You may not know Kristina Kozak, but if you know Williamsburg, you know her work. Her metal sculptures adorn the exteriors of homes and businesses in this neighborhood as well as some throughout Brooklyn. She created the window grills on: Iona Bar, Sole Lounge, Trash Bar, Bembe, Scosha, and private residences; also the door gate for WindWater, the fence on the corner of North 4th and Bedford (bordering Whisk), the Oslo Coffee sign, among others. Kristina bends the metal for her creations via her own strength and will (and using leverage). A small percentage of her pieces are forged. More of her works live in the neighborhood where you can’t see as they are interior pieces in private homes from furniture and ornamental sculptures, to staircase balustrades. Her
methods of creation come from an openness to the environment the piece will be in (she has mirrored motifs from pillows and rugs) and an ease of communication with her clients who may give her initial input but trust her instincts overall.
Recently, she has harnessed her strength and will and steeled herself to begin a new enterprise. This November, Kristina Kozak opened the bar Billet and Bellows near the desirable corner of Grand street and Bedford Avenue. Her bar serves classic cocktails plus original concoctions named in a metal worker’s vein, such as the Hearth and Anvil, which is a mix of apple brandy, bourbon, lemon, and cardamom infused honey. For food, at present Billet and Bellows offers a small menu of delicious bites out of a cold kitchen with near future plans to expand the menu through the vision of a local chef.
Opening a bar basically takes a lot of gumption, and Kristina has gone beyond the basic. She is an artist at heart so she accessed her metal working skills to design and make the bar stools, most of the tables, and the bar of her bar. The bar’s top is made of slabs of onyx illuminated from underneath so that its banding of blues and greens glow with an opalescent fascination. She purchased the stone from Puccio Marble & Onyx as this 63-year-old Williamsburg mainstay was shutting its doors. Near Billet and Bellows’ entrance is a headboard Kristin had created for its usual purpose on a bed; now she will repurpose it as the back of banquette/bench seating. If you hold the idea that metal and stone are cold forms, this is not the case in the hands of one as warmhearted as Kristina. Furthermore, there is a lovely fireplace and sitting area in the back where you can take your ease in wood carved antique chairs – a perfect place to take the season’s chill off.
The place is also warmed because it has been treasured by Kristina Kozak since the day she purchased the building 17 years ago. She had some help, her father, and the plan was to open an antique shop, which became a reality named Bazaar Bizarre. The antlers on the back walls near the hearth area were collected from the many years of shopping with her dad for antiques. The antique shop would later become Mine Metal Art, Kristina’s home design shop where she sold her metalworking designs and a variety of distinctive accessories. She is still in the business of selling her creations, but her focus for the past year has been directed toward, as she says, “I wanted to create a unique space! One that is hand-crafted and hand-built. I’m a true Williamsburg artist. This is another way for people to experience my metalwork and maintain a presence in the neighborhood.” As I appreciated her bar stools she said, “I was thinking of putting price tags on them, but I don’t know if that would be the right thing.” She is willing to sell the bar stools; this was a matter of debating the propriety of labeling them for sale. I told her she should, or find some other way to communicate they are for sale. Kristina also supports others in her circle of metalworking artists. There is a kinetic sculpture of a horse perched on high near the center of the bar done by Alexandra Limpert, and Kristina would like to show more works of those in her circle.
As a business woman, Kristina Kozak has 17 years of experience; however, opening a bar is a whole other animal to her. Her friends, Wanda Correa -Drake and Richard Drake, (the owners of the property on North 4th, which has “her” fence) were thinking of opening a bar themselves and had gone to the Brooklyn Business Center at St. Nicks Alliance and they recommended she pay them a visit. In the summer of 2013, Kristina went to the Brooklyn Business Center and since then has received “great mentoring and good financing advice.” She states further, “I can’t express the gratitude I have in getting their feedback on opening a bar. They are a really good resource.”
The Brooklyn Business Center provides Economic Development assistance to individuals who are starting a business through its first 5 years. The Brooklyn Business Center was part of St. Nicks until June of this year and on July 1st they moved the program to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation “BSRC”.
Currently Billet and Bellows is enjoying a soft open. Kristina has plans to have the Grand Opening in January.
Billet and Bellows is located at 177 Grand Street Brooklyn, New York 11211(near the SE corner of Grand Street and Bedford Avenue)