"These are honoring the unofficial bird of New York," says Elizabeth Beer, holding up a stuffed pigeon with a fuzzy beak and orange-rimmed eyes—one of the many eccentric products found in Project No. 8's new pop-up store, open through this fall. While the birds may not be the most regal of creatures (many New Yorkers refer to them as "rats with wings"), they are nonetheless a symbol of New York, and Project No. 8 is all about symbols of New York.
Elizabeth Beer and Brian Janusiak started Project No. 8 in 2007 in Chinatown with the mission to create a place to house designers' "digressions"—it was an outlet for them to present work that wasn't the main focus of their career. Beer and Janusiak both come from art and design backgrounds and wanted a chance to combine the work of the people they'd met into a single store—but they had no intention of it becoming as big as it is today.
"The idea was that, as a designer, you would have your main application, and then you had these other things you did on the side. It was a way of creating a public space that was constantly shifting," Beer explains. "Once we started doing that, we started thinking about what it means to be in New York and how to represent that in smaller, more affordable objects."
Beer shows us around their latest pop-up shop in Turnstyle, a brand new underground shopping center off the Columbus Circle subway stop in New York City. Turnstyle—conveniently located directly below Sweet HQ—features a carefully curated collection of retail stores, donut shops, juice presses, and pizzerias (you should definitely swing by if you ever find yourself near Central Park).
"When we had the opportunity to have a pop-up in Turnstyle, we focused very specifically on travel gifts for people coming through, and rethinking the concept of a souvenir shop," Beer says, still holding the wooly pigeon. "A lot of the products are made either by people who live in New York or by people who love New York—and everyone brings to the floor the best products."
Here are Beer's five favorite items.
"When we were invited to do a shop in the Ace Hotel, we started to think about what we would make as souvenirs, and we commissioned this pigeon. We loved the interpretation of it so much that we ended up starting a series of birds—now we're starting to do all the state birds as well as some endangered ones.
"The little knit man is Jim Walrod, a friend and interior designer extraordinaire—he's very influential in the city and he also happens to be a good friend of ours. He just kind of typifies what's great about New York: People who are doing amazing things. We also started a series of people who we work with, who we like, who we enjoy, and so we thought he would enjoy being a souvenir."
"We've been carrying Baggu for a long time now—since they basically only had one product. These bags are perfect for a day at the beach, and they're mesh so you can put your makeup in them and then just throw them in the wash after."
"The sayings on these keychains just come randomly from Brian's head. All day long he just thinks of things and makes them. Sometimes it's friends' suggestions, but it's primarily just Brian's thoughts—all day long he writes things down. You can also customize these, and they only takes about 15 minutes to make."
"At the moment we have nine pins, but we're constantly making more. There are three different series at the moment: transportation, souvenirs, and design favorites."
"These designs are graph paper that have been blown up. We've done a lot of work with Print All Over Me. These hats are part of a collaboration we did during design week that featured various re-scaled graph paper prints."
"We love this paperweight because it is basically a captured wildflower—almost like a souvenir of one of the many dandelions of Central Park."
Swing by the pop-up shop at 1000 8th Ave in New York City, and visit projectno8.com for more information.
Which souvenirs would you want to take home from NYC?