Designer for Hire

Say hello to lolochic


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With fabrics that float and shapes for the everywoman, Tucson fashion designer Loreto Echevarria is not only making a name for herself, she’s creating her very own style: ‘lolochic’. By Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Jackie Sterna

Loreto Echevarria’s debut at Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Jackie Sterna

Loreto Echevarria wears her jewelry like armor. It’s a strategy she started some years ago, whenever she was feeling nervous or insecure. She incorporated big, statement pieces of jewelry into her daily look, often cuff bracelets – one on each wrist Coco Chanel style.

“The accessories ended up being a shield. Whenever I was feeling insecure or nervous I had my jewelry. It was like Wonderwoman. The cuffs helped, as if I was going to deflect some negativity or criticism,” says Loreto.

Photo by Jackie Sterna

Cuffs are part of the ‘lolochic’ look. Photo by Jackie Sterna

So it came as no surprise to her followers when cuffs were included in the designs she presented at Tucson Fashion Week last October. Her models strutted down the catwalk at the Fox Theatre with fabric cuffs on their arms, floaty silk tops and dresses, bright colors, leather shorts and pants, even a cape. It was ancient Greece and comic superheroes and rock chick and a little bit of Star Wars all rolled into one. It was Lolochic – the name she has coined for her fashion design and styling company.

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Loreto ‘Lolo’ Echevarria. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo, as Loreto is known to her family and friends, wowed at Tucson Fashion Week with a set of designs that were risk-taking. Lolo had taken a risk herself just by applying. A full-time nurse, she has dabbled in fashion since she was a child. She had long been offering styling and wardrobe consultancy to people, and making garments for a select few. Then she attended 2013 Tucson Fashion Week, a showcase of local and national talent. Inspired, Lolo decided to apply for TFW 2014.

Most fashion designers begin with an idea and a sketchbook. Lolo starts with a fabric. “I fall in love with my fabric. The fabric tells me what it wants to be,” she says. And then, draping it over a dressmaker’s dummy, she begins the process of design.

Her fabric has to not only speak to her, it has to be top-notch in terms of quality. She’s usually to be found at a branch of JoAnn’s or at SAS Fabrics, or ordering online from the likes of Mood Fabrics. She favors something “unique”, usually silks.

Her floaty fabrics and wide, often square, shapes, are designed for all body shapes and types. Says Lolo: “I think  it’s flattering on any size. I want to make something a size 2 as well as a 14, 16 or 18 could wear. It’s about being comfortable.” The leather pants that were part of her collection at Tucson Fashion Week were only leather in the leg; the rest was fabric, not unlike the style of maternity pants. “You can go up 10 or 20 pounds and still fit into them,” she says.

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Another piece of Lolo’s collection for Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Jackie Sterna

“Lolo is transcending the traditional size market and providing real fashionable garments for all shapes. It’s exciting,” says Paula Taylor, owner of Tucson Fashion Week and a fashion consultant and author. So there was an element of irony in the fact that, backstage at Tucson Fashion Week, where models had 24″ waists, the smallest sizes of Lolo’s garments were too big.  That’s something Lolo would like to rectify if she does TFW again this year. She would love to get “regular women” to model her clothes.

When Jennie Grabel, a non-profit executive and former radio host in Tucson, found herself “in a fashion rut” several years ago, she enlisted the help of Lolo. Not only did Jennie gain styling tips, some new wardrobe staples and a more professional look, she started to enjoy dressing herself again. “Ultimately it took the anxiety and stress out of my daily life. It became fun to put my outfits together,” says Jennie, who at the time was making regular public appearances as part of her radio job.

Jennie was a spectator at Tucson Fashion Week on the night Lolo and some other local designers shared the stage with personalities from the TV show Project Runway. “I was beyond proud. Watching people live out their dream is just so inspiring. I hope TFW is just a jumping off point for her,” says Jennie, who is encouraging her friend to apply to Project Runway herself.

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

A photo from one of Lolo’s personal styling shoots. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

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Jennie Grabel, one of Lolo’s styling clients. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

A client after being styled by Lolo. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo was set on being a fashion designer even as a small child growing up in the border town of Douglas, Arizona. Her parents discouraged it. “My parents are very supportive of everything [I do] but I think they were discouraging because it was something they didn’t understand.” She took their advice and got a nursing degree. After graduating, Lolo began taking short contracts as a traveling nurse. The jobs took her to Southern California, New York City and London. The Big Apple bit her hard. She would spend her days off at stores like Prada. She remembers spending one whole day at Tiffany’s.

Tragedy struck when her older brother was hit and killed by a car whilst riding his bicycle. She returned to Southern Arizona in 2005 to be with her family, settling in Tucson, marrying (husband Kane Flint plays in several local bands) and having a son. For a long while she was so homesick for New York and London “I couldn’t watch Sex and the City because I got depressed.” Attending the fashion design program at Tucson Design College (now the Art Institute of Tucson) went a long way to curing her, she says. And “Tucson got a hold of me.”

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo’s shapes are designed to fit all sizes. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

She is still a full-time nurse but feels the fashion world calling and plans big things for 2015: a bigger fashion collection, hopefully a return to Tucson Fashion Week, and an Etsy shop. Her next collection will feature her signature flowing fabrics, and shapes that are adaptable for all sizes. But the added twist will be sci-fi. Lolo is a huge Star Wars fan – in inspired her collection for TFW – and says that galaxy far, far away will be influencing her looks even more this year.

We may have to wait until December for the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, already one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year. Lolochic, you can be sure, will be unleashing its force a lot sooner.

The 3 rules for ‘lolochic’:

1. “Splurge on the basics and you can be frugal when it comes to buying accessories.”

2. “If the [size on the] label bothers you, cut it out.”

3. “You’ll never know until you try it on.”

* Find Loreto Echevarria at lolochic.com

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More than skin deep


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In a profession that’s been all about men, we meet a female tattoo artist who’s turning the tide – and boosting women’s body confidence while she’s at it. By Gillian Drummond. Photos by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

Photo by Danni Valdez

Veronica Stice. Photo by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

It’s a fine thing to find your calling in life, and even better when you discover it young. Veronica Stice was 18 when she found hers.

She was living in the tiny town of Grinnell, Iowa (population 9,200) and had a love of art and a fascination for tattoos. After getting her first tattoo – a burst of sunflowers across her shoulders – she fell headfirst for tattoos and the tattoo life.

Veronica is an all or nothing person. And so it was with tattoos. “I jumped in 100%,” says Veronica, whose petite frame is now mostly covered in ink. She graduated from high school and got a job at a tattoo shop as a receptionist (and cleaner, and errand runner) but really what she wanted was to be a tattooist. That, and live the life she saw the tattoo artists there living. “I just saw how much money these guys were making and nobody told these dudes what to do. They got to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. As an 18-year-old it was like ‘All these dudes do is have fun’.”

Photo courtesy of Veronica Slice.

Some of Veronica’s tatooo work. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Crucially, though, they were “dudes”. She paid her dues as a receptionist, even putting up with their military-camp-like pranks: her shoes being hidden, her car being ‘stolen’, her body being sprayed with rubbing alcohol. And all the time she was drawing tattoo ideas at the front desk and bugging the owner to teach her the trade. He refused. “It came down to him saying girls can’t be tattooers. I lost my job over it,” says Veronica.

On the drive home she called her dad in Tucson. She moved out here a month later, the rejection making her all the more determined. “I knew I could do it and I’m kind of stubborn. Success is the best revenge,” she says.

Within two weeks of moving she had a job at what was then Inkaholics Anonymous, now The Painted Lady tattoo shop on East Speedway. Even then she had to bide her time until she got to tattoo. Her first was an anchor she created herself and inked onto the side of her boss’s knee. And it was bad. “It was awful but I had got to the point where I was so frustrated by how the apprenticeship was going. I walked in one day and said ‘I’m doing this today. I’m tired of this. I need to make money’.”

Seven years later things have changed immeasurably, both for Veronica and the whole tattoo industry. Tats are big, cool, in vogue. They’re no longer associated with bikers and jailbirds but also the hipster, the sorority girl, the middle-aged mother, the otherwise average Joe. Tattoo shops take in more than $2.3 billion in revenue a year in the USA. A survey last year found that 40% of households have someone with a tattoo. The number of female tattoo artists has risen sharply, with some of them creating their own brand. (Witness the reality TV star Kat Von D, now owner of a line of beauty products at Sephora.)

Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Black Rose Tattooers on 6th Avenue has mostly women on its staff. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica, now 25, is manager of Black Rose Tattooers on 6th Avenue in downtown Tucson. She works with an almost exclusively female staff (five other women plus the male owner, Mac McKay).  She has more than 1500 followers on Instagram and people come from as far away as Australia just to be tattooed by her. She charges $120 an hour and is making enough money to be able to travel for six months of the year, when she couch-surfs through Canada and the U.S. to visit friends and to freelance at other tattoo stores.

She is carving out a niche for creating elaborate and feminine lace-like tattoos the likes of which she doesn’t see elsewhere. She‘s also deliberately making her shop female-friendly. “I think it gives us the opportunity to offer women a whole other level of comfort. Some people think [tattooing] is kind of skeezy, kind of back alley.”

Photo by Danni Valdez.

Veronica tracing a tattoo design. Photo by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

Tattooing women is way different from tattooing men, she says. “It’s something I don’t think a lot of male tattooers consider. Women are soft and round and very curvy and tattoos should flatter that. It should look like it belongs on you.” And they can be a body image boost, she says. You don’t like a part of your body? “Slap a tattoo over it and you fall in love with it.”

She has also used them to hide physical scars – covering up scar tissue and, in one case, helping to conceal third degree burns. “It makes them fall in love with their body and that’s huge. If I can give that to somebody it really really makes me happy,” she says.

Tattoo regrets? She’s had a few of her own. Her least favorite tat is a washed-out-looking portrait of Twiggy on her inner right arm. But mostly she is in love with her work, both on her own skin (and before you ask, yes, she has tattooed herself) and her clients’. Right now she’s working on a piece for a client who wants a revolutionary war theme with a sinking ship, naval officers, the lot. “It’s like a classic oil painting. I don’t like the more abstract stuff. I feel like tattoos should look like tattoos,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica used a tattoo to cover up this woman’s burn scars. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Black Rose on 6th relaunches this week after a refurbishment, having added bright paint, laminate floors and an extended tattooing area (see below for details of the open house event taking place this weekend.) Veronica’s station consists of a heavy-duty tool chest full of sterile one-time-use needles, ink, dentist bibs for laying out her gear, a pillow and chair for the client, and of course the little machine that does all the work. Hand-held and consisting of electromagnetic coils, her tattoo gun turns its needles (there are several on the end, not just one) at 87 cycles a second. She could have opted for a quieter rotary machine but “I like the noise this makes”.

She talks of the Black Rose crew as her family. They’re also each other’s guinea pigs for body art. Tattooers like to practice on fleshy fruit like grapefruit and bananas, sometimes pig ears if they can get them. But many times it’s friends, family members and colleagues. There’s nothing like drawing on human skin, says Veronica, and her loved ones are not bothered if she messes up. “And you put the word free in front of the word tattoo and people don’t care.”

Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica with her signature bright lipstick, and showing off a neck tattoo. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

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Photo by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

At 25 she seems too young to be complaining about aches and pains, but tattooing can be tough labor. She works up to 12 hours a day, sometimes on one client, and it involves gripping a constantly vibrating machine. “My hands hurt almost all the time. My neck hurts. My feet hurt,” she says, adding: “I’m an all or nothing kind of person. I have given myself to tattooing and it’s given me nothing but amazing things.”

With the extreme rise in the popularity of tattoos, does she fear that being inked is losing its edge? “I don’t really care about that,” she shrugs. “I think everybody should have a tattoo. It looks cool and it makes you feel good about yourself.”

She does have some rules though:

1. Don’t go too small. Her shop gets many requests for small tats – especially from female college students. “I think they’re maybe afraid to commit to a full-size tattoo.” Veronica says bigger tattoos will age better and are just way more fun. “What’s the point in having one if people can’t see it?”

2. She won’t do tattoos on the hand or neck, unless it’s a regular customer and they’re heavily inked already. “Why does an 18-year-old kid need a neck tattoo? I don’t want to be the cause of someone hating themselves.”

3. She won’t tattoo someone who’s been drinking or displays bad behavior. “If you’re just walking off the street and you’re being a drunk asshole, I will refuse you. It really is about how you carry yourself.”

4. Good hydration and sunscreen are the golden rules when living in the desert. The same goes for tattoos. Drink plenty of water and keep the area moisturized and your tats will love you for it.

* Find Black Rose Tattooers at 47 S. 6th Avenue and 421 N. 4th Avenue in Tucson, also 699 E. Fry Blvd, Sierra Vista. More at blackrosetattoers.com. Black Rose on S. 6th will have an open house this Saturday evening, March 21st, to celebrate its refurbishment.

A style called Barrio Modern


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It’s southwestern, it’s mid-century, it’s very very Tucson. Rachel Miller uncovers the homegrown interior style that we’re calling Barrio Modern.

Photo courtesy of hazelbaker rush.

Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush’s Tucson home shows all the signs of being Barrio Modern: bright, natural materials, pops of mid-century. Photo courtesy of HA/RU

What do you get when you cross one of the longest continuously inhabited places in the US with a midcentury modern Mecca? Barrio Modern.

The colonial Spanish style, heavy rustic furniture, earth tones, and use of tin and copper, have long been characteristic of homes in the Southwest, a head nod to the Spanish occupation starting in the 1600s. This style stands in sharp contrast to the simple light lines of the mid-century movement in Tucson that has been defined as Sonoran Modern. But just as the Spanish utilized the regional materials, and adapted to the desert climate, so did the mid-century modern movement. Over the past couple of years we’ve noted a number of homes that take these shared themes to create something uniquely Tucson. We’re calling it Barrio Modern.

How can you achieve the Barrio Modern look?

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The home of Tucson architect Bob Lanning mixes natural materials with modern chrome. Photo courtesy of Bob Lanning.

Establishing a home that reflects your more modern leanings, but also respects your physical home’s heritage, can be a tricky balancing act, especially when you live in a barrio home where a rustic style is typically de rigeur. If you’re looking to update your adobe abode décor and celebrate this rich culture and land we inhabit, or even your mid-century ranch style home, we’ve got a few pointers for you to create your own Barrio Modern style.

Be bold with color

Blinding white sunlight outside might sear the skin, but inside white provides a cool backdrop to some graphic and bright colors, and if there’s adobe or plaster there’s an earthiness that brings that cool white to the perfect temperature.

Darci Hazelback of architect and design firm Ha|Ru talks of how the renovation of their 1927 Tucson bungalow optimized white pure space mirroring the quality of light found in the desert and how the focus on local materials also reflected the rugged quality of the desert. “It reflects the true history and character of the home, exposing the bones and spirit of the house,” she says.

Whether it’s Oaxaca blue or Sonoran sunset hues, bold color plays a role in the cultural history aesthetic. This is not the place nor time to go with modern gray-brown monotone or close in the space with ceiling to floor deep blue and tin, rather keep the clean light feel with white and use the yellows, pinks, reds and blues for strong accents.

Barrio Modern in the Downtown Clifton. Color is important. Bold, bright against white. Photo courtesy Downtown Clifton

Barrio Modern in Tucson’s Downtown Clifton hotel. Color is important, with bold and bright against white. Photo courtesy of Downtown Clifton

Use natural materials

Bright colors might be the order of the day, but wood and natural fibers play an important role in this look.  Check out the use of plywood on the ceiling in the home of architect Bob Lanning (second photo from top) or the lathe walls in Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush’s  home (below). The emphasis on materials of a place is key in Hazelbaker and Rush’s design. “We combine vernacular design, using materials of a place and place specific materials, with a complementing modern design,” says Darci.

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Traditional barrio adobe homes use natural materials, Barrio Modern plays upon that using modern interpretations. Above: the home of architect/designers Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush. Photo courtesy of HA/RU.

Teak may not be local to Tucson, but we have some sweet local thrift stores and antique stores with mid-century items that are a perfect local source. Have a few pennies to rub together? The heavier rustic furniture might not be quite the modern line you’re looking for, but we have some incredible local woodworkers who use local materials to create something with more modern lines. Peter Baer of Baer Joinery is responsible for the fabulous communal mesquite table at Tap and Bottle.

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Barrio Modern uses local materials. This mesquite table at Tap and Bottle is by Peter Baer Photo courtesy of Rebecca Safford.

Bring the inside out and outside in

While haciendas had their courtyards, mid-century modern architecture had their patios, both emphasizing outdoor living. Organize your furniture to take full advantage of the views, which many of us in Tucson are lucky to have, and keep the the window treatments to a light minimum. No fabulous desert vistas to take advantage of? How about bringing the scene inside, either on the patio or use a twist on the cactus/succulent vibe with some air plants? (Check out our piece on how to grow air plants in the desert.)

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Airplants in the Hazelbaker Rush home

Tin and copper in the copper state

Embossed tin might not be your thing but local artist Rand Carlson’s tin works are a definitely funky twist on tin and Tucson. Or perhaps incorporate some corrugated iron around the bathtub as seen below for the Barrio Modern look. Bob Lanning describes his and wife Kate Hiller’s approach as “historically compatible”. He adds: “But sometimes it is more interesting to pick up ideas of our time.”  He explains that this happy medium of old and new comes in part “from working on a budget, being creative and finding affordable solutions.”

Barrio Modern Bathroom complete with tin backsplash and Rand Carlson tin art in the Lanning - Hiller home

A Barrio Modern bathroom in Bob Lanning’s home, complete with tin backsplash, Rand Carlson tin art and contemporary watercolor landscapes by Lanning. Photo courtesy of Bob Lanning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t Mexican Modernism, it isn’t Spanish Colonial, it’s not even Sonoran Modern. It has a distinctly Tucson twist that reflects the stark beauty of the desert, the warmth of the people and a rich cultural history. It’s Barrio Modern.

A lesson in not going with the flow


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The home of Tom McGuire and Nieves Zedeño flies in the face of traditional floorplans and breaks rules – beautifully. Story and photos by Rachel Miller.

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The fireplace is a central pin to four separate living areas that radiate around it.

Stepping into the Tucson home of Tom McGuire and Nieves Zedeño is not unnerving. To the contrary, it offers an immediate sense of right with the world. But it does shake up the predictable pattern of what the flow of a house should be.

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The foyer opens up onto a semi-open plan that is made up of several living spaces. Right: a Thomas Moser bench, one of their favorite pieces.

Tom and Nieves’ home, in Tucson’s midtown San Clemente neighborhood, turns regular residential layouts on their heads. The fireplace and foyer acts as a pin to four separate living areas that radiate around that central fireplace in a semi-open plan: a library area, reading room, dining room, sitting room and television space.

This is a place to meander around with wine glass in hand and find a place for quiet reflection or, just steps away, a space for hearty conversation – with neither impinging on the other. Beyond this central space, the kitchen, study and bedrooms provide more private spaces. According to Nieves, there are just two other homes in the Tucson area that were built with this same eccentric floor plan.

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Shaker and New England style meet industrial in this midtown Tucson home.

The layout of the house has a distinct modern feel, the furnishings at once comfortable, personal and fresh. The angled walls and the variable ceiling heights, along with the limited number of windows on the west facing wall, make for a light, cool feel to the home.

The central island table in the kitchen was built by Tom.

About the owners: Tom grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, spending summers in Maine. Seeking a change of scenery and climate, he came to Arizona in the 1970s and, other than a few years in colder climes, has remained here.  Nieves, originally from Ecuador, came to Tucson as a visiting scholar in the late 1980s and returned as a research anthropologist in the early ’90s. It’s no surprise that their home reflects the influences of both their origins and their anthropological work.

About the home: The house was built in 1976, one of three built in Tucson with the same blueprint.  In addition to the 2600 square feet of living space there is a front and a back porch, pool patio, workshop and backyard.

Picture by Nieves' Aunt

Framed art by Nieves’ aunt.

Describe your style: “American folk art and mid-century modern,” says Nieves. “We combine the primary colors of Joseph Calder and Joan Miro with clean-lined Shaker and New England hardwood furniture. Then we throw in a few industrial splashes for balance: Classic Lionel toy trains , naïf art (art that is typically free of conventions) and still life metal and wood sculptures; photographs; drawings of birds and boats; and tons of books.”

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Classic toy trains are part of the decor.

Your fave thing about your home: “The odd angled half walls that stretch from the central fireplace, dividing the large main room into four organic spaces. The effect is of an open, airy house where each human and animal can be private yet social at the same time,” says Nieves.

Biggest splurge: The Thomas Moser bow-frame bench and armchair  “superfluous but edifying”, says Nieves.

Best bargain: “The discounted flat-weave wool rugs designed by Steven Alan for West Elm (2013-14 catalog). Ivory, yellow, and royal blue, they look brilliant over dark floors.”

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My DIY moment: “Soon after Tom and I married in 1995, I fell in love with a $250 George Nelson wall clock advertised in Design Within Reach. We couldn’t possibly reach it, so I headed for Michael’s and found a sleek clock mechanism and accessory parts. Tom helped me build the clock with a piece of balsa wood, pocket knife, spray paint, and Elmer’s glue. Twenty years and $20 later, my ‘GN’ clock is still ticking on the dining room wall. (Our favorite piece? The kitchen table that Tom made!)”

make your own george nelson inspired clock

The George Nelson-inspired homemade clock

Favorite resources: Nieves is a woven rug fanatic. She gets rugs, drapes, pillows and linens from West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Garnet Hill. The ethnic weavings are finds from Etsy. The investment in décor is evident in the fine wood furniture from Thomas Moser, Shaker Workshops, Chilton, as well as local store Copenhagen. Nieves and Tom also source furniture from the Sundance Catalog and One Kings Lane. The fine woodcarvings that adorn the shelves and walls have been picked up from antique malls in Bismarck, ND, Traverse City, MI, and Seneca, NY – as well as eBay and Wisteria. To find similar naïf and native prints, Nieves suggests tapping into any city’s homegrown bookstore, gallery, or art fair (e.g. Tucson’s Antigone Books’ handmade cards can make great wall art), or using eBay for broad searches.

IMG_0176 Tucson treasures: Nieves and Tom’s home has seen significant refurbishment since they moved in 12 years ago. They’ve used local companies where possible from landscape design firm Boxhill Design to Rogo’s and Ibarra’s Flooring for the concrete flooring. Benjamin Supply has provided the flair in the kitchen and bathroom.

For tile and stone: Sierra Tile

Furniture: Copenhagen, Colonial Frontiers in the Lost Barrio.

Sculpture and Wall Art: Tucson open studio tours and Tucson Museum of Art fairs, plus the couple’s all-time favorite, the Elizabeth Frank Studio.

Take-away lesson(s):  1. Woven rugs that can be cleaned easily and moved around are great when you have animals and are an easy and cheap way to spruce up a room. 2. We really loved the use of bold colors in this home. Nieves is not an ‘earth tones’ type and the seemingly effortless transition from one space to another without it seeming contrived has much to do with the choices of several bold colors: blues, yellows and red.

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Are you digging these digs? 
Get the look locally:

Or try these lookalikes (contains Amazon Affiliate links):

getthelook

From left to right: dining bench, ball clock, Kilim rug, toy train.

1. LumiSource Oregon Dining Bench from Amazon, $162
2. Telechron Atomix Ball Clock from Amazon, $98.83
3. Steven Alan Cotton Kilim Rug from West Elm, $40-$749
4. Lionel Trains from Amazon, $212.98

Wood + pulp = Tucson’s newest gallery


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Long-time friends Ben Schmitt and David Olsen have pooled their interests and talents to create Wood and Pulp, Tucson’s newest gallery. By Gillian Drummond. Photos by David Olsen

Wood and Pulp interior

Inside Wood and Pulp, Tucson’s newest gallery.

On the walls is the pulp – the exhibitions of limited edition art prints. On the floors is the wood, or the furniture. Both the art on the walls and on the floor are by local Tucson artists.

Together they make up Wood and Pulp, Tucson’s newest art gallery and the creation of long-time friends Ben Schmitt and David Olsen.

Ben Schmitt and David Olsen

Ben Schmitt (left) and David Olsen, owners of Wood and Pulp.

Ben is the ‘wood’ in the equation, a designer of furniture and custom cabinetry and owner of Davinci Designs. David is the ‘pulp’, a photographer, publisher of arts magazine Zocalo, and promoter of the arts in Tucson.

Wood and Pulp is the latest journey for two friends who have traveled both figuratively and literally. They met as students at the University of Arizona (David graduated in media arts and anthropology, Ben in humanities). Ben wanted a place to showcase his furniture, David wanted a gallery to showcase the talent of local artists he loves, and an office for Zocalo Magazine. David points out that furniture and art go together; you have one, you need the other. “If you have art, what do you do with the floor space?” he points out.

Joe Marshall wood block

The woodblock used by artist Joe Marshall for Wood and Pulp’s current art exhibition.

Danny Martin screen print

Tucson artist Danny Martin signs copies of screen prints exhibited recently at Wood and Pulp.

David’s involvement in the project is double-edged. He knows Wood and Pulp (and marketing it) is important if he is to continue advocating the arts in Tucson. He also knows that if he gave too much coverage of the gallery in his magazine, there may be raised eyebrows. He prefers to tread on the safe side of that fine line and take a backseat when it comes to public relations. Ben is modest too, for other reasons. “I don’t aspire to be a great well-known designer, I aspire to build pieces that are well crafted and are going to last a lifetime,” he says.

Wood & Pulp front

Wood and Pulp is in the Firestone Building in central Tucson.

They considered other spaces but when this one came up in the historic Firestone Building – a hub of art galleries, offices and studios and formerly a storage goods facility, a tire store and, latterly, Crystal Rhinestone Boutique – they didn’t hesitate. “This is really the new arts district in Tucson so for us it was a natural fit. And we would get two-thirds of the space on Congress Street [for the same price],” says David of a location that’s a hop and a skip from downtown and also Tucson’s 4th Avenue.

Ben Schmitt lamp

A lamp by Ben Schmitt, on display at Wood and Pulp.

They painted the concrete floors grey and built a pony wall in the middle of the gallery, something that would provide a separate space for the furniture and also control flow at parties and openings. The art on the walls – rotated every month – is displayed on boards rather than framed. “I like the idea of them popping,” says David.

Ben Schmitt Wenge Side Table 2

Ben Schmitt likes to experiment with different angles on his furniture, as shown with this table.

Ben Schmitt furniture

Davinci Designs carries the tag ‘the science of art’. It sums up Ben’s interest and training in drafting and architecture. He studied both subjects in high school, and did a year at the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture. Originally from Westport, Connecticut, he returned there after college to spend a year working in construction, on high-end custom homes. He spent a year apprenticing for Russian cabinetry maker Seva Gamba and two years as an apprentice with Bob Mick of Astro Fab furniture makers. Through Davinci Designs, he has worked with a regular roster of Tucson architects and designers, including HK Associates and Kevin Osborn Design.

Ben’s work mixes materials and plays with different angles. You’ll find him using African hardwood together with powder-coated steel. One of his signature marks is designing furniture pieces that include a 15 degree angle somewhere, usually on the base. Among the furniture Ben has on display at the gallery are creations by the likes of Scott Baker of Baker + Hesseldenz and Jake Scott of Black Hill Design.

Ben Schmitt jewelry cabinet and dinning table

A jewelry cabinet and (background) dining table and bench by Ben.

 

Ben _Schmitt nightstand

A night stand designed and crafted by Ben Schmitt.

Ben Schmitt dining table 2

One of Ben’s dining tables on display at the gallery.

David grew up in Pasadena, California. At high school he became interested in filmmaking and photography and worked in Hollywood for a time. After attending the University of Arizona, he returned to working in Hollywood before settling in Tucson. “The friends I made here are from everywhere else. Tucson is a melting pot of geographically misplaced individuals. I felt like it was a place you could kind of do anything you want. It was easier to pursue passions and dreams,” he says.

His own passion, apart from Wood and Pulp, is running Zocalo Magazine (he was formerly with Tucson Weekly and founded Downtown Tucsonan magazine for the Downtown Tucson Partnership). “Ever since I was little I felt an entrepreneurial spirit in me. I wanted to run my own business,” he says.

There is one caveat, however. “It’s been a lot of fun,” says David of setting up Wood and Pulp. “That’s the key. I don’t want to do it if it’s not fun.”

* Find Wood and Pulp at 439 North 6th Avenue or at woodandpulp.com

* Wood and Pulp’s current print release is Joe Marshall’s “Paw Paw’s F-100”, a 5-color reduction woodblock print on birch plywood, hand printed on natural kozo by the artist.

She’s sitting pretty


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When Caitlin Myers performs burlesque as part of this week’s Body Love Conference in Tucson, it will be in her new wheelchair – a gold painted, sequined wheelchair she has transformed into her own throne. Caitlin sat down with friend and fellow burlesque performer Adiba Nelson to reveal why her wheelchair has become her seat of power, and made her love her body even more. By Adiba Nelson. Photos by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

When I was asked to interview Caitlin for this story, I was excited and angst ridden at the same time. I met Caitlin in November 2014 as we both navigated our way through burlesque. I was excited to sit down with my gal pal and chat our faces off over mimosas. I was also terrified because I knew Caitlin had a story, and I didn’t want to get it wrong. Much like my own daughter, Caitlin has a disability and, much like my daughter’s disability, hers is incredibly rare. But also, much like my daughter, Caitlin Rose Myers is a force to be reckoned with.

She has struggled with what she now knows is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome for nearly her entire life (she was only recently diagnosed). It is a connective tissue disorder that causes chronic pain. She has been told numerous times by numerous doctors that she should not dance. However, Caitlin pushed through. She craved dance, she needed it, and has stopped at nothing to get it. Caitlin is the only burlesque performer in Tucson who uses her wheelchair in her acts. Through her performances she is challenging the social norm that says a disabled body is not a beautiful body. She is tearing down walls of limitations for people who once thought doors were closed to them, simply by saying “find a way, any way, to be authentically YOU”.

Caitlin Burlesque Photo by Danni Valdez_6976

Caitlin has worked her wheelchair into her burlesque act. Photo by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

I sat down with Caitlin ready to laugh and tell funny stories about how pastie making was almost the death of us, or how at age 29 she is killing it as a PhD candidate in English Literature, or discuss in great detail her odd love affair with the ampersand. Instead I reminisced, I grimaced, I became overwhelmed with pride, and I cried. Caitlin, in her quest to be authentically herself, is the living embodiment of every trait I want my daughter to possess. How many people can you say that about? She moves like a goddess, swims like a mermaid, and lives life fully on her terms.

Caitlin, anyone who has ever seen you on stage knows that you are an incredible performer. You move like it’s as natural as breathing. How did you get started in dance? Is it an inherited talent, or are you one of those people God just touched with the ballet stick and said “Poof! You shall be a dancer!”  “My mother was a dancer and she imparted that love of dance to me. I took ballet, tap and jazz from four or five years old. Every single week I was in somebody’s class dancing. I just loved moving. It became my passion. For some reason at that time my favorites were tap and jazz, but not ballet. Even at that young age I could tell that I wasn’t the ‘normal’ ballerina shape.”

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

The ‘normal’ ballerina shape. Oh, you mean petite, slender, and not chesty in the slightest? “Yes. I was always tall, and tall women don’t make good ballerinas. Neither do chesty girls, which I was. And I had a larger bum than all the other girls. So, there were a lot of reasons.  I remember we had a ballet teacher and she was very traditional – complete with a heavy cane that she would rap on the floor. She was always coming around and gently tapping me with the cane on my lower back and saying “BUTT IN! BUTT IN!”, and I was like “My butt is in as much as it can be! I just have a big butt – it doesn’t go anywhere!” So needless to say, ballet was not my favorite.”

Completely understandable! I don’t think I would love it either. Actually, I didn’t love it for those very reasons – I was also always the big girl in the class. However, you continued dancing. Did you continue with ballet? So much of modern dance and jazz is gleaned from ballet. “No, I loved tap and jazz. I loved how fun it was and how free it was, but around the time that little girls in ballet transfer into pointe, what we now know was Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome began to rear its head. I started to complain about leg pain when they tried to make me do a lot of pointe work. After seeing a doctor it was decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea that I go into pointe.

“But I still kept dancing – I just found new ways to dance. I kept doing tap and jazz and added in swing dancing. And then I got into Indian classical dance. But again, that is a style of dance that is very hard on your knees due to the standard position, so that didn’t last long. But I had this passion – I had to perform. So I came back to belly dance, and actually got to a point where I was teaching classes. I did that for a year and a half. And then everything changed.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp. Shot on location at Sparkroot.

“I was teaching a move called the Turkish Drop. From standing you drop directly down, with your knees thrust forward  and your back down on the floor.  I was practicing those and I went down and than I could not get up. I was laying and I remember thinking ‘this hurts too much – more than it should’. It was really scary. Coincidentally, this was also when I was starting to do burlesque for the first time. In my act I was a maid balancing a tea set on my head, and I went down into a slow Turkish Drop. It was right after that when I realized the pain wasn’t going anywhere.”

And then you were hit by a car. First of all, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain simply from being hit, but you were already in immense pain from the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I know from our conversations that this accident marked the first time you ever had to use a wheelchair. How did this affect you? “It was very intense. I have a lot of memories of butt-scooting down the stairs of my apartment just so I could see the sunlight outside. I had to heal mentally and physically. I didn’t dance for a long time because of the mental anguish and the ridiculously long healing process.

“In hindsight, I realize that Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has been behind my lack of healing the entire time. When the physical therapy wasn’t working, when the doctor recommended surgery to release the tension on my patella and it didn’t work, when nothing I did was helping me heal, it was due to the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I didn’t finally get a diagnosis until this year, when my husband’s doctor looked at my records and said ‘This is not normal – someone this young should not be in this much pain every single day.’ To finally hear that, that validation – it was amazing.”

Photo by Danni Valdez

Caitlin swims twice a week, on doctors’ orders. She does her own “modified” breast stroke to avoid dislocating her joints. Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

I remember that. By that point you and I were already in Burlesque for the Soul together. But your doctors had told you that you really shouldn’t dance anymore, and the pain wasn’t going away. So how did you get to that point in your head where you were just like “f you – I’m gonna do what I wanna do? I’m gonna push through this and do this program.” What happened? “I needed power. I remembered when I first got into burlesque in college, it was after a particularly horrible break-up and I needed power, and some sort of self-affirmation that I was worth more than my ex said I was. When I met the women of that troupe in college I noticed how powerful and strong they were. Their acts were almost like a joyfully antagonistic reclaiming of their sexuality, as if to say ‘This is mine, and I’m gonna use it the way I want to, not the way you tell me to’.  I also attended a workshop with world-renowned burlesque performer Rose Wood and I’ll never forget her words: ‘Challenge the notion that when people go to a burlesque show they’re there to be seduced. I am not on stage to be what they want me to be, I’m there to be what I need to be.’ Those words stuck with me.”

That is such a strong statement, and it is exactly what you’re doing now with burlesque. Watching you go through the process from beginning to end, just even signing up for Burlesque For The Soul, was the beginning of reclaiming your power. “It is a strong statement, but it is everything that I think burlesque is. It was that statement and a huge leap of faith that pulled my act together. When it came time to actually conceptualize the act, I knew I had to use a chair but I wanted it to be a “happy” chair – a chair that made a statement. Well, what’s a happy chair? A throne. And that song Royals by Lorde was still popular, so it just fit. I would perform in a throne.

“But then the idea of using the wheelchair was brought up, and I fought against it. The very notion of it harkened back to a time when I was confined to my apartment, trapped in a wheelchair and in immense pain due to that stupid car accident. I wanted nothing to do with it. But then you and the ladies of Black Cherry Burlesque reframed it for me, and helped me see that a wheelchair could actually be a very powerful tool – giving me greater freedom and independence in my movement.

Caitlin Location Photo by Danni Valdez_6820

Photo by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

“Once I realized that, the love affair began. I now had my seat of power, my throne, if you will. That’s why I customized my chair to look like a throne. And that’s why I liked it in my act: because I was truly in love with it and all that it represented for me. It was no longer a trap or a cage. It was freedom. It was power. It was sexy. And it was mine. Every time I worked on it I got happier and happier. When I finally finished spray painting it [metallic gold], applying gold sequins to the spokes, and adding a back with a gold wood detail, I pushed it out into the sun to take a picture and was just in awe of it. It was beautiful, and that moment marked the turning point in accepting what was happening to my body.”

Did you have any idea how powerful that moment would be (in your act) when you got up into your wheelchair? How did that moment feel? Because I can tell you that watching it – it was a HUGE moment. Immensely powerful.  “I knew that it was a powerful moment. I knew that sitting in a wheelchair and putting a crown on my head was important in a broader sense. We had the dress rehearsal and [burlesque performer] Paco Fish filmed it. There’s something that I see when I watch that first rehearsal. There’s an aggressive power in my movements. I watch it now and realize that was the moment. It was kind of a ‘f you’ moment. At that moment, all of my fears of went away. I put that crown on my head and was like ‘I don’t care if this is not what you paid for, this is me. This is what I wanna do, so deal with it’. The entire struggle to accept this part of my life was gone. I didn’t even have the diagnosis yet. I just knew that I was going to be the kind of performer I needed and wanted to be.”

Which leads me to your *new* stage name. You were previously known as Jacqueline Boxx, now you’ve added. Miss Disa-Burly-TEASE. Tell us about that.  “One of the reasons I love that name so much is because of the playfulness of it. The ‘tease’ in all caps challenges the notion that if you have a disability you can’t be cute, playful and sexy. And I wanted to say that yes, you absolutely can be. That’s how a lot of non-disabled people develop their burlesque personas – cute, playful, sexy. In a way I’m combining the general aesthetic with the social consciousness work that I want to do – in terms of letting my story of my body be told and heard.”

Photo by Danni Valdez

Caitlin Burlesque Photo by Danni Valdez_6974

Top and above: Caitlin, a.k.a. Jacqueline Boxx, performs burlesque. Photos by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

I wonder if for some people it borders on fetishization, the notion of disabled and sexy? “You hit the nail on the head. There is a perceived fetishization that comes along with finding someone with a disability attractive or sexy, and I want to challenge that. Why can’t someone in a wheelchair be sexy? Why can’t they be hot? My first act was very sensual – I mean for Pete’s sake I licked my wheelchair as I was groping it. I want to have more people question against the norm. They’re recoiling against the idea of someone being sexy and in a wheelchair. People in wheelchairs have sex! It happens! And you don’t have to be a freak to be attracted to them. You can be a freak if you want to be a freak, but it has nothing to do with the wheelchair. People with disabilities have sex too, and it doesn’t make you weird, strange or bad if you lust after them. It makes you human.”

You are a powerhouse – wheelchair, crutches, leg brace, whatever – you are incredible. Your message is fierce, and as real and raw as one would expect of a woman strives to live authentically. So what’s next for you? What sort of shimmies and shakes do you have coming down the pipeline? “With Ehlers-Danlos you never know. It’s not something that gets better. There’s no cure, only pain management and ongoing physical therapy, and sometimes even that is difficult. But for now I’m still shimmying, so I will shimmy until I can shimmy no more! I think it would be great to teach workshops someday, to other individuals with disabilities who maybe thought that burlesque wasn’t available to them. I’d like to guide them in telling their own story through burlesque, because honestly, if all you can do is just move my shoulder, I can do burlesque.”

Caitlin Burlesque Photo by Danni Valdez_6993

Photo by Danni Valdez. Hair and make-up by Perfection Artistry. Jewelry by Christine Bartfai. Photography assistant: Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

I am incredibly excited, thrilled and so honored to be sharing the stage with you this week. I feel like every time I watch you perform I learn something new, a different nerve in me is struck, another ‘a-ha’ moment takes place. The dash of your life – you know, the dash between the date of your birth and the date of your death – that dash is going to be so full of “How did she do that?” and “Oh my goodness, this woman!”. But I have to know, what do you want the dash of your life to be chockfull of? “I want it to be full of ‘She lived authentically. She was true to herself, and in that, she encouraged other people to be true to themselves and live authentically.’ Everything I’ve experienced, good and bad, has made me who I am right now – – and there’s been a lot of bad. My diagnosis comes with hyperflexibility and I am now incredibly flexible in my life. I can just go with the flow. I don’t have to hold on to the structure of what once was. I am now just able to say ‘This is how it is’. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome almost took center stage in my life but I’m a performer, and when I’m on stage I’m performing on my terms, disabled or not. And my light’s not out yet, so the show must go on.”

* Caitlin is one of the speakers at The Body Love Conference on  June 6th. Purchase your tickets to the conference here. Watch Caitlin and Adiba in the Every Body’s Beautiful Revue at The Flycatcher (340 E 6th St – 85705) Saturday evening June 6th. And if you’re still not shimmied out yet and you’d like VIP tickets to see Caitlin debut another new act at The Surly Wench on Friday, July 3rd, purchase those tickets here.

* Read more of Adiba Nelson on her blog The Full Nelson and in The Huffington Post.

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The music makers with a difference


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By day they’re helping design great spaces, by night they’re rocking out in bands. And it’s no coincidence. These three say design and music go hand in hand. By Steve Renzi. Photos by Danni Valdez. Cover photo of Rob Paulus.

Ryan Anderson Photo by Danni Valdez a

Hey Bucko! featuring Ryan Anderson, left, a transportation and planning policy advisor. Photo by Danni Valdez.

Good planning, design and architecture connect us to the world and make it a better place to live. So does good music. You could say that a life without music is as barren as a cityscape without people or a landscape without plants.

We talk to three people who are in the business of planning great spaces by day, and playing music by night. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

 

“Good design and music go hand in hand.”

Rob Paulus Re-Edits by Danni Valdez a

Rob Paulus, architect by day, player of violin and guitar by night. Photo by Danni Valdez


The work of architect Rob Paulus of Rob Paulus Architects is well known in Tucson and beyond. Along with his wife Randi Dorman, he has designed and developed several residential projects including Indigo Modern, Barrio Metalico and the Ice House Lofts. He also plays bass guitar and the violin.

How did you learn music? “My grandmother could play a mean piano and was a huge influence on our family of seven. I can still vividly remember her stack of multi-colored vinyl records (78rpm) that she would play on her vintage turntable. My older brother got me playing guitar at age ten, I’ve never had a real lesson and tell everyone that I went to the school of “Hunt and Peck.”

 Tell us about you musical career.  “My first gig was at a Catholic church in the sixth grade in front of the entire school. My buddy and I deviously brought our electric guitars – it was my first taste of Rock and Roll. I got into bass and jazz in my early twenties playing with Larry Redhouse here locally. I’m currently playing with my long time friend, Marshall Jones in a variety of groups from a string trio to a full on band with our amazing vocalist Genevieve Gaus.”

As an architect, what are your influences? Much like music, good architecture needs many layers of legibility but with an underlying solid foundation and rhythm. In Europe I got to see the modern work of architects Nicholas Grimshaw, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. Their work was set into urban environments that date back thousands of years. This really blew me away and thoroughly reinforced the importance of creating solid design that looks to the future while integrating and celebrating the past.”

How do your day and night jobs contribute to and influence one another? Good design and music go hand in hand and ultimately involve a thoughtful approach to composition. There needs to be a balance of solid and void as well as the concept of tension and release that define both.”

You recently visited Cuba. Tell us about it. “Cuba has such an intact and walkable urban environment. Part of the allure was what wasn’t there; no cell phone service, no fast food, no corporate housing tracts…There is a purity in both the music and architecture that I hope isn’t lost as they transition into the modern world.”

 

“Design and music are both rooted in mathematics.”

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Landscape architect and guitar player James DeRoussel. Photo by Susan Denis

James DeRoussel has been a landscape architect in Tucson for 15 years and currently works at ForeSite LLC.  He also works at Watershed Management Group, a Tucson non-profit focused on water harvesting and sustainability. He plays guitar and is a vocalist – he considers the voice to be another instrument. He has played in country bands and is currently in the band Latigo.

How often do you play?  “My standard answer is that I’ve owned a guitar for 25 years, but I’ve only been playing it for two. It’s only partly a joke. I would play every day for a month and then not touch a guitar for three months. I did that for 25 years. Now I am excited about my new project, a band called Latigo. We rehearse once a week and I try to practice every day.”

How do your two careers feed off and contribute to one another? “Most folks fear public speaking. As a landscape architect, I teach a lot and spend a lot of time doing public speaking, so I got over stage fright a long time before I started performing musically.

“Design and music are both rooted in mathematics at many levels. The elements of rhythm, repetition, balance and variety are all common to music and to design. And all those elements must be present to compose a musical piece or a landscape design of high quality. So understanding these principles and how people experience them is really important to design, composition and performance.”

Your favorite example of local architecture? “I think the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is a world-class example of what’s possible when design is rooted in local context, and when architecture, landscaping and engineering are approached in an integrated way.”

Tell us about your music.I like all types of music, but am singing mostly country music now. My favorite song changes weekly. I am constantly humming or singing a tune and half the time, I don’t know I’m doing it. It drives my wife crazy.”

 

“The key in music and politics is to be attuned.”

Ryan-Anderson-Photo-by-Danni-Valdez-b

Ryan Anderson, transportation, planning and sustainability policy advisor and a member of the band Hey Bucko! Photo by Danni Valdez

Besides being once voted as “best natural mustache,” in the Rialto Theatre’s Beerd Fest competition, Ryan Anderson is Transportation, Planning & Sustainability Policy Advisor at the Office of the Mayor of Tucson. Specifically, he has worked on the Mayor’s 10,000 Trees initiative, reducing the city’s water and energy consumption, developing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, expediting transportation and supporting legislative efforts at the Capital. Anderson also plays rhythm guitar in the instrumental trio Hey Bucko!

How does music feed off and contribute to your other career?The key in music and politics is to be attuned. Context defines how a note, policy, or program is received. Either it will play well in context or it is off, and you need to adjust. Sometimes you’ve written the underlying score, or developed the project, and thus have more control; other times you’ve joined something in progress and you have to harmonize with what’s already going on.”

What projects do you most admire in planning, design, or architecture?I admire smart growth. Tucson’s efforts to revitalize downtown qualify. Generally, I like design that cherishes the quirks that make a place unique. I’ve done a lot of traveling, and my favorite spots around the world are unapologetically themselves, much like Tucson.”

Fave song and why?The answer depends on my mood at the time. Maybe one of Ennio Morricone’s theme songs to Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti western films. I’m currently listening to D’Angelo’s new album, Black Messiah.”

 At the Pearly Gates, what will you be known for?Hopefully, I’ll be known for more than my mustache.”

Are chickens a gateway drug? (and other hen-raising need-to-knows)


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Chickens offer a bounty of handy yard services. But for desert dwelling chickens there are a few need-to-knows. By Darbi Davis. Cover photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

It’s hard to forget that time the economy plunged – the country was laden with lost jobs and the soaring cost of food. Communities responded with something of an agricultural ascension: micro urban gardens, residential front yard edibles, and small-scale farms, all inspiring a grow-your-own attitude (it’s cheaper after all) that erupted into a global trend. And it wasn’t just about growing, it was also about raising – chickens, that is.

I love a freshly laid egg for breakfast (thanks to my chicken-loving friends) but I have no interest in rearing my own flock. Perhaps it’s the term “pasty butt” (look it up) or their potential gateway effect (see below).

That doesn’t mean I don’t see their benefits, though. As well as being feathered friends, chickens offer a bounty of handy yard services such as expert weeder, provider of organic fertilizer, and of course they bring us nutrient-rich food in the form of eggs or meat. Their popularity remains remarkable. There’s a scene in Noah Baumbach’s recent film While We’re Young that takes a humorous poke at the new wave of urban chicken rearing. Über hipster couple Jamie and Darby, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, are showing their Manhattan loft to their new friends. There’s hand-made (crocheted blankets, Darby’s own ice cream brand), there’s retro (wall-to-wall vinyl records) and there’s a chicken. Just one. Living in what looks like an oversized birdcage.

Before you go ahead and get chickens (hopefully plural) here are a few need-to-knows:

Coop Couture and where to put it

Photo by Rachel Miller

Consider shade and circulation when siting a coop.

Erecting a coop in the desert requires a site analysis that considers shade, size constraints, accessibility, and circulation. Consider an east-facing spot that gives you shade from the harsh sun during the hottest part of the day.

The location within the yard should allow for easy retrieval of eggs and clean up. Tucson chicken keeper Carina Brokamp cleverly turned an old dresser into an attractive nesting box. The back panel was removed and situated so the front of the dresser created one wall of the coop and faced outwards. She simply opens the dresser door or drawer to retrieve an egg. There’s no need to disturb or distract the ladies.

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brocamp

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brocamp

Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

Carina Brokamp’s remodeled dresser allows chickens to lay on one side and Carina to collect without even entering the coop. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Choose breeds that have a higher heat tolerance and provide them ample water. Jenna Vallier, co-founder of Elderberry Edibles, a Tucson CSA and market garden and Wholistic Hen, an organic line of nesting box herbs, suggests these varieties: “Plymouth Rock, Sleek White Leghorn, Easter Eggers, and Rhode Island Reds – and then make sure they have lots of water to drink and  a small pool for them to cool down in the summer.”

Rhuta Wilson, local educator and chicken whisperer, suggests “freezing water bottles and setting them on concrete masonry blocks in the shade. Open the tops slightly so cold water can leak on the blocks and the chickens can stand on them to cool down.”

Chicken Safety (or It’s All Fun and Games until a Homicidal Javalina Invades)

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brocamp

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brocamp

The chickens at Elderberry Edibles live along a riparian corridor, which is prime habitat for all desert creatures, and perfectly fertile for a farm. Jenna cites common chicken predators; “we have frequent visits from coyote, javelina, raccoons, bobcats, mountain lions, owls, hawks, and skunks – all of whom would be happy to have a chicken dinner on us.” These critters can be found just about anywhere in Tucson and hens must be protected in a securely enclosed coop. “We inherited ramshackle chicken coops enclosed in two large runs. It was the neighbor’s dog that revealed the weaknesses of the structure. She visited twice and got pretty tender chicken,” says Jenna.

Meanwhile, in midtown Tucson, my son spotted a ferral ferret on the schoolyard playground, and I feared for the schoolyard chickens. Thankfully, it was coaxed into the arms of a human before it squirmed into the coop eliminating an imminent lesson on life and death to 65 preschoolers. Ferrets, while clearly not wild, do escape their domestic domiciles and will happily take out an entire urban flock.

Chicken Health: The Holistic Hen

Photo by Aaron Cameron

Photo by Aaron Cameron

 

In addition to a secure coop and protection from the heat, desert chickens need a clean and healthy environment to maintain their immune system for overall health, production and longevity. This begins with a proper diet and exercise and, in the case of the flock at Elderberry Edibles, some herbal remedies, which resulted in the Wholistic Hen line of nesting box herbs.

“The farm along the Tanque Verde Valley is based on the principles of permaculture, avoiding the use of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers resulting in a vital, rich soil network,” says Jenna , “and our philosophy on chicken care is much the same.”

She researched “common poultry ailments” such as parasites, worms and respiratory issues and then over the course of five years, grew herbs, studied, experimented, and formulated a blend to support the flock.

“There is no doubt that the herbs have been beneficial in keeping our hens healthy, relieving their stress, controlling parasites, stimulating higher egg production and supporting the healthy function of their immune and respiratory systems,” says Jenna. Half a cup of herbs sprinkled in the nesting box provides ample impact. Prior to packaging Wholistic Hen Nesting Box Herbs, she tested the product out on the local chicken community and received feedback reminiscent of her own experience. Her flock officially expanded.

Beware the Gateway Drug Effect

Chickens can be a gateway drug to more garden animals. Recently, a close friend who was adamantly against petting my dog, got chickens. Now she has a dog.

Jenna adamantly disagrees, despite their post-chicken acquisition of bees, a turkey and a donkey. She says: “We’re giving the turkey and donkey a home and love, but we would not have sought them out.” If it were not for the fact that she’s been farming in some fashion since before it exploded as a trend, I may not believe that statement.

Chicken Personality: Silly, stubborn, and tougher than you think

Chickens are delicate little creatures and tend towards a relatively short life cycle, unless you are “Red,” the Rhode Island Red hen from the Tanque Verde Valley. “I found Red breathing slowly and blood pouring from a deep gash across the top of her head,” says owner Jenna. “She was severely pecked by the rest of the flock for defending another possibly ill member. I was pregnant, and couldn’t bring myself to end her suffering so I took her out to the woods and left her in a box with water for the wildlife. I went back later to check on her and she was gone. Two days later, I heard my partner say, “Red’s alive!” To my great surprise, she was walking from the woods and looking for food. She’s made a full recovery, is a great layer, and likes to sit on my shoulder when I’m feeding the flock,” says Jenna.

Red perched on Jenna. Photo by Aaron Cameron

If you decide you must raise your own chickens, do a little research, planning and soul searching before you hit the feed store. Those teeny feathered friends grow and before you know it you’ll have a coop of menopausal matrons – pampered without the payback. Will you trade them for meat, send them to a sanctuary (not recommended), or remember some of their other skills and let them partner with the maintenance crew? If you rear a silly survivalist that takes dust baths in your heart like “Red,” this may be a non-issue, but it is absolutely worthy of thought.

Get to know your local farmer and feed store – such as Elderberry Edibles, Arizona Feeds Country Store South, or OK Feed and Supply. They have an arsenal of advice. The blog Garden Betty, Diary of a Dirty Girl has an entire section on backyard chickens filled with stories and knowledge. Free Range Chicken Gardens by Jenni Bloom is also a great read offline.

Finally, know the Tucson city codes on chicken keeping. And know that, with plenty of chicken lovers grumbling about their restrictions, the city is considering updating them.

* Darbi Davis is a Tucson-based landscape designer and owner of Red Bark Design.

Diapers for the birds

 

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One of Sew Sammi’s chicken diapers. Photo courtesy of Sew Sammi

The craze for keeping chickens has led to plenty of kooky business opportunities, from chicken leashes to play swings for the hens. But our favorite has to be Tucson-based Sew Sammi, which sells diapers for chickens and other birds on Etsy.

Sam (who prefers not to use her last name) started her business after buying a pet goose that she wanted to be able to have in the house. After trying out baby diapers, Sam decided she could make her own.

The chicken diapers are “made to last”, says Sam, with two layers of cotton, a waterproof lining in the poop pouch, elastic straps, and sizes custom-made to the chicken. Sam also sells no-sew fleece diapers for “occasional” diapering. These are made from a pattern and just require a marker and a pair of scissors to cut out.

Sam’s other chicken accessories include neck ties, quilts and bows.

* For more information on Sew Sammi, visit her Etsy shop here.

The point about Five Points


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The Five Points area of Tucson is on the up and up, and it’s thanks to a handful of trailblazers. Gillian Drummond reports.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The recently opened Downtown Clifton. Photo by Gillian Drummond

It’s little documented or lauded, a place to pass through rather than end up. Its main claim to fame, geographically and historically, is that it is a gateway to other parts of the city – namely the historic Tucson neighborhoods of Armory Park, Barrio Viejo, Barrio Santa Rosa and Santa Rita Park, and also Tucson’s downtown.

The area of Tucson known as Five Points – the junction around West 18th Street, Stone Avenue and South Sixth Avenue, and the strips north and south of it – has been somewhat invisible. Until now.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The main junction at Five Points, which brings five Tucson neighborhoods together. Photo by Gillian Drummond

“It really is this overlooked, neglected, unloved little area. It’s an area people have somewhat ignored,” says Moniqua Lane, who lives in nearby Armory Park.

Moniqua didn’t ignore it though. In fact, she coveted it. It has been her walking route for years and she says simply: “I have a crush on it.”

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Inside the Downtown Clifton. Photo by Colleen Loomis.

She also has plans for it. Moniqua, a former lawyer who has turned her attention to property development, wants to help make Tucson “the best place it can be”.  A native Tucsonan, she gets tired of two things: seeing “interesting, intelligent, community-minded people” leave Tucson for places like Portland and Austin; and people coming to Tucson and calling it the next Portland or Austin. “I want Tucson to be what it is,” she says. And it seems, to her, that Five Points is a great place to start.

Moniqua has put her first stamp on the Five Points district with the recently opened Downtown Clifton hotel on South Stone Avenue, a place she co-owns with partners Phil Lipman and Clif Taylor. Clif used to live across the road on Kennedy Street two decades ago, and saw the building go through various states of disrepair. (It was formerly an apartment building and possibly a motel. Historic records on the 1948 building are sparse, says Moniqua.)

Inside the Downtown Clifton. Photo courtesy of The Downtown Clifton

Inside the building was “like a little treasure box”, says Moniqua: ceilings intact, concrete floors in need of just a polish, immaculate original bathroom tile. The exterior, though, was bland. “It was one of those buildings that just had no personality. So we decided to up the ante a bit and give it personality,” says Clif. If one were to describe that personality, it would be someone who loves the downtown scene but can never hang up his cowboy boots or his Stetson. A partyer and a cowpoke. An urban cowboy. In other words, Clif himself.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Clifton

A mural by Tucson artist Danny Martin at the Downtown Clifton. Photo courtesy of Downtown Clifton

Clif took the property’s mid-century bones and ran with it. His vision seems to have been years – decades, even – in the making. An artist, filmmaker and musician who often performs under the name Chick Cashman, Clif grew up on “a pretty insane piece of ranch property” here, and that was the feel he was going for with the hotel. “It’s definitely got that little dude ranch in the middle of the city feel, without going too far. I didn’t want it to be precious and kitschy. I wanted to have it be this funky little outpost.” The ten rooms keep things simple, a mix of western and vintage, with Navajo-style blankets and mid-century modern furniture and accessories. On its website are the words “amigo friendly, rascal ready”. And, yes, the hotel is named after Clif.

Tucson whimsy. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Inside the new Bon boutique. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Much as she has had her eye on the Five Points area, Moniqua says firmly: “We are not pioneers.” The pioneers, the ones who saw the potential of the area several years ago, were Beth Jones, her sister Brooke Molla and Brooke’s husband Tellahoun Molla. Together they bought the building on the corner of Stone Avenue and West 18th Street that has been responsible for making Five Points a destination rather than a route. At the time, 2005, the building, a former rag factory, was condemned. Brooke and Tellahoun opened Ethiopian eatery Cafe Desta in 2008. It now also houses 5 Points Market and Restaurant and Bon boutique.

“It was a very cool building,” says Beth, a real estate agent who lives just down the alley from it. “And I knew it was a matter of time before this part of the city became what it is today.” But it took time for their vision to unfold. There was remodeling needed, and a search for just the right tenants. Taking their time was deliberate. “We had the luxury of really making sure that whatever we put in would benefit the building and the neighborhood.”

Photo by Gillian Drummond.

The opening of 5 Points Market and Restaurant has created a buzz. Photo by Gillian Drummond.

Beth showed the property to Brian Haskins and Jasper Ludwig, who had moved here from the Pacific Northwest. They were initially interested in opening their own restaurant, then got cold feet. “We had just bought our house and I’d never bought a house before. I felt like stability was important,” says Brian.

Photo courtesy of 5 Points Market & Restaurant

Photo courtesy of 5 Points Market & Restaurant

Then came a boat trip in the Grand Canyon. Brian and Jasper came back re-energized and newly ambitious. “We were like ‘We should do cool things with our lives, we should strive to be who we want to be’,” says Brian. 5 Points Market and Restaurant happened a matter of months later. Not only has it got visitors salivating over its brunches and googly-eyed over its stark but inviting interior of wood, steel and exposed brick, but it’s created a buzz. Two of 5 Points’ regulars, Crystal Flynt and her mother Bonnie, loved this street corner so much they recently relocated their Bon boutique to a spot just two doors away. Bon was formerly in Broadway Village. The same weekend as Bon opened, The Downtown Clifton had its opening party.

Taco Tuesday! Photo courtesy of 5 Points Market & Restaurant

Photo courtesy of 5 Points Market & Restaurant

Crystal Flynt says neighbors have been popping in daily to thank them for moving here. “It’s definitely a great spot. It’s so diverse and it just feels very exciting,” she says of Five Points.

“When I was living here 20 years ago I always felt like this area was going to do something. It always looked like something could happen,” says Clif of the Five Points area. He witnessed two or three restaurants open and close and “a bunch of failed dreams”. But he felt like there was a will for it to succeed. He credits Café Desta and 5 Points Market and Restaurant with being catalysts. “5 Points Market and Restaurant is a very big reason why. 5 Points is so young. It really let people know you can let stuff happen here.”

Photo courtesy of Gillian Drummond

Bon boutique moved to Five Points from Broadway Village. Photo by Gillian Drummond

You can bet that Moniqua Lane will be behind much of the stuff that happens. She and Phil also own a lot adjacent to their new hotel, on which they plan to build single family housing. And she wants to expand further up and down this Five Points strip.

Businesses in the area say neighbors have been mainly positive, although there have been some complaints about parking. Work is underway through the City of Tucson to improve sidewalks and pedestrian lighting at the Five Points intersection, and a $400,000 public art project has been approved. Clearly, the area is on its way.

Corky Poster, an architect and historic conservationist and principal of Poster Frost Mirto in Tucson, has been working on mixed income housing projects in the area and is helping 5 Points Market and Restaurant, Bon and Cafe Desta to transition into urban business parking zoning. “I think people are looking for another sub-center outside of downtown that becomes an extension of downtown,” says Corky. “Plus the land values are lower. There’s still going to be lots of small-scale neighborhood-friendly new development north of 18th Street on Stone and south on Sixth Avenue,” he predicts. “It’s the  beginning of some substantial growth.”

Photo by Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Gillian Drummond.

Page turners


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Books are back – except not in the ways you think. On the eve of the Tucson Festival of Books, we meet three companies who are putting their own unique twist on the printed word. By Gillian Drummond. Cover photo courtesy of Spork Press

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A pop-up version of some of Jim Mahfood’s art, which appears in the book Pop-Up Funk. Photo courtesy of Poposition Press

 The business that Paul Allen built

Ask him to tell you the best bit about his job and Jacob Deatherage can’t make up his mind. There are too many good things.

There’s the fact that he gets to hunt for vintage books for a living (for this book lover and former book scout, that’s a dream.) There’s what he does to them: taking them apart, re-using the covers, inserting a spiral spine and loose-leaf blank pages to turn them into journals. And then there’s what customers do with them. “Having people say the journals have impacted their life, that’s really meaningful and touching and nice. We all want to have a meaningful life and have some value with what we do,” says Jacob.

Then ask him to tell you the worst bit about what he does. “I’m poor and that sucks.”

It was one of the world’s richest men who helped start Jacob’s company, Ex Libris Anonymous. In 2000 Jacob was renting an apartment in a building in Seattle owned by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, when Allen decided to sell. The tenants were offered $5000 to leave within 30 days. Jacob used the money to invest in book binding equipment, which he modified for his own purposes.

Years of working as a bookseller – sourcing books at garage sales and thrift stores – meant Jacob already had the knowledge and the contacts, as well as ready-made inventory. “I had a lot of good-looking books that had no intrinsic value.” So he started selling his handmade journals for $14 each at craft fairs and moved up to wholesale orders. Today he sells in about 200 locations around the USA, including MAST in Tucson. He sells online and has a storefront in Portland, Oregon, although he describes that as more a workshop than a store.

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Ex Libris Anonymous turns vintage books into handmade journals. Photo courtesy of Ex Libris Anonymous

Jacob’s quest for a journal-worthy book, through sales and book dealer contacts, can be laborious. For one thing, most books are plain or unadorned, their visual appeal lying only in the book sleeves that cover them. Jacob estimates that for every one he buys, he looks at 400 to 500 books.

What makes a good journal candidate? “A good-looking book. It has to have something compelling,” he says. That could be the font, a photo, the title or other words that appear on the cover. He then selects single pages from the original book to re-use inside the journal.

Jacob abhors Kindle and still writes lists on paper (his iPhone is used for lists too, but he says paper lists are “more therapeutic”). He recognizes he is doing his bit to save the traditional book, albeit a bit that is minute. “If I worked 24 hours a day and extended my life by six thousand years I would never be able to get through the millions of books destroyed every day by the pulp industry.”

 Clever writing, literary fun

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Four of the five members of Spork Press in their guest house office. Left to right: Drew Burk, Richard Siken, Joel Smith and Andrew Shuta. Missing is Jake Levine. Photo by Craig Bellman

Spork Press is many things. It’s a printing press where books of fiction and poetry are handmade and bound. It’s the producer of mix tapes of music, customized portable cassette players and podcasts. It’s an online collection of authors’ work. It’s a place of not just writing but literary experiments, inventiveness, fun.

Take, for example, Simon Jacobs’ Saturn, in which David Bowie reflects on his life or, rather, lives – the characters he has created throughout his musical career. Or the time Spork put together a collection of ‘middles’, asking authors to write the middle of a novel, something entirely new that would leave readers disoriented and unsatisfied. Or Sunblind Almost Motorcrash, a book of fake album reviews by Daniel Mahoney, due for release this April along with an audio cassette of real bands playing the fake albums.

Photo (left) by Craig Bellman and (right) courtesy of Spork Press

Photo (left) by Craig Bellman and (right) courtesy of Spork Press

Spork Press began in 2001 when Drew Burk and Richard Siken – friends since working night shifts at Tucson’s Grill diner/restaurant – started what was to be a quarterly literary magazine. Drew was writing “really naive and horrible stuff” and frustrated by the idea that he and other writers were at the mercy of editors and agents. “Other people got to decide what would happen to my work and I felt like maybe they didn’t care enough,” says Drew.

Photos courtesy of Spork Press.

Photos courtesy of Spork Press.

The quarterly magazine tailed off into something less than quarterly (although it still continues) and Spork started making books using an old German letterpress machine, waxed Irish linen thread to sew the pages together, and lots of Elmer’s glue. The team has grown from two to five. Drew is a chef and Spork’s fiction editor and book binder. Richard, now a nationally recognized poet (his debut poetry book Crush won awards, his second collection, War of the Foxes, is imminent), is Spork’s poetry editor. The art director is Andrew Shuta, University of Arizona graduate student, teacher, graphic designer and D.J. Fiction editor is Joel Smith, an English lecturer and Masters student at the UA. Jake Levine, a PhD student living in South Korea, is poetry editor.

Intern Clarissa Bueno with a copy of Saturn. Photo by Craig Bellman

Intern Clarissa Bueno with a copy of Saturn. Photo by Craig Bellman

Last year Spork Press sold around 1400 books. Sales are doubling each year, so much so that they are busting out of their current offices – a guest house at the back of Drew’s home. When 3 Story visited recently, staff, volunteers and an intern were spilling out onto tables set up in front of the guest house. They were gluing spines, securing pages and fitting the 5″ by 7″ books onto clamps to hold them in place.

The five staff members are not paying themselves a salary yet, but business is good enough that they are planning to rent a bigger space, in downtown Tucson. They have their eyes on a basement that would serve as three things: a printing press, a book store and a bar.

Photo courtesy of Spork Press

Photo courtesy of Spork Press

The key to Spork’s success? “We’ve stuck around,” says Drew. “We’ve been around for 15 years. We make good quality product and there’s no marketing. It’s word of mouth, so we’re more trustworthy.” Their process is to publish on demand, which means there’s also no waste.

And there’s one last thing that drives them: a pure love of books. “I like books a lot, I enjoy making them and it’s a fun to hang out together and make the books. There are always people who are willing to learn, and we like to teach.”

So far so busy, says Drew, who just cut back on his chef hours to devote more time to Spork. The back orders are piling up and Spork has been struggling to keep up with demand.

* Find Spork Press books (and other fun stuff) online and in bookstores around the USA, including Powell’s in Portland and McNally Jackson in New York.

 Pop-up books for grown-ups

pancakes-pop Pop-up books are usually associated with kids’ stories and for many years they were tame. Thanks to the paper engineering skills of people like Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda – widely regarded as the rock stars of pop-up books (Star Wars pop-upsWinter’s Tale) – they have become much more elaborate.

One designer in Florida is taking a different approach altogether: creating pop-up books for adults. Rosston Meyer, owner of web and design firm Rosstamicah Design, has a love for the pop-up book and not much interest in kids’ stories.

After designing a website for artist and comic book creator Jim Mahfood, Rosston sold Jim on the idea of publishing a pop-up book of Jim’s art. Rosston and his brother Marc hand made a hundred copies of Pop Up Funk and sold them for $250 each.

Rosston launched Poposition Press and a Kickstarter campaign to fund his latest project: a pop-up art book featuring Jim and five other contemporary American artists. Rosston’s fundraising target was $15,000. He raised $22,000.

“I’ve had this idea for 20 years. I knew I wanted to make a pop-up book since high school, I just didn’t know what for,” says Rosston, 35. He approached his favorite artists and all of them said yes. He is now in pre-production on The Pop-Up Art Book, which should be on sale in May with a print run of 900. The books will sell for $59.99 each and there will also be single pages of pop-up art for sale at $12 to $15 each.

Tara McPherson's The Water Nebula painting and Water Nebula as a pop-up page in the book. Artwork courtesy of Poposition Press

Tara McPherson’s The Water Nebula painting (left) and its pop-up version in The Pop-Up Art Book. Artwork and photo courtesy of Poposition Press

Translating the artists’ work into 3-D paper sculptures is more than deconstructing artwork, however. Making part of a painting pop out of a scene inevitably means more painting. Either the original art needs a few extra elements to help it pop, or more painting has to be done to fill in the background that’s left after part of the painting turns 3D. The fill-in work was done by the artists and by Rosston.

In the world of book publishing, it’s usually Goliath that beats David. But Rosston, like Jacob and Spork Press, seems to be proving that small can be influential, and trailblazing. Rosston says he sees a slowing down in the pop-up books genre generally. He believes that has to do with their cost and complexity. “The fact that [the printers] would even consider doing mine says a lot. A run of 1000 or 2500 copies would have been  unheard of ten years ago,” he says. “There are so few people making pop ups, and then so few publishers putting them out, that any action in that area does seem to help. I think all pop up books help the traditional book.”

* Find out more about The Pop-Up Art Book at popositionpress.com

* For more books – a whole weekend of them – visit the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend, March 14-15. More at tucsonfestivalofbooks.org