I’m obsessed lately with how people create a sense of place around them, whether it is through the pictures they love, the things they wear, the way they carry themselves.
Perhaps I saw one too many Detroit T-shirts at the recent “Downtown Detroit Days” marketplace. Maybe I have been traveling too much and have a general longing for home. Or maybe I just have this fetish for well-designed products that make me feel like this city really does have so much beauty around it.
Here are a few of my new favorite things:
• The first is CityFabric, a project out of Raleigh, N.C. A dude named Matt Tamasulo founded the company in 2010 after creating these uber-cool city T-shirts. Mr. Tamasulo, who recently finished an Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture graduate degree, loves his maps. So he “turned a traditional analytical tool into a beautiful, didactic community engagement product,” according to his site. I was amazed to find Detroit among his Nolli maps, showing the buildings, non-building spaces and voids. Yes, the voids. And that is what makes the Detroit map so lovely compared to the density of Chicago or Boston. There is air between the buildings – spaces that are ugly to us in some ways because of the decay they represent. Yet those openings are inspiring as well…here we have something called “room to grow.”
• You know the cliché about wearing your heart on your sleeve? I’m thinking you could show a lot of love with a Detroit Cuff. These are beyond bracelets with their fine details, showing off a map of the city across the surface. The cuff, which shows off a bit of Detroit map as well, are the creation of Barbara Wynder. Barbara is better known as the woman behind The Collective, which groups retailers and professional service-providers in her East Jefferson Avenue home near historic Indian Village. I’m dying to pick one up – because they have sold out pretty much everywhere I’ve tried. There’s a few left at The Peacock Room, I hear, and Desiree Cooper will have some this weekend at Open Studio, a showplace for great local designers, including Stef-n-Ty hats and Detroit Snob t-shirts.
• Then there is Visor Frames, created by best friends Sam DiNello and Michael Abraham Jr., are starting to sell all over Metro Detroit – and beyond. The duo met in second grade, Abraham told me this week. And they’ve always wanted to work together (DiNello owned a landscaping company and Abraham was a commercial developer). Their product came about after the deaths of DiNello’s father and mother, both of whom passed away within a short time of one another. He wanted a way to remember them, so he put a picture in his vehicle. But every time he did so, the pictures faded quickly or became loose from the rubber band or what have you. When the friends realized there wasn’t a formal product available to keep the pictures safe, they came up with Visor Frames. The aluminum frames can handle the extreme heat or cold – some have been used by soldiers in Afghanistan, surviving being stationed there in the desert, Abraham said. Now, Visor Frames has the U.S. and European patents on the product, and they are working their heads off to make them household names. Considering how many vehicles there are here, there and everywhere, it’s bound to be a winner. This Motown success story has potential of growing internationally as they are now selling some Visor Frames in Costa Rica, Abraham said. It’s pretty much perfect – and pretty much anyone could use one.
I loved Abraham’s stories about how they came up with the frame itself…some of the research involved peeking inside people’s cars to see how they held photos inside. There were the ubiquitous rubber bands, lots of CD holders and even some chip clips holding things together.
Here’s the theme that unites all of these items – they were created out of a sense of creating community. They show our pride in our families, our city and the people around us. No one at the Hub gets any product placement dough; I really don’t have any stake in these products whatsoever. I’m just impressed with how thoughtful they are, how much design they provide and the good sense of it all. And isn’t life just too short to not see the beauty in the everyday objects around us?