An Interview…Detroit Scroll: A Thing of the Past

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So let’s talk art….beautiful art.  Big.  Bold.  Beautiful art with a historical twist:  Let’s talk Detroit Scroll.  It’s interview time!  BUT….before we do…

The Detroit Renaissance Buildings as seen from the sidewalks that line the Detroit River.
Get it while it's hot (and while supplies last)!  Cool Detroit Gear....
Get it while it’s hot (and while supplies last)! Cool Detroit Gear….seatbelt belts and ‘Detroit Soul’ tee available through Pure Detroit. Detroit Motor City tee available through DetroitShirt.com. (while supplies last)

Why not talk about Detroit.  Big.  Bold.  A Thing of the Past.  Or so many would have you believe and think, but actually Detroit is an amazing surviving and thriving city that’s moving its way forward and upward.  Being from Detroit, I’ve been on the lookout for the coolest Detroit memorabilia to take my wardrobe from mere urban to urban chic.  Gear such as tees and cool belts made from recycled seat belts are some of the latest trends from places such as DetroitShirt.com and Pure Detroit.

Detroit has a rich history being known for its music, automobiles and other Detroit landmarks such as the Wonderbread, Vernors and Stroh’s Brewery factories.  However a little known history about Detroit has made its mark in present day through the innovative creations of Detroit Scroll, a business inspired by the old bus destination boxes that showed the bus route above the front bus window.  A thing of the past.  And now hopefully you can see where we’re going.  I sought out the owner after having purchased what I felt to be the most interesting scarf featuring the names of various Detroit landmarks from NAKA, a boutique located in Ferndale, last Christmas (I recently learned that unfortunately the NAKA boutique has closed its doors).

The Detroit Scroll's trendy scarf & the 'RenCen'...two Detroit things that go well together.  The scarf is great for cool crisp days, but if it's a typical Detroit winter day...wear two (at least).
The Detroit Scroll’s trendy scarf & the ‘RenCen’…two Detroit things that go well together. The scarf is great for cool crisp days, but if it’s a typical Detroit winter day…wear two (at least).

Turning her old bus destination box inspiration into a lucrative business, owner Patti Kay, has become a unique voice preserving an important part of Detroit history.  Check out her website here.  Earlier this year her large Detroit bus transit scroll wall-hangings were identified by interior designers, Libby Follis and Drew Ebbingon, on Oprah.com’s list of ’5 Things That You Can Hang on A Wall (That Aren’t Paintings)’.  I had an opportunity to ‘sit down’ with her and ask her about work and designs.

Owner, Patti Kay, unfurling one of her amazing Detroit scrolls perfect for wall hanging as so noticed by Interior Designers Libby Follis and Drew Ebbing on Oprah.com.
Owner, Patti Kay, unfurling one of her amazing Detroit scrolls perfect for wall hanging as so noticed by interior designers Libby Follis and Drew Ebbing on Oprah.com.

LaDonna:  So you came across an antique bus roll sign at an antique dealer….and this is what set you on your path to create Detroit Scroll? Can you tell me…what route the original antique had?  I’d be intrigued to learn what destinations were on this scroll.  Are they destinations all still around? Is that bus route still active today?

Patti:  The original scrolls that I found were from the 50’s.  They were about 40 feet long with 65 streets and destinations printed in alphabetical order.   I am not sure of the actual route this bus drove, nor am I sure if this particular route still exists.  The names on these two scrolls were:​

Alter
Bassett
Belle Isle
Broadstreet
Cadieux
Cadillac
Caniff
Cass High
Chalmers
Charlevois
Chartered
City Hall
Clairmont
Conant
Conner
Crosstown
Davison
Davison Shuttle
Dearborn Road
Depot
Dexter
Doris
Downtown last stop Oakman
East Grand Blvd.
Eight Mile
Eight Mile Meyers
Essex
Evergreen
Express
Fair Ground
Fenkell
Jefferson
John R. North
John R. Oakland via Nevada
John R. Oakland via State Fair
Jos Campau
Lafayette Green
Lahser
Lawton
Linwood
Livernois
M.C. Depot
Mack
Manor
McNichols
Meyers
Meyers Grand River
Michigan
Morang
Mt. Elliot
Myrtle
Nevada
Nine Mile Road
Oakland
Outer Drive
Plymouth
Puritan
River
Rouge Park
Russell
Ryan Eight Mile
Schaefer
School
Schoolcraft
Second
Seven Mile
Seven Mile East
Seven Mile Extension
Seven Mile First Stop Oakman
Southfield
Southfield First Stop Oakman
Springwells
St. Aubin
St. Jean
Third
Through
Tireman
Trumbull
Twelfth
U of D
Van Dyke
Van Dyke Lafayette
Van Dyke Nevada
Vernor
Warren
Warren East
Webb
West Chicago
West Jefferson
Woodrow Wilson
Woodward
Wyoming
Zoo

 

LaDonna:  Who is your customer? Are they predominately from Detroit? Do you get many from other states and if so, is there any one location that has a high demand for your Detroit Scrolls? What about international interest? Any locations?

Patti:  My customers range from an eight year old who insisted on Detroit Scroll pencils for his birthday to customers around the country looking to reconnect with home and their childhoods. I have no specific demographic…the locations mean something to everyone.  I am in 50+ stores in southeast Michigan with a store in Grand Rapids and one in South Haven.  I am looking to spread into the northern area of Traverse City, Petoskey, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs and Mackinaw.  Internationally, I have sent product to Detroit transplants and I also have customers who have traveled to Europe and have had many stop them and comment on the shirt or scarf!  Pretty Cool!

Map of Detroit.  Places seen, visited, and loved.  Worn by many Detroiters locally and internationally.
Map of Detroit. Places seen, visited, and loved. Worn by many Detroiters locally and internationally.

LaDonna:  That is pretty cool!  I saw you have reproduction scrolls. How did you develop your other reproduction scrolls? Are they based on actual present-day routes or are they taken from historical routes?

Patti:  The reproduction scrolls are printed on a 25# art canvas using the Giclee process.  They are then dry mounted on foam core, framed with a solid wood frame and a light UV plexi-glass.  The framed pieces measure 30 x 66 inches and weigh 14 pounds.  The scrolls are printed directly from the originals unless a customer wants to have a custom scroll printed.  Then they choose eight destinations of their liking and I print them in whatever order they like.

LaDonna:  Have you found any other antique bus scroll rolls? Are you on the lookout for other antique bus roll signs? I understand that some of the ones you sell are actual originals? Is this correct? If so they must be rare and in short supply depending on your ability to locate other antique rolls.

Patti:  I have found five scrolls and am always on the look out for more.  I have had a couple of people reach out to me letting me know that they have pieces I may be interested in seeing or purchasing.  I have sold originals, but at this time I do not have any for sale.

LaDonna:  Do you have any Detroit scrolls that are installations anywhere? They must be amazing pieces for galleries, cafes, restaurants, or theaters. I noticed that Oprah.com highlighted your Detroit Scrolls as a cool and unique departure from your typical approach to interior decorating. Have you noticed an increase in demands for your long scrolls as a result? Has this sparked you to consider new avenues to branch into with your scrolls?

Patti:  As for installations, I have an original 40 foot scroll on display at the Belle Isle Aquarium.  It looks amazing.  Several of the stores that carry my merchandise have pieces in the store and I am also in many restaurants and bars around Detroit.  I was disappointed that Detroit Scroll received no mention in the Oprah.com (my add) article.  I sold the original shown in the photo to the decorators who I’m not only acquainted with and a member of community with, but fellow advocate for Detroit’s success and a fellow businesswoman.

The Detroit Scroll scarf mirrors the style of the larger artworks available at the shop.
The Detroit Scroll scarf mirrors the style of the larger artworks available at the shop. Vivie is wearing Detroit Scroll’s signature burnout scarf. They come in three colors: Ash Heather, Oatmeal Heather, and a ‘Dirty’ Heather and retail for $40 each.

LaDonna:  I’m a fashion design student at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles CA and I love to do fashion photography and styling especially as part of my own fashion design process. I came across your Detroit Scroll scarf during one of my visits home while shopping at the store Naka in Ferndale. I loved it and couldn’t wait to wear it, but instead took it immediately into a photoshoot and it was amazing to see photographed. Your scarves are attention-getting with such strong graphics.   How do you feel about your designs? Do you select what types of apparel you print your designs on or are they based on customer feedback?   I know when I’ve seen my designs worn on a live model it’s a great moment for me as a designer. How do you feel about seeing your scarves captured in photography in this way? Have you seen your scarves or other apparel featured on live models?

Patti:  I LOVE my designs!  I love that they are so typographical, local and emotive.  I do select all of the pieces that I am printing on and am always looking for more.  Customer feedback is very important to me and so far they love the shirts, scarves and bags.  I do get ideas from my customers as well.  Their input is very important to me.

LaDonna: When did you decide to branch out into placing your Detroit scrolls onto apparel? I notice that you have messenger bags as well. Are there any plans to place your designs onto other forms of apparel?

Patti:  I have always know I wanted to do all kinds of products, it is just a matter of capital and cash flow.  I lay awake in bed wondering what I can print on next.

LaDonna:  I would love to use your scroll apparel in my designs.  I think it would be amazing reference material.  Where do you see Detroit Scroll going in the future? How do you feel about your journey with Detroit Scroll from its very beginnings to now?

The Detroit Scroll shop and an example of one of their framed Detroit scrolls.
The Detroit Scroll shop and an example of one of their framed Detroit scrolls.

Patti:  I am taking Detroit Scroll outside the borders of Detroit, outside the borders of Michigan and even outside the US.  I am not sure how and when this will be done but I am sure that it WILL be done.  I cannot begin to describe the journey I have experienced so far.  This whole business was a leap of faith and a master’s degree by the seat of my pants.  I have learned from many incredible business people, students, artists, entrepreneurs and more.  Everyone has elevated my game and their support has been a blessing.  I’m so busy running my business from day to day that I have not actually stopped to reflect on just what I have accomplished in this last year.  It’s fun, exciting, and always challenging.  In closing,  I love the photos you took!  And on a sad note, NAKA has closed but she is moving on to her own line of product and beginning a new chapter.  Please let me know of any retail opportunities in your area and we can get some Detroit Scroll going out there.

LaDonna:  I want to say thanks again so much for taking your time out to answer these questions. I am from Detroit and I love your stuff. Seeing your merchandise is really great and vital to sharing some of the wonderful historical tidbits about the city. I’m always on the lookout for cool Detroit memorabilia that I can sport away from home. As important as it is to those who still live in the city I can say that it’s even more important to those who live away. It lets me wear something that’s a nice reminder of where I’m from.

To end I will say wishing you all the best…until next time. Travel Spritely.

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “An Interview…Detroit Scroll: A Thing of the Past

  1. This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  2. Excellent blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

    1. Thanks so much for the compliment. I would suggest to any aspiring writer to just sit down and write. Often what gets in someone’s way is worrying about not only what to write, but how to write it. If you write what about what you love then you already know how to write it because you’re writing about something you care about and don’t have time to worry about how to ‘say’ something. It’s your ‘voice’. I’m totally digging WordPress and would definitely recommend it. You should always look around and check out others to compare and even among the WordPress find out the pros/cons for the .org vs .com. I find that I do need to tweak my blog to get it to look how I want and I’m still learning it, but for the most part it’s going pretty well. It just takes time. Going with a free platform can be great if you want to just get going but a paid option can help set you up for longer term goals such as having your own domain name etc., if you want to have your own presence on the internet as opposed to having your name linked to the free platform. So maybe check out where you hope to go and what your goals are with your site and that may help you to make your decision. Good luck and Travel Spritely!

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