Posts filed under Local

When Old Becomes New: The Hidden Power of Plants in the Matthaei Medicinal Garden


Upon arrival the Matthaei Botanical Gardens may seem a bit intimidating, with a barrage of rattlesnake warning signs posted along the long winding drive through the wild, prairie-like, bucolic setting. But once you pay for your parking at the self-pay port and enter the arboretum or gardens, you are transported to a happier place from within the deep recesses of your childhood memories. It is altogether beautiful, peaceful, and engaging. There are many display gardens and areas of interest, but this article focuses exclusively on the outdoor Medicinal Garden.

The Art of Humanizing Robots: An Interview with Cre Fuller

In the heart of Ypsilanti is an artist’s studio that feels, at times, both rooted in the future and the past. Glass eyes of various colors stare at you from every direction. Dentures riveted into metal figures bare wild grins. There is a nostalgia here; a feeling of things lost and found again. But there is also a sense of creation, of assemblage. It is a peek into a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein’s mind. A human-meets-robot dreamscape brought to life in rivets and metal. This is Cre Fuller’s studio.

Posted on May 1, 2019 and filed under Art & Craft, ISSUE 72, Local, Profile.

Welcome to the Conscious Cafe

Many of today’s cohousing communities are designed to be microcosms. Members often get together to share regularly scheduled meals and engage in social activities such as games, movies, and various projects in shared spaces. At Sunward Cohousing in Ann Arbor, gathering for fun or to share meals in the Common House is part of what defines this community.

Posted on May 1, 2019 and filed under Consciousness, Education, ISSUE 72, Local, Programs.

The Art of Humanizing Robots: An Interview with Cre Fuller

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By Cashmere Morley

 In the heart of Ypsilanti is an artist’s studio that feels, at times, both rooted in the future and the past. Glass eyes of various colors stare at you from every direction. Dentures riveted into metal figures bare wild grins. There is a nostalgia here; a feeling of things lost and found again. But there is also a sense of creation, of assemblage. It is a peek into a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein’s mind. A human-meets-robot dreamscape brought to life in rivets and metal. This is Cre Fuller’s studio. 

Christopher “Cre” Fuller, 46, didn’t plan on building tin creations for a living. In fact, when he graduated from Mt. Pleasant High School, he went into building chimneys with his father, and later, working at Whole Foods when he moved to Ann Arbor in 1997.

“Like most corporate jobs, it could be frustrating, but I valued my time there,” Fuller said. “From there, I went to Plum Market, in a similar capacity, and tried my hand at the wholesale racket. I’m good at helping people and being honest and genuine. Wholesale was a bit of a smarmy… you kind of have to be greasy. And I wasn’t good at that.”

But he was good with his hands. After saving money and leaving that job to invest in himself and his art, Fuller decided to spend time chasing after a job that would be more fulfilling.

“I think I’d had every creative hobby under the sun. Around 2000, when I bought the house I still currently own, I spent all my money on the house, so I just needed an art. I had seen things around, you know, people making humans and robots out of junk and trash and whatnot, so I just decided to try my hand at it.” The first robot Fuller created was around 2000, 2001. To date, Fuller guesses he’s built around 600 robots. He’s best known as the guy that makes the “Tin Angry Men,” a name he’s trying to distance himself from. His web presence only bares his name, and no mention of the moniker, since Fuller doesn’t feel it fits his creations anymore.

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“At the time, I set up a little spare bedroom for all my glasswork and jewelry making. As I went along, I would make these little robot creations. I never took it too seriously. They were just little gag gifts and things like that.” Fuller said. “But I’ve always liked taking things apart, as a little kid, seeing how the guts work. What does what. So taking things apart wasn’t a stretch for me. And then just kind of reimagining what those parts could be once you have them unassembled, or disassociated from their previous purpose, whatever that purpose was,” Fuller said.

“I tend to gravitate toward vintage aluminum, I can get the look of it that I want, I can either keep it brushed and have it kind of dull and matted, or I can polish it, into a chrome-like shine. It has that mid-century vintage feel already, and a lot of the things I prefer to use, is early century stuff.”

Fuller frequents places like Recycle Ann arbor, and local antique shops to find his goods, though he admits it’s been a bit harder to find pieces as of late since he’s “depleted the local supply.”

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area welcomed him and his creations with open arms. “In Ann Arbor, people value art,” Fuller said. “And in its soul, it’s got people that respect and applaud the art. Ypsi has this humongous heartbeat of art and people who appreciate and applaud it.”

His work can be assembled quickly, if Fuller has the right parts.

“If I have all the stuff just sitting there, I can get a simple piece done in a day,” Fuller said. “Taking the time to let paint dry, and to let glass eyes cool, I can get a small piece done in a day. But sometimes, I’ve searched for those parts for a year. A huge component of this, of any assemblage artist, is their pile of goodies.”

While he does consider a lot of his work as “assemblage,” Fuller also admits that not all of his work falls under that category in art shows, so “found art sculpture” is also an acceptable way to describe what he creates.

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If you look at his work, there’s a sense of past-meets-future. “I think I was just trying to make that ‘50s version of a future robot. You know? Certainly, a departure from the modern take of robots. That’s what I really wanted to do: [embody] the romance of the vision of the future. When I first started doing this, I wanted them to look like vintage robots from the future. Cross between a little bit Star Wars, a little bit Mystery Science Theatre. I was always a fan of MST. The guy just made robots from crap laying around the shop, and that’s exactly what the deal is over here.”

For a vision that personifies parts of the past, Fuller’s work seems to capture the minds of young and old in the present. “I was surprised by how much of the population were into robots: whether they knew they were, or they found out they were from looking at my work,” Fuller said. “Certainly, young kids, boys and girls, all love it. The lamps I make, I try to make them touch sensitive, to turn them on. The kids love that. So do comic book nerds, movie geeks, sci-fi people. I consider myself part of the tribe there.”

But his work doesn’t stop at robots. Fuller considers himself an artist and event-organizer, who describes himself as a “jack of all trades, who can handle just about anything,” with other projects including Dypsi, an indie art far in Ypsilanti, and simple, vintage-looking light up signs for personal use as well as business. Fuller has made signs for Side Tracks and Wurst Bar in Ypsilanti.  

Fuller said, “When I’m working on a piece, I like seeing the personality develop and unfold. Right when I’m done with one piece, I put it on a shelf, and I turn around and start on the next one. I like seeing them come to life. And I like moving on to the next one. And I like learning from the last one. I think it helps the evolutionary chart, if you line them all up, you can see how they all progress.”  

One of Fuller’s muses is H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist most recognized for his work on the film Alien.

“He was just a weirdo and had a dark style, all that biotechnical stuff. It struck a chord with me as a kid.” Fuller said. “When I’m looking to build something, I’m looking for shapes, maybe some texture… just something I can remove from its original purpose and misplace it. Maybe I don’t see it right away, maybe later.”

As of late, his work has taken on a different feel, thanks to the glass eyes and dentures he’s inherited from friends, family, and locals who fell in love with his work.

“I started getting dental molds, plaster casts, usually used, all busted up,” Fuller said. “I think I was discussing this at one of my Dypsi shows, and one of the onlookers said, “Hey, I have some of my father’s old dentures. Would you like those?” and I’m guessing he doesn’t need them anymore… so I was like sure.”

Fuller said he hung onto those dentures for a few years as he gathered the right parts and pieces for the robot he wanted to make. “I waited until I had a couple of cool pieces to go with it because I thought those were special,” Fuller explained. “It helped normalize that person’s life.”

 “People were like ‘what the hell is this guy doing?’” When I completed the piece with the dentures, it turned out really, really good. It was one of my favorite pieces. It was creepy, it was cool, I felt like I had made a complete piece. I was happy with it. I ended up finding her email, sending her a picture of the piece, telling her, ‘I finally got around to using your father’s dentures, I hope you approve, had a lot of fun…’ and she just loved it, her uncle ended up buying it for her. When I talked to her, she ended up sending me a picture of her father, and I swear to god it was so creepy, how much it looked exactly like him. It was an old man, bald, kind of gaunt, and that’s exactly how the piece ended up looking. I was like… get this thing out of here.”

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But the dentures weren’t the beginning of wild part-human, part-machine creations. “The one with my aunt’s glass eyes, that was the precursor to starting to get really weird with it,” Fuller said. “My aunt has a glass eye, apparently you have to get them replaced because your physiology changes, so she has some glass eyes and I was like, “Aunt Sally, you have to give those to me,” because she was talking about throwing them away, I thought that was absolutely crazy, you don’t throw away glass eyes.” Fuller said. So he decided to incorporate them into his work.

“She’s tickled pink about me using it. It was the gateway of getting super weird. Then the teeth… the way the whole thing came together. Kismet-ly looking like him. That was probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever made.”

For Fuller, there’s a humanness to what he creates. “You can go online and buy [glass eyes or dentures] and there’s a million of them out there. But that’s not the point of what I do. I’ll search eBay for some stuff, but things like that I don’t want to buy. It’s not the point,” he said.

“The way I make something personal is like if you have a certain piece of kitchenware that grandma used to use. Something that has her soul in it. His or her soul. A lot of the times, I’ll find an old biscuit cutter where the wood’s all worn away. I just picture someone in the 50’s, 60’s, little old grannie or whoever, cutting biscuits out with love, wanting them for her family or grandchild, so that love, that energy is in that handle. When I look for pieces, I look for stuff like that. Pieces with scuff marks, the handle that has seen so many biscuits cut. It’s hard to make something look like someone, but there are ways to instill their soul in something.”  

To see more of Cre Fuller’s work follow his Instagram @crefuller or visit him online at www.crefuller.com. Contact Fuller at tinangrymen@gmail.com

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Posted on May 1, 2019 and filed under Art & Craft, Interviews, ISSUE 72, Local.

Rediscovering Recycling

Recently in the United States, the recycling movement is under attack. The federal government is dismantling one major environmental policy after another, and new quality-based restrictions by Chinese scrap buyers have sent the value of many recyclables into a free fall. This is hurting all recyclers, but especially those in Michigan, where landfill overcapacity had already put recycling at a disadvantage. 

Posted on January 8, 2019 and filed under Columns, Green Living, Issue 71, Local.

An Interview with Billie Wahlen, practitioner of the Sat Nam Rasayan® Healing Technique

Sat Nam Rasayan is the name of a sacred healing technique that has recently become available in Ann Arbor, through Billie Wahlen (also known as Mohinder Singh). Wahlen is a gifted healer and massage therapist, and is well-established and known in Ann Arbor’s healing and bodywork subcultures.

Posted on January 1, 2019 and filed under Healing, Interviews, Issue 71, Local, Wellness, Yoga.

The Crazy Wisdom Interview with Dr. Molly McMullen-Laird and Dr. Quentin McMullen, Founders of the Rudolf Steiner Health Center, on Anthroposophic Medicine

Quentin McMullen and Molly McMullen-Laird are a husband-and-wife doctor team and the founders of Rudolf Steiner Health Center, which is one of Ann Arbor’s leading alternative medical practices. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Steiner Health is unique as a “community-supported medical practice,” and it focuses on anthroposophic medicine, which combines conventional and integrative approaches to medicine and is based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

Marrying Dance and Yoga--An interview with Navtej Johar

Interview with Navtej Johar (E-RYT 500) a senior and longtime student of TKV Desikachar. A dancer by profession, he has been teaching yoga since 1985.  He is the founder of the Poorna Center for Embodied Practices and also teaches at Inward Bound Yoga in Ann Arbor.  

Posted on January 1, 2019 and filed under Art & Craft, Calendar Essays, Exercise, Interviews, Issue 71, Local, Yoga.

Strike Up The Band ~ The Right Time, And Some Unusual Options, For Kids Music Lessons in Ann Arbor

If you have never had a kid leave trombone spit on your floor, you haven’t really lived. Seriously though, parenting kids through music lessons can be a unique and rewarding experience. Music lessons really teach kids a different set of life skills than they could get from any other activity — from self-awareness to fine motor skills to better listening and introduction to meditation. Today there are tons of options that fit every family, schedule, and kid.

Posted on January 1, 2019 and filed under Children, Columns, Issue 71, Local, Music, Parenting.

Support Your Local Farmers and Growers--Even in the Winter!

Artwork by Caitlyn Muncy

Artwork by Caitlyn Muncy

By Angela Madaras 


Yes! You can support our local farmers and growers even in the winter months. Most of us know that eating fresh food grown locally is better for both our bodies and our environment and like to support farmers during traditional growing and harvesting seasons. We also know that the average backyard farmer can’t grow produce in the snow. However, there are many local farmers who can grow all year long due to having hoop houses (greenhouses) that keep the air and soil warmer than what most Michiganders are experiencing in mid-January. BRRR! This technique of greenhouse growing allows the consumer to benefit from locally grown food even in the cold months.

So what kind of produce can you expect at a winter farmer’s market? Potatoes, greens, sprouts, herbs, garlic, spinach, sprouts, lettuces, carrots, as well as pork, beef, lamb, chicken, and honey to start! By shopping at a local farmer’s market you will eat seasonally fresh and ripe produce. What could be better than that? They also sell storable foods such as winter squash, dried beans, grains, and dried herbs. Think of your grandma’s root cellar. Jams, jellies, canned goods, baked goodies, cheese and dairy products, pickles, and even jerky can be preserved along with sauerkraut and kimchi. Most markets also carry art, handmade crafts, furniture, jewelry, and body care products.


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What are you waiting for? Find a winter market near you!

Ann Arbor Farmers Market
315 Detroit St.
Ann Arbor, MI
Winter hours: Saturday, 8 AM - 3 PM www.a2gov.org/market

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Saline Farmers Market
At the Liberty School
7265 Saline Ann Arbor Rd. (turn on Thibault Lane)
Saline, MI
Winter Hours: Saturday, 9 AM - Noon (Nov. - April)
No market Nov. 10th or Mar. 16th www.cityofsaline.org/farmersmarket

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Ypsilanti Farmers Market •Downtown
16 S. Washington St.
Ypsilanti, MI
Winter Hours: Tuesday, 3 PM - 7 PM growinghope.net/farmers-markets/ypsilanti

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Chelsea Farmers Market
At the Washington St. Education Center, Building 100 cafeteria
500 Washington St.
Chelsea, MI
Winter Hours: Saturday, 10 AM -2 PM (Nov.3-Dec.29) chelseafarmersmkt.org

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Webster Farmers Market
At the Crossroads Community Center
5501 Webster Church Rd, Dexter, Michigan
Dexter, MI
•Winter Hours: Sunday 12 PM - 3 PM, except third Sunday www.websterfarmersmarket.org


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Argus Farm Stop
Two locations!
1200 Packard Rd or 

325 W Liberty St Ann Arbor, MI
Year Round, Weekdays 7 AM – 7 PM, Saturday 7 AM – 6 PM, Sunday 8 AM – 6 PM www.argusfarmstop.com

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Crysta Goes Visiting

By Crysta Coburn

Hitting the Stage with Kristin Danko

You could not meet a more upbeat and passionate person than Kristin Danko, the executive creative director of Ypsilanti’s newest theatre company, Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG). Kristin and her partner, Aaron Dean, founded the company after spending years in Chicago’s experimental theatre scene. Kristin, who holds bachelor’s degrees in both theatre and music and a master’s degree in arts administration from Eastern Michigan University, brought her talents to Ypsilanti in 2013. Why did she leave the Windy City for our little Ypsi? I sat down with her at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea in Ypsilanti, across the street from her alma mater, to find out.

After seven and a half years in Chicago, Kristin had tried her hand at everything from storefront theatre and musicals to improv and comedy. She loved it all, but …“I got really tired of acting,” she told me. “I wasn’t feeling challenged, and I wanted to challenge myself in theatre in a new way.”

So when she was accepted into EMU’s graduate school, she and her partner packed up and headed to Michigan. They originally looked at living in Ann Arbor but were shocked to discover that rental prices were comparable to what they had been paying in Chicago. They found themselves more attracted to the DIY-vibe of Ypsilanti, and also liked the quirkiness of the city. They’ve lived in Ypsi for over two years now and have no plans to leave.

“There is so much talent here!” Kristin gushed, but she also lamented that there aren’t enough outlets for actors to pursue after graduation. She and the whole NTG crew hope to change that by becoming the “premier experimental theatre for Ypsilanti,” a place where actors can get their start and experiment with original shows. “New theatre companies are a dime a dozen in Chicago,” she said. “[Ypsilanti has] more opportunity to explore the art form.”

The NTG will be performing a cabaret show March 24 to 26 at Ypsilanti’s Back Office Studio, where Kristin is also Artist in Residence. They will also perform a weekly sketch show at the same studio starting Fridays in May. The goal is to get their own space, but for now they are thrilled with the support they’re receiving from the community.

What Kristin finds so magical about theatre is the “connection of energy” between the audience and the performers. “You’re creating something with a group of people that’s bigger than you. Once you perform, we get to all go through this together.” The excitement is contagious. I can’t wait to see what Kristin and NTG come up with next!

Contact Kristin at neighborhoodtheatregroup@gmail.com. Follow NTG on Facebook at facebook.com/neighborhoodtheatregroup, on Twitter @NTGYpsi, and on Instagram @NeighborhoodTheatreGroup.

Crafting Up Something Fun with Celena Lopez

Celena Lopez of Ypsilanti is an independent, clever, and crafty lady. She has made handcrafted blankets for all of her friends’ babies, mostly knitted, but “the last one was quilted because I ran out of time.” I don’t generally think of quilting as a quick and easy task. That’s the kind of can-do attitude that Celena brings to her projects. She may not always know how or when a project will get done, but it will get done, and in my opinion, it will be beautiful and carefully and professionally finished.

After her first year in the world of D.I.Y. craft fairs, Celena had already graduated from sharing a table at Ypsilanti’s twice yearly show DIYpsi to having a full table all to herself. She has also traveled for out-of-state craft fairs, such as Handmade Toledo Maker’s Mart. She sells under the name Diosa de la Luna. Her wares can be found year round through her online shop and at the Eyrie located in Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town, a store that features only Michigan-made products by local artists and crafters.

It was the Eyrie’s owner Janette Rook, a friend, who initially started Celena on her path to selling. As Celena puts it, “She said one day, ‘I know you’re a crafty person, why aren’t I selling your stuff?’” Another friend and independent artist Marcy Davy of All Things Grow also encouraged Celena to get involved in craft shows.

After thinking hard about what she could sell, Celena settled on her beloved Ypsilanti’s iconic (and infamous) water tower, knitting its image into dish cloths and sewing felt pieces onto fabric framed in wooden embroidery hoops. The tower has also been turned into a stuffed toy and anthropomorphized with big eyes and a “hair” bow for a female tower or a bow tie for male. Both are adorable. She has branched out into other hoop designs since. (I purchased one depicting a jar of fireflies that made the perfect housewarming gift for a friend who moved to California, where they don’t have fireflies.)

Recently, Celena has moved into becoming an independent sales rep for other artists “specializ[ing] in connecting wholesale buyers with artists of trendy paper goods and gift items.” She explained to me that with her finding the buyers, the artists can concentrate on creating, allowing them more time to meet product demands.

This hasn’t slowed her down too much, though. She still works on her own art while also holding down an hourly part-time job and finds time for outdoor adventuring with her husband, Ben, and their too cute Pomeranian, Asher. This last year, Celena successfully trained for and completed Ypsilanti’s Color Run despite the arthritis in her ankle caused by an injury, which just proves this woman will take on anything! And win.

You can email Celena at contact@celenalopez.com and find her online at both diosadelaluna.weebly.com and celenalopez.com, or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/DiosadelaLunaDecor.

A Look at Ayurveda with Andrea Ridgard

The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words, ‘ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (study or science). Andrea Ridgard is a bright and passionate local Ayurveda healer and practitioner who was gracious enough to sit and talk with me. She explained that Ayurveda goes beyond just “the study of life” — it can also mean the study of one’s self. As Andrea put it, Ayurveda is “asking yourself ‘Who am I?’”

“The base line is the five elements,” said Andrea, which are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. They come together in pairs to make the three vital energies called doshas. As a healer, Andrea is looking for what has come out of alignment, something that “feels off,” between these energies. She pays particular attention to skin, eyes, and digestion. “A healthy digestion equals a healthy constitution!” (This is why Ayurveda is so frequently tied to diet.) When something feels off, such as sluggishness, sudden insomnia, and constipation, “you’re not aligning with yourself.”

When a patient sees Andrea for the first time, she has them fill out a form that asks many questions about lifestyle. She told me this is often enlightening for the patient because they start to notice patterns and habits in their lives that they never realized before. Sometimes it’s, “Wow! I have no routine!,” which can be stressful on a body.

Andrea is not likely to prescribe treatments like taking herbs, which she has less knowledge of. As a hatha yoga instructor (yoga is a sister study of Ayurveda), she is more likely to suggest that a patient practice a certain posture for a 30-day stretch and take notice of any changes that occur in his or her body. She described Ayurveda as a “slow science,” not a magic pill. “Patients need to take on some responsibility,” she said. “It can be a very big lifestyle change for people to slow down. There’s a lot to miss when we’re rushing.” She sees being an Ayurvedic healer as “an invitation to stand beside someone and help them on their healing.” She will refer patients to others who are more capable of helping when possible.

One simple practice Andrea advises for anyone is to start the day with a cup of hot water. (The amount and temperature is up to how much the individual can stand.) This will warm up the digestive tract, making it easier for the body to process food, and it will ease constipation better than coffee. I started it myself. I’m not a morning person and often skip breakfast. Now I feel more settled and ready for food in the mornings. Try it and see what you think!

Contact Andrea at andrea@groundedhere.com. For more information and a list of her class offerings, head to groundedhere.com.

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