Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Beautiful Detroit Begins With You

The design installation we (www.heritageco2. com and are working on for the DIFFA fundraiser in Detroit is turning out to be a fun collaborative project. I love collaborative projects, especially with smart, creative people. I feel like I'm pushing that old playground merry-go-round and with each person that grabs a bar and starts running and pushing with me, we get that thing going faster and faster and then everybody jumps on and you get that incredible rush from the centrifugal force everyone's created. So first Rick and I start it spinning with the 'ole what-can-we-make-with-what- we've-got at our two shops for this project? We just got all those gears from Brimfield, colorful and Detroitish. Will the client we bought them for, Detroit Science Center ( help push? Yes? We've got it going now. We need a big table for the center, Charles ( bought this great big steel one from me, I know he'll be game to loan it. It's picking up speed. I have been looking for an opportunity to use one of David King's reclaimed lumber assemblages large scale, he'll play for sure. I'm breaking a sweat. Wait! I've got that old Detroit Public Works stencil c. 1950 Jon Teschendorf found for me. I have been talking about that dang stencil for years, how it's the perfect message for some business venture or other, how we should make lots of signs with it on found lumber, old doors, whatever and create this buzz with that great message! We are running all out. And, now I have the perfect place to use it. The perfect audience to share the message. The timing has never been more right. So much momentum building from the urban gardening phenomenon and what it's done for so many struggling neighborhoods, the river improvements and the Dequindre Cut, recent renovations of beloved landmarks like the Eastern Market, the DIA and the Book Cadillac. Jump on everybody! From that still fresh shame of a crashing automotive industry and every news agency making us the poster child of the national economic crisis..could it have been any bleaker than that image of the man frozen in an abandoned elevator shaft on the front page? And yet, here we are movies everywhere, car companies with profits, beautiful summer days! I was reminded (thanks John Jessmon) of those incredible Leonard Cohen lyrics today, "There is a crack, a crack in everything...that's how the light gets in!" Well, we sure know where the cracks are, how about looking for the light now.

Oh yeah, about that DPW stencil. I'm sure it was developed for some renewal campaign Detroit launched. It has been hanging in my studio for many years now. It says, "A Beautiful Detroit Begins With You." I created a domain for it, just beginning to think about what I might do with it. So far I've got John Jessmon ( making t-shirts to give to each donor who sits at our table and more to sell at the upcoming Arts Beats and Eats festival in Royal Oak. That's where I am beginning, where can, no, where will, you begin? Give it some thought. Meanwhile, I'm on this super fun, spinning ride, with all these great people and it's making me really happy right now, so I'm gonna keep it going while you're thinking about it, and hanging on for all I've got.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

There's nothing more romantic in the antique business than a country auction. The drive out to the country, the rolling hills of southeastern Michigan lush with rain and heat, the pleasant crackle of gravel under your tires and the prospect of treasure as yet exposed to the public spotlight. This auction however, held more emotional significance to me for this estate was that of a dealer I, and the rest of our antique community deeply respected and recently lost . Exceptionally bright, with exquisite modern and esoteric taste, Greg researched everything and had a collection I aspired to. Greg's interests and expertise were vast, from minerals to outsider art, from americana to modernism. And this auction was just the stuff they found in his basement! The more valuable items had already been whisked off to more serious markets. With not much money to spend on the heels of Brimfield Shows, I had to focus my energy on the folky, off-beat things of his that I truly loved. His business partner and long-time dealer friend of mine, Bob Ketelhut told me about this apple he had, a large "Claus Oldenberg" thing he knew I'd want, with the words "New York, NY" on it, delicious. I prayed I wouldn't be outbid by some of the heavier hitters I knew were in the house. I was also keen on a pair of spectacularly spooky pair of hand-carved sandstone gargoyles, a beautiful pencil drawing of a cowboy from the 30's and a whimsical articulated doll that would be a nice remembrance of Greg. At the risk of sounding really out there, I have to tell you a couple of things that happened last night that gave me pause and made me consider our proximity to those who have passed over to the other side. When I lined up to get my bidding number, the number that should have been mine was 63. As the auction staff was filling out the paperwork, I actually considered asking for the next place in line because 64 is the year I was born. Just a little superstitiousness on my part, but I let the silly thought go. What's in a number really? The attendant looked a bit befuddled just then, looked at the "63" card and inexplicably took the next card and handed me "64." I got a little jolt I tell you. Then, just as the auction was about to get underway, the sky grew black and a spectacular thunderstorm cracked over our heads with rain coming down so hard it was hard to hear in the barn. I miraculously got everything I wanted and at prices well below what I know Greg had paid for them. I think he would appreciate that I cared so much about his things. (I also know he would have been slightly miffed that they didn't go for more money-that being the measure of our craft) But, what I'd really like to believe is that he had some hand in the proceedings and meant for these things to come to me.

Meet My New Family

Running around all week to pick up the Brimfield load in Bay City from Rick Klass (ever helpful, generous and strong as heck), getting it unloaded, the long process of introducing the new adoptions to the existing foster family of someone else's cast-offs and finding for each of them, another who would bring out the best in them. That I'm bringing all these very different things together and making them work together feels very much like making a family where there wasn't one before. It's an ungodly amount of work to rearrange it all, and during a heat wave, with the lousy air-conditioning, and still I'm saying to my intern Erika (a saint to help me) that this is my favorite part of the job!? I realize as I write this that it's the natural calling for this middle child. I want to bring people and things together, watch new connections being made, have a ball. And, selfishly, surrounding myself with people and things feels like love to me. It's also a bit of self-styled therapy, a natural response to the much more challenging effort of maintaining connectedness with my colorful and strong-willed blood-bound family. I know you know what I mean. I think it's not unusual for one's calling to be somewhat born of a desire as yet unfulfilled from this most primal of experiences. So why are we being subjected to her personal issues when all we wanted to know was what's new at The Heritage Co.2? Look it's 5am people, I had a few things on my mind, it's a labor of love and I simply cannot separate me from it or vice versa. Permit this hard-driving, middle-aged woman a bit of ego; for all the bumps in the road, it looks pretty damn cool in there. It surely looks like no other and it means a lot to me that you stop by from time to time and let me share it with you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No pill for a virus

Consummate marketer that I am, I wasn't surprised to learn its now considered a good virus. I'll add this condition to the list of my many charms. Logged in a complete night of sleep for a change and got my mojo back. My ace intern Erika did all that legwork for me while I was in Brimfield and we got organized for the two design projects going into construction. Love it when I get to put my construction team to work. Like the fast-talkin, easy ridin' Bob Tourtillot from Royal Oak Plumbing who starts tomorrow on Ed Kelly's bathroom. Bob gets my design aesthetic, engineers any old thing I think should be plumbable and makes all the shit run down hill, if you know what I mean. His instructions have the carpenter and electrician hanging on for dear life while in the background we can hear Ed practice his lines in some loud European accent, am I in some sitcom? Remind me to put that in one of my show's episodes. The construction schedule for Dave Mancini's kitchen is complex, how delighted am I to throw that job to Erika. She got to make some tile selections while I was gone and made us look good when Dave showed up unexpectedly yesterday. On his project I have the pleasure of employing one Molly Motor, chef, Detroit garden organizer and tile artisan who's currently working on a public art installation in Southwest Detroit, a mural of Caesar Chavez. She looks like she could pin a sizable contender to the mat, the tile will obey and we'll be tossin back some cold ones in a hurry. Keepin track of all these connections? It's like building a big molecule of people. So I'm riding from one appointment to another and pass the new location for Valentine Vodka, a couple of young entrepreneurs distilling our favorite elixir in Ferndale. They are renovating a sweet old building in Ferndale owned by one of Rick's buddies where they will also have a tasting room. Some Trucks are out front, I make a quick stop, pinning Erika to the passenger door. She thinks I'm crazy, but I can tell she's having fun in the big top. I tell her you gotta ask for the job and make it clear you are the only one to do it, if you want the job. Couple of guys are swinging sledge hammers at the concrete. I know it's the owners, been there done that. Even through the dust, can you hot hot? This condition will be good for their business. We take in the scenery, pitch the salvage slave's program to cool cost-effective design-solving. Maybe it sounds scary to pay a designer, but I tell them to call Dave Mancini. It's common to make mistakes when you think you an do it all yourself, and just a few of those costly mistakes pays my tab and then some. Plus, you don't have to do all that work? And you get ringside seats to the show! People, the salvage slave is in it for the win-win. Next up, I gotta pick up the load from Brimfield and I don't shop light. Beers are on me, should you decide you need a work out.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Design for DIFFA fundraiser

Mania offers no rest breaks. I wake up to watch the sun rise on Lake Huron at 6:30am then start sweeping the walk at 7:30am. I stop short of a full-on landscaping effort. Rick wakes up and starts the coffee. It's not 15 minutes before we have the sketch pad out and get right into a design for the DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation FIghting Aids fundraising event at the Center for Creative Studies new Taubman Center ( GM gave CCS the old Argonaut building for a dollar or something. It was part of their original headquarters, which the Taubman family restored for the school. The DIFFA event is to be held on the top floor which sports a vaulted ceiling and views of the city. It's gonna be awesome. This is the beauty of adaptive reuse (which should be going on in earnest in know my schtick.) We're sending our son to the new middle school there next year, but I digress.

Hour Magazine ( is sponsoring the DIFFA event which is a first for Detroit. It usually happens in places like New York and San Francisco, so this is a big deal for our design community, the effort to fight aids and the community at large. Basically designers team up with sponsors to design "fantasy" table settings and then donors get to eat dinner on them. Of course we've known about it since spring, but we've both been too busy to really do anything with it until the deadline is upon us. I get the call from the organizers on Friday as I'm just returning from Brimfield that,"hey, we need to get your design going" ..yikes!! Like the MOCAD fundraiser, we work best under pressure (mania at it's finest) and we sit at the cottage kitchen table this morning to work it out. Then it hits Rick: materials I just bought in Brimfield for a new project he's designing for another local cultural institution would be great for a table setting. If those donors agree, DIFFA benefits while creating a secondary benefit to this other institution! We high-five each other, what GENIUSES!! Just goes to show you how small a big city can be and how crucial building this kind of community is to resuscitating the life force of our beleaguered, beloved Detroit.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gypsies tramps and thieves-Brimfield in July

Stuck on the highway near Scranton, PA. Found Aerosmith on the dial and a few contraband comforts in the car. Benefits of making the long ride home with Rick F. Tailights ahead just went off, Yeah! We sing along to "Pinball Wizard." Doesn't take much to make me happy. Don't miss the scenic overlook as you get on 80 from 81. Dang! sure is pretty out here. The segue from carnival life, the four days of hot and sweaty endless shopping, might be improved if there was a good rehab to check into after. The people at home know to give me a wide berth for a few days. Any possible pleasure to be had from the quick weight loss got smacked down when the face in the mirror reported the theft of all remaining collagen. F… it. I loved every ridiculous minute. Ran into those pals I told you about 20 blogs ago that I met at the Chelsea Garage Flea in the NYC. There's an aspect of corporate convention to these shows, combined with dirt, weather, and an absence of any facilities and respectable attendees. A front of lawlessness is in the forecast. I secretly hope I'll be voted queen of this convention. I force myself to focus on the real job in between song and dance numbers. I love everything I bought (this will pass, more about that later) and don't want to sell anything. I had more fun than anyone has a right to. Went a little crazy buying some weird stuff. My friend Jim would say, "signs of mania, quick get the lithium darts." A banner that says something like "watch a baby being born, Original Sin in action!" I'd love over my bed. Oops, too much information? A surgical table with "tools," will make people so happy when they see it, I guess I won't put it in the living room. Giant chunky puke green letters spelling "Rodney" would look cool on my…ceiling?A 6" model of an eyeball will make the brain and ear I have so happy. I lie and promise to adopt them out together. Fingers crossed the commercial-sized chemistry glassware makes it back on Rick K's truck whole, I have a fantasy about distilling liquor in it. 20 minutes before my ride is honking to take me home, I score a series of copper vases that look like intestines. Part of love is letting go. I hope the memories will sustain me. Come January I will need it. How incredible the end-of-the-day corona felt sliding down my throat. Sneaking a nap when the rain came, under the tarp and the radar on Adam's lounger. Some delicious eavesdropping there. I stopped in my tracks to listen to the guy playing a french horn seated on the ground in his crowded booth. Signs of enlightenment abound, if you are looking. Too hot to eat, little sleep, I gorge on the running gags in our gypsy encampment. Part street urchins part geniuses, I marvel at how this business draws fascinating personalities. They could be professors or composers monday through friday, but you can't always tell from the dirty t-shirt. The man selling all that lab equipment wrote a brilliant song called the Antique Dealer Blues and sang all ten+ stanzas for me. I take a break on the recliner in front of a big fan and sing the refrain while his philosopher friend tells me the true meaning of life. I stay for a 50 minute session. Finding the Messiah felt more important somehow than being first when Mays (show) opened. I tell everyone about this "church" in John N's booth (and jot Joel the philosopher's number down for any call-in questions I will later have). I believe all this powerful energy is now in every item I bought and I will continue to get to do this weird and wonderful job that wants to kill me. I probably won't score that big money-maker ever nor have my own reality show, but man do I have fun. Maybe it all sounds like bs, but be a little curious and stop by the store and then tell me it doesn't look like a good time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Three things" (you can do to make Michigan Great)

A local intern for National Public Radio saw the article in Hour Detroit about me and heritage co. 2's involvement in supplying props to to the film industry. I'm invited to participate in their project

"Three things" Michiganders can do to make Michigan a better place to live.
I come up with:

  1. take shopping local to the next level-community networking
  2. exercise thrift and
  3. cook at home.

I own in Royal Oak and I live there, so maybe your saying "of course she's pushing shop local." But maybe you need a job, maybe you're lonely, maybe you're just stuck in a rut. It wouldn't hurt to start getting out a little and no, not with your bff or sister doing the same ole same place routine. My friend Roland says, "feeling down? Do something for someone else!" You'll relieve your self-consciousness, promise. Rick and I signed our kid up to go to peace camp (Childrens International Summer Village in Italy and now we have a whole new community of people right here with a shared agenda. We jumped at the chance last night to see a local camp in action and what Wyatt might be doing in Italy, plus maybe we can help out. 60 11 year-olds from around the world singing John Lennon's "Imagine" in the auditorium at River Rouge High School is a powerful motivator. We talk about hosting a kid next time and meet some people from Cranbrook, the Detroit Free Press and the Marshall Fredericks museum. Wait, these look like good prospects. Hey! we've got small businesses, you might need a job, remember?Whatever. You gotta think like that! No, we didn't shove biz cards in their hands. It's about relationship-building, community-building. We move on down the river. I might as well be in a foreign country, this is a town I've never been to. I call my antiques dealer-pal Peggy Madden who just so happens to live and work here. We meet in Wyandotte. What a town! There's a street fair going on. It's rockin'. All that historic architecture, a beautiful preserved town right on the sparkling Detroit River. Sorry I'm gonna have to testify: you can't beat the soul of a thriving downtown and you can't make a new one by tearing all those old structures down! This is how you build community. I'm smitten. We catch up at the Dotte Pub. We're hungry. It's fish fry night at the Speedboat bar in Ecorse. I love perch. (Yeah, Bennigan's ain't here and I doubt they got local perch, ok 'nuf said). The Tigers are up on the Twins, it's karaoke night, oh man, it's a home run! Guys with beer belly in t-shirts are lined up to sing. This is a cake walk, I'm fired up. We get the song book...Yeah no, it's American Idol here at the Speedboat. Like regular Joe is belting out some love song. They got singers in the Ecorse, we're eatin' crow. Rick orders more beer, he's gonna find us "the sure thing." That's "Quando Quando Quando," some 60-70's tune. Peggy and I say we can't drink enough to make this look good. She's getting the eye from Frank Sinatra over there in the curly toupe. We've gotta prepare. I'll be back, with a posse. What a great place! What a state! Get your ass out there!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Crackerjack Team

In the new paradigm I no longer try to do everything myself. Times were tough in the D and I had to save myself some money by not having parttime help….you can imagine how much fun I was. Starting out afresh with new people is always hard. I'm terrible at delegating, too busy multi-tasking to explain things AND not especially detail-oriented or organized. The most important thing I needed was someone who can sell, a closer. Someone with the confidence to sell a thing, even though they may not know much about it. I needed Jerry Meresky. He conveniently lives across the street, he's a closer. He used to have a furniture store in Detroit and offered to help me out. He's doesn't really need the money as much as something to do. He's free on the precious weekends and old school for real. Jerry is my 82 year-old sales associate. OK so the phone connection thing is too tiny for his fingers to plug it in and out of the fax machine. Forget it! he's a deal maker and knows how to move a heavy thing. He likes to work the crowd, smooth with the ladies (whooo-ahhhh). At the other end of the spectrum is my Sunday fill-in Jenna Zerbo. She's 22, cute as they come, and in-love with the stuff. OK she can't lift the 100# concrete Madonna. Hey, the men are falling over themselves to do it before she even thinks to ask. She works at Inn Season, our favorite vegetarian restaurant around the corner, and is use to waiting on customers. That two-page, neatly printed receipt with all the zeros she collected on a Sunday made my heart sing. Jenna it turns out, is also a closer. Plus she wants to work in exchange for stuff. You know I'm all about the barter!! My serious saving grace is behind the scenes. David King, who actually rents studio space from me, paints for me, runs interference with Hollywood (he use to work out there, he gets it), opens the store for customers that come off-hours, moves heavy stuff AND helps with the weeds…He listens to my rants, he's cerebral, intelligent AND easy on the eye. Down kitty. Last but certainly not least is Amy Nolfo Wheeler, the upstairs dealer that covers the store on Thursday and Friday. She's the other mom with muscle, thinks nothing of schlepping an oak entry door down the stairs by herself, NEVER misses a good garage sale, makes it all look like a million bucks upstairs AND drives in from Indiana every week. Are you feeling the love? how lucky am I? At the risk of sounding like I'm all that, here's what I think this is guys. You gotta make a nice place for luck to live in your life. I tell my kid this all the time, take an interest in other people, BE OF SERVICE. Sounds like a religious thing alright I can live with that. I learned it from my parents, I practice it everyday. I think if you work hard and try to help other people whenever you can, it will come back to you. When I made that early Saturday am call to David and said, "gee I messed up can you help me RIGHT NOW…I'm grateful that he wants to and will. Same for Jerry, Jenna and Amy. So when you get the call to help, I'm just saying that you ought-a should take it.

Middle Aged Wisdom

The very thing that makes you good at something will inevitably catch you up short somewhere else. It takes awhile to learn patience with your weaknesses and how to work around them. The other thing that comes with time is truly getting that things are rarely as "dire" as they may initially appear and to expect change. So you might as well calm the *&#!? down and ride it out. I remind myself of this about 100x a day.

For instance, I just get to chillaxin at the cottage on a beautiful holiday weekend when the call comes in (barely, poor cel service). I forgot 3 things "Real Steel" needed for the scene they are shooting shortly. They expect it to be delivered stat. I've got an 82 year-old man running the shop. He's not running anywhere else. Being ultra reactive, I am good at the quick response, but what comes with it is a tendency to panic. It's not that your failings will ever go away. It's more like the company that won't leave. You learn to acknowledge the feeling without getting dragged down by it. "Oh, you're still here. Well, if you want to hang out, cool, but I'm going to bed." You have to be a problem solver. I'm good at working the network. I've got good help in spades. I take a calming breath and text message David King (and thank you jesus for david king) . It goes through and he's on his way. Problem solved

People it's all in the details. It's all about service. It's all about smiling when you might rather scream. I could have started this blog out with that. Oh yeah, there's like a billion books I could have read on this already. Which reminds me of another of my failings, I'm stubborn, I gotta learn everything the hard way.

Baby Jesus Out of the Manger

I watched as my baby jesus (aka my 11-year-old Wyatt) loaded his own bags in the bins and walked through security…from the other side of the gate…on his way to Italy for a month. He never looked back. I've said this 10 times already and it's still shocking to me. Oh I know, "whatever! another madonna and child melodrama" and "it's different when it's your own!" blah blah blah. I'm just saying! Proud mother teared (big surprise) with pride to see that young man looking forward to his bright future. "He's gonna be a senator or an ambassador!" my friend Danielle said, so there. He's off with 3 other American messiahs to an international peace camp where they will hook up with kids from 10 other nations. Some genius, a woman naturally, came up with the idea in the late 40's that if kids came together at this tender age, they'd make lasting friendships and wouldn't shoot at each other later. I think Dickie Cheney missed his flight. These people are so enlightened. His mother is crossing his fingers that he will actually write and collect interesting stuff in his new journal (and floss and brush everyday…) Everyone's checking to see how the parents are doing post departure. Shoot Rick and I are so busy I'm glad he's got something more interesting to do than traipse around with his nintendo while we work. We left the airport and proceeded to work until late into the night. More movies and a t.v. show added to the line up. Stay tuned for tales from "Machine Gun Preacher" and "Detroit 187." "Transformers" will be here in a few weeks and I just got word that Sean Penn is doing a whole movie here and we will be busy with productions until May of next year. With any luck I'll actually make a decent living this year.