There Are No Random Knickknacks at This Dollar Store

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By Dwell and Ann Binlot / Published by Dwell
Thanks to curator Zoe Alexander Fisher, artists and designers come together to create experimental work in Brooklyn.

After noticing the lack of spaces where design and art could exist at the same time, Zoe Alexander Fisher turned a thesis project on functionality into a full-time endeavor. "I really wanted a place where there was experimentation," the curator says. When she discovered a vacant storefront in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that was formerly a 99-cent store, she worked with Simran Johnston and Riley Strom to turn it into a 3-in-1 space that holds 99¢ Plus, a gallery; HANDJOB Gallery//Store, a design shop; and a studio.

At 99¢ Plus, Zoe Alexander Fisher curated The Lamp Show, which featured a range of lighting options, ranging from the functional to the conceptual.

At 99¢ Plus, Zoe Alexander Fisher curated The Lamp Show, which featured a range of lighting options, ranging from the functional to the conceptual.

After noticing the lack of spaces where design and art could exist at the same time, Zoe Alexander Fisher turned a thesis project on functionality into a full-time endeavor. "I really wanted a place where there was experimentation," the curator says. When she discovered a vacant storefront in Bushwick, Brooklyn, formerly a 99-cent store, she worked with Simran Johnston and Riley Strom to turn it into a 3-in-1 space that holds 99¢ Plus, a gallery; HANDJOB Gallery//Store, a design shop; and a studio.

Fisher collaborated with LikedMindedObjects founder Elise McMahon on the exhibition CHILLZONE, which featured new work by several artists and designers. 

Fisher collaborated with LikedMindedObjects founder Elise McMahon on the exhibition CHILLZONE, which featured new work by several artists and designers. 

Inside HANDJOB, named for its mission to give artists a forum to make money with their hands, visitors can find a range of items that cost anywhere from $2 to $400, like cup or a vase that Alexander Fisher says is "handmade in some incredible way," to jewelry, clothing, or books. For a recent 99¢ Plus exhibition, she asked participants, who included both emerging and established artists and designers, to create an object that riffed on light. The results were vast, and ranged from a $250 potted-plant lamp to a $2,700 kinetic lamp. "I’m giving all these artists design as a task, and it opens them up for experimentation. They’re able to come up with things that they’re not normally thinking about in their practice," she explains.

In the Brooklyn storefront, HANDJOB is located on the left and 99¢ Plus is on the right. 

In the Brooklyn storefront, HANDJOB is located on the left and 99¢ Plus is on the right. 

At HANDJOB, one might find a design object by an artist who normally sells art for tens of thousands of dollars for just $300. It’s a way for designers to create a sustainable income, and one that opens the conversation about design to a wider audience. "That makes it so much more accessible—not just something that’s going to live on the white wall of a gallery, but really be able to enter the homes of other people and be used daily," she says. 

The exhibition CHILLZONE featured the work of Will Rose, Michael Assiff, and Tom Forkin.

The exhibition CHILLZONE featured the work of Will Rose, Michael Assiff, and Tom Forkin.

A wall-mounted piece by Michael Assiff with lighting by Elise&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.8;">Elise McMahon</span><span style="line-height: 1.8;">.</span>

A wall-mounted piece by Michael Assiff with lighting by Elise Elise McMahon.