Artists team up to form LilacPOP Studios in Ferndale

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published February 5, 2013

 Savannah Willnus, 10, of Farmington Hills, makes a stamped-metal necklace during the grand opening of LilacPOP Studios in downtown Ferndale Feb. 2.

Savannah Willnus, 10, of Farmington Hills, makes a stamped-metal necklace during the grand opening of LilacPOP Studios in downtown Ferndale Feb. 2.

Photo by Donna Agusti

FERNDALE — Local artist Janna Bissett was having trouble getting any work done at home, so she decided that it was time to move elsewhere.

“With my jewelry, before I came here, I was working out of my living room with metal and chemicals, and it was not easy,” said Bissett, who lives in Clawson. “And when I was doing my photography, it was always a problem trying to find a good place to shoot. I was originally just looking for a space where I could create my work, but I never really thought that I would be opening my own business.”

Her friend and business partner, Northville-based clothing designer Karen LePage, was facing a similar problem and quickly jumped on board with the solution.

“Sometimes it’s just easier to get work done when you’re not at home, because you can step away from all the distractions and responsibilities,” she explained. “I brought my industrial sewing machine and other large equipment over there, and now Janna and I are spending most of our days working together.”

“There,” in this case, refers to the duo’s new art space in the heart of downtown Ferndale. Dubbed LilacPOP Studios, the cozy 400-square-foot location at the southeast corner of Nine Mile and Woodward fulfills multiple functions: art studio, work space and classroom. A grand opening party was held Feb. 2 to mark the official introduction of a new haven for local art lovers along the bustling Woodward corridor.

LilacPOP is not a true retail business, but Bissett and LePage plan to hold monthly open houses to present some of their latest work to the public. In addition, LePage will be hosting sewing classes for students at all levels — including a beginner course that she calls “First Date with Your Sewing Machine” — while Bissett may also teach classes on jewelry making and photography. Due to the small size of the studio, classes will be limited to about six students each.

As Bissett described it, “This is a creative space for us to sell some of our products and for other people to explore their artistic side by learning more about fashion, photography and jewelry.”

A deep love of fashion and a mutual admiration for each other’s work is what brought the two artists together. Bissett is a fashion photographer whose work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers and showcased at various art festivals and galleries.

“I consider myself an artist first and a photographer second, and I think that really shows in my work,” she said. “I like to be very hands-on with everything I do.”

Her jewelry mostly consists of stamped-metal rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings that have a decidedly retro flavor. She creates each one-of-a-kind piece using parts from vintage typewriters, cash registers, telephones, bicycles and other found items.

“My jewelry is sort of like wearing a piece of history,” Bissett said. “I like to use objects and materials in my work that other people might just ignore or discard, then take those things and show people that they can be beautiful, too. I like to think that I see things a little bit differently than most people.”

LePage, on the other hand, is a fashion designer and published author who specializes in clothing that places comfort as its top priority. Stemming from her experiences making custom clothes for her son with Asperger’s syndrome, she primarily designs garments for children who are especially picky about the way that their clothes fit and feel.

“I aim to make people’s favorite clothes,” she said. “There are lots of people who have sensitive skin or allergies, and comfort is very important for them when choosing what to wear. There are so many little things we put up with that we really shouldn’t have to. My clothes are also very durable, so they’re a little more expensive than normal clothes, but they will last a really long time. We’ve all gotten used to wearing disposable clothes, unfortunately.”

LePage and Bissett are eager to see what the future holds for LilacPOP Studios. Their small space is perfectly suitable for now, but LePage pointed out that the response from the community will dictate whether they try to pursue something bigger down the road.

“We’re still just starting out,” she said, “but if we find that there’s a lot of interest in our studio, then we will see if we can expand. We both really want to create a sense of community for the arts by bringing different people together in one space. And that’s a big reason why we’re so happy to be in Ferndale. I just love the creative community there, so I’m proud to make it our new work home.”

LilacPOP Studios is located at 22750 Woodward Ave., Suite 206, in downtown Ferndale. For more information, call (248) 854-4854 or e-mail