Design

By Ingrid Sjostrand

IT MIGHT BE HARD TO BELIEVE A CITY THE SIZE OF HAZEL PARK –ONLY 2.8 SQUARE MILES – HAS 12 PARKS WITHIN ITS LIMITS. Even more surprising is that among those parks are a BMX course, dog park, two community gardens, and an art park.

These 12 parks are maintained by a small recreation department led by Sareen Papakhian, Recreation Director and assistant planner. Papakhian describes their mission as “to enrich the lives of Hazel Park residents by providing quality park and recreation facilities, green spaces, programs, and services to the community.”

Their responsibilities expand far beyond just park maintenance, including everything from managing programming for seniors and children, coordinating many of the City’s annual events and renting community center space for activities and classes.

“We oversee senior programming, a congregate meal program for seniors, we provide senior event planning and a space for seniors to congregate in the evenings,” Papakhian says. “But, most importantly, we handle senior transportation and that’s in collaboration with SMART.”

“Beyond that, we also provide recreation and youth programming for residents and non-residents. That includes a summer camp program called Kids Camp and various sports leagues – our largest activity true to Hazel Park is baseball.”

The Recreation Department oversees eight annual events, and will be adding a ninth on August 4th with their Family Fun event in collaboration with Oakland County Parks. Other events include the Daddy Daughter Dance in February and Earth Day celebration and annual Spring Clean Up with the Department of Public Works in April.

“Our largest special event we held over Memorial Day weekend, the Hazel Park Memorial Festival,” Papakhian says. “Skerbeck Family Carnival from Escanaba comes down and helps us out with that. There’s also a refreshment tent taken care of by the Hazel Park Lions Club.”

Papakhian has been director of the Recreation department since 2014. She has her master’s degree in urban planning from Wayne State University, and also acts as assistant city planner aiding in economic development and coding enforcement.

IN HER FOUR YEARS WITH THE RECREATION DEPARTMENT, Papakhian has been working tirelessly to improve the quality of Hazel Park’s green areas through new initiatives like the tree planting program. “This was our first tree planting in over a decade, in partner-ship with ReLeaf Michigan. As a pilot program they gave us double the amount of trees, and we were able to plant 20; 16 in Scout Park and four in Karam Park, in and outside the dog park,” she says. “That was a big accomplishment for me because I love trees, and we are in dire need of increasing tree canopy within the parks and the city.”

In addition to the tree planting program, the Parks and Recreation Department has been replacing and re-purposing playground and park equipment.

“Our five-year plan would be to provide new park equipment for our parks in the city. Our parks are in dire need of new equipment, and what we’ve done for a few decades has been to maintain that equipment,” Papakhian says. “My number one goal as Director is to replace equipment as best we can through fundraising, reaching out to businesses in town which I’ve been able to do during my tenure.”

These fundraising efforts have resulted in $5,000 solicited for new baseball pitching machines, a playscape sourced for Scout Park at no cost to taxpayers, a partnership with the United States Tennis Association with a $25,000 grant for new tennis courts at Hazel Park High School and another playscape installed at Karam Park through the assistance of matching grants from playground company GameTime.

“Additionally, a family that provided many generations of civic betterment to Hazel Park donated a fitness park within Green Acres Park,” Papakhian adds. “From what I know that’s the first fitness park in a public park in the region. We also have a bike pump station there and planted a tree there in memoriam to that family.”

While the Recreation Department is doing great work with what they have, they still see the struggles of a small staff and an even smaller budget. Papakhian is the only full-time employee, working with the assistance of just a part-time office employee, sports and camp supervisors, three drivers and three building attendants. There is also a Recreation Advisory board of six members that meet bi-monthly to review and approve projects.

“We try to do what we can with what we have. The main struggle is the cost of everything – that’s our number one detriment.” Papakhian says.

“Personally, I think we’ve done a great job of being resourceful. My staff is the hardest-working part-time staff I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m proud of what we do here.”

PAPAKHIAN SEES THE WORK ETHIC OF HER STAFF reflected in the residents of Hazel Park every day, and that volunteers who help with park clean up and community gardens are just as important to the success of the Recreation Department.

“Hazel Park is a city of fighters. I don’t know any other city that has done what Hazel Park can do with what we have. I’m proud to work for a city of fighters and proud to work with the residents of Hazel Park,” She says. “Anytime a resident wants to clean a park we would support that endeavor in any way we possibly can.”

By R. Ennis

GETTING A NEW BUSINESS OFF THE GROUND CAN BE CHALLENGING. You may face problems with finding a good location, remodeling that space to fit your needs, and securing the right staff to help you run it. Even after you have surpassed all those hurdles, you still may encounter another obstacle: Coming up with the appropriate signage and graphics for drawing in the public.

Meet J. D. Bayer—who, together with his ATS Signs Partner Steve Corby, can help you spread the word about your products and services. Bayer has been working in the fields of videography, photography, and graphic design for over 15 years. His more recent experiences as a sign designer brought him to the attention of Corby, who hired him to enhance the graphics for Corby’s Anything That Ships (ATS) Store. Impressed with Bayer’s work, Corby suggested that combining their know-how would benefit others.

“I designed the sign atop the building, the window and van logos, and the banner in front of the counter,” Bayer says about the Hazel Park site. During the time he set about those tasks, “Steve and I talked about how our businesses complement each other quite well. We saw how we can offer everything a new business needs to promote itself.”

Corby opened his Anything That Ships Store about a year ago. The expansion of the space to include ATS Signs occurred about two months ago. To let the community know about the broader range of ATS services, they literally took to the Hazel Park streets and
approached local business owners about working with them to find solutions for meeting their advertising goals.

BAYER AND CORBY HAVE ALSO FOUND WAYS to promote their services in-house.

When people come in to ship things,” Bayer says, “we might ask them whether (the packages) are for a business. If they answer ‘yes,’ the conversation moves forward from there.”

The strategies have helped to keep Bayer busy with many projects. His clients include Sneaker Pimp, a local high-end athletic wear company, and Robertson Custom Painting in Madison Heights, specializing in painting residential properties, for whom he created both its business cards and yard signs. Presently, he is making enticing graphics for Universal Jewelry & Loan in Hazel Park.

In the meantime, you can visit www.theatsstore.com for more information on ATS and its full line of printing, packaging, and shipping services:• Digital printing, copying, and finishing services:

• Mail box services
• Packaging, shipping & receiving
• Moving supplies & packaging materials
• Additional products & services – faxing, key cutting, notary, document design (such as invitations), etc.

If signage is what you want, Bayer encourages you to contact him, or stop in to his office at ATS and discuss how he can develop materials well-suited for marketing your business. Even if your advertisement ideas are beyond his immediate scope of expertise and cannot be produced at the shop — LED signs, for example, and other dynamic displays — he says he will do the research and collaborate with other designers to make them happen.

“Our goal is to be the place to go to for your media needs.”

By Andrea Grieg
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

WETMORE’S AUTO REPAIR HAS THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE BUILDING IN FERNDALE. Located on the corner of Woodward and Drayton, the blue brick building features interesting architecture, large vintage signs, giant windows, and a Daffodil Yellow 1963 Chrysler soaring out of the top of the building.

It is impossible to miss.

Around the time of Wetmore’s grand opening, local garages were spending small fortunes on eye-catching balloons and banners for roadside attention. Wetmore’s original owner Roy C. Wetmore found a permanent, and incredibly unique, form of advertising. A junked Wills Saint Claire originally adorned the building, with the front wheels spinning on a belt-system showing a permanent wheel wobble, the shop’s specialty. The wheels were painted with a white stripe to accentuate the wobbling. Although the car has been blamed for a few fender benders on Woodward, the tradition has stayed for almost 90 years. The Wills Saint Claire has been replaced four times with a 1940s Buick, a Hudson (which was protested by the Hudson Motor Car Company executives), a 1949 Lincoln, and finally the current empty-bodied Chrysler which made its debut in 1966.

The car isn’t the most interesting part of the garage though. The building’s architecture was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. In the 1940’s, Mr. Wetmore’s daughter dated a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. This led to Wright and Wetmore’s introduction. Wright designed a sketch of his vision for the business, and it still included a car flying off the roof. The office area was built to Wright’s designs; however, the rest of the plans were discarded after disagreements between Wright and Wetmore.

WETMORE STARTED THE BUSINESS IN 1928, and sold it on a Land contract in 1969. The land contract was forfeited, and Wetmore sold the business to the current owner, Chris Lynch, and his father Bud in 1975. While the shop originally specialized in alignment and frame work, the Lynch’s grew their scope to include wheels, tires, and most general repairs.

Currently, Wetmore’s employs 12 ASE-certified mechanics, and the shop boasts Ferndale’s best tire inventory of used and OEM tires available. Customers can shop the tire selection on the Wetmore web site.

The Wetmore web site also features an innovative self-diagnosis tool, with which customers can look up their vehicle by year, make, and model. Customers can then look up their specific issue by the sound, feeling, sight, or smell, with very specific descriptions for each possible problem. The self-diagnosis tool gives customers direct feedback of problem possibilities, with an option for the shop to call for further assistance.

“It is great owning a business in Ferndale,” Chris Lynch says. “The people and community keeps us going.” Wet-more’s is open Monday through Friday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM, and Saturdays 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM at 23459 Woodward Avenue. Visit www.wetmorestireandautorepair.com for more information about their work, their history, and for customer coupons.

By David Ryals

SANDA COOK’S PAINTING IS INFLUENCED BY THE BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES AND ARCHITECTURE OF HER NATIVE ROMANIA. She studied art at the Brasor School of Arts, and her travels throughout Europe, Japan, and the U. S. have given her work a unique perspective and style. Cook has shown her work extensively in Metro Detroit, including exhibits at the Scarab Club, River’s Edge Gallery, Downriver Council of the Arts, Carr Center for the Arts, Detroit Artist Market, Grosse Point Art Center, Ariana Gallery, 4731 Studio, and the Padzieski Art Gallery. Here in Ferndale, she’s recently had showings at Level 1, the Conserva, and M Contemporary.

In an exclusive interview with Ferndale Friends she said, “Art for me is a way of being alive, of connecting myself to the mysteries of the universe, nature, and the magnificent human soul.”

Though she has lived and studied abroad, she has settled into Detroit and considers it her permanent home. The city has adopted her and vice versa.

“I’ve loved teach painting classes at my studio in Hamtramck over the last few years, and a couple of my students are selling art and showing in galleries after just a little over a year of taking my monthly classes. I am so proud of them, and I am happy to inspire others. I also do individual art classes. I love to give back and help with my art donations. This year will be my third year of supporting the Matrix Foundation, and I have painted two Little Free Libraries in the last two years. One is in front of Belle Isle Conservatory, and the other will be in Berkley in front of the beautiful art store, Vitrine Gallery & Gifts.”

Her travels have inspired her art in lots of different ways. “I love to travel and explore the cultures and people of different countries. I am a U.S. citizen, and very thankful to live in a country with such great opportunities. Romania is my birth country, and growing up I enjoyed the outdoors and nature after school with my watercolor supplies. I started to paint at ten. Both places, Romania and Michigan, have their unique beauty. I love to capture in my watercolors or canvasses the beauty of places and people. Each country has its particular energy, traditions, and beauty and I love to immortalize. I take my sketchbook and water-colors everywhere to make sure I don’t miss any opportunities.”

ALONG WITH PAINTING, Sanda is a tarot card and palm reader. “When I was 27, I too a class reading palms and tarot. I worked from 2004-2009 for Cosmic Eyes in Wyandotte and from 2012-2017 at the wonderful Boston Tea Room in Ferndale.

The subjects of her work are bent towards nature and the cosmos. She explained what draws her to these subjects: “Nature is pure beauty. Mother Earth is so loving and generous with humans. I love the art of Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O’ Keefe, Frida Kahlo, and Jackson Pollock. When I walk into the forest, I feel home. It is pure, it is peace, it is magical. I feel the same swimming or being next to the water.”

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!”