“Field Trip to the Bronx Zoo, Belleville-Style”
by John Dorroh
Yesterday afternoon, I drove over to the Bronx for fun and diversion. It was perfect weather for a field trip to get me away from yard work for a few hours and to help me get in touch with my creative side.
On the patio I saw frogs riding bicycles, chickens, pigs, and old tires that had been fashioned into planters; metal cornstalks with full ears of bright yellow kernels; one-of-a-kind mosaic glass creations and a giraffe. I saw a pink flamingo out front nearly 30 feet tall. He or she was styling, inviting people with body language to come on in and take a look.
Inside the building, which is “funkified,” I saw fun, functional, funky furniture, mirrors with found art that took the shape of birds, and jewelry; reflecting balls, fabrics, and homemade paper. There were bowls and vases and thing-a-ma-jigs to hang on the walls, oh my.
“Where in the Bronx did you find such treasures?” you ask. And “You didn’t tell us that you were going to New York.”
To which I reply, “No, silly. I was at the Bronx Zoo Boutique in Belleville.”
Owner Beverly Phillips chatted with me as she continued to sweep and straighten up the place.
“I’m from Belleville,” she told me. “But I have spent time in Tours, France, and Italy…”
I admitted to Phillips that I had driven past the Bronx more times than I care to count but had never stopped since I’m usually on a mission and short on time. But I was certainly glad that I had stopped by two weeks ago before she had moved more items onto the patio. Her promise to add more items motivated me to return.
“In the past,” she said, “I focused on clothes, but now it’s all about art, mainly metal, and upcycled furniture, which is old furniture that’s been turned into something new.”
This summer, Phillips plans to have classes on premises in jewelry-making, making art with glass and found materials, and whatever else that could be taught along those lines. Then in the fall, the teachers and their students will present their pieces to the public in a fall festival.
Phillips never took an art class.
“I’m self-taught,” she said. “I began crocheting when I was a girl.” The rest has evolved….
“My customers are my pickers,” she shared. “They are forever dropping by with items that they think I can use…and I do.”
She had an idea for a project for two old doors, and every time she got the project started, someone came by and talked her into letting them take them home.
“I have lot of one-of-a-kind items,” she said, which indicates that she’s not into mass production. I like that.
“Once I make it, that’s it!” she said. She could make another piece of art like a previous piece, but it will not be the same.
I wanted to have $1000 to spend on the spot. Not saying that you need that much, but I could easily fill up my car and a couple of Silverados.
I chuckled and looked around to see if anyone had heard me. But then again, who cares, right? The Bronx Zoo Boutique has that effect on me. It opens up my channels of creativity and makes me laugh. Phillips is a facilitator of those energies, never pushing merchandise down your throat.
“Take your time,” she says, “look around, and let me know if I can help you.” And she will.
What: Bronx Zoo Boutique
Where: 1300 E. Main St., Belleville
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am – 6pm