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Handy qualities

From soap to Spandex, Detroiters are making it

Leggings by Angela McBride
Soap from City Bird
Necklace by Regina Pruss
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Published 11/26/2008

DIY is back, as evidenced by the growing popularity of brick-and-mortar boutiques and handmade shopping sites like etsy.com. Original clothing, jewelry crafted from found objects and vintage parts, blown glass ornaments, and handmade soaps are just a few options for shoppers who want to make the switch from commercial to community, and those who are tired of buying the same old whatchamacallit packed in a cardboard box. What follow are just a few of the unique, earth-friendly artisans working right here in metro Detroit.


FANTASTIC ELASTIC

News flash: That stretchy shiny stuff made popular by retro aerobics instructors is now safe to wear on the street. For truly unique spandex garments that won't stretch your budget too much, check out Angela McBride's line of leggings for adults and kids. Hand-dyed and -printed fabrics, often boiled and hung to dry in the kitchen-turned-studio in her Royal Oak loft apartment, are the starting point for McBride's crazy and colorful creations. Each piece is unique and hand-sewn with finished edges. But what makes them really stand out? "I love loud bright colors," McBride says. "My friends inspire me to take chances. Often I use found objects to make patterns for dyeing and printing on fabric." Zany enough to get noticed at a party, but comfortable enough to fall asleep in, her high-waisted leggings combine glitz and comfort. Perhaps the perfect present for the forward-thinking fashionista on your shopping list? McBride also makes hooded unitards in similar fabrics and patterns, and offers a variety of tops, jackets and accessories. Adult leggings start at about $40. Kids leggings start at $20. At peacelovespandex.com or 323 East Gallery at 323 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-246-9544.


WHERE'D YOU GET THAT NECKLACE?

About three years ago, a few friends invited Detroit-based jewelry designer Regina Pruss to the Renegade Craft Fair in New York City. That's what inspired her to start making her own jewelry, mostly assembled pieces made out of found objects and new, vintage and recycled parts. Since then, Pruss has created and sold thousands of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and brooches through boutiques, galleries and online. Her work is whimsical and unexpected. Layered vintage chains are held together by a brass beetle; an old locket dangles from a stamped brass finding, a pair of tiny spoons hang from a pair of earring wires. "I think of my designs as being quirky and having a bit of humor," she says. "Or at least that's what I strive for. In the coming year I hope to keep developing my line and learning new techniques." Pruss has a keen eye for color and balance. The vintage parts and retro metal stampings she uses give her jewelry added warmth, like a treasure inherited from a grandmother or aunt. Pruss' jewelry can be found at 323 East Gallery (323 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-246-9544) and online at chainchainchained.etsy.com.


SOAPS AND THE CITY

When it comes to handcrafted bath and body products, let Detroit's City Bird be your guide. Sister and brother, Emily and Andy Linn, started their small business in 2005 with a line of handmade goods that scream DIY charm and urban appeal. They use images from vintage Detroit street maps in most of their creations. If you're looking for unique and irresistible gifts that won't clean out your wallet, check out City Bird's transparent candy-colored soaps decorated with a map drawing of your favorite Detroit intersection. Grapefruit, peppermint, coconut and lavender are some of the scents to add aromatic pleasure to a bath or shower. And they make festive guest hand soaps. The bars are all-natural, vegan-friendly and made from pure glycerin and essential oils. Individual bars are $6. Gift packs, which include two bars of soap, a pack of three magnets, and a Detroit greeting card, are available for $15 online at ilovecitybird.com and citybird.etsy.com. They also use Detroit maps in their jewelry, plates, record clocks, votive candleholders and tote bags. You can find City Bird handmade goods at the Bureau of Urban Living, MOCAD and the Detroit Artists Market in Detroit and at Naka in Ferndale.


TOFU U

Award-winning vegan, vegetarian and raw-food chef Angela Kasmala of the Detroit Evolution Laboratory offers fully prepared vegan holiday meals throughout December. Kasmala, who teaches kitchen classes at Detroit Evolution Laboratory in Eastern Market, received formal training in Schoolcraft Community College's culinary arts program and at the Creative Health Institute in the Battle Creek area. But her food-prep philosophies came from years of independent study and working in health-food stores. Vegan holiday meal packages are made to order, for instance, a homemade vegetarian turkey substitute with cranberry pecan cornbread stuffing, and such side dishes as spiced maple sweet potatoes, and spinach-and-artichoke-stuffed mushrooms. The menu also features Kasmala's homemade salad dressing and a variety of desserts, including pecan pie. Purchase individual dishes, party trays or full meals. Visit detroitevolution.com for a full menu and price list, e-mail info@detroitevolution.com or call 313-316-1411. The Lab also sells gift certificates for kitchen classes, yoga and bodywork. The Lab entrance is on Service Street, although their actual address is 1434 Gratiot Ave., No. 1. The Lab is open for classes and by appointment only.

Norene Cashen writes about art for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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