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Artist Uses Shipping Containers to Build Studio in Red Hook

RED HOOK — Before he built his own studio, Vedat Ulgen had planned to go the conventional route of finding an artist workspace in New York City.

But once the 26-year-old artist found that renting a small workspace was beyond his budget, Ulgen’s imagination led him to a dream studio — eco-friendly, functional and made entirely out of reclaimed shipping containers.

That dream, now a reality, sits like colorful building blocks stacked in a parking lot near Red Hook’s Ikea.  

“I realized that this was half the price,” said Ulgen, who lives in Williamsburg and pays to rent space in the Beard Street lot. “I got them for cheap prices and assembled them together.”

Ulgen, who moved to the U.S. from Turkey in 2009 and graduated from Pratt University two years ago, designed the private studio after seeing that similar structures had been built in other parts of the country.

After purchasing the containers a year-and-a-half ago from the Red Hook Container Terminal, his idea finally took shape and was completed with the help of architect Deger Cengiz.

The result is a two-story structure made from five shipping containers — three on the ground and two above — that holds a woodwork shop, offices for Ulgen and his assistants, a storage area, a bathroom and an enclosed space for chemical work and spray painting that prevents fumes from seeping out.

The containers are 8 feet by 8 feet by 40 feet, about 320 square feet each, and hold a green roof, a composting toilet, an eco-friendly heater and a water filtration system that reuses rain and air conditioning water.

And since the containers are also bolted together, not welded, they can be taken apart easily and moved around, Ulgen said.   

When the studio was finally ready about five months ago, Ulgen moved in and began production of his artwork. The containers became the new home for Ulgen's company “ThisLexik,” a play on words that refers to the artist’s own dyslexia.

Ulgen wanted the company to be “something unique and different” from anything anyone has seen before. One of his three current art series focuses on using fabric and materials to create functional statement pieces.

"The Worn Series" turns recycled jeans or fabrics from thrift shops into pieces of furniture or products, like a denim stool or vase, or a dress chair, that can hold up to 300 pounds.

“People don’t realize that chairs could be anything as long as it supports our weight,” he said.

As the company grows, Ulgen is exploring the idea of investing in a plot of land. He eventually plans to move his containers out of the rented lot by breaking them down and rebuilding the studio on his own prospective property.

“It’s like a Lego piece for adults to play around with,” he said.

ThisLexik will be exhibiting its products at the Renegade Craft Fair in Williamsburg on June 27. The artwork is also available for purchase online.