Sunday, December 5, 2010


Having grown up in the Rust Belt, I've seen friends and family buy livable houses in safe neighborhoods for pennies on the dollar one would pay in Chicago, Bay Area, or the Northeast Corridor. In places like the Ohio Valley, or around Pittsburgh, there are old commercial and industrial buildings sitting abandoned, some of which could be acquired for the cost of just transferring the deed from a grateful owner. A wealth of opportunities for low overhead lay out there in the places most people would prefer to ignore. I really enjoyed this story about a maker who became self-sufficient by setting up shop in Detroit. Here's the statement from her website about her products:

Cyberoptix Tie Lab founder Bethany Shorb has applied her experience as a sculptor, couture, costume and graphic designer to transform a much maligned business necessity into a subversive object of desire with her witty hand printed neckwear. Cyberoptix ties and scarves are represented by more than 200 stores in a dozen countries: from Fred Segal in Los Angeles to Libertine in Western Australia. A paradox for the times, Cyberoptix Tie Lab operates one of the largest eco-friendly, solvent-free print shops in the country right in Detroit while providing a seditious, punky fashion statement for executives bound to the neck noose, and a sharply styled alternative for those who don't need to wear a tie, but chose to do so. 

Her products are definitely cool - I've seen them in numerous boutiques in Chicago - but I'm curious to know if she's 100% self-sufficient on just sales of the Cyberoptix products. Bethany also apparently supplements her income with a side-career as a notable costume designer and musician.

Another thought comes to mind, which is a personal criteria I actually developed in one of these Rust Belt towns. I really like walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. In Chicago, one can find cheaper living or shop space, by simply heading into underserved or distant parts of town. Aside from the risk of crime, I don't want to go back to being tied to a car as a link to the rest of my life, and I also don't want to feel compelled to stay inside all the time, behind locked doors. I'm eager to hear what Bethany has to say about where she lives in Detroit, and if it affects her lifestyle. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Of A Kind Show 2010

After attending a focus meeting at school, I scampered off to the Merchandise Mart for a few hours, to see what I could find at the One Of A Kind Show, and discovered a wealth of folks making great stuff.

There were many, many makers of jewelry and garments there, as well as a sea of artists and woodworkers - far more than I could ever connect with in a few hours - many of which appeared to be doing this full-time or coming close to it.

Among the makers I chatted with was Elly Green, the creator of Clothing Brand Experiment, which makes their hoodies and other products entirely in Toronto, and Bob McNally, inventor and maker of the Strumstick, a beautifully simple stringed instrument, and Eric Rose of River Valley Kitchens, which grows and handmakes small batches of salsa and pickled veggies. I was also really geeked to run across Kellee and Matt of Overdue Industries, whom I mentioned earlier, and they said they'll be happy to give me a scoop on what they're doing these days, once the madness of December is over.

Then I had a really nice chat with Kimm Alfonso and some other staffers at Etsy, who happened to have a substantial chunk of real estate there, and they were rather impressed with my research and agenda in running this blog.

As it turns out, this is a pretty busy time for me, as well, but I'll try my best to document some progress every week until January kicks in.

BTW - Make 4A Living has a Facebook page you can follow!