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…
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).
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, on, 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.
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:
|Downtown last stop Oakman|
|East Grand Blvd.|
|Eight Mile Meyers|
|John R. North|
|John R. Oakland via Nevada|
|John R. Oakland via State Fair|
|Meyers Grand River|
|Nine Mile Road|
|Ryan Eight Mile|
|Seven Mile East|
|Seven Mile Extension|
|Seven Mile First Stop Oakman|
|Southfield First Stop Oakman|
|U of D|
|Van Dyke Lafayette|
|Van Dyke Nevada|
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!
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.
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?
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.