Design

By Mary Meldrum

Get ready for a brand-new Nine Mile! One of Oak Park’s major thoroughfares is about to undergo a major makeover.

The Nine Mile Redesign project was borne from the leadership change and a paradigm shift in the Oak Park City government’s focus that began in 2011, following an economic recession that almost bankrupted
the City. One big change came in 2014 when the City hired Kimberly Marrone, Economic Development &
Communications Director. Marrone explained the objectives and the progress of Oak Park’s Nine Mile Redesign project:

“My role in the City is for economic development, so we want to attract new businesses and retain the businesses we currently have in the city as well as help them grow and expand,” says Marrone. She is part of an Oak Park government leadership that has implemented service-oriented and pro-growth policies. These policies are gaining momentum – funding and creating an impact for the city’s future.

In 2014, a Strategic Economic Development Plan was adopted by the Oak Park City Council. The plan outlined action steps to assist in sparking additional economic development to Oak Park. Marrone discusses the growing evidence that providing places to walk and bicycle is a successful strategy for maintaining and restoring economic vitality. Indeed, there is solid research that supports the connection between pedestrian-friendly environments and economic viability.

Major firms around the country are beginning to loudly advocate for pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly development patterns. And they are voting for these changes with their walking boots on, relocating to city centers that are a better fit for their business, their ideals, and for their employees. Booming business centers like Atlanta and the Silicon Valley are showing how an over-dependence on the car can stall economic development. Businesses are increasingly concerned with lengthy commutes, gridlock, lack of transportation choices, air pollution, and the overall decline in quality of life that can make recruiting and retaining skilled workers difficult.

According to the 1997 Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, the number and location of open space/parks/recreation ranks high among factors used by small businesses in choosing a new business location. According to a 1998 analysis by ERE Yarmouth and Real Estate Research Corporation, real estate values over the next 25 years will rise fastest in “smart communities” that incorporate a pedestrian and bike-friendly configuration.

Road Diet
A study conducted for the City in 2015 with grant money showed it was feasible to redesign Nine Mile Road with a so-called “street diet.” The road will be reduced from five to three lanes, and the City will create linear parks, additional parking, bike lanes and streetscape amenities, a known formula to spur economic development.

“Businesses want to know if they can be successful here in Oak Park. They want to locate into a community that people are attracted to live in,” says Marrone. Oak Park and surrounding communities have seen a steady demand for homes and an uptick in median home prices over the past several years, making Oak Park an attractive place for businesses to settle in and grow.

Reducing traffic noise, traffic speeds, and vehicle-generated air pollution will increase property values. Adding green space, parks and public gathering places are multipliers in the property value equation. One study found that a five-to-ten mile-per-hour reduction in traffic speeds increased adjacent residential property values by roughly 20 per cent.

“We applied, jointly with Ferndale, for the grant from MDOT last spring and received notice in September of 2017 that they would partially fund the project. The total project cost is roughly $1.4 million. We received a grant award from SEMCOG and from MDOT in the amount of $983,826. This would require a 30 per cent match from the cities,” shares Marrone.

In 2018, The City of Oak Park will finalize road plans for Nine Mile, solicit bids this Spring. The City will add bike lanes and redesign the parking starting in late Spring or early Summer. The majority of the work is repainting of lines with minimal actual road construction.

Nine Mile Road was developed before I-696 was finished, and now carries much less traffic as it once did. In fact, the car count is roughly 17,000 cars per day now, making it a “tired” street with too many lanes. People drive past businesses on Nine Mile without noticing them. A road diet would slow the traffic and improve safety, allowing businesses to enjoy a spark of additional success, as well as fill vacant storefronts.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a push to move away from downtown areas, like Detroit. That movement has recently reversed, and there is a shift to embrace downtown density again in most communities. Oak Park’s Nine Mile Redesign project is quickly getting traction to promote a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown area by addressing traffic issues, greenway development, and density.

Pocket Parks
Oak Park residents were interested in creating space where people could gather. As part of the Nine Mile Redesign project, a park was tested with the Sherman Summer Pop-Up Park in 2017. The City closed about 100 feet of Sherman Street.

In June, and put in tables, chairs, games, activities and programming. Sometimes they held scheduled musical entertainment, exercise classes, art and STEAM programs from the Oak Park Library and Recreation Department. Sherman Street residents were asked for input and invited to help create the space. In feedback following the pop-up park, 83 per cent of survey responses said they were in favor of the permanent park. The City applied for, and received, a grant from Oakland County.

“We went to great lengths to take into consideration the wishes of the community and to ensure that the needs of the residents were being met,” said City Manager Erik Tungate.

For the Nine Mile Redesign, the engineering firm suggested closing three streets at Nine Mile Road to create pocket parks. The City decided to close only two, Sherman and Seneca.

When people on Seneca were approached, most were happy about it. Of those with reservations, they expressed worry that emergency vehicle access would be impeded to homes and businesses; that school buses might not be able to travel the street; and questions on whether the park could invite crime to the area. Not one item went missing from the temporary pop-up park; creating more of a crowd typically creates less crime. The Public Safety Department reported that emergency vehicle and bus access was not impeded, and noise and vandalism was not an issue.

Bringing people together has long been known to produce economic value. Population density creates and increases social capital and economic opportunity. Social capital has value in fellowship, shared information and common goals; it thrives in communities that provide platforms and places for people to come together to shop and share their knowledge and information, while collaborating and socializing. Social capital allows people to become invested in the outcome of their neighborhoods, and economic capital to flourish.

“When talking to new potential businesses about locating in Oak Park, they become very excited about the vision and plans we have, specifically for the Nine Mile Redesign Project,” says Marrone.

By David Ryals

CATHLEEN RUTSY RECALLED THE TEAM’S ORIGINS WITH JOY. “The Ferndale High School robotics team, IMPI Robotics, was founded in 2007, with its first competition during the 2008 season. Some of the mentors were working with a Royal Oak team, and the teacher mentor let us know that the 2007 season would be his last. We had nine seniors on the team qualify for FIRST scholarships! (FIRST, a robotics program founded by Dean Kamen, stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”)

Ferndale also had a team that folded, so we approached the school about a mixed team of Ferndale and Royal Oak students. They supported the idea from the beginning, giving us the closed wood shop room to build in. Royal Oak has since restarted a team, so IMPI Robotics has only Ferndale students now.”

Though the team had a lot of support from the beginning, the transitions made involved far-reaching challenges. Rutsy said, “We were also working with a group in South Africa. We would brainstorm, design, and build identical robots at each location. For the championship event in 2008, ten students traveled to the U.S. from South Africa. Our South African students asked for a team name that would represent their country, so we picked IMPI Robotics. “Impi” is a Zulu word for an armed body of men; in this case, armed with technology and we have young women.

During the economic downturn, the South African team folded, but the students still keep in touch to this day, even traveling to South Africa and Europe to meet. When one of our original students married, her husband secretly invited the South African students, and they traveled to the US to surprise her.”

Through all its challenges, competitions and collaborations, the team has consistently stayed true to its initial aim. Rutsky said, “the main aim of the team has always been to wage a war on technology illiteracy through FIRST robotics’.” But the team has other objectives such as: supporting local charities, encouraging students into STEM careers, obtaining additional corporate sponsorship in an effort to attract more minority and disadvantaged students, start FTC (First Tech Challenge) teams, and get additional mentors. The team has received 501(c)3 status and our main objective never changes but the team evaluates which objectives have been met and identifies new objectives on a yearly basis.”

The standards and work-load has only gotten higher for the team. Rutsky said, “The students perform demonstrations – one for Governor Snyder at his Economic and Education Summit, help mentor FLL and FTC teams in the district, have a student-run team for Relay for Life, have volunteered for the annual Ferndale Clean-Up and the Rainbow Run, to name a few of their achievements.”

The team has been able to support and stabilize their burgeoning growth through a few different avenues. Rutsky said, “All of our engineering mentors are unpaid volunteers because our companies realize that the best way to get STEM employees is to ‘grow’ them. Our companies give the team both financial support and the engineers time off to run the team. In just mentor time alone, the value to the school district is about $250 thousand per year. Over the years we have increased our sponsor support. FCA, Ford, IBM, Schaeffler, and Hydro are our main corporate sponsors, which is how the team is funded. We regularly ask our sponsors, parents and community for more mentors.”

With all of the hard work and dedication of the team Ferndale High’s robotics team is beyond bright. Of its future plans and aspirations, she said, “Our students have already shown that they will continue to do good in the community, so all of the things they are already doing such as charity work, demonstrations, and mentoring will continue. In addition, the students are starting an FLL (First Lego League) team in Ghana, arranging a STEM “science fair” for the high school, and working toward increased underrepresented student involvement. I’m sure the students will come up with other good ideas – they are so proactive and are always thinking. And they have a great awareness of community.”

www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc

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By Kevin Alan Lamb

OUR WORLD IS RETRACING roots and rediscovering a passion for trades our parents, and grandparents spent lifetimes mastering. Simultaneously, society is relearning to see an individual for the goodness in their heart, joy in their dreams, and the consistency of their contributions. We all have a purpose, but we must travel a personal journey dictated by our choices and commitments to discover the substance with which we will fill our souls.

Rachel Oliver navigated her journey with the help of the skills and life lessons she learned in her father’s shadow. In each of his children he instilled the understanding that gender was not an excuse or limitation on one’s ability to persevere.

Raised between Taylor and Carleton, Michigan, Oliver was recently launched into the limelight with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a participant on History Channel’s fourth season of ‘Forged in Fire.’ Critiqued by world-renowned bladesmiths, she competed against expert bladesmiths and blacksmiths, filming for 10-15 hours day on set where she won second place.

Can you walk our readers through your average day on set of “Forged in Fire?”
The day starts before the day on set. It starts with a ride through New York City, en route to the Brooklyn forge. Taking it all in was surreal, from cars driving in reverse on one-ways to peddlers on street corners selling food and wares.

Once you arrive at the set, you are in for a long, long haul, consisting of 12- to 15-hour days, and several interviews. There is lots of downtime, which is the coolest part. This is where you get to mingle with the competitors and talk shop, trade secrets, methods and history of many things. The judges are all there, the host is there, and they all come chat.

We didn’t forge until late after-noon. We came into the forge for the first time, it’s secretive until we enter the floor. We are not privy to any of the layout until it’s time to compete. When you walk into the forge, it’s like entering battle-grounds, a coliseum if you will.

When the host says “go,” it’s hammer time and that clock does not stop for anything. Bathroom breaks? Nope [laughter]. Luckily, floor hands take care of our hydration needs. Hydration is the word you hear more on set than anything else. We get so amped up we forget about our own well-being. The entire time you’re on the floor there are upwards of 50 people, the judges included, all over the place. You have camera guys following you around, big Hollywood lights, an OSHA guy is on set, I mean it’s a huge operation.

What are some key takeaways and moments you will never forget?
I was given the chance to work in an arena that blacksmiths I revere have also competed in. I got to work with three great guys: a youth minister, a blacksmith who’s been at it 28 years, and a blade smith with skills that blow my mind. The blade smith, Shawn, was kind enough to sip scotch with me after hours drawing up diagrams of how to make things easier, how he does things his own unique way. One of the best memories though was the cannon-ball run trips through New York City, racing to the studio every morning at speeds none of us expected. Our handler could drive like a pro.

How did you get selected for the show?
I was emailed by them, on a page I sell my wares. All in all, it was about an eight-month process from first email to air date.

Talk about the role your father played influencing your passion and work?
My dad is one of the most gifted, intelligent, creative multi-disciplined tradesman I have ever met. I was his shadow from the time I could walk, always following him around, asking him any questions I could to know more. He was never one to allow my three sisters or I to use “being female” as an excuse to not persevere. He raised warriors, not princesses, and we all have grown into badass, tough-as-nails women. For this, I couldn’t be more grateful.

What do you enjoy most about your art/craft?
My niché in bladesmithing is in the vein of repurposing and upcycling quality materials. To take something that served a noble purpose that has gone dull, broken, worn out, and to breathe new life into it with a new job and ability. I feel this is keeping our blue-collar roots alive. Many of the files and rasps I repurpose are a hundred or more years old. I even came across some files made right in Detroit, dating back to 1870! One of these will find its way back to its city of birth for a Corktown sous chef. To me, this is beauty, this is art, this is keeping our history alive.

What are the most challenging and rewarding facets of being a genderqueer lesbian in your field?
Being a genderqueer lesbian has some drawbacks, where men seem intimidated by my presence of being androgynous as well as a woman who can forge. I have heard plenty “get back in the kitchen” and a few homophobic remarks like “the dyke that looked like a man.”

What’s next?
The next step? The next step is hoping for a redemption episode, one more crack at the Brooklyn forge. Until then, it’s hammer down. Expanding my knowledge, abilities, honing my craft, networking more and hoping to pitch an idea for a TV series, blade-related of course [laughing].

Story by Jeff Milo
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

SHELBY HOLTZMAN GOT HOOKED BY A DRILL. THE FERNDALE RESIDENT WASN’T RAISED TO BE A WOODSMITH OR A CARPENTER, AND YET SHE IS NOW BUILDING CREATIVE AND STYLISH HARDWOOD FURNITURE FROM HER NEW SHOP/SHOWROOM ON LIVERNOIS. You see, she fatefully needed to borrow a power tool one day several years ago and it began mounting an appreciation for creating something by hand, particularly with a flume of sawdust.

“My dad was always a fixer, and a very crafty guy,” said Holtzman. “He got me into the idea of being able to make really beautiful things even if you didn’t necessarily have the background in it. But I laugh, cuz my high school didn’t even have a shop class; I wonder how sooner I would have gotten into this had I been exposed to it more.”

Holtzman co-founded Long White Beard in 2014 with fellow creator Daniel Erickson, starting out with a studio space inside the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit. Holtzman graduated college with a degree in anthropology, and was even getting knee-deep into some archaeological works just before she and Erickson got started. But, as she said, “the hobby (woodworking) started turning into a full time gig!”

Long White Beard’s new physical Ferndale space opened in late July; a retail/workshop space distinguished by artist Erin Brott’s dazzling mural of thick white whiskers flowing across the side, adorned with small verdant green ferns, trees and friendly woodland creatures. The showroom features their various home-enhancing creations, like coffee tables, dining tables, custom designed shelving, wooden housing for entertainment centers, and, one of their most popular items, custom hardwood cutting boards.

Holtzman and Erickson saw Long White Beard’s popularity steadily build over time, from their first spot in the Russell, to where they began filling more and more orders, not just locally and across the state , but nationwide over e-commerce site Etsy.com.

Both of them approached it as something that would just grow little by little. “Yeah, we didn’t do it start-up style,” Holtzman said. “We never went to the bank to ask for a loan, or anything. I hate to say ‘grassroots,’ but really, that’s how every single thing has been done, just getting to one point, or making and selling one thing, and then getting to the next. Dan calls it ‘the ratchet!’ We’ve always been trying to grow responsibly.”

Holtzman said she loves the craft, she thrives in the creation process, but that Erickson can handle the grittier business aspects, like accounting and what-not. She knew, from the start, that this company wasn’t going to be called any variation of “Shelby Holtzman Woodworks.” In fact, she admits a lifelong uneasiness with self-promotion of any kind, because she’s always just preferred the work, the focus she finds in creating something or learning how something works. That’s why she’s always been at home either in a lab (for anthropology research) or, now, in her shop (with their three busy/loud/industrial-grade lumber saws).

Holtzman, Erickson, and their “metal shop guy” Tim Umlah, are now settled in their new spot and already filling more orders for various furniture items and home-goods cut, sanded and treated from all locally-sourced lumber. The bigger shop space allows them to start working on more hardwood; that is, substantial blocks of hardwood lumber, from oak, sycamore and ash; and it allows them to invite their customers in and see the work, rather than clicking jpegs over etsy.

he name suggests a timeless wisdom of craftiness that gets passed down over ages. “The techniques and finishings are the same; lots of the tools are the same, just with new models. The ideas behind (woodworking) are the same. But if you come in the shop, you won’t see anyone with a long white beard.”
Glowing reviews poured in from Etsy customers over their first two years, and that attention and acclaim has only built after moving to Ferndale’s veritable second-downtown strip on Livernois. Pieces can be customized to fit your needs. If you’d like to customize something for your home’s dimensions, find Long White Beard online at:

etsy.com/shop/LongWhiteBeard
OPEN Wednesday – Saturday 12-6
860 Livernois, Ferndale, MI 48220

 

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By Rose Carver

One artist in Ferndale lives to adorn others with her love of jewelry design

JENNIFER VERMEERSCH CAN’T REMEMBER A TIME when she wasn’t making jewelry. She has always collected stones and, being raised by artist parents, her art of choice was born out of a desire to make beautiful things to adorn people.

Vermeersch has a multitude of skills to create her works of art. She is a seasoned metal-smither, a glass bead artist, and a master collector and assembler of beads.

“I specialize in adorning people with jewelry and however I can make it happen with my vision.”

Vermeersch loves puzzles, and when she puts together a piece she feels as though she is using the beads to put together a finished product. “When I was young I lived on a lake, and to keep myself entertained I collected stones and rocks,” Vermeersch said. “I don’t think I ever had a choice [whether to be this type of artist or not].” Her pieces are bold, and have a classically vintage aesthetic. They are intricately fashioned, with colored beads, and eccentric designs. One can easily tell the level of care Vermeersch puts into her one-of-a-kind creations.

Vermeersch has been living in Ferndale for 20 years, and she currently has two children and works at a bead store, Munro Craft Supply in Berkley, which fits her passion well.

Detroit Historical Museum has some of her jewelry hanging on their walls, and she has been featured in fashion magazines, but she said that what fulfills her is the feeling of joy she is able to give someone else when she ornaments with her beaded art pieces.

Vermeersch says her jewelry provides things for the customer that you just cannot find at the run-of-the-mill jewelry store. She makes specialized pieces, and her work runs off of her sincere passion.

“[With my work] You get the authenticity, the story behind the piece, where the beads came from, and, of course, the artist behind the piece.”

To find out more about Vermeersch’s work, visit her Facebook at:  facebook.com/jennifervermeerschjewelry.

Story by Jaz’min Weaver
Photo Of Bradley by David McNair

Bradley Wall is a local wood worker specializing in everything from headboards to cutting boards. “I enjoy working with wood for its innate beauty, and often feel silly about how excited I get about
different types of woods and designs,” Brad admits. That type of enthusiasm for the material is readily apparent in the things that he crafts.

His work is characterized by the use of one of his favorite materials, plaster lath. A lath is a thin strip of wood, usually built into a lattice and then backed with plaster, previously used to finish ceilings and interior walls. Lath in buildings has diminished since the ‘50s, and now drywall is employed in its place.
Brad’s ability to take a hidden, interior piece of architecture and make it the star of a new item is part of what makes his work so compelling. Sometimes, the wood he uses is reclaimed from crumbling buildings in Detroit. In this way, every creation is born with an inherent history connected to the area. The use of wood from Detroit is symbolic in a way; he wants to make a difference and witness the city rise, renascent with new ideas, artists, restaurants, and jobs.

“I get sad when I think of all the waste that goes into the demolition of houses. In reality, much of the wood from the houses is really high quality, and deserves to be reused.”

The benefits of reclaimed wood surpass connecting to the city, and even mere trendiness. It is actually a prime building material because it has had time to cure. The years spent adjusting to the climate have its advantages, according to Brad, “Often times it is much more stable than woods you can buy new…never mind the character you get from sitting in a house for 100+ years. The projects I’m working on aren’t exclusively reclaimed but I always strive to be inspired by the material I’m working with.”

Despite his great skill, Brad comes from a background of retail and desk jobs. He has been woodworking off and on for about five years. It started simple enough, as form of stress relief and a hobby. He started with remodeling and various other home improvement work. “I also grew up with a dad who has been a craftsman my whole life. He’s been a huge inspiration and encouragement to me. I remember him crafting canoes and sails boats by hand when I was very little. It has only been in the past couple years that I have begun to take the art form seriously for myself and allow myself to create fine furniture and art.”

When queried about what he enjoys working on, Brad answered, “Big tables are exciting because so much life happens at them.” That’s another beautiful thing about the work he does; undeniably, even the briefest of glances will reveal that it’s art, but so many of the pieces are also durable and functional. Some pieces are decorative, a pleasing combination of woods and colors in slanting patterns. Whether it is ornamental or serviceable, such solid handiwork is sure to be around for generations to come.

The end of January signified two big changes for Wall Woodworking; more openings for commissions and a move into a shop space inside the Russell Industrial Center. This move is an exciting adjustment, since Brad cites a lack of space for more projects and larger-scale ideas as one of the biggest challenges in his work.
Check out his website: www.wallwoodworking.com. Information can also be found on Wall Wood Working’s Facebook and Instagram pages about upcoming giveaways.

Wall is as kind as he is talented. “Half the reason I do what I do is to meet awesome people and partner with them in creating something beautiful. I look forward to getting to know more people in this awesome community!”

By David Wesley
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Seven Reaume is a Detroit photographer and essayist producing top-flight work since the late 1990s. Now his artistic output has brought him local attention to the point where many Detroit-based photographers know his work as a staple of the photography scene. His photography is being exhibited at galleries and other outlets across the city and he even has a new calendar of his work out, called “The Detroit I See,” featuring stellar snapshots of the city as only Steve can produce.

Reaume sat down with Ferndale Friends for an exclusive interview about his life and career.
When did you start photographing and what perked your interest in photography?
Although my grandmother gave me my first camera when I was in grade school, I became really passionate about photography while in high school. A friend of the family gave me my first serious SRL camera for my 15th birthday, and I was hooked. I took classes on dark room techniques, composition, and art. My art eventually moved toward graphic design. Photography is a medium that I’ve always dabbled in, but didn’t get back to it again until the past few years. With the quality of phone cameras advancing, along with the advent of Instagram, I felt the desire to capture and share my surroundings.

Who are some of your influences as a photographer?
Detroit photographer Robert Guzman has inspired me the most. His photos are true works of art. He has an amazing ability to capture culture as well as structure.

What makes Detroit such a great subjectto photograph and what have you gleaned from the city since photographing it?
I’ve lived in the same area of Detroit for over two decades. Walked the same streets. I realized that I wasn’t noticing the beauty of my city, and specifically the areas that I frequent most, like I used to. It was all becoming very familiar. So, last summer I challenged myself to look at the city from different angles and perspectives. My recent show, ‘The Detroit I See’ is a selection of photographs from this project.

I’ve also spent a lot of time photographing nightlife, and specifically clubs and DJs. The music scene in Detroit, particularly the electronic music scene, is one of the most admired in the world. I feel fortunate to be a part of it, and capture the artists, people, and clubs that make it so unique and inspiring.

What are you aims with your work and artform?
I am now experimenting with combining the two mediums that I have worked in all my life, design and photography. They have always been separated in my work. One influences the other, but I have rarely created pieces that join them together.

By Rebecca Hammond

I’m reading a book called Nature’s God, by Matthew Stewart. Subtitled The Heretical Roots of the American Revolution, it’s the story of our nation’s beginnings combined with a history of philosophy that links to the birth of the American liberal movement, long ago. It’s a great read.

Stewart points out that opposite of “radical” isn’t necessarily “moderate,” it can be “common.” Yet radical voices commonly surround us. Do you read Mother Earth News at the Ferndale Library? A pe-rusal of MEN does not need to reveal anything specificallyuseful, the valuable part being reminded that there are a multitude of ways to live. There are radical choices we can make. The advertised way is, in fact, usually the most boring, always being the way to get the task over with the soonest. Has the idea of getting necessary tasks over with quickly so as to free up time for enjoyable or creative ideas worked? I doubt it. There’s a resurgence of doing things slowly even if that costs more, knitting being one example. It now costs more to buy yarn and knit a sweater or socks than it does to buy the finished garment, but even so, knitting is again extremely popular.

It’s common to discard worn clothing, so just re-pairing it is radical. Leather patches on elbows might be professorial, but they were once merely practical, keeping elbows intact. But a commonly-radical mom wouldn’t have tossed a sweater with holey elbows anyway – she’d have ripped off sleeves above the holes and re-knit them.

Same with socks. I used to wonder why old-fashioned socks had contrasting heels and toes until I knit a few dozen pairs myself. A woman fixing socks wouldn’t necessarily have still had the same color yarn the socks were originally made of. Not only that, if the heels and toes are a different color, they’re easier to remove and replace, even multiple times. If you knit your own socks, you know that the feet are fairly fun to knit, the ribbed ankle cuff more tedious. An entire worn-out sock foot can be cut off, the cuff stitches picked up, and the foot re-knit. This can even be done with commercial socks. What if you don’t want to buy this pricey yarn, period? Thrift stores are full of nice sweaters made of high-quality yarn that can be dismantled in an evening. You’ll find every kind of wool including merino and cash-mere, and cottons and fun synthetics. The only thing to watch for is the seams. A serged or overlocked seam (see the photo; the serged seam is on the left) means the sweater pieces were cut from large bolts of knit fabric, and if you try to reuse that yarn, every row will be a separate piece. Look for seams that look like the sweater was handmade (like on the right). Remove the seam thread, clip the yarn at the very bottom, and start raveling. I used to bother winding the yarn in a ball, even blocking the kinks out of it, but no longer. A piece of knit fabric is easier to handle than a ball of yarn, and it feels pretty radical to rip a row or two off a former sweater and instantly turn it into a sock or a mitten. The kinkiness of already-knitted yarn is not noticeable as you work. You can make a lot of socks or mittens from a $2 dollar sweater. Almost-free wool socks are radical.

Knitting was socially important and radical recently, when women spent weeks knitting pink hats for a January 21st march that included hundreds of marches worldwide, huge ones in places like London and Chicago and LA, tiny ones in places like Copper Harbor and Kodiak Island. The hats were a mere symbol, but one that kept women united for weeks, some churning out dozens for non-knitters. Keeping one’s hands busy with repetitive work is soothing and mind-freeing, so the benefits outweighed the warmth of the hats, the obvious solidarity they symbolized, and the sea of pink that make the marches unmistakable in photos. It was a modern version of a quilting bee, an online version that created unity before the marchers ever gathered.

These marches were important. Watch the documentary, Requiem for the American Dream. As interviewee, Noam Chomsky, leads through the steps that led to our current situation in America, he describes how important and nation–changing large movements have been in our past. Marches matter.

If you prefer knitting to be even more radical, check out a new Ferndale group called The Ladies Knitting Circle and Resistance League on Facebook. We bump mere social knitting up a notch or 12, chipping in for groups like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. No, you don’t even have to knit.

Rebecca Hammond learned to knit about 52 years ago, when her Mom went to knitting classes at church and came home to teach her daughters.

By Jenn Goeddeke

BLUMZ BY JR DESIGNS is certainly not your ‘average’ flower shop –they go above and beyond in providing a variety of services and, of course, outstanding product.

Co-owned by Jerome Raska and Robbin Yelverton, Blumz continues to thrive in two full-service retail locations: 1260 Library Street in Detroit, and also at 503 East Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. Raska and Yelverton continually strive to impress their customers with award-winning floral designs, all-occasion gifts, one-stop event planning, and tuxedo rentals. Additionally, this entrepreneurial team is driven to give back to the community through involvement in a host of activities, such as: charitable events, education, the Rotary Club and the DDA.

In a recent conversation with Raska, I learned more detail on the formation of Blumz 15 years ago, and its steady development since.

Raska grew up on a dairy farm in Armada, MI. He always had a passion for the outdoors, and was also creatively-inclined. Early classes taken by Raska include art and textiles, which led initially to work in the field of fashion and merchandise. Additionally, he worked at the Royal Oak Farmers’ Market on weekends, with some members of his extended family. “We were selling mostly vegetables, and some flowers. People began asking about floral arrangements for weddings. I saw this as an opportunity to start a retail flower business.”

Raska worked both “smart and hard,” opening small retail flower shops in country areas, plus traveling extensively as an educator in the floral industry. Prior to the birth of Blumz, Raska also worked as a general manager for large flower companies. On his travels in the industry, he met Yelverton, “…and the rest is history!” Raska added with a laugh.

The Raska-Yelverton connection was instantly strong, so before very long, Yelverton moved from Mississippi to work directly with Raska. Together, they purchased a location in the heart of Detroit. Raska added that this bold business move was made back before Detroit was considered ‘cool’, and many close friends were questioning their decision.

By way of a more in-depth explanation by Raska: “It was a ground-floor opportunity, and we were able to watch as the city was basically rebuilt…young families were moving in, and many of the ‘hottest properties’ now had waiting lists. It had become ‘electrifying’ in terms of events, festivals, live music, art, and so on. We worked there for the first year, and loved it, but we also needed more space to work on events. Ferndale was just starting to ‘turn around’ in terms of retail development. We found a location off 8 Mile Road, just across from the State Fairgrounds. Originally, we planned to open it as a full warehouse, with a space outside to pull up a truck.” Despite warnings from friends and family (such as: “the cars on Eight Mile go too fast!”), this location became not just a warehouse, but also a lucrative retail location.

Following their success on Library Street in Detroit, and then on Eight Mile road in Ferndale, Raska and Yelverton were encouraged to hear of a new space opening up, one owned at the time by another florist, Nature Nook. Raska immediately reached out to ask about a possible purchase, “…they already knew me from my work in the industry, and they liked our business model!” Within two weeks of negotiations the deal was sealed, and Blumz on Nine Mile became a reality.

Eleven years later, and the energetic duo are forging ahead with their typical enthusiasm! Having just won a coveted National “Best of Weddings” Award this year from Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice, Raska and Yelverton could not be happier. Although both have won many individual achievement awards in the past, plus previous awards for Blumz, this one was special. Raska commented, “…this was a complete surprise for us…we were nominated without even knowing it, so the actual award came as a wonderful recognition! We are not afraid of hard work, and have a real passion for what we do…that passion comes through, then people respond to it…we are very blessed.”

Regarding the future direction of Blumz, Raska said with a smile: “We never say no to opportunity!” Clearly, Raska and Yelverton share a love of both Detroit and Ferndale, with only positive things to say about the two cities.

What is the best part of Blumz? Without hesitation, Raska responded, “It is celebrating the special occasions in people’s lives, and making them more memorable and festive…whether or not the occasion is happy or sad, we can always provide beautiful product!”

Blumz is located at 1260 Library Street in Detroit, 48226 and at 503 East Nine Mile Road in Ferndale, 48220. Phone numbers for the two locations are (313) 964-5777 and (248) 398-5130 respectively.
Visit their website for more information, or to shop online: www.blumz.com.
For more about Blumz weddings, visit: www.Ourprettywedding.com.
Connect on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Blumz.
Ferndale Store Hours are: M-F, 9am-7pm; Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 10am-3pm.
Detroit Store Hours are: M-F, 8am-6pm; Sat, 10am-3pm; Sun, Closed

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand

Bus shelters aren’t the most visually appealing structures in a city and Ferndale was no exception – until recently, thanks to the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA), in collaboration with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).

In August, they completed the first installment of the “Put the Art in SMART” project by renovating the bus shelter on West 9 Mile, right off Woodward Ave. Not only does it have a fresh coat of vibrant red paint, it features a rotating collection of art in place of old advertisements and — most notably — a green, living roof.

The project began as collaboration from DDA design committee volunteer Dustin Hagfors and Chris Best, co-owner of Rustbelt Market, with the help of Cindy Willcock, operations manager of the DDA. “The idea to replace the ‘Get Tested STI’advertisements, which were no longer under contract, and make the screen into a revolving art gallery was what jump-started the plan,” Hagfors says. “Through collaboration with Cindy and Chris, we were able to develop an idea that brought some vibrancy to the community.”

Through connections at SMART, Hagfors, who has a master’s degree in urban planning, arranged a meeting where he and Willcock pitched the idea to Madonna Van Fossen, SMART’s Oakland County Ombudsperson.

“SMART gave their blessing to our idea for the first shelter and has been very open to all we’ve pitched,”  Willcock says. “[We] ran our idea by Van Fossen and she was very interested and enthused — she even came out and helped us clean and paint the shelter!”

When Best heard about the project, he knew exactly how he wanted to contribute. “I have been dreaming about putting a living roof on these bus stops for three years.  The way these structures are built, they are just begging for it!” he says.

And Best had the expertise too, having built a living roof on his own home seven years ago, which has the same slanted roof structure as the shelters.

These updates do more than just make Ferndale more aesthetically pleasing, Hagfors says.
“It draws positive attention to the great transportation options we have available,” he says. “Ferndale is one of the only communities in Metro Detroit that has multiple lines of bus service available seven days a week, and my hope was that an artistic shelter would not only bring attention to mass transit but also make mass transit cool.”

Willcock notes the importance of a clean, safe place for those waiting for the bus, and has research to back it up. “It’s been shown that these types of enhancements actually help mitigate vandalism to the shelters and surrounding area; in fact, a federal study concluded that more people used public transit systems that incorporated art.” Willcock says.

The project needed to be completed quickly; after approval from SMART on August 10th it already had a prime-time TV spot for the following week.

“The bus stop – or at least its location – kind of picked us! The ultimate deciding factor was that Detroit Public Television was going to be filming ‘Dream Cruise Road Show’ on Nine Mile, right in front of the bus shelter on August 18,” Willcock says. “We wanted to make sure Downtown Ferndale looked great, everything just lined up for us!”

A total of 12 volunteers helped complete the project, including Best, Hagfors and Ryan Williams — who created the “Art in SMART” posters. Ferndale businesses jumped at the chance to participate too, by providing plants and donating money.

“Modern Tree and Landscape LLC saw our post asking for plants, and donated nearly $400 worth!
Without that generous donation, I don’t know how long it would have taken to get all the plants needed,” Best says. “Renaissance Vineyard Church even chipped in with a donation -churches usually accept donations, not give –love that Pastor Jim!”

There are three other shelters in Ferndale, and the DDA hopes to start executing renovation of those in the spring of 2017. In the meantime they will work on developing funding, and Hagfors says he’s already creating some eye-catching ideas for the other shelters.

“As the DDA volunteer manager, there’s nothing more gratifying than having a volunteer take such interest and ownership in a project and being able to help them turn their idea into reality!”  Willcock says. “Anyone interested in getting involved or finding out more about ‘Putting the Art in SMART’ can contact the Ferndale DDA at 248-546-1632 or info@downtownferndale.com.”

Best is excited for the potential of the project and notes that it couldn’t have happened without the DDA.
“The DDA does a lot for the downtown and this is just another example of that; they acted like the glue to bind everyone together to make it happen,” he says. “Projects such as this continue to set Ferndale apart as an example of what is possible in a downtown. Ambition plus creativity plus execution equals amazing every time.