Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Crystal Proxmire
For her first-ever visit to Ferndale, Alisha Virani’s friend Liz Salazar picked the Rust Belt as a must-see attraction. The uniquely designed artist haven, which anchors Nine Mile and Woodward, houses a rotating mix of approximately 50 vendors selling clothing, jewelry, furniture and other artistic decor items for your home.
“I love it here,” Salazar says. “I just moved to Ferndale in August and this is one of my favorite places. When my friends from Ann Arbor visit, this is the first place we go.”
Jason Driscoll, creator of Kill Taupe, has been stationed at the Rust Belt off and on since it opened in April 2011 and has been on a long-term lease since last November. The Rust Belt has helped him transition into full-time artisthood.
“I was able to quit my part-time job a year ago,” Driscoll says. “It’s year-round so I don’t have to have a brick and mortar store. I can sit at home in my art cave all week, then come here on the weekend and be like, ‘Here’s all the art I did.’
“It’s weird because it’s such a solitary thing, but I come here and I get a reaction out of people – they smile and they laugh, and that’s a nice way to earn a living.”
Driscoll’s whimsically naughty cartoons, mostly bunnies and bears, use bright colors and bold shapes to evoke humor, and sometimes even deep thought. The painting of the bunny with a flaming torch wanting to “burn Walmart down,” the adorable little critters living in the shadows of smoky industry, or even the bong-smoking bear and his triangular nacho-flavored snacks are all his ideas.
Driscoll has been creating his cartoon society since high school, doodling them in the margins of his notebooks. “I went to college for graphic design, but it was all boring technical stuff. I like doing this. The rabbits and bears are like childhood comforts to me. Growing up in Michigan, it was special to see a bunny in the back yard, and I’d always say that one day I would get to see a real-life bear.”
The Rust Belt also offers something a little darker. 13th Floor features the art of Adrian Clark, a self-described “grown-up Goth.”
Sometimes macabre, sometimes steam punk, a little bit Victorian and ideal for Halloween time – that’s 13th Floor’s brand of fantasy art. Detailed wood burnings and creepy collages decorate the walls while trinketed hats and necklaces made of gears, wires, chains and other reclaimed objects give guests an opportunity to wear home a one-of-a-kind creation. There are also deviant-looking dolls, birdcages and odd pieces of furniture for sale.
Don “Daddy” Beverlin helps to sell his sweetie’s eclectic creations and says he’s “amazed” with Clark’s work, and after eight years of living together, his partner’s creativity never gets old. “Our living room looks just like this,” he says of their Hazel Park home. “He’s always changing things, and I am amazed sometimes when I come home and there is something new to see.”
Across the aisle, the bright, nature-inspired works of Divine Iguana bring passersby a place of peace and appreciation. With a pixie-like smile and layers of fabric and lace, the artist Rena Hopkins of Detroit is as much a charm as the necklaces and earrings she has for sale.
And since 2009, Hopkins can officially say that she’s no longer a struggling artist. “I’ve had stuff on consignment in other stores and I’ve done the art fair route, but Rust Belt is better,” she says. Her booth is made of burlap covered walls accented with white holiday lights.
“I’d go to these art fairs and spend eight hours setting up my displays and it would be hit or miss. Here I’m not taking a risk on shows. I do well consistently, and this is my base. My customers know where to find me.”
The art of Divine Iguana is what Hopkins calls “an intersection between magic and science, between the mechanical and the fantastic.” There are a lot of watch parts in her work – gears, numbers and hands, as well as other richly-detailed found objects. “I found a supplier in Switzerland and when the shipment comes I still get excited. I’m easily amused.”
Her advice to other artists is to “make what you love and make the best art you possibly can.”
The Rust Belt is not just about art, though. Royal Oak-based record collector Mike Trabley says he feels right at home with his record and retro clothing booth, Stay Pressed Records, located right inside the back entrance to the market. “I’ve worked in record stores for 10 years,” says Trabley, who worked at Amoeba in L.A., and then took a job in Philly before landing one in Michigan three years ago. Trabley had been selling records online, with the Ebay name “Detroit Record Exchange,” and has been in the Rust Belt for seven months.
Stay Pressed has all types of music, with albums and covers in great condition and clothing that has all been dry cleaned and professionally pressed. A listening station with head phones gives customers a chance to hear the album before they buy it.
Just don’t ask him to part with his “shoegaze” collection. “I won’t sell my shoegaze,” he says. “I’m a huge fan of British bands from the ’90s. Ride is my favorite. I couldn’t part with those.”