Bushwick Daily: Talking Changes in Bushwick & Creative Collaboration With New York Studio Factory's Joseph Woolridge

As Featured in Bushwick Daily


Joseph Woolridge, founder of New York Studio Factory, is a born and raised Brooklynite from Crown Heights. “I was born in Kings County Hospital,” Woolridge says. “That’s a New Yorker question, ‘Which hospital were you born at?’”

Woolridge studied painting at Cooper Union and has spent the last 13 years providing studio space to creative professionals across North Brooklyn. “I’ve always had a loft,” he says. “That's basically how I got started, out of necessity. I needed space to live, then I needed space to paint, and I've always been good about getting myself enough space."

"So initially, while I was at Cooper, I took a loft and chopped it up. I created four rooms, lived in one, the other three I rented out, so I was able to make a few dollars and live rent free. I just kept doing that and always had lofts that I either converted or lived in myself.”

We can all relate to the need for space in New York City. It’s a constant struggle to find space to live and, for creatives, space to work and develop your art. And it seems perhaps that Woolridge had found a way to make it work for himself. And maybe it could be a business as well.

In 2003, using all of his savings, Woolridge bootstrapped and developed his first solely commercial space in The Roebling Tea Building.

Photo by Angela Altus

“I took 6,000 sq.ft.,” he says. “And chopped it up in 15 work spaces. But at the time I didn't have enough money to put the walls up.” Woolridge had spent all of his savings on the lease, and renovations, building new bathrooms, repairing the windows, and he put up the studs for where the studio walls would go, but had to stop construction there. He had run out of money.

“So I just started marketing the studio spaces,” he explains. “And luckily, I was able to pre-lease all the spaces.” With the new members’ first, last, and security payments, Woolridge was able to hire a few men and finish the construction. “Now 13 years later, the same guys are still working for me.”

Three years after opening studios at the Roebling Tea Building, Woolridge opened another location at 44 Stewart in East Williamsburg. Using the same bootstrapping process, he leased 16,000 sq.ft.

“I used a little bit of money to get into the deal,” Woolridge says. “Then renovated the space, the restrooms, enough to show people. But this time, since the floor plate was bigger, we just put down the tracks for the walls. We didn’t even have enough money for studs."

"But then we pre-leased 75% of the space and finished the work. Ya know, we’d rent a few studios, then buy some sheetrock. Rent a few more studios, buy a few doors. It just worked out!”


Photo by Angela Altus

Suddenly, Woolridge had a growing business, henceforth known as New York Studio Factory. With space at the Roebling Tea Building and the initial lease at 44 Stewart Avenue in Bushwick, Woolridge leased an additional 3,000 sq.ft. at Stewart to test out a new audio production suite model, which has succeeded tremendously.

New York Studio Factory is now home to a number of professional audio producers and mixers including Dan Walker with The Submarine Studio and prolific DJ and producer Sammy Needlz.

“The following year,” Woolridge says, “We took on 88 N.1st, which is 5,000 sq.ft., and right after that, we did 2 St. Nicholas, at 13,000 sq.ft.”


Photo by Angela Altus

You may recognize Bushwick’s 2 St. Nicholas as “The Blue Building”, which is a former ladder factory. “It was the Putnam Rolling Ladder Factory,” Woolridge says. “They make those antique rolling ladders at libraries. They’re still in business.”

But that brings up an important subject: the pros and cons of new businesses taking space in Brooklyn neighborhoods. “When we come in we add tremendous value,” Woolridge says. “We reposition the real estate. And also, our member base is amazing."

Certainly, Brooklyn is changing. That’s easy to say. But what does that like for a Brooklyn native, someone who was born and raised here? How does he feel about the direction Brooklyn is heading? What does that mean for the New York Studio Factory or other small business owners?


Photo by Angela Altus

“I think it's great,” Woolridge says. “I think it's amazing. I love collaboration. That's just the way I always thought about real estate or creating art or making a business. It's really a collaboration. When new people from different parts of the world, from different parts of the country, when they move here with their perspectives and their ideas, they're collaborating with what was already here."

"Me, personally, I think it's a great thing. It's just an evolution. Every thing, every business, every person, is going to evolve or not. And Brooklyn is evolving and I think it's amazing.”

And Woolridge is sure to continue the evolution of his business. Last year, at 2 St. Nicholas, he repositioned the space as a yoga center with coworking called The Common, though it didn't have the audience he had expected and he renovated the space to include studios again.

But Woolrdige does see a surfeit of speculative investors and shortsighted developers coming into Brooklyn. “I'm actually speaking with a few people who have reached out to me,” Woolridge says. “They’re looking to get into this type of business, ya know, and my first advice is always to really vet the neighborhood, vet the deal, make sure there's actually demand for the service or product that you're offering."

"There's a lot of developers now who come into areas like Brooklyn and they read about it, they do some soft research on these neighborhoods, and it looks like a great opportunity so they'll gobble up 200,000 sq,ft., 400,000 sq.ft... Right now there's a real saturation of developers who have no clue what they're doing. And they should be reaching out to guys like me.”

Member Profile Series: Omary Gonell

Since Omary first moved in to her NY Studio Factory office, she’s been the most quietly popular girl in the building. If we ran a community beauty pageant, she’d score the Miss Congeniality banner in five seconds flat. Other members walk by my desk and murmur, “I love that girl!” pointing back down the hall towards her office. 

It’s easy to see why Omary’s private nail studio is thriving. She’s personable, kind, and incredibly artistic. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s done nails for the likes of Selena Gomez and Dascha Polanco. Tell a Brooklyn girl that she can have nails like the actresses on Orange Is The New Black and see her come running. 

Not only did Omary do my nails, she let me pepper her with questions about starting her own business as a single mother, working in Bushwick, and using technology as an entrepreneur. 

M: How did you become a nail artist? How did you start your own business?

O: I started doing nails four years ago. I was doing hair and makeup first, after quitting a job I had as an executive assistant at JetBlue. I was working as the executive assistant to the CIO there but had to quit. I needed to be doing something more creative with my life. I think everyone around that time started quitting their office jobs to start working for themselves. 

A client poses outside NY Studio Factory.

A client poses outside NY Studio Factory.

M: It’s interesting how that happened all at once, across so many career fields. In the past five years alone, it seems like so many people have quit their day jobs to become entrepreneurs. Do you think that has something to do with social media?

O: Oh yes. My friend started an event planning company around the same time I started doing nails professionally, and she says that Instagram is her biggest client source. She’s already booked through the whole year. 

M: Do you get the majority of your clients through Instagram as well?

O: At least 7 out of 10 of my clients are from Instagram. As soon as someone sees a photo of your nail art on their feed, it triggers them to think: “Oh! I need to go do my nails.” I think Instagram is so useful because a picture is worth a thousand words. When people can see what you can do, rather than just know about what you do, it makes them want it so much more. Pairing Instagram with a booking platform like StyleSeat makes it a seamless process. A client sees a photo, wants to achieve what’s pictured, and then can immediately book the appointment seconds later. I have a friend who got 650 new clients by using the booking system. 

M: How did you figure all of this out? Pure trial and error?

O: Because I have a background as an executive assistant in business, I already knew a lot about the business world and how to be successful. I knew that I needed to go to school to make sure that I was the best in my field, then I needed to get certifications and do advanced classes. I did that from the beginning. That first year, I found out where all the trade shows were. I would go to every single one. Within three months, I had met at least two or three hundred people in my field. When you go to a trade show, there are about five or six thousand people in attendance. I knew that I needed to go to networking events. I knew that I couldn’t just sit in my house for a year. No one would know who I was!

At one trade show, I met a makeup artist that I stayed in touch with through Facebook. That’s how I booked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show! One day she reached out saying, “Hey, I need you for a show!” I didn’t know what show it was, but I was so excited, I just said yes. Then she emailed me: “It’s the Victoria’s Secret show.” I actually dropped to the floor! 

Through Facebook, I got a job with Victoria’s Secret. Had I tried to book Victoria’s Secret the old-fashioned way, I would probably have never gotten a call-back. Social media has been huge for me. 

M: So social media and networking are the primary tools you’ve used to grow your business?

O: Yes! Through social media, networking, and referrals. I get a lot of jobs through referrals. I haven’t paid for marketing or tried to get people to come get their nails done. Friends recommend me to their friends, or someone will see a photo on Instagram, and they book the appointment.

M: I feel like that also makes your business more desirable too, because you aren’t pushing people to come, they are asking you to fit them in.

O: Exactly! I wouldn’t want to do my nails with someone who’s trying to get me to to come all the time. It would seem tacky. 

M: So what prompted the switch from makeup and hair to nail art?

O: It was all chance! I was at a photo shoot doing makeup and hair and the manicurist didn’t come in. The photographer was going crazy, because it was a beauty shoot, so the nails would be in the shot. The photographer asked if I knew how to do nails. I always have a little nail kit with me, so I painted the models’ nails.

They were very impressed and afterwards people started to call me for nails instead of hair and makeup. Right after that, I got busy! This was about four years ago, and at that time, there were no freelance nail artists. Now there are quite a few, but back then there weren’t, so I was a coveted commodity!

I realized that I was so busy doing nails that I didn’t need to keep doing makeup and hair. It’s actually way more fun because I can do more extravagant, detailed work. Creatively, nail art is so much more fun and engaging. 

The reason I didn’t pursue nails from the beginning was because I didn’t think you could make enough money. But now that nails have gotten to be so popular, you can actually make a decent living. I make a minimum of $250 a day and I’ve gotten up to $600 a day just for painting nails. So there’s definitely a career to be made if you market yourself properly. 

M: I feel like you hit the sweet spot in terms of timing. You had the time to establish yourself without the pressure of competing with a wealth of other nail artists.

O: Yes, true!

M: How did you start working with celebrities like Polanco and Gomez? 

O: I met Dascha through a referral! Her makeup artist recommended me. I didn’t really know who she was beforehand, so I just showed up and wasn’t nervous. Now she’s one of my longest standing clients. I think it helped that I wasn’t nervous, so it made her more comfortable. She kept calling me after that. She’s very picky, but a nice picky. She just knows what she wants.

I did Selena Gomez’s nails while she was in town on her Revival tour! That job was also a referral.

M: Where do you see your business going? Obviously you’re growing, because you’re in your own space now.

O: I would love to have my own line of nail polish or accessories. That would take me to a whole other level. I would love to be a professor for a company. You can still do your own thing but they pay you to travel as a brand ambassador. That would be amazing. You can travel the world and make an amazing income. 

Right now, I love having this office. Having my own space is so refreshing. It’s quiet, and in such a crowded city where you are constantly surrounded by people, it’s very peaceful. The feedback I’ve gotten from everyone who’s come here for a private nail appointment has been that they’ve never felt so relaxed in this space. 

M: What’s your favorite part of the career?

O: I love being my own boss. I can make my own schedule, which is imperative because I’m a mom. I need the flexibility. I also love being able to say no to things. I can say no to negative experiences and negative clients. It’s amazing to be able to choose to work with and for people I really like. 

Member Profile Series: Frederick Trevino

When I first met Fred, he introduced himself as a colorist, and my immediate thought was, "Wow! Maybe he can help me finally achieve the perfect shade of blonde!" As it turns out, Fred doesn't do hair...though if I were to star in a feature film (which I think should be happening any day now), Fred could get me just the right shade of blonde...digitally and sitting in the dark in his office at 2 St. Nicholas Avenue. 

To me, Fred's career is the perfect combination of technical artistry and storytelling. Color grading is an essential aspect of almost every film, commercial, or music video. Colorists work with directors to advance a plot and tell a story in the most convincing and artistically pleasing way possible. Fred was gracious enough to walk me through his process and frankly, I'll never watch a movie in quite the same way.

F: Everything in my office was specially calibrated so that I'd have no color bias while viewing a film. 

M: But how do you know whether the color you are viewing or changing is correct? Is it totally subjective? 

F: That’s a good question. There are cinema standards! Every camera has a certain color range, which is the color spectrum that it can shoot. So there are broadcast standards of what the brightest white can be or what the darkest black can be. But, it is actually a subjective thing because everyone sees color differently. If you said, “Hey, I have this scene that I shot on the beach and I want it to be warm and happy and friendly,” then my interpretation of that could be drastically different than yours. And what's more, this interpretation of color is different across cultures. What you think is warm and bright and sunny, another culture could consider quite differently.

M: How interesting! I've never considered how different cultures experience color. Is everyone using a colorist?

F: Yes! 99% of directors are using colorists. It's a vital part of production just like editing or sound.  Yet when I tell people that I'm a color grader, most have no idea what I do. Not many people know that this career exists because it's still a relatively new field. Before 2005, if you had color grading in a film, its because you were George Lucas! Now you can download free software and work from home and film makers are shooting with color correction in mind.

M: How long does a color grading project generally take?

F: A short film usually takes me between one to three days while a feature length film can take me anywhere from a week to three weeks. Music videos are often the most time-consuming projects because they so often involve multiple settings and wardrobe changes. My busiest seasons are during film festivals and fashion weeks like Sundance, South by Southwest, and Cannes.

M: How did you get into this field and what do you love about it?

F: I went to school for film and spent a few years working on sets. I've always been very interested in images and photography and when color grading software was bought by Apple in the early 2000s, it became incredibly affordable! I started slowly learning the profession by volunteering to do the projects and within a year I was able to quit shooting and editing and start my own color grading shop, Beambox Studios. I've been doing this for about nine years now, and what I love most is the storytelling aspect. Color grading is essentially photoshop for films, but it's also meant to accentuate a story and tell that story in a more convincing way. 

Once you know about color grading, you'll begin to notice that everything looks unnatural but fits the story. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? was the first feature film to use color grading and if you re-watch it, you'll notice that the whole film is sepia-toned and completely unnatural, but it advances the plot! 

M: Why did you chose to set up Beambox Studios at NY Studio Factory? 

F: I feel like I grew up in New York. I graduated college and moved here right away. I’ve been in New York for my entire adult life! When I moved back to Austin last year, I thought I was moving back “home,” but as soon as I got there, I realized, “No, New York is my home.” And now that I’m back, I can say with confidence: "Yep! This is my home!" As for Bushwick, I've been here since it was just a nice, Puerto Rican neighborhood with one coffee shop, the Wycoff Starr! It's changed a lot and I love seeing the graffiti and the new restaurants and bars, though I'm not sure how I feel about all the tourists that have been popping up this year.

NY Studio Factory was a natural fit. Unlike other work spaces I've been in, there's a face to your business. Your team is present and visible, and I feel connected to a greater community of creatives.



Mallory Brand is the Studio Manager at NY Studio Factory. 

Member Profile Series: Joey Johansson!

Since becoming the Studio Manager at NY Studio Factory a few months back, I've been eager to get to know the members at work in our spaces. I've also been eager to incorporate my English degree into my work. (Take that, Mom & Dad! Told you this was better than a business degree!) Out of these admittedly self-serving interests sprang our Member Profile Series.  Each week we'll feature a NYSF member whose work inspires and intrigues our team. 

There's no cooler fairy-godmother of a girl to kick off the whole project than Joey Johansson. Joey moved into Studio 43 at 2 St. Nicholas about a month ago, and ever since, I've been curiously peaking into her studio at the yards of fabric splayed in the sunlight beneath her open window. She graciously sat down with me this week to discuss working with Betsey Johnson, meeting Prince, and finally starting her own pattern making business after 32 years in the fashion industry.

How long have you been in New York? Why do you choose to work here? What is your relationship like with the city? Why Bushwick?

I’ve been here for 30 years. I started out in the East Village in the 80’s. It was real artsy back then`but it was not safe. It was pretty crappy, but I liked it! It was awesome. And then I ended up in Queens because of the husband and kids. And now I’m a divorcee and the kids are grown, so now I’m back to this! I feel like I've come full-circle. Now, I’m back to doing my own thing. I ended up in Bushwick because of the price, but when I got out here, I thought, “I have to be in this neighborhood!” I love it here. I spend all day and all night here. 

Some days, I hate the city. But I never thought I would leave. I’ve always been here. I was recently offered a job in California, but I said no because I had just moved into Studio 43. I had my own new things going on here! I don’t know why I have such a big love affair with New York, but I do.

Joey designed the collar Prince wears in this Rolling Stone magazine cover. 

Joey designed the collar Prince wears in this Rolling Stone magazine cover. 

How did you get your start in the fashion industry? What does it mean to be a "Pattern Maker?”

When I was a young designer in Minneapolis, I decided “Well, I’m gonna just be a designer! And I’m gonna just throw a fashion show! And I’m gonna just get an office space!” So I got an office space, but I had no place to live, so I just lived in the office. I lived underneath my work table on a mattress.

When I first got to New York, I was doing retail and the only thing I really brought with me was my sewing machine. I’m not even a great sewer! But I brought my sewing machine and I started making hats, and I sold them on St. Mark’s just to make some extra money. And then I helped make Pee-wee Hermon costumes for his TV show. Just random, weird shit! Then I got a real job because I had a kid! So I became a design assistant and somehow I ended up a pattern maker. I was the worst pattern maker. I don’t know why anyone hired me to make the patterns. 

Joey "Mary Jo" : 80s punk queen.

Joey "Mary Jo" : 80s punk queen.

I always think of a pattern maker like an architect who tells you how the building should be built! A pattern maker is the same thing for clothing. I tell designers how to cut the fabric and then how to sew the fabric up to make a garment. 

Somehow I ended up with Betsey Johnson. She’s amazing. As a person, she’s just really nice. There are a lot of bitchy people in the fashion industry but she’s super sweet. I worked for her for about 9 years. She would give me a totally whacked out sketch and then I would interpret it and send it back. I’ll put it on the mannequin, drape it out, I’ll send her a picture of the muslin, and then she’ll approve it. Afterwards, she’ll send me the fabric, and I send it back to her. I did 16 runway shows with Betsey Johnson. I think I did every single style in one of her last big runway shows.

Then I worked for Heatherette, which was these two crazy club kids. I did that for a year and a half and that was awesome! One day I would be going to the church social with my kids, and then the next night I’d be out with every drag queen in the city! It was crazy!

After Heatherette, I was at Alice and Olivia for 9 years. But I always had my own thing where I would help new designers get their production done or get their patterns made. Then I worked for Haute Hippie for a year. They got bought out. And now the new designer there is the old designer from Alice and Olivia, so I’m working with Haute Hippie again. But freelance! So all of the sudden, I had this chance to do that on the side and make sure I could pay my bills, but I could start my own thing again!

I was 25 when I got here, and I’m 57 now. If I don’t do this now, when am I going to do it? I put so many years into other people’s businesses; it’s time to focus on my own.

Joey Johansson for Creatures of Comfort.

Joey Johansson for Creatures of Comfort.


How has having a studio space changed your work? How do you envision the future of Studio 43 at NY Studio Factory? 

I don’t want to do mass production. I want to do one-of-a-kind dresses. Ideally, I'd love to collaborate with Bushwick's mural artists! I’d have them paint fabric and then I would make something. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Fabric is weird to paint on and it’s a smaller scale, so I don’t know… 

Another thing I want to do is to make sculptures. It would be cool to make clothes but somehow make them stiff so that they could be a wall sculpture and could stand alone! 

I keep getting parking tickets, so I want to keep collecting tickets and make a dress out of the envelopes! Kind of like a Madonna dress - A “Fuck You, City!” dress. If you know anyone that has these orange envelope tickets, bring them to me! 

Eventually, I’d like to have a store that is open to new designers and new artists! I’d also like to open a spot where I could teach underprivileged teens sewing and design. 

I’ve been doing all of this from home, but the minute I got this space, everyone started treating it like a real business. I understand though, because I would never call someone up and say, “Hey, come over to my house.” I just wouldn’t. So having a studio here somehow made my business more legitimate.

Beautiful Williamsburg Office Space Available February 1st

Coming available this February is a beautiful 250sf office and work space located at North 1st & Wythe in the heart of Williamsburg!

Room features: 

  • 6 windows

  • 14 ft ceilings

  • Hardwood Floors

Rent includes: All Utilities, Fios High Speed Internet, Central Heat & A/C, Lounge & Kitchen Areas, 24/7 Access, and Cleaning & Maintenance!

To schedule a viewing call, text, or email our membership director, Bailey Cooke!

917.624.7222 info@nystudiofactory.com 

Beautiful Recording Studio Available this February in Williamsburg

A beautiful custom built recording studio space has just become available for February 1st in Williamsburg!

Room Specs:

  • 250sf for $2250/month
  • Sound Treatment, Room-in-Room Construction, Floated Floor, Dropped Ceiling, Acoustic treatment
  • Vocal Room / Isolation Booth
  • Amenities Include: All Utilities Included, Central Heating & A/C, Fios High Speed Internet, Kitchen Areas, Cleaning & Maintenance, Private Buzzer, 24/7 Access, and more!

Location: 88 North 1st in Williamsburg

Subway stop: Bedford L-Train

To see the available studio call or text our membership director, Bailey: 917-624-722 It won't last long!