Handmade in Michigan Tour: Tell Me About Your Favorite Michigan-Made Goods, Artists and Creative Places

by jennifer

I’m heading out on the road this summer in search of the best handmade goods Michigan has to offer and I need your help. Please tell me about your favorite handmade in Michigan products, artists and creative places.

I’m interested in hearing everything from where you buy your favorite honey to where you bought that awesome quilt in your living room. If you’re a Michigan artist with an open studio that tourists can visit, please introduce yourself. And if you have a favorite mom & pop diner that you like to frequent out by the lake, please tell me about it because I’m going to need to eat on my journey and I want to include great eateries when I write my road map listing wonderful Michigan people, places and handmade things.

The inspiration for this project is explained in the my column published in the Home & Garden section of today’s issue of The Grand Rapids Press. Here’s an excerpt to give you a sense of where I’m coming from…

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl but I saw the commercial.

You know the one starring Eminem driving a shiny, black Chrysler 200 through the city of Detroit. His song “Lose Yourself” picks up speed in the background after the voiceover asks: “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?”

And that bit at the end when “Imported from Detroit” flashed up on the screen — did it give you goosebumps, too?

I was born in Detroit, the daughter of a factory worker, so the commercial struck a chord and got me thinking about how all of us could benefit if we adopt an “Imported from Michigan” theme.

Imports galore

My husband and I broke with tradition and started taking actual vacations last summer. (We had previously been champions of the “staycation.”) While visiting Mackinac Island during a camping trip, I noticed that with very few exceptions, many shops on the island were selling the same mass-produced merchandise. The island is beautiful, but the narrow selection of Michigan-made goods was disappointing. I’m thinking we could do with fewer fudge shops and ramp up other handmade offerings.

Subsequent trips to other Michigan cities resulted in the same out-of-towner frustration.

Where is all the Michigan-made stuff? Tell me. I want to know.

I love our state-funded “Pure Michigan” campaign and those TV and radio spots loaded with nostalgia that play to the emotions. I think it’s great that these commercials attract tourists from neighboring states to spend dollars here. Heck, they make me want to spend dollars here.

The trouble is when the tourists get here, they’re going to find a lot of mass-produced, T-shirts, key chains, mugs and stuffed animals embroidered with Michigan city names in many gift shops. I think we can do better than that…

You can read the rest of the column on Mlive.com. I think this project will be a fun adventure. My goal is to soak up the best the state has to offer and then share my experiences with all of you. So now is your chance to weigh in with your suggestions. Thanks in advance for participating and helping me make this summer a celebration of handmade in Michigan.

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