Detroit. A city that enabled mobility for the masses, created the middle class and has stood proudly as a beacon of American manufacturing. It’s also the same city that was hit harder than almost any other place in America during the Great Recession.
For third-generation metal-smith Jesse Stefani, his one-of-a-kind sculptural business became nearly nonexistent during these dark times. Few projects were available and any possible income became scarce. And like many others during the recession, the pressure of looking ahead to brighter days became grim, especially with the possibility of losing the roof over his head.
But Detroiters are a different breed, humble and determined. A place where only the tough will persevere. And for many of these creative minds who toughed it out through the recession, they were able to find new levels of adversity and resourcefulness that would eventually refuel the city’s art and design community and pave the way for a rebirth of the creative spirit unseen in Motown for decades.
Even with the increased time on his hands, Jesse remained a believer. His hunger and need to unleash his creative capabilities and industrial design background from the acclaimed College for Creative Studies in downtown Detroit grew daily.
And on one afternoon, Jesse rummaged through leftover boxes that had been collecting dust within his family’s studio over the years. Yet, it would be one box in particular that would change Jesse's outlook and design focus forever – a cardboard carton filled with hundreds of nuts and bolts – the most elemental parts that comprise Detroit's manufacturing.
With a box full of hex nuts and a stainless steel mixing bowl, Jesse began to layout the pieces of steel within the bowl - arc welding together in different patterns and shapes. After several attempts, he to crafted a bowl of his own - made only from the essence of the six-sided nuts.
As family members took notice, including his metal-smith father, Cary Stefani, the encouragement to keep pushing this functional art form further continued. It wasn't until Jesse himself needed a belt to wear around the shop, that the connection to create the first hex belt made out of these hexagonal nuts was made. And it would be the wearing of his one-off “hex belt” that would inadvertently gain the attention of Jesse’s relatives and friends who wanted one of their very own. Jesse knew he was on to something and would spend the next weeks tinkering with different design themes that could be repurposed from a very simplistic piece of hardware. Hex Detroit was born.