Tag Archives: Detroit

meet erin: healing community through yoga in detroit

One Sweet Erin

I love this picture of Erin at Iyengar Yoga Detroit. “My goal is to live in intentional community settings,” Erin says. Since she left college, she has lived in intentional community settings, focusing on connection and creating family space with non-blood family. It’s like her yoga practice brought out in how she wants to live. “My home community is a microcosm of how I want to live in greater community, with conflict resolution, vulnerability, and more.”

“Aren’t I radiant?” my grandma asked me last night.

She just had her final radiation treatment last week in a grueling series of surgeries and therapies over the last year and a half. Hallelujah—she is completely back to the spitfire of a woman that I know and love very, very much. Her puns prove it.

My grandma is a beautiful example of healing and resilience—of knowing who you are and not letting anything stop you from being you. Ever her teacher self, she brought apples to the hospital staff on her last day of treatment. Continue reading

meet atieno: detroit community organizer, farmer and sangoma-griot

Sometimes it feels like we are powerless.

  • Families in Flint, Mich., reach for bottled water, now painfully aware that they have already, unknowingly, poisoned themselves and their children with one of life’s basic necessities.
  • Refugees, now in the press less, still struggle to redefine home, reconnect family and find some semblance of stability.
  • People of all colors, genders, religions and cultures check the calendar to confirm that yes, it is actually 2016, and yes, we are actually still as a country pushing forth a presidential candidate that unabashedly and loudly discriminates against a wide and beautiful part of our population.
“Some of these foraged foods I’m talking about tend to grow where the soil isn’t so rich—they’re hardy, less intensive,” Atieno says. “My position when it comes to this farming movement is to advocate for the inclusion of these other greens and vegetables and flowers into our diets. They are indigenous, Native American, culinary heritage crops. For many of us in different parts of world, you see so much more continuity in our diet over generations.”

“Some of these foraged foods I’m talking about tend to grow where the soil isn’t so rich—they’re hardy, less intensive,” Atieno says. “My position when it comes to this farming movement is to advocate for the inclusion of these other greens and vegetables and flowers into our diets. They are indigenous, Native American, culinary heritage crops. For many of us in different parts of world, you see so much more continuity in our diet over generations.”

Holy mother of pearl, this is dire. It truly is no time to give up—so bowing to perceived powerlessness just can’t be a thing. We all have different levels of resources and connections, but we also each have a voice, a heart, a purpose.

Atieno Nyar Kasagam, 25, shows us that we can rise above our situations and come together with others for a common goal. Our leaders can only put their political gains ahead of the public good for so long; people like Atieno are bringing their voices together to be louder, to be challenging, to be visionaries.

Atieno is changing the world by changing her world, starting in Detroit’s local food scene. I met her this fall at her home and urban farm. While we talked and spent time with her sharp and funny little girl, my boyfriend, James, helped her husband, Lorenzo, install the next section of their roof. Nothing cures powerlessness like picking up a hammer. Continue reading

meet meiko: food justice “guerrilla” in detroit


Meiko Krishok, People with Panache

Meiko uses commercial kitchen space behind the yoga studio where she also works. “I’m a person who likes to have multiple things going on at once,” she says. “At first it took me a minute to settle in and be comfortable here, but I actually appreciate that between classes I take and teach I can take inventory, mop, eat lunch.”

By the end of this weekend, I was feeling both weighed down and floating on some dreamy little love cloud. It was the end of the Food Leader Certificate Program retreat No. 1 at Wellspring in West Bend, Wis. Twenty food system warriors both new and experienced joined together to dream up world-changing visions, learn about the food system, and start laying plans for the future—and it was beautiful.

But it’s still hard not to feel powerless amid the daunting problems in our food system and ecosystem and the grief traversing what seems like our entire planet this month—and really any given month. If we were truly able to process and experience the despair and sadness that comes with each tragedy—the bloody attacks in Paris, the landslide that wiped an entire town from the map in Brazil, the harrowing journey of refugees across oceans and continents, and obviously more—I can’t imagine any of us would be able to move on with our lives.

So instead, Kate and I believe that we each must make as positive a mark as we individually can on our loved ones and our communities—and thus the world. (Remember what Grace Lee Boggs said about changing yourself to change the world?)

Who’s with us?

In Detroit, I met Meiko Krishok, 29. Of mixed Korean and Italian-Polish descent, Meiko has been exposed to different cultures her whole life. She has passions for languages and traveling—and food is often her method of exploration. She’s using it to help heal a city in need.

Hailing from Milwaukee, Meiko’s world travels eventually brought her to Detroit to put down roots. Food is still her passion. And it has become her profession, too, through Guerrilla Food.
Continue reading

these are the times to grow our souls.

[credit: Kindred_Post]

[credit: Kindred_Post]

I didn’t ever get a chance to meet Grace Lee Boggs. But she taught me. 

Grace—revolutionary, teacher, activist, leader—taught me:

The power of rooting in one location to make a difference.
The choice to change yourself to change the world.
The opportunity that comes with each conversation.
The encouragement to never get stuck in old ideas.

And apparently, that the best gin and tonic is made with Hendrick’s. I look forward to testing this in her memory.

(Check the #GraceLeeTaughtMe hashtag for other lessons that have spread from her beloved Detroit across the world.)

After 100 years and 100 days on this earth, Grace is still teaching me, and I know she is still teaching hundreds, thousands, most likely millions. Continue reading

meet missy: milwaukee photographer and artist

Missy + Pepper are Milwaukee

“When I was stationed in San Diego, besides being away from my family, I missed Milwaukee,” Missy says. “It’s authentic and real—not this uniform, plastic-surgery look and way of life.”

Missy Ziebart and Pepper

From 2003-2007, Missy was in the Navy!

It’s kind of funny photographing a photographer.

Missy Ziebart is an artist, a creative soul, an intriguing Milwaukeean. She was always a painter and illustrator—but she fell in love with photography and ceramics during college. Kate and I found her on Facebook through her Brightmoor Portrait Project, a “community art project aiming to celebrate the residents of Detroit through portraiture, written word and interaction.” It’s a gorgeous endeavor to burst through preconceived notions about one of the Midwest’s most talked-about cities. Continue reading

happy anniversary: panache turns 1!

Today, we celebrate one year of People with Panache!

We traveled through 6 states, conducted 52 interviews with 61 people, attended street fairs, special shop events, a play and even a few Chicago rooftop landscaping sessions—all to meet and have fun with these wonderful, wild women and men. Our “panachies” are inspiring, encouraging, grounding, brave and bold. And they made 2013 the richest, most motivational and fun year of our lives so far. Thank you to everyone from Jon-Girl (our first interview!) to Elizabeth (our latest). Thank you to our Internet providers for not slacking on us while we host our weekly meetings remotely from Milwaukee and Chicago. Thank you to Lucca for brightening every week with a fantastic GIF. And a special thanks to each and every one of you for reading—one or all 52 interviews.

For our anniversary, we’ve put together a list of 15 of our favorite quotes from the past year.

1. “I’ve always believed that if you step off the cliff, the bridge will appear. I’m really afraid of heights, and now I feel like I’m on a parachute trying to get across because the bridge is very faulty. But I have to keep believing I’ll get there.”
Courtney Berne, saver of the apes

2. “I just decided, this is my shot, and I’m not going to put on pantyhose and fetch coffee for someone anymore after all the things I’ve accomplished in my life. I put my house, my car and everything else I had in my possession on the line for collateral, wrote a business plan and went full force. I thought, if I fall, I’m going to fall big, but I’m going to try.”
Lindsey Meyers, artist and art gallery owner, Beauty and Brawn Gallery

3. “I let fear control me, and I wouldn’t do something because I was afraid someone would think I was stupid, or I’d fail or be rejected, but once I went full-time and decided not to let anything stop me, it changed everything. Take that, fear!”
Lauren Wakefield, photographer, Lauren Wakefield Photography

4. “Don’t follow my no-business-plan path. Have a business plan; have financial goals. I have short-term and long-term goals that I try to achieve. And don’t give up. I would hate for someone to have a sparkle in their eye for a business but they’re stuck in a boring job staring listlessly out the window.”
Kimberly Eberl, owner, Motion PR

5. “They think I was granted this special ‘whatever’ that they weren’t, but what it really comes down to is that I understand that everyone else is given the same opportunity to manifest whatever they truly want in life. Part of it is the really strong intention, and the other part is the work behind it. Positivity, hard work, creative problem-solving—it’s kind of American idealism. You can be anything you want to be!”
Bridgett Blough, chef, driver and everything else, Organic Gypsy food truck

6. “In any job, if you’re losing track of time because you’re loving what you’re doing, that’s when you know you probably should be doing that thing. And like I said, the naysayers kind of pushed me toward it. I always want to prove people wrong.”
Leslie Barlow, artist, Leslie Barlow Art

7. “It was hard to find a community of people. Through having my shop, I’ve kind of created it for myself. I now have this community of artists that are part of the space that inspire me and help me feel a purpose in what I’m doing—more like I’ve made a spot for myself here.”
Steph Davies, artist and owner, the Waxwing

8. “We’re like modern-day mystics. I mean, we don’t possess any mystical powers, but we’re into manifesting our own destinies. Thoughts become things. If you think all day long, ‘This sucks, this sucks…’ that’s what you get. The craziest things have happened in our business because we decide they’re going to happen and talk about it a lot. I mean, why are you two here and two other girls aren’t? You’re putting actions into your thoughts.”
Julie James, owner, Drought juice

9. “The thing about being an entrepreneur or following a dream is that you have to give it your all, and there’s no time as an adult when nothing will distract you. Someone older and wiser told me: If you can figure out the basic action that you want to do and that makes you happy, then you can do any career as long as you know what that is.” 
Lisa Ludwinski, baker, Sister Pie

10. “Sometimes you’re going to make crappy work, and you can paint over it. You have to make bad work to make good work. Everyone has something different to teach you, even if you don’t work in the same medium, same style.”
Heidi Keyes, painter, Heidi Keyes Art

11. “I went into the job market just like you did, out of need of sustenance, because I had to. But it didn’t feel right. It felt like I was wearing a different size shoe or something. And you begin to learn about yourself. I refuse to admit that my deck of cards was already laid out when I was born. Anything could change; anything can change.”
Jon-Girl, owner and fencer extraordinaire, RedStar Fencing

12. “I think in society there used to be this belief that if you followed this one defined journey you’d achieve the American dream. Now job stability isn’t always there. Job descriptions and duties aren’t as defined as they once were. For our generation that’s sort of a blessing and a curse because it’s allowed us to really find what’s interesting for us and try different things, but we have to work harder to sustain ourselves.”
Jen Ede, publisher and editor, Edible Milwaukee

13. “Always find a way to be doing something that you love—even if it’s just on your own time. Let’s say you want to be a writer, but for the moment you’re a restaurant server. Make sure you’re writing and reading and figuring out ways to accomplish those goals.”
Cristina Daglas, magazine editor, D Magazine

14. “I sat at my desk thinking, this isn’t fair to my job. I can’t do this any more; I’m burning at both ends. I’m so passionate about [Ginger P Designs], it would be silly to close the book on it—it was blossoming! I would hate to tone it down or stop it.”
Gina Peterson, creator and designer, Ginger P Designs

15. “It’s really exciting to say to the world, this is my dream, this is my ultimate. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? I thought, if I wasn’t afraid I would make this film, and I would see where it would take me. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Knowing what you want to do at any age is so powerful. Being comfortable with yourself and knowing what you’re passionate about and what you want to do—that makes you unstoppable.”
Sarah Moshman, filmmaker, Heartfelt Productions (and The Empowerment Project!)

[Photos by Alysse.]

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meet melissa: detroit dress designer with a twist

Melissa Kolb on People with Panache

“I started sewing when I got my grandma’s sewing machine after she passed away in 2000. I think she probably got it in the ‘80s. I was 20, and that was when I starting tweaking clothes.”

Melissa Kolb, 33, makes old things new. She started Mended Material in September 2012 to use her creativity and talent to turn what we might see as hopeless old dresses into lovely new ones with unexpected combos. (They’re so fun!)

There’s something magical about seeing Melissa’s pretty creations that exist solely because she saw their potential. Melissa reminds us that life provides so much—unexpected lessons, inspiring stories, people that help us move forward—but it’s up to us to take notice and put our own pieces together to create a wonderful life.

For Melissa, that means some days in the studio, some days waitressing, and every day working toward doing what she loves full time.

People with Panache: Your designs are so unique! How long have you been making clothes and bags?

Melissa Kolb: A little more than 10 years. I always bought secondhand clothing, and I just started changing it myself. I’d find a cute dress, but it was too long or didn’t have any shape, so I would tweak it for myself. About six years ago I began selling dresses for a couple of years. About a year and a half ago I started up again, sewing, doing shows and selling online. The shows are sort of like indie craft fairs—not expensive art shows, but not craft shows either.

PWP: But you went to school for architecture design, right?

MK: I got my degree in architecture in 2005, but I didn’t get my master’s because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something creative, but it wasn’t that. I dragged my feet for a couple years before I started getting into sewing.

Melissa Kolb on People with Panache

“I think being home it’s hard to detach myself from work. I feel like I should always be doing something. I shouldn’t be watching this movie; I should be in my studio making something. So I think that’s why I like to get away.”

But I don’t regret going to school for architecture. I owe my complete creative mind to it. I went into it because I was good at math, and that’s what everybody kind of told me I should do. But when I got into my design studios, it was a completely different world. I didn’t even care about the math classes. I was just all about the design, and it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot, and I feel like I use it in everything that I do. There’s a visual balance to all of it.

PWP: What’s your favorite thing to make?

MK: Definitely clothes. For me in particular, I feel like you can be a lot more expressive. I make bags more fun with a pop in the lining, but for me it’s definitely the clothes. Because they are all very, very different.

PWP: I guess you only meet your customers really at shows, but why do you think they’re into Mended? Because it’s unique or upcycled maybe?

MK: Probably more so the fact that it’s different. I don’t have any two products that are exactly the same. That’s something that was always important to me. I didn’t want anybody else to have the dress or bag I had. It’s why I hated shopping at malls. I feel like that sense of uniqueness is probably what draws people more than anything.

PWP: Who has encouraged you the most?

MK: Probably an equal tie between my husband and my sister. My husband is very, very supportive. I sometimes am apprehensive about things just because I’m putting myself out there. You start to get insecure, and he always really pushes me and is really confident in me. Same with my sister, she always wants to help. She pushes me too.

It’s not that I’m not confident, I am, but when it comes down to certain things, I second guess myself because I haven’t been doing this long enough to really know. Then I get that customer who really appreciates what they’re buying and I see them multiple times—that helps with the confidence.

PWP: What do you see for your future?

MK: Right now I’m trying to learn what sells the best, figure out what I need to be making and try to understand my customer and my market better. I would like to do more shows and figure out which ones attract my market—and do those shows over and over again. I enjoy doing that. You meet a lot of people and other artists. I think eventually I’ll want to sell full-time in the art markets, nontraditional retail. I’m kind of going one year at a time. I would definitely like to be doing this full time though.

“If you’re happy that’s all that matters.”

PWP: Do you have any advice for someone scared to follow their dream?

MK: I mean, I’m still scared. I feel like so many people get lost doing what they feel they need to do and never really completely figure themselves out. When you’re doing the day-to-day thing that everybody else is doing, it feels like that’s what you’re supposed to do. But I think it’s so important to find the littlest thing you enjoy doing—whether it’s a hobby or a full-time job—and stick with it. There are ups and downs to everything and you just have to do it. If you’re happy that’s all that matters.

Melissa Kolb on People with Panache

On her style: “Everything I have is second hand or reused. Simple lines but mixing patterns. Classic shapes trying not to go too crazy but having more fun with the patterns. I like to wear something that’s a timeless look but there’s always got to be a little twist. It’s the same when I’m making clothes and when I’m getting dressed every day.”

PWP: Yeah, even if you just take a class you love in order to grow in some way. I think it makes people more understanding, too, if they’re doing something they love. Otherwise people don’t always understand why you would start making clothes, or start a blog just because you love sharing people’s stories.

MK: I feel like sometimes initially people didn’t take me seriously. Until you really start making some sort of profit or money on it, people don’t really see the point. To me, you have to be happy. Somehow, some way.

PWP: What makes you happiest?

MK: I enjoy working but I don’t think it makes me the happiest. On a day-to-day basis I’m happiest when I’m making a list or organizing something. It’s a really easy sense of productivity. I like feeling a sense of accomplishment.

On a larger scale, my husband and I go up north a lot to northern Michigan. What makes me happy is when we get out of town to be together or be with friends and family and get away from day-to-day stuff. It’s important that what you do every day for your job makes you happy, but it’s just as important that you detach yourself from that and you can be happy away from it. You need other things that keep you going too. I’m glad I do what I love most days—but I’m also grateful that I know I sometimes just need to get away.

[Photos by Alysse.]

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meet elysia: detroit ceramic artist and entrepreneur

Elysia Vandenbussche on People with Panache

Wise Elysia words: “Everyone loves to start stuff, it’s so exciting. It’s kind of like speed dating. Follow-through takes the real commitment.”

“This is good, but you can do better.”

Elysia Vandenbussche, owner of Local Portion, threw away many projects in art school on her way to becoming a crazy-talented ceramics maker. One professor constantly pushed her, telling her again and again not to fire her pieces, to reclaim the clay and give it another shot.

“I was so angry,” Elysia says. “But that was good advice. I kept pushing myself, and now that I’m alone in my own studio, I’m still pushing myself and looking at the details. I recently showed him one of my cups and he couldn’t believe that I made it.”

Who has pushed you in your life, encouraging you to reach your potential? Share in the comments. We’d love to hear the advice that stuck with you! 

People with Panache: When did you first fall in love with ceramics?

Elysia Vandenbussche: I started when I was a kid. My mom put me in a community class around my neighborhood. And I loved it. I was a pretty rebellious child, so I never took the basics of ceramics; I would just go to the basement of the studio, put my earphones on, blast music and do my own thing.

In high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I ended up going to a private art school in Detroit, the College for Creative Studies, at first for photography, then film. But then ceramics found me again, instead of me really choosing it. It’s like a good relationship, like how did I get here with this person?

PWP: When did you start actually selling pieces?

Elysia Vandenbussche on People with Panache

“My name, Elysia, means double portion. I love portion because a cup, a bowl, is a portion size. What I make is a portion of myself. What am I? I’m local. Local Portion sounds simple, and I’m all about simplicity.”

EV: I started selling in high school through family and friends. They would see stuff and ask to buy it from me. After I graduated from college, it took me a while to get the business set up. I had trouble finding a studio. It took me two years to find something. This past January was the first time I was able to get a space to start creating. Since then things just really took off. It’s been quite the journey with ups and downs and failing and failing again and succeeding and getting good clients and losing out on jobs. It’s been a whirlwind of figuring it out.

PWP: How did you do it? It’s like real-life Business 101.

EV: I’ve never learned more than by just having hands-on experience doing this and not giving up. It was really logical for me to make this my profession, not only because it’s my passion, but it’s the only language I understand. My job options as a ceramic artist were limited here in Detroit and outside of Michigan too. I could go to grad school and become a teacher, that was the best option, and I didn’t want to do that. Sometimes I think about grad school, but for now this is my own version of grad school.

PWP: Is this your sole source of income?

EV: Right now, yeah. This past summer I got really big jobs and big clients so it was great. I was slammed, and I worked every weekend of the whole summer. The last show I did was for Red Bull House of Art, which was an amazing experience.

PWP: What is Red Bull House of Art? We’ve never heard of that.

EV: They have two Houses of Art in the world, one here in Detroit and one in Brazil. They have a curator, a really well-recognized artist, who reaches out and finds seven or eight artists every so many months—it goes through a cycle—and they sponsor you and have a huge exhibition at the end. They do a ton of press. They cater to you and give you money for materials; it’s amazing. That was my first experience. It really showed my playful side.

PWP: That is so cool that Red Bull does that. How did they find you?

EV: From around town and seeing my work at shows. In art school I learned that you go to a gallery, and you show your work. But this is a unique situation with Red Bull because they sponsor you. They only take out a small percentage, and they package it up for you and ship it out if it sells. Most galleries take a larger percentage, and I have to double or triple my price. But I don’t want it to be that price. I want as many handmade cups in people’s hands as possible. This is more than a cup made in China; there are people behind this, it’s affecting our economy.

“It’s a story, it’s a journey, it’s a learning process.”

PWP: Is there any part about owning your company that maybe doesn’t come as naturally to you?

EV: I may be good at ceramics, but I’m not that good at business. I was talking to someone recently about this, and I was being really hard on myself. He said you’re good at business because you’re smart, you know what you want and you’re staying grounded to what you’re building.

Elysia Vandenbussche on People with Panache

Elysia made more than 200 unique, hollow tiles for her Red Bull exhibition.

I could become anything. I could become the next Heath Ceramics, one of the biggest ceramics companies in the US. Or I could go international. But I could still go international staying this small. There are organic ways to grow, and that’s how it happened back in the day, especially for a craftsperson and designer. I don’t want to just become a huge warehouse. It’s about the artistry. It’s a story, it’s a journey, it’s a learning process. Every day I’m learning something new about the direction I’m going to go, choices I have to make. One important thing is that I learn how to say no. It’s so tough because I don’t want to. I might have an opportunity for a big job, but I have to look at if it’s a fit. Is this the right job for me?

PWP: How do you say no? I think that’s something we could work on too.

EV: I don’t know if there’s a real answer. Every individual is different. You have to keep practicing and be aware that you can say no. Knowing that you have that option is the first step. You have to be willing to disappoint people too—sometimes even yourself. You do sometimes feel like you missed out on something. Even with press options, there’s only so much you can do.

PWP: Well, thanks for saying yes to us!

EV: It’s really great what you guys are doing. It’s also a lot about not giving up—my biggest thing. There are challenges every day, but you have to keep going. You’ll get through it somehow.

PWP: What’s your favorite thing about owning your company?

EV: I love being dependent on myself. I’ve had so many different jobs in my life. This takes discipline. I want to invest in myself. I love doing creative projects for other people, collaborations, and having the freedom to create and own my own company while investing in myself and others. That’s what fuels me. It’s endless.

[Photos by Alysse.]

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doodle day: throwing clay

We can’t believe how perfectly last week’s doodle matched this photo from the post—especially when Lucca hadn’t even seen the pics! This upcoming week we’re featuring a woman who works magic with ceramics. (Not quite like in the GIF. So funny!)

Have you ever thrown clay?

throwing clay on people with panacheWhen we visited Elysia Vandenbussche’s studio in Detroit—where she makes everything from ceramic bowls to installation art—she showed us the process she goes through to make the things her company sells. Check out her website, and get ready to meet her on Tuesday!

[Doodle by Lucca.]

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