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.
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.