Meet Our Leather Apprentice: Carolyn Schief’s Trek to Detroit for her Dream Job

BY Taylor Rebhan

How long have you lived in Detroit and what is your position at Shinola?

I’ve lived in Detroit for four years now. Two years ago I got this job, and the two years before that I was sewing car covers. When I first moved here, I was living in the suburbs, and it took me a while to make my way downtown — I was a little afraid of the unknown, but I started meeting people who lived in the city, and hanging out here more, and I fell in love with it quickly. I love Detroit.   

I’m a lead pattern and sample maker in the Leather Design Studio, and I work as an apprentice to the Master leather maker.


Just a few of the tools needed to create patterns inside the leather studio.

Why did you move to Detroit?

I moved to Detroit because I needed a change. I had lived in Grand Rapids for most of my life, and I felt like I was outgrowing it and needed a fresh perspective. My friend got me the job sewing car covers, so I got rid of everything I had, and hopped on a delivery truck from my old job to come here. I had nothing – about 50 bucks and a couple suitcases. I had been delivering truck parts for about ten years, along with doing some sample making for a mens clothing designer in Grand Rapids, which is where I got most of my previous experience.

I stayed with a friend when I got here, and saved up money and got a car after a couple months. I also started going to therapy about a year after I moved here and I don’t think I would’ve gotten this job if I hadn’t started to do that.

How did you end up at Shinola?

I’m a huge psychoanalysis enthusiast. I don’t know if that’s a thing or not, but I’m pretty open about it all. I was going to therapy and it was not until then that I gained the courage to try for this position. I started to trust myself and my abilities.


A view inside the leather factory, where Carolyn works every day.

What are your favorite parts of Detroit?

I live in midtown now. I just moved there a couple weeks ago, I was living in Corktown before that.

I like the more local sort of divey-type places rather than the more slick, new restaurants. PJ’s Lager House was my favorite place to go in Corktown – it was right near my place.

Now my new spot is Honest John’s because it’s close, and not too fancy, and I like to stay in my neighborhood for everything I need. It was a little sad to leave my daily Corktown routine, the liquor store guys and the restaurants I always went to — but now I have these new routines in my new neighborhood and it’s fun. Midtown is really close to everything and walkable so I like it a lot.

This interview is part of a new series called JOBS that highlights the people that make Shinola tick. Find their stories right here on The Journal or on our Jobs page

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