, artists, writers, occasional celebrities and celebrities to be. A lot of weirdos! Although rarely open, it was never dull. There was also a Times article that profiles our house and all the crazy taxidermy and stuff in it. The kids on the block called it the voodoo house and it wouldn’t get robbed because they were so scared of it — it looked insane.

After my father passed away last year, our friend David Wolen articulated our lives at the shop better than I ever could:

"The Wandering Dragon Trading Company was an amazingly strange and impossibly tiny store in the East Village. It was NEVER open but we would walk by all the time and stare in the windows at the weird antiques, taxidermy, wax mannequin heads, glass eyeballs, and skulls. One night we were coming home from a bar at 3 o’clock in the morning and the door was open and 1920s jazz was playing inside. We went in and entered the magical world of Adrian Gilboe."

This was when the neighborhood was a lot more colorful. As a kid, I would play junkie and try to gnaw off the neighbors’ kids ears. Now I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’ I had a lot of unconventional babysitters as a kid on the block. Jay Yuenger and the other guys of White Zombie were some. There were always amazing people around us — my baby photos were taken by Spencer Tunick.

On 10th between 1st and A was Chester — he had a string of storefronts, and he had like a smoothie bar but really he just sold pot, and I was probably the only kid that went in and ordered smoothies. It just seemed normal.

I met my husband Mike in the Tompkins dog run after each of us had just adopted dogs. My dog Lucy was adopted from the short-lived rescue on 10th Street, which coincidentally was one of the storefronts I grew up in. Our story makes for a good East Village meet-cute. He was a squatter and he’s also in a New York punk band from high school called Thusla Doom. He got the apartment because the city sold it to the people who were squatting in there for like $250 as long as we did all the work ourselves. There is some taxidermy in our apartment – there is a two-headed calf and then some birds, which were all inherited.

I opened a business on June 24 called Lovewild Design in South Williamsburg [at 348 S. 4th St.]. I started doing custom invitations and letterheads in May of 2014 and I made a little line of products for markets for Hester Street Fair and people actually liked the products that I made, so it just sort of snowballed. And now my mom works for me full time and Cecilia works with me all the time, which is really nice, sometimes. Cecilia will grow up in the shop like I did, but it won’t be at all the same.

We do custom graphic design, but we also have a line of stationery that is plantable, so it’ll grow flowers. We have a line of teas, various home goods, screen printed totes and towels, and then recently we came up with a line of active gifts, where a percentage goes to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU.

The store is in South Williamsburg, which is a lot like Avenue C and Avenue D like 5 to 10 years ago, with the Hispanics mixing with younger white kids. My dream would have definitely been to open my shop up over here but that wasn’t possible due to the rents. It just seemed like an inevitable path. I grew up as an entrepreneur, and my parents and my grandmother were entrepreneurs. I used to take things, just find random things outside or in the shop, and I would fix them up and sell them right outside the shop, and then I had a shoeshine business, and then I sold milkshakes, and this was all before the age of 6.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.


Gojira said...

Oh my God I love this interview. What a great childhood and amazing memories, glad this old-time EV family is in the neighborhood to stay, thanks to the HDFC they are living in.

Bayou said...

Awwwww. This is as good as it gets. Wandering Dragon was my favorite shop.I remember her parents' little black dog. It would be nice if Pink Olive carried Lovewild.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting interview. Loved the tales of the different stores in the EV back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Gojira not all HDFC buildings are alike. Some have restrictions on the sale price. From what I have read most of those residents want to keep the apartments affordable and are grateful for the opportunity to live in an affordable co-op.

Many other HDFC co-ops have turned them into market rate speculative housing. There are HDFC units in the East Village going for over $1.5 million.

Gojira said...

@Anon. 12:22 - Must you turn *everything* into a lecture about the evils of some HDFCs? All I was trying to say was that I was glad, thanks to her living situation, that she would not be forced out by some scumlord like Icon or Kushner. Give it a rest, willya?!?

Anonymous said...

There are a huge number of HDFCs, especially along Avenue C, we can thank for renting to businesses at reasonable rates, and keeping the neighborhood local and affordable.

Hernan Otaño said...

I'm so proud of you

svg said...

Thanks!!! Come visit the shop! xx

svg said...

Thank you! We've steered clear of Pink Olive (they don't have a great reputation with their vendors nor employees) however we're carried in other neighborhood shops like Random Accessories or a little farther like ABC Carpet.

LWESTER said...

My husband, Addison Thompson, and I knew your dad, mom and you when you were small. We visited your parents in Wandering Dragon. This article has brought back so many memories of “times past”. We were feeling rather nostalgic. The EV was a very different place then, full of so many interesting people. I have been in your shop and talked with Thea. I didn’t make the connection then. I bought some of your beautiful cards that spring wildflowers. Looking forward to seeing you and speaking with you again. So glad you are here.