On Assignment in Detroit

Before this summer, my perception of a journalism internship involved visions of frenzied fact checking, fielding grunt work, and abusing the office coffee machine. While my time in Michigan as an intern at HOUR Detroit magazine certainly did demand the occasional bout of caffeine-addled editing, I also had the fortunate opportunity to venture out of the office and explore Detroit on the publication's behalf.

I attended boutique openings and minor league soccer matches, and spoke to professional chefs and passionate foodies. By far, the most rewarding element of my experience at HOUR was meeting the slew of interesting and creative people I interviewed and sometimes profiled.

Whether it was the owner of a pop-up Filipino restaurant or a furniture designer welding in his own garage, many small business owners in Detroit display a gritty entrepreneurial spirit that bleeds into dedicated passion.

Detroit is a city that often falls prey to vague generalizations. A metropolitan comeback or a national punch line (depending on whom you ask), the city is often packaged into vague, sweeping statements and sound-bite nicknames. Yet so many of its residents care little for abstractions, instead showing commitment and respect for the humble detail. On an assignment for the magazine, I met a woman who makes beautifully crafted ties out of recycled automotive leather, animal hide, and felt. She sources the materials herself, braving allergies to scout out factories and flea markets. Her downtown workshop betrays the painstaking, meticulous nature of her creative process.

Another interview subject was a furniture designer who carves elegant pieces out of wood, often recycled and sometimes more than one hundred years old. As part of his business' philosophy, he and his team work to reduce both physical and energy waste in their furniture-making process. In a workspace for 100 people, the annual energy bill often hovers around USD 300. This man also recently started a new venture in which the smaller scraps from his furniture designs are used to build beautiful dollhouses and children's toys.

HOUR Detroit, with the help of more than 600,000 readers, spreads the word about the unknown aspects of its city and provides a go-to-guide for some of Detroit's latest trends and movements as well as the fascinating people behind them. I was glad for the opportunity to assist in this endeavor and to experience firsthand the city's innovative streak.