Detroit is the freedom to make things… by Bethany Shorb

Detroit is the freedom to make things… by Bethany Shorb



I moved to Detroit eleven years ago, in what I thought was a short stay exclusively to attend graduate school. After witnessing the potential to work, educate, and maintain a studio practice here, I never used my ticket home to the East Coast.

In just a few years after founding my neckwear design company, The Cyberoptix Tie Lab, I was able to quit the proverbial “day job” and work full-time in my studio without having to worry about the outrageous overhead costs that plague start-ups in many other major cities.

This freedom allowed me to quickly grow my business to a level where my work is now
represented by over 200 boutique and museum shops across the country and on five continents. I don’t know if I could have done this anywhere else.


Detroit is the freedom to make things, to incubate ideas, and to act as a means of catalyzing social change.

Like any major city, Detroit has its share of problems, but it is absurd to accept that we can be defined by mayoral scandals, grand abandoned structures, or lack of an appropriate public transit system. Countless initiatives to better our city are happening beneath the surface, but seldom do major media outlets seek out the positive stories, instead favoring fodder for late-night talk show jabs.

Detroit is in a position to fully reinvent itself, taking lessons from its rich manufacturing history and musically creative roots. From Motown to Detroit Techno, we’ve always excelled at presenting a voice that is truly our own and transforming it to one that is appreciated and consumed by others worldwide.

Detroit does not need a “savior” — whether it be a casino, government entity, or another massive corporation to take over and dole out short-lived handouts.

Detroit will re-invent itself and prosper through the help of makers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs who thrive while operating on a lean budget, without the bloat that has caused the demise of many of our once-venerated large corporations. True, lasting change cannot happen overnight, but with a little patience, room to operate, and a lot of sweat, we can entice both our young people to stay in the area and help in this reinvention while enticing other artists and makers — who may be claustrophobic operating in other cities — to stretch out and make Detroit their home.

I hope we at Maker Faire Detroit will lead by example and inspire our youth to stay here and make things — whether it be through excelling in technology, the arts, or any creative pursuit — undertaken on their own terms, and for the betterment of our community.

Bio: Bethany Shorb was born in Boston, MA in 1976. She received her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art and her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University. Her photography and product design work have been widely published in the United States and abroad; her visual art and product work has been exhibited throughout the US and is included in numerous private collections. Her musical alter-ego has performed at many venues across the US including the Guggenheim Museum in New York. She’s a founding member of OmniCorpDetroit, Detroit’s first hackerspace, and a curatorial collaborator at Gallery Project in Ann Arbor.


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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