Live, work and create in Detroit? Yep, it's not as uncommon as you
think. Meet City Bird
, a Motor City born and bred brother/sister design
duo that's turning city love into cash and community.
be prepared to feel alienated in a sec. Or just a little jealous. This is a story about living and
working in your own neighborhood. It's about biking to your destination
and taking trains. It's about drinking locally brewed beer made by your
friends. Heck, it's even a story about staying put instead of skating
out. So hang on to your Costco cards and one-hour-plus commute — this
Detroit tale of two ambitious young souls revolves around using,
seeing, and loving your city as it is right now—not how everyone one
day wishes it to be.
You may have heard the word about City
Bird. With products like vintage city map soaps, vinyl LP clocks and
"Greetings from Detroit" note cards, these are the kinda goods you
wanna gift to friends and family who've moved away from Detroit.
They're also the perfect way to spread a bit of urban hometown cheer.
But then again, the creators of City Bird are already doing that every
Siblings Andy and Emily Linn, ages 24 and 30, make up City
Bird. The second youngest and oldest of four siblings raised on the
, they'll tell you at any given chance how proud they are to
be sixth-generation Detroiters. Home-schooled in their elementary
years, students of Detroit Waldorf
in their teens, and post-grad educated at
these two aren't just part of
the city they grew up in, they're proof that you don't need lattes on
every corner to make the young folk stick around. Barrier-free environment
What they recognize, instead, is that Detroit's a place where one can make a mark with relative ease.
less barrier to entry, so it's easier for young people to do exciting
things in Detroit," says Andy. Sister Emily adds, "Also the fact that
if you want to start a magazine, start a business, or if you have
something you want to do, it's really easier to start it here than in
some place that's bigger and already developed. It's a blank canvas."
two go on to explain over Traffic Jam
brews that, sure, tons of kids
still move to Portland and New York, but that a lot of friends from
their college days (they both went to the Residential College at U of
M) are coming to Detroit.
"The Detroit 'young people community'
is very accepting and open and welcomes people who move into the city,"
says Andy. "That's not the case with some other cities." Emily agrees
and then adds that it's a close-knit, but open, group in Detroit and
that's what keeps them here. When asked what kind of things could keep
more young people here, it's almost like they never had to question why
"It's a difficult question," says Andy. "Because
it's hard to nail it on the head. There's so much to do already in the
city, it's just not always known. There are lots of hidden gems."
hidden gems they mean places like the UFO Factory
, the Tangent Gallery
and Bohemian National Home
. They mean events like the Alley Cat Bike
races and stores like the Hub
on Cass. "Detroit is an amazing city for
activity, but a lot of it is underground. Which makes it both more
interesting," says Andy, "and less accessible at first." All's good in the neighborhood
on the flip side of the fun, what about work? Besides doing City Bird,
Emily works at the DIA's Education Arts Studio. Andy works at the MOCAD
store and as a graduate research assistant at Wayne.
makes their everyday life in Midtown walkable, bikeable, and pretty
stress-free. Emily actually has a car but hardly ever uses it. Andy
visits his girlfriend and younger brother in Ann Arbor on weekends by
Amtrak. Theirs is just the kind of lifestyle push we're used to seeing
in other big cities. It's always been such a foreign concept here,
where the normal conversation seems to center around the traffic, not
what living and working and creating locally can do for your peace of
mind. (Not the mention the environment, your bank account, and your
sense of possibility.)
Andy says that city life and
urban planning are what keep him here, too. That's why he's pursuing
his master's in urban planning and hopes to one day combine his degree
with a personal business in the city.
"It's fascinating to see
how the city functions and what the hopes for the city are," he says.
"It goes back to barriers for entry. If you want to create an amazing
building or complex or business, it's easier here."
Meanwhile, Andy and his sister have City Bird. They plan
tote bags and an expanded card line. They've even been kicking around
doing something with the historical figures of Detroit. (Watch out, Mr. Hazen S. Pingree
But as much as they currently enjoy living
in the city, being surrounded by family and friends, and work and
business, they still are part of the big collective hope.
have a faith and a sense in revival," says Andy. "We want to be part of
it and promote it. It doesn't take thousands of people, every single
person can have an effect."
So will the two stay in Detroit to see the revival through?
city of Detroit and just the way the people interact with each other
and the history of this town are too much a part of me to let it go,"
"We're both in it for the long haul," says Emily.
Glad to hear it, Model D says back.
Jennifer Andrews is a freelance writer who lives, works and creates in Detroit. She's also a huge Hazen S. Pingree buff.
Andy and Emily Linn at the Traffic Jam with their City Bird goods.
Photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.