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Nora Blog

Culture Lab Recap: Rumplestiltskin Runs Amok

The night before the public opening of Nora’s Culture Lab pop-up, the store hosted a wild bash to kick things off. If the Detroit Arterari is a thing, they were in attendance. The store was packed to the teeth with artists, business owners, green enthusiasts and overwhelmed introverts alike. Beyond not being able to see past whomever was directly in front of me, the first thing that struck me when I walked into Nora was the massive wall of golden hay that had been installed for the pop-up designed by New York artist David Stark. This wasn’t Stark’s first rodeo when it comes to pop ups, and he gave Nora a Rumplestiltskin worthy makeover.

Arduously making my way across the store, I was charmed by Stark’s installation which included a wheelbarrow and a brussel sprout stalk fit for Jack to climb his way up to a sleeping giant’s lair. While the installation had many nods to farming culture, it also had a distinct fairly tale quality that livened up the space. On full display were his beautiful pierced flower rests conceived in collaboration with Detroit ceramicist Victoria Ashley Shaheen. The pieces allow you to arrange stalks in whatever fashion suits you—from minimalist centerpieces of Bittersweet or wild bursts of eucalyptus.

Stark himself has said “when Culture Lab Detroit asked me what iconic material I would like to work with locally, of course I thought of clay. In this day of digital, I am ever more interested in the hand­made, and our ceramic flower rests with their pierced array of holes create flexibility for creatively arranged floral displays that can be at once spare and lyrical or lush and full, depending on desire. The rests put the structure that florists have historically hidden out front as an elegant, chic feature.”

In many ways, the Culture Lab Pop Up felt like the clay flower rests—filled with products that ranged from simple elegance (like the Lil Chef cutting boards) to the wild and unique (like the mutoscopes). What made the event possible truly remarkable was beholding the hard work of Detroit artists and makers in one room and knowing that it only scratched the surface of all of the creative work being done here in the city.

While the crowd made moving around the space a bit tricky, it was beautiful to see so many folks congregated and engaged in conversations about their work and the future on a Thursday evening. While the Culture Lab pop-up has officially left the building, Nora is still carrying many of the products designed for the event. Come by the shop and check them out in all their glory. We promise, there’s a lot more elbow room on a normal afternoon.


Happy Third Birthday Nora!

In ancient Detroit mythology, there is a winter weather god known as Finna. When you look out a window at an oblique grey sky and wonder whether or not it will snow, know that it’s Finna. It was Finna snow the night of Nora’s three year anniversary celebration, but that did not deter an intimate gathering to welcome Scott Hocking’s new book Detroit Nights into the world.

Hocking partnered with Nora’s own Toby Barlow to bring this gorgeous tome of digital photographs together. While much of Hocking’s work evokes mythology and symbolism in the midst of decay, Detroit Nights takes on its own distinctly mystical quality. Shadows and low fog appear more sensual than foreboding. The Davison burial mound is lit like the historical treasure it is. So many photographs accentuate train tracks, roads and paths intimately—as if viewers must place themselves traveling inside the landscapes. One of Hocking’s photograph’s “Stanley’s Mannia” features one of the most unique pieces of architecture in the city, and when viewing it I can’t help but think of a Detroit night when I attended a poetry reading at a gallery down the block from the Mannia. Two young men were on the building’s roof, skateboarding up the long unintentional ramp that is prominent in Hocking’s frame. While I looked on, the danger struck me, but looking back, the skateboarder’s strike me as Hocking’s ilk—unfettered by propriety, and just going for it.

While Nora is celebrating its third year in Midtown, the clean modern layout of the store stands in stark contract to many of the scenes captured in Detroit Nights. In many ways this book, a Nora exclusive, captures the dissonance ever present in the city at this moment. In my first week in the D, I distinctly recall telling someone that my friends and I had returned the moving truck to a parking lot on 7 mile at 3 am, and having that person tell me I was “lucky I didn’t get shot”. This is, unfortunately, what too many outsiders think when they consider Detroit at night. To wit, this makes Detroit Nights the perfect gift for your relatives and friends who are still afraid of this lush, brusque city. If you’re one of those folks, you should really swing by Nora, say happy anniversary and check it out for yourself. The weather might be Finna trying to intimidate you, but Nora is a warm sanctuary filled with all kinds of great gifts.

Cass Community Social Services

The re:TREAD macramé plant hangers designed by Kelly Behun Studio for Nora’s Culture Lab Detroit are difficult to look away from. They are imposing, bold, and sturdy enough to survive life on a Michigan porch during winter. What you cannot tell by looking at them is that these planters were produced in a space created to address issues that too many of us try to avert our eyes from.
Cass Community Social Services, a large multi-purpose complex that provides housing and employment for people in need is truly a Detroit gem. With over 100 employees, Cass Green Industries, one element of CCSS’ campus, gives hope for new models of economics and ecology.
Green Industries have made mud mats, flip flops and now macramé planters out of upcycled rubber from tires. The thick black ropes of the planters look in much better shape than many tires come spring. When visiting Cass Community Social Services, one gets the sense that the network of people living and working on the premises shares a strong sense of community and dedication to one another in the face of what might otherwise be hopeless circumstances. In the course of a
five minute walk from one building to another, our guide made sure someone got their lunch, told another person she loved them, and playfully joked with a driver. Maybe we just had a particularly well-liked guide, but regardless, I think anyone would be so lucky to feel seen and connected to her community.
CCCS began working with the homeless in the 1980s under Reverend Edwin Rowe. Beginning in the mid 1990s, under the leadership of Reverend Faith Fowler, the work expanded to include the Scott building on Detroit’s East Side which includes a women and family shelter, transitional housing, Safe Haven, the Detroit-Wayne County rotating shelter, and large commercial kitchen.
Additionally, they have added health services and a residential program for homeless men living with HIV/AIDS. Green Industries doubled CCSS’ capacity for employment and vocational training, and Nora is proud to partner with them for CultureLab. Not only are these planters locally made, they are supporting the incredible work of CCSS.

While touring the facilities, we had the opportunity to meet with “The Rev” herself,  who is a true Detroit badass. We had a limited time to speak to her, but she showed us around their newly acquired warehouse, including the storefront for Green Industries. As we were pressed for time, she slyly handed me her book This Far By Faith and said “Merry Christmas”.  It chronicles her work at Cass Community over the past 20 years, and serves as a fascinating work on Detroit’s
history overall. This is far from a typical memoir, it addresses the obstacles that face Detroit—unemployment, systemic racism, bias against the homeless, bias against those living with HIV/AIDS, and rather than saying “here’s a solution”, it highlights the humanity and humor of people who have been woefully underserved and offers “here’s what we’ve done, it’s possible”. In fact, Cass Community Social Services has been a model for employment programs across the world.

 

Meet the PopUp Shop Artist: Scott Hocking

For Nora’s Culture Lab Pop Up, Detroit’s favorite man of mystery Scott Hocking might be welding an antique Ford Edsel to a sidewalk, or mass producing cassettes of spooky Halloween fart sounds. He might also be producing a book with Nora’s own Toby Barlow called Detroit Nights. Hocking describes the ongoing project (started in the mid 90s) as an attempt to capture the “strange serenity that can be found off the beaten paths”. The book is a selection of the last eight years, after Hocking switched from film to digital. Hocking doesn’t eat breakfast and doesn’t like assholes. His favorite green spaces in Detroit include:

The I-94 Industrial Park Renaissance Zone, former St. Cyril Village neighborhood

Under the I-75 Industrial Overpass / Rouge River Bridge, in Carbon Works

The former Airport Trailercoach Park near City Airport

The former Uniroyal Plant site

Riverfront-Lakewood East Park

The grassy mound between I-75, the Davison Freeway, and the Detroit-Pontiac RR

Nora's PopUp Shop Artist: José Regueiro

Do you have a little one in your life who loves to be in the kitchen? José Regueiro Studios has created beautiful “Li’l Chef” cutting boards, which, like Wu Tang, are for the children. This product is intended to inspire and encourage children’s early interest in food and cooking with a professional grade product. José first started working with wood as a child himself, making a model boat to play with in Lake Michigan. Like a high octane chef, he drinks a lot of espresso for breakfast, and like most Detroiters loves Belle Isle. Come chop it up with him at Nora during our collaboration with Culture Lab.

Meet the PopUP Shop Artists:Sew Great Detroit

Do you like tote bags, but always find yourself wishing they had pockets? Do you recognize quality and appreciate functional classic design? Are you committed to strengthening the social fabric of your community through the empowerment of women? Have you heard about Sew Great Detroit? If you haven’t, it’s an incredible social enterprise program launched by Alternatives for Girls based in Southwest Detroit that just celebrated its first year in existence. The team of women who make up Sew Great produced gorgeous, sturdy market bags for Nora’s Culture Lab collaboration. They began working together a year ago and they are some of the most dedicated seamstresses in Detroit. This was their first time working with canvas, although their first sewing project involved making reversible tote bags. Collectively, they enjoy Belle Isle, the River Walk and Clark Park. The name Sew Great Detroit comes out of a desire to continue the lineage of manufacturing greatness in Detroit with skill and craft. It is intended to express optimism for their futures, and the future of Detroit. Swing by Nora and leave with one of these lovely handcrafted canvas bags.

Stop by Nora on November 5 from 1pm-3pm to meet the wonderful makers.

Nora's PopUp Shop Artist: Don Kilpatrick III

You’re probably asking yourself what a hornbook is. They are study primers, originating in 15th century Europe, which were often shaped like auction paddles but meant for primary education. Don Kilpatrick III has created an homage to hornbooks with his “Horn Block Printing Kit” for Nora. The kit can be used for learning to relief print or can be displayed as gorgeous artwork in the home. It is an interactive and educational product designed for art collectors and anyone interested in teaching themselves (or others) printmaking. Or, for those already in the know, it can be used to create beautiful and unique prints. Don skips breakfast far too often, and believes that a tree is never really finished with being a tree. He loves working with reclaimed wood and draws a great deal of inspiration from Brush Park. While he feels that there are too many people positively impacting culture in Detroit to list, he feels his students at the College for Creative Studies are among their number. Come by Nora and go home with one of his amazing Horn Block Printing Kits!

Don will be hosting a Meet the Artist Event on November 13 from 5pm-7pm at Nora.

Nora's PopUp Shop Artist: Tiff Massey

Tiff Massey is about that life. She is a Detroiter through and through. She liked Belle Isle before the state took it over, and will tell you that just because they renamed Cass Corridor as Midtown, it “doesn’t mean you can treat it like Royal Oak”. The 2015 Kresge Fellow says that the people positively impacting culture in Detroit are the natives, and people who are vested in the city, not invested. She started as a scientist, and now she’s here, creating a bag made of scraps from the automotive industry. Her body of work is sculptural. often wearable, and always bold. She is excited to be working with leather for this project, because it’s an unforgiving material where all marks have to be intentional, because they are final. Tell everyone and their mom to come in to Nora and see her work in person.

 Tiff will be hosting a Meet the Artist Event on November 12 from 5pm-7pm at Nora.

Nora's PopUp Shop Artist: Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a woman of many talents, and a 2015 Kresge fellow. She loves breakfast and artists so much she blogs about both. When asked who is impacting culture in Detroit in a positive way, she’ll tell you that, like your Facebook semi-official relationship, it’s complicated. She is a self-taught quilter whose first quilt celebrated the seasonal rhythms of life in Detroit. The quilts and leather tree ring placemats she has made for Nora are for “people who cherish living with art and embracing functionality and beauty” in their day-to-day lives. She loves the Shipherd Greens Community Garden in Detroit, and her name, broken down into parts means Queen Rose I Cut You. Come see Rosie’s quilts at Nora. We promise she won’t cut you.

Nora's PopUp Shop Artist: Thing Thing

Sometimes artists experiment with new materials and things get weird. Other times, artists do weird things and experiments end up smelling like French fries. One of Thing Thing’s first experiments involved deep frying recycled plastic in vegetable oil to its melting point and molding it to cardstock models. It worked, and the result became a prototype for the rotationally molded plastic pillow lamp they created for Nora’s Culture Lab collaboration. The collective chose their name by creating a big funny list with a short list of rules: no pretentious acronyms, and they could not use the word atelier. Their friend Vivian liked Thing Thing the best, and it stuck. They envision design enthusiasts, local art supporters, and tourists in Detroit enjoying their product. They all eat dope meals for breakfast, and believe in the work of their extremely talented fellow artists, makers and musicians in Detroit, including Kresge, Detroit Soup, O.N.E. Mile, Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition, MOCAD, WDET and the Knights Foundation. They know some cool secret spots hidden along the river, too. You can see their colorful creation at Nora, just don’t try to dip it in ketchup.

Thing Thing will be hosting a Meet the Artist Event on November 10 from 5pm-7pm at Nora.

 

 

 

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