One of the most culturally influential and best known anchors of the coworking movement has closed and split into two groups. Studiomates, a curated and relatively closed community of friends and peers around media and technology, had been based at 10 Jay Street in Dumbo since July 2008. That building is being demolished, which has split those behind Studiomates into two separate groups. One is putting down roots in Gowanus while the other is heading to Boerum Hill.
In its former location, Studiomates was actually two spaces that shared strong ties, explained illustrator and calligrapher Jen Mussari. Suite 612A was run by Tina Roth Eisenberg (the web celebrity known by her nom de plume, swissmiss). Suite 606 was run by a small agency, WORKSHOP.
Studiomates is known for housing some of the very best and brightest working in Brooklyn’s gig economy. Alums include successful ventures like Brain Pickings and Oak. Fictive Kin led many Studiomates members in the successful collaboration known as Brooklyn Beta, which raised the borough’s profile nationwide. (The informal society collected enough acclaim that a 2011 New York Times story about coworking was mostly a story about Studiomates.)
Mussari formerly managed 612A for Eisenberg while also running her illustration business from the space. The two spaces actually opened up independently, former members explained, but through a lot of shared lunches and exchanges, someone came up with the name “Studiomates” and it took off, though it was never officially anything but a website.
When 10 Jay closed, the two spaces found new spaces and launched new coworking communities. One thing that set the original Studiomates sites apart and which remains largely true for the new sites as well: there has never been a very clear path to joining. Whereas most coworking sites invite potential members to apply in a very open way, Studiomates remained exclusive.
Eisenberg, also the founder of Creative Mornings and Tattly, wrote about the transition on her blog. She writes of how she started the group with a few friends in 2008 and it grew:
I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support of my studiomates. They made me feel safe and gave me confidence in moments of doubt. They pushed me when I needed to be pushed. And they were able to connect me with accountants, lawyers, printers, you name it when I needed it. The value of a likeminded community like Studiomates is hard to put into words.
Seventeen members of the Studiomates community joined a new space that Eisenberg founded called Friends Work Here. The space currently shows itself as having 30 members, with no openings. It’s located on the third floor of The Invisible Dog, in Boerum Hill.
We heard from Microsoft’s incubator there, a while back. It has also been the site for all three Brooklyn Betas, according to Chris Shiflett, the event’s co-organizer. None of the former Studiomates now with Friends Work Here, nor Eisenberg, could be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, WORKSHOP moved to Gowanus, where it opened The Townhouse. The Townhouse doesn’t yet have a website or any online presence, but here it is on Foursquare.
Charlie O’Donnell, of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, is a member, though he hadn’t previously been in Studiomates. He explained that The Townhouse occupies the old Kitchensurfing space. (Kitchensurfing is one of the companies we mentioned in our story about Brooklyn’s struggle to hold onto tech tenants once they grow to a certain size. It moved to Manhattan last year.)
One of the leaders of the Gowanus space is WORKSHOP cofounder Jessi Arrington, whose philosophy of “design as lifestyle” we wrote about last year. She’s also the one that Eisenberg assisted in finding a marching band for her 32nd birthday party and fundraiser, as discussed in the 2011 Times story linked above.
Mussari is now in Townhouse as a renter. “The Townhouse is a positive, comfortable work environment that suits everyone’s personal needs, and I couldn’t be happier,” she wrote, via email.
The management team behind The Townhouse declined to comment for this story.
A member of the 612A contingent of Studiomates, Dave Dawson, also opened a coworking space, called The Works, in Carroll Gardens. Chris Shiflett, of Fictive Kin, is now in Boulder, but he told Technical.y Brooklyn that he intends to open his own coworking space at some point.
All that remains of Studiomates now is the website and, according to former 10 Jay tenant (and Tinybop CEO) Raul Gutierrez, an active email list.
“They’re the first people I reach out to when I have a creative problem to solve,” he wrote.