Designer for Hire

Home is where the balance is

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We take a peek inside the home of interior and landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux, whose house balances family life and a modern/mid-century aesthetic. Plus, tips on how to get the look. Story and photos by Rachel Miller


The carrara marble table was a steal at $275

They adorn the pages of décor magazines, those beautiful houses with sleek sophisticated lines and nary a hint of clutter, the young children or even the family that supposedly lives in them.

Dwell and the like might be the fantasy décor porn for the parents of small children whose reality is tripping over school backpacks and LEGOs, but is the simple beauty from these magazine pages realistic for most of us with children? Or maintainable?

Before admitting defeat and sacrificing the Noguchi coffee table to the rampages of toddlers or teens, consider the home of interior and landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux, husband Ryan and daughters Minda and Eva. It is not the austere, almost stark beauty of a magazine home; rather, Kathryn and Ryan have created something simple, beautiful and functional. This home is a reflection of the owners’ bustling life: bean bags for kids to lounge on, deep sofas for snuggling, sleek cabinets for storage that grace, rather than dominate, a room, and subtle earth tones in the paint and accessories bringing it all together.


An Eames surfboard table and IKEA storage in the living room

Kathryn, owner of Prideaux Design in Tucson, has a love for those looks in magazine pages. But she has found balance. She highlights the family’s passions in a mixture of new, vintage and found materials, from the quilts sewn by youngest daughter Minda to a Japanese doll from Kathryn’s childhood.

About the home: The 2200 square foot home in northwest Tucson was built in 2014. Kathryn and her family are the second owners, moving in in the Fall of 2014.

squeeze, splash, pop of color to living room

A pop of color in the living room

Describe your style: Says Kathryn: “I would say my style is a blend of mid-century modern, modern and rustic modern. I am definitely minimal in my aesthetic, but I like a home to be warm and inviting. Several of my friends have described our home as ‘comfy’. I think that is a compliment, especially when I decorate in such a modern way. I love clean lines and simple décor, but I don’t think a home should be sterile or institutional. A home should highlight the things you love, the places you have been, and the memories that mean something to you.”

Your fave thing about your home: “My favorite part of the house is the location! After living so far north west of town we are so happy to be in such a convenient location [near Oracle and Magee]. We can even walk to stores and restaurants. I love the lighting in this home. I really appreciated what the previous owners put into it. We were so lucky to find a home with amazing fixtures by Tech Lighting and lots of wonderful 4” can lights on dimmers, accent lights and sconces. People just don’t pay enough attention to lighting in a home. It is so important. The previous owners also upgraded all the switches to [motion sensor and dimmer switches from] Legrand and I am a complete convert. So spoiled by these  switches. Who knew what an awesome luxury a beautiful switch plate could be?”

Biggest splurge: “A nine-foot sofa by Restoration Hardware. I love the size of it. It has deep and comfy cushions with down overfill. This is where my two daughters and I curl up to watch movies. It is completely slip-covered and washable, so it is family-friendly.”

Can you make out what the painting says?

Best bargain: “That is hard to choose. I love a good bargain! I would say our marble dining room table is the best bargain though. I found it at Homestyle Galleries consignment shop for $275 and it’s carrara marble. It has a bit of an 80’s form and style, but I am just fine with that. I think the 80’s are finding their way back in home decor. Oh boy!”

My DIY moment: “We installed all of the wall units in the main living room – the wall hanging buffet and TV media cabinets. They are all from the IKEA Besta system. I LOVE their new door color, Creme, which is a very warm grey color.

Favorite resources: “Estate sales are the best. I have found so many beautiful and unique pieces at amazing estate sales, like the large art piece in our entryway. Jerry Schuster, of AZ Modern in Tucson [where Kathryn bought her Eames surfboard table] is an excellent resource. I also love to go up to Phoenix and hit the MCM shops like Modern Manor (end tables in living room). I do a lot of online shopping. Etsy is incredible for handmade pieces (the wood and cable shelving system in entry, the walnut floating shelves on the TV wall). I shop Craigslist and eBay too (tulip side tables, brass urchin poms on TV wall). I just got back from [home show] Las Vegas Market and found so many great trade resources for furniture and accessories.”

Tucson treasures: “I absolutely loved the market at Mercado San Agustin over the holidays. There were so many great local vendors and artists. I also love the Metal Arts Village where I had my studio for so many years. There are some really talented artists there. Tucson is a very exciting place to be these days. There are so many designers and artists and architects that are doing incredible work.”

*Take-away lesson: Our take away from Kathryn’s home is to rethink your storage spaces. Practical but beautiful storage options can be subtle rather than dominating a room, while storing all that stuff that many of us tend to accumulate. We particularly loved the use of the IKEA Besta system in the living room. We also loved the lighting choices in this home and the hint of 80’s retro in the lighting fixtures. Some reminded us of the entryway light fixture in Paula and Clif Taylor’s home. Smoky lamps are apparently on their way back!

* Find Prideaux Design at


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Are you digging these digs? Get the look locally

  • You can peruse Jerry Schuster’s AZ Modern Tucson site for pieces like Kathryn’s Eames surfboard coffee table.
  • Tucson has a whole host of talented artists. Catherine Eyde, one of Eva’s favorites, has prints and originals available across town.
  • Kathryn and her daughters like to thrift shop for mid-century modern accessories and ornaments. Take your children with you to Tucson’s thrift stores to choose items you all will love.

And try these lookalikes we found (contains Amazon Affiliates):


From left to right: Ikea Besta system, cabinets start at $50 at Ikea; Alina Pendant lights $453.60 from Tech Lighting at Amazon ; Legrand light switches $49.98 on AmazonBelgian Track Arm Sofa from $1995 from Restoration Hardware 



Eat, drink & be retro

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In Tucson, there are plenty of food and drink establishments that remain relatively unchanged since the 50’s and 60’s. Let 3 Story and Tucson Foodie be your guides. By Adam Lehrman and Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

As Tucsonans and many out-of-towners gather for the third annual Tucson Modernism Week, we thought it was high time we directed all of you to mid-century places to eat and imbibe. And we don’t mean ’50s and ’60s style eateries and bars, with their try-too-hard checkerboard patterns and uber accessorizing. We’re talking the real deal: places that have remained relatively unchanged since the middle of last century. The neon signs. The retro fixtures. The kitsch and ephemera. The atmosphere. And, most of all, the reputation for good food and cocktails. All of these things keep people coming back.

The Shelter. Photo courtesy of The Shelter.

The Shelter. Photo courtesy of The Shelter.

Asked what makes a restaurant still popular close to six decades on, Michael Elefante, co-owner of Mama Louisa’s on South Craycroft, says simply: “Consistency.” Mama Louisa’s still gets visits from its original customers, some of whom are turning 90. Having one foot in the past and another in the future is a conundrum, though. Michael’s family has owned the restaurant since 1973, and Michael recently became joint owner along with his brother Joey and friend Michael Press. (Until recently the two Michaels worked together as chefs at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain.) They have plans for a new menu (fresh mozzarella and Margarita pizza are on their way) and they’re gently tweaking the interior. But Michael Elefante knows he can’t change things up too much. “I call her a fisherman,” he says of the restaurant he grew up in, washing dishes at the age of eight. “She reels us in. You start going too far out and she reels us in and reminds us of where we are.” Here, in no particular order, are the ones that reel us customers in:

1. Mama Louisa’s, 2041 S. Craycroft Rd

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The style: Your baritone-voiced, chain-smoking Italian grandmother’s restaurant (although she quit smoking years ago.) It’s checked tablecloths, hand painted mural walls of Italy’s shore, formica, and vinyl.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Michael Press, left, and Michael Elefante, the new chef-owners of Mama Louisa’s. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The story: Opened in 1956 on south Craycroft when it was still a young dirt road, Mama Louisa’s has been in the Elefante family since 1973. In August it came under the joint ownership of brothers Joey and Michael Elefante and friend Michael Press. All of the murals on the walls are the original paintings from artist Jose de la Flora, save for one added in the 1970s by artist Paul Sheldon. All pasta is made fresh daily. Expect new dishes and decor tweaks soon. Don’t miss: Joe’s Special. Hands down. Whatever you end up with at Mama Louisa’s, make sure it includes Joe’s Special – linguine with hot pepper seeds, garlic and sauce – in some way, shape, or form.

2. The Shelter, 4155 E. Grant Rd

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo courtesy of The Shelter

Photo courtesy of The Shelter

The style: Cold-war era 1960s retro lounge. Think Austin Powers meets Hanna Barbera. Kitsch-filled from floor to ceiling with expertly curated Elvis and JFK memorabilia, lava lamps, velvet, and lavish lighting. If you’re lucky, the original Flash Gordon will be playing on the tele. The story: Though the rumors abound regarding The Shelter’s history as a 60’s era fallout shelter, the joint was originally built in 1961 by one of Arizona’s first female architects, Ruby Wren. Interesting enough, Wren’s grandson will open a brewery in downtown Tucson named Pueblo Vida. Don’t miss: Martini, White Russian, or Bloody Mary. Ideally, not in a row.

3. Mi Nidito, 1813 S 4th Ave

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The style: Vivid. Very. There’s no subtlety here. It’s shameless south-of-the-border kitsch with no prizes for sleek MCM-ness. But talk to any of the patrons and they’ll tell you they come not for decor, but great Mexican food. The lines are out the door at peak times, when you can expect a wait of an hour or even two. The story: Ernesto and Alicia Lopez opened the restaurant in 1952 and named it Mi Nidito (“my little nest”) because of its small size. Additions and remodels have increased the number of tables since (it’s hard to think that what serves as a waiting area now was once the kitchen), but the atmosphere remains the same. Ownership has passed on to the Lopezes’ son Ernesto, his wife Yolanda and their son Jimmy Lopez.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Don’t miss: The most popular dishes are the President’s Plate (the spread Bill Clinton had when he came here in ’99), Birria (shredded beef) and Carne Seca. The latter is made with beef that’s hung to dry for four-and-a-half days, then deep fried, boiled and finally mixed with green peppers, crushed tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. We say anything that’s labored over that much is worth it.

4. Lucky Wishbone, 4701 E. Broadway Blvd 85711

Photo by fotovitamina

Photo by fotovitamina

The style: (Was) 1950s drive-in restaurant-meets-diner, sans the drive-in. Sadly, the historic, iconic neon starburst sign is the only remnant of the original location. The sign was almost lost during the recent rebuild.

Photo courtesy of Mark Morris

Lucky Wishbone’s Campbell location in 1956. Photo courtesy of Mark Morris.

The story: Opened in 1953 by Derald Fulton as an “easier-to-run” eatery, the original Lucky Wishbone opened at 4872 South Sixth at Irvington. Immediate success lent itself to opening more locations – including the one on Broadway  in 1954. Clyde Buzzard was made its managing partner. To this day, he still manages the restaurant and is the only surviving partner. Don’t miss: It’s hard to go wrong with anything at this fried-everything utopia. Standouts include Gizzards or Livers, Steak Fingers, Fried Chicken, and the Double Cheeseburger on Garlic Toast.

5. Kon Tiki, 4625 E. Broadway

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

The style: ’60s tiki/exotica. The bamboo, the masks, the flaming torches at the door: it’s all unchanged since this place opened in 1963 and is a tikiphile’s dream.

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

The story: Dean Short opened it in 1963 after being inspired by tiki bars on a visit to California. It changed hands twice more, and current owner Paul Christopher practically cut his teeth on tiki. He started working there as a dishwasher and busboy at 15 and worked his way up. The place has served the likes of Lee Marvin, Robert Wagner and Robert Mitchum.

Don’t miss: There’s an extensive food menu, and the Polynesian BBQ Ribs are a favorite. But let’s be honest: people come for the pack-a-punch cocktails. The Scorpion Bowl for two ($14), is a big, boozy, secret blend of rums, gin, brandy and liqueurs, ingested through long straws.

6. Pat’s Drive-In, 1202 W. Niagara Street


Photo by fotovitamina

The style: Vintage roadside Americana. From the neon sign to the simple functionality to the barber-shop-style  red and white stripes of tile out front, it’s humbly authentic – unlike so many modern places these days that are decked out to look like a ’50s diner. The story: Henry ‘Pat’ Patterson launched his chili-dogs-and-fries concept in the 1950s, expanded, then downsized. This last remaining Pat’s, just south of Speedway Blvd, has been around since 1962. In 1969, long-time employee Charlie Hernandez took over the business but kept Pat’s name. Charlie carried on Pat’s tradition of simple, inexpensive food: burgers, chili dogs, chicken, shrimp and fish. Don’t miss: It’s known for its chili dogs (choose the spicy version for an extra kick). Just before Pat passed away in 1999, he’s said to have turned to his wife and asked for a chili dog from Pat’s.  But even the staff prefer the Big Pat burger. Also try the shoe-string fries, hand-cut. Just remember to bring cash, because they charge extra for debit cards, and don’t accept credit.  

And lastly…

Chaffin’s Diner, 902 E. Broadway Blvd.

Photo by Vargas???

Photo by Gerardine Vargas

There was debate among 3 Story staff and contributors about whether or not to include Chaffin’s in this article. Some refuse to patronize the place because of stories surrounding its owner. Others just don’t think the food in this greasy spoon is even worth a mention. But, politics and iffy dishes aside, the place scores high for its looks. This is a real deal American diner, born in 1964.

* Tucson Modernism Week takes place October 2-10 in venues around Tucson. For tickets and a schedule, visit or pick up this free Tucson Modernism Week Collector’s Guide, at locations in and around Tucson.

Compost without the ick factor

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Yeah, we know it’s good for the planet. But what the glossy mags and blog posts don’t tell you is that composting has its very dirty downside: bugs and vermin. Here, gardening columnist Darbi Davis lifts the lid (ouch) on composting without the icky live audience. You’re welcome.


Photo by Darbi Davis

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Recently, while on a job site discussing solutions to creative clothesline design, I found myself witness to a sci-fi-like battle between two native whiptail lizards over a gnarly, partially deceased cockroach. The fierce battle took place among the carrots and the kale and then abruptly paused. It seemed as though surrender was imminent – until the opponent re-emerged from the nearby compost with its own trophy, another writhing roach.

The business meeting was clearly disrupted by the fight but eagerly cheered on by the homeowner, who casually lauded the lizards with, “You go! You get ‘em!”

Later, mice were discovered in the same compost pile. It was a fine example of a multitude of personalities mastering the art of co-housing.

Photo by Julie Ragland Tucson

Photo by Julie Ragland

The whole episode not only made me think about my new neighbors’ plans to compost within 10 feet from the side door to my kitchen, it also made me ponder traditional composting methods – specifically the toss-in-a-pile or bin, and wait for it to bake.

There’s no doubt about the environmental upsides to composting. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013 recycling and composting kept prevented 87.2 million tons of material out of landfills, compared to 15 million tons in 1980. The amount of carbon dioxide eliminated was equal to taking over 39 million cars off the road for a year.

But how do you compost, particularly within a town or city, and avoid urban pests? First, learn how to properly manage traditional compost piles. There’s more to it than dropping the New York Times filled with coffee grounds and apple peels onto the ground or into a bin. There’s a balance that involves temperature, moisture and movement. Regardless of your geographic location, without the equilibrium the result is a stinky, pest-infested, rotten mess that likely won’t be going into a garden nearby.

Here, then, are our tips for composting without the icky urban wildlife that can go with it.

1. Bring on the chickens

chickens edit

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Successful compost involves a few key ingredients: heat (of which we in southern Arizona are plentiful), moisture (a bit lacking in the desert), and color theory (gradient materials from green to brown). Omar Ore-Giron, owner of Native Roots, an enterprise specializing in passive water harvesting, permaculture, and native gardens, suggests one more ingredient for a pest-free traditional compost pile: chickens. “Every now and then, spread the compost out across the ground for the chickens to pick through. They eat the roaches, break down the compost, and poop, which accelerates the process,” says Omar. Speeding up the decay offers less time for pests to establish a community within your homesteaded compost program. This solution adds a few more steps to the process and mouths to feed, but it offers job security to retired hens. That sounds good to us!

2. Be a business owner

After less than a year of pilot testing, the City of Tucson’s Environmental Services department started a regular composting service for commercial entities which makes Tucson one of two communities in the state offering food scrap and yard waste removal for businesses. Commercial institutions can arrange to have their compostable items retrieved and taken to a composting site. The compost is then used in government landscaping projects.

How long before the program reaches residents? Programs of this nature are mandated at residential levels in other cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Their benefits go beyond reducing waste. In tight urban environments and at the residential level, these programs offer opportunities to educate residents resistant to composting, provide convenience, and reduce infestation by urban pests. Let’s hope this program expands just as quickly to homeowners.

3. Private enterprise

Photo courtesy of scraps on scraps. (pending)

Photo courtesy of Scraps on Scraps.

Private enterprises fill the government void with similar results for those who buy in to the programs.

Scraps on Scraps, a private company in Tucson, provides a five-gallon bucket and bi-monthly pick-up of green waste for $13 a month. The green waste is delivered to Las Milpitas Farm at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, where it heats up and becomes part of the soil network that serves food insecure populations.

Shannon Sartin, co-founder of Scraps on Scraps says: “More and more of our customers are citing this issue [pests] as one of the reasons they want to sign up for our service.”

In spite of the rodents and roaches, composting is likely to become integral to our daily lives much like recycling has over the last several decades. An equilibrium of diligence and maintenance will likely be sufficient, but not for everyone. It’s important to keep up with pests beyond the simple fruit flies and maggots, which I can live with!

Photo by?

Photo by Lynn Davis

It’s likely that those well-fed whiptales digging in and around your compost, darting past your feet as you cross the yard are feasting on the roaches within – and loving every last bite. But you know what they say about roaches and mice – there’s never just one. They do like dark, moist places, and have their place in the environment, and compost is one of them, but not 10 feet from your neighbor’s kitchen door.

These suggestions, along with other composting methods such as vermicomposting (composting with worms) or Bokashi (composting via fermentation), offer quicker results, and reduce the pest population. Tucson resident Lynn Davis swears by her “off the ground” compost bins and outdoor worm tubes. She says: “I’ve never had roaches in my compost. Only the carrion fly larvae, and entomologists say that they’re beneficial. I have two rotating bins, one double, one that’s all the way off the ground, and another that closes pretty well.”

I, on the other hand, will stick to my beloved worms, or sign up for Scraps on Scraps, as well as encourage you to do the same if you live the urban life.

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


The bathing suit: a brief (ouch) history

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Swimwear creates hysteria, from panic attacks in dressing rooms to public arrests. Our vintage expert and fashion historian Claudine Villardito takes a look at bathing suits over the years, and shares a tale of her own law-breaking granny.

1950s Bathing Suit (Women modeling on a sand dune - Panama City)  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Charles Barron,

These one-pieces from the 1950s followed that decade’s fashions by accentuating the waist and bust. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida/Charles Barron

A recent department store survey reveals that women would rather clean the bathroom or have their car serviced than shop for a swimsuit.  And do you blame us?  Body image issues aside, we have 150 years of swimwear-induced hysteria to process in the dressing room.

As locomotive transportation brought throngs of vacationers to beaches in the mid-19th century, women were forced to reconcile the preservation of their Victorian modesty with the pleasures of an ocean dip.  Unsatisfied by gender-segregated swimming areas, the moral authority introduced “bathing machines”: horse-drawn changing rooms that rolled women out to sea and back again, affording them protective cover for all but a brief moment when they plunged into the ocean.

Bathing Machine. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. In the swim. Retrieved from

Horse-drawn “bathing machines” offered women protective cover when they plunged into the ocean. Photo courtesy of Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library.

They needn’t have worried.  Made of taffeta or mohair, the bathing suits of the 1850s were full, long-sleeved dresses worn with stockings, slippers and often corsets, and featured weighted hems to prevent them from rising in the water.  Predictably, drownings abounded and women were subsequently tethered to their bathing machines via ropes tied at the waist.  Inevitably, women protested this literal and figurative restriction of movement and by the end of the century bathing machines were retired and swimwear was modified to elbow-sleeved, knee-length dresses (often with sailor collars) paired with knee- or ankle-length bloomers.  Stockings and bathing slippers were still required, however, and the suits themselves remained fashioned from the same heavy fabrics.

1900s Bathing Suits. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. In the swim. Retrieved from

Bathing suits in the 1900s, when woolen swimsuits allowed for a greater range of motion. Photo courtesy of Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library.

For the following three decades, changes in women’s swimwear were both gradual and hard won.  Along with the movement for gender equality, the increased popularity of women’s sports in the 19-teens prompted knitting mills to design woolen swimsuits that stretched, breathed and allowed greater range of motion.  Consisting of a sleeveless wool tunic and thigh shorts, the suits – though scandalously small for their time – weighed up to 20 pounds when wet and still required knee-length stockings and slippers to cover the legs and feet.  When a west coast visitor to Atlantic City refused to roll her stockings above her knees and was famously arrested for indecency in 1921, city governments hired “beach censors” to patrol shorelines for other recalcitrant lawbreakers, of which my own grandmother was one.  Arrested on a Chicago beach in 1926, she had not only eliminated her shoes and stockings but wore a white (gasp!) swimsuit and nearly started a riot.

Her grandmother Ethel Wolfenberger (lying on the beach), circa 1926, immediately before arrest

The author’s grandmother Ethel Wolfenberger, circa 1926, immediately before arrest. Photo courtesy of Claudine Villardito

Advances in fabric technology ushered the next phase of swimwear’s evolution in the 1930s, when elastic was introduced for use in women’s undergarments.  When woven into swimwear, elastic produced a lighter garment that conformed to the body when wet.  Infinitely more practical than their wool counterparts, these “Lastex” suits were also one-piece designs that revealed more leg than any other swimwear garment in history.  However, their liberal use by Hollywood starlets, and lawmakers’ desire to distract the public from the potential outbreak of war, ultimately quelled concerns about public decency.

1930s Bathing Suits (Claudine’s grandmother’s friends at the beach)

1930s bathing suits modeled by the author’s grandmother’s friends. Photo courtesy of Claudine Villardito.

1940s Bathing Suit (Jean Duket, Miss Tampa, modeling a two-piece bathing suit). Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Jean Duket, Miss Tampa, modeling a two-piece 1940s bathing suit. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida

Ironically, the war itself was responsible for the demise of the one-piece suit in favor of an even smaller garment introduced in the 1940s.  Fabric rationing compelled designers to create a suit that simultaneously used less fabric but maintained modesty.  The midriff was the only real estate left to expose (or so they thought). Hence, the two-piece was once again adopted, this time consisting of a bra-like top and high-waisted panty or skirt that covered the hips.  Christened the “bikini” in honor of the Bikini Atoll, where nuclear tests had been conducted only two weeks prior, the suit caused such a stir that designer Louis Réard was forced to hire an exotic dancer to show it because his models flatly refused.

Little did they know that avant garde designer Rudi Gernreich would  push the envelope even further by designing a topless one-piece “monokini” in 1964, a thong in 1974, and in 1985, a “pubikini” with a window that revealed the wearer’s pubic hair.

1960s Bathing Suit (Bikini models running on the beach: Pensacola, Florida.   State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Murphy

In the 1960s, the bikini was the favored bathing suit. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida

Post-war consumerism saw the brief return of the one-piece bathing suit, which featured new interior padding and boning that accentuated the bust and reduced the waist according to 1950s clothing styles.  But by 1956, the “itsy bitsy teenie weenie” bikini, popularized by such sun-goddesses as Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress, was the choice of a new generation.  And Sports Illustrated has never stopped thanking them.

Me, My Clothes and I

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Adiba Nelson. Photo by Michelle Rooney Photography.

Style. It’s all around us – and especially on the streets. Adiba Nelson – fashionista, blogger, and self-confessed Nosey Nelly – goes in search of it. Photos by Adiba Nelson.

Photo by Adiba Nelson

Tangie Duffy, a.k.a Ginger Sinclaire.

If I told you there was a woman running around Tucson with turquoise hair, you wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, c’mon – it’s TUCSON. But if I told you that same woman was also wearing a killer tiara, a mint green gingham dress, and red cowboy boots, your jaw might drop. If I told you she’s also one of Tucson’s most amazing (READ: insanely, undeniably fantastic) burlesque stars, well honey you might just pass out. I almost did.

I love style, and I love color, but even I have been known to shy away from marrying the two in such a bold way. Not this firecracker though. She is not a slave to fashion – fashion is a slave to her. It begs her to twist it and flip it and turn it into something amazing it didn’t even know it could be. Tucson, hold on to your saddles. There’s a new starlet  in town, and her name is Tangie Duffy. Or as you may know her, the fabulous Ginger Sinclaire of Black Cherry Burlesque.

Photo by Adiba Nelson

Tiara, turquoise and cowboy boots – because why not?

Describe your look. Boho retro. I am eclectic, to say the least. I like lots of color with a vintage cut. It has to be flirty and feminine, and instantly produce a smile on my face.

Where do you shop? My favorite place was Anthropologie. I would stalk clothes until they went on double markdown. It was pretty bad. Recently, however, I have gotten back to my thrifting roots. I have a favorite honey hole of a place, but I’ll never let that secret go. NEVER.

Fave piece of clothing – ever? Just one? Dang! Ok, my Nana’s green lace cocktail dress. It fits me perfectly and I have pictures of her in it. It’s just beautiful. I never really saw her as fashionable until she passed and I was given some of her clothes. That gift unlocked a piece of her that I was unaware of. There’s magic in that. It makes me feel like I can channel some of that sass.

If you could dress anyone, who would it be? Only me. Ok, maybe Marilyn Monroe, and that’s only because I’d love to hang out with her. She knew how to dress to receive the reaction she wanted. She was very methodical in that way. She knew how to put on the “Marilyn”, and I relate to that with “Ginger”  – my burlesque alter ego. I’d love to watch her go through that transformation.

What is your staple/go-to item of clothing? Ummmm, overalls. Seriously, don’t laugh. I wear them almost everyday. Ask the husband, he’ll confirm it.

Who is your style icon? Madonna is my icon for everything. She is fearless and she is a warrior. Those are the kind of women I look up to: bold, fierce, strong, revolutionary and determined to heal the world.

Can I have your crown? You can borrow it. But I think every queen should have her own. There’s one out there right now with your name on it. I’m certain of it.

Photo by Adiba Nelson

Tangie’s grandmother’s necklace is a talisman for her.

If the house is on fire, and you HAVE to get out – what do you save? Ok, assuming the kids and the animals are out of the house, my other Grandmother’s necklace. It was given to my Grandmother by my Great Great Grandmother on her 18th birthday, who in turn gave it to me on mine. It’s a glass acorn (symbol of luck in the victorian age) and has a mustard seed in the middle of it. I only recently learned what that meant, and it’s really lovely. Basically, if you have faith you can move mountains. It’s my talisman.

Read more from Adiba Nelson at her blog, The Full Nelson and on The Huffington Post.

Love Tangie’s dress? Try these gingham looks this summer



1. Fit-and-flare vintage style dress by Mata Traders, $99.99 from ModCloth

2. Pocket shirt by Atwell, $49 from

3.  Embellished cotton dress with contrasting belt, $99.95 from eShakti

The secret perks of beekeeping

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Andrew Eshelman started beekeeping as a way to try and improve his failing vegetable garden. Three years on, he has more than 20 hives in Tucson and St. David in Southern Arizona. But his bees do more than pollinate and produce. They bring him a sense of calm.

The bees have also inspired Andrew, a nurse, and wife Hilary, an entrepreneur and activist, to start up a new business, DrewBees. As well as making honey, they are testing a lip salve made from beeswax. They plan to expand into other personal care products.

In this 3 Story short, Andrew shares some of the secret perks of beekeeping. Interview and photos by Gillian Drummond. Filmmakers: Lilly Ruiz, Danilo Castro, Christopher Boladeres. Music composed by German Higuera.

* Look out for DrewBees products in Tucson stores soon.

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10 reasons why you should love poetry

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From coffee house slams to sidewalk chalk, poetry is booming –  especially in Tucson. In celebration of National Poetry Month and the 32nd Tucson Poetry Festival, we give you ten reasons to love it. By Gillian Drummond.

Photo courtesy of Words on the Avenue

Photo courtesy of Words on the Avenue

Ask Tucson poet and DJ Logan Phillips why this city is so poetry-rich and he tells you it’s to do with the desert itself, our other-worldly landscape. It lends itself to introspection, says Logan, and in turn, to words. “It has something about it that causes people to stop and think and look at the sky and question what we are doing here and why things are how they are. There is a lot of silence and a lot of sky.”

There is also a lot of noise, literally and figuratively. “It’s so, so vibrant,” says poet Elizabeth Salper of Tucson’s poetry and literary scene. “Everyone is a collaborator and there’s a real feeling of creating and doing new things.”

Elizabeth does her part by delivering poems to her neighbors’ sidewalks, riding around her midtown neighborhood on a bicycle with a basket full of chalk. Logan does his through spoken word poetry programs that reach into Tucson’s schools and coffee houses. Both are examples of why poetry matters in Tucson, and why Tucson matters in poetry. Here are some more:

Top and above: the UA Poetry Center is impressive for its architecture as well as its poetry collections. Photos by Robert Reck

1. The University of Arizona Poetry Center.  Since opening in 1960 (with a dedication by Robert Frost), the University of Arizona Poetry Center has built a collection of 70,000 items and brings poetry to more than 8,000 Arizona school students every year. It helps teachers with lesson plans and adults with community workshops. Plus, it’s a gorgeous place to visit. The current building, designed by Les Wallach and Line and Space, has won several architectural awards for its use of light, inside/outside spaces and for the overall design,  based on the ‘progression towards solitude’ as it moves from busy public spaces to quiet areas of contemplation.

Photo by

Logan Phillips, poet and DJ. Photo courtesy of Logan Phillips.

2. It’s hip (and hop). Hip hop has changed the landscape for poetry. The overlap between rap and spoken poetry, and poetry and music, is wide. In Tucson alone there are Ezra Letra, Queens-born and UA-educated poet and rapper, as well as Logan Phillips, who when he’s not writing poetry is DJ-ing as DJ Dirty Verbs. Poetry came first for Logan, whose new poetry book Sonoran Strange came out in January. The DJ-ing came about as a way for Logan and fellow poets to provide entertainment after readings and performances. Logan says being a poet has made him a better DJ, and that the two sometimes combine. “I think I do use the mike more than most DJ’s and try to be conscious of how I’m playing and what I’m playing, just like in a poem.”

TPF logo

3. The Tucson Poetry Festival. This year’s festival is spread over three days at Hotel Congress and will include poets Claudia Rankine and Bob Holman among the speakers. But don’t be shy if you don’t consider yourself a huge poetry fan. Writer, artist and the festival’s executive director Teré Fowler-Chapman says one of her aims is to make the festival accessible to all.  “And hopefully someone will leave a big fan.” More at

Cafe Passe Words on the Avenue

Cafe Passe Words on the Avenue

4. It’s enticing the young folks. And let’s face it, when Tumblr and Snapchat are the competition, holding the attention of our youth is no mean feat. Somehow, though, poetry is doing it. Teens are revitalizing the spoken word through poetry youth slams – where they share their poems, often addressing injustice and politics, through stand-up competitions. Here in Tucson, the favorite venue for poetry slams is Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea, where members of the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam meet monthly between Fall and Spring. The rules: they must be under 19 and their poem must be no more than three minutes long. (The 5th Annual Tucson Youth Poetry Slam Championship takes place Saturday April 18th).

Why all the interest in poetry among the younger generation? “They want to be heard as an adult and as a people. Poetry gives [them] a good way to do that,” says Tere who, with Logan Phillips, teaches creative writing at Eastpointe High School in Tucson. “The biggest thing young people [want] is to be heard and respected for thoughts. If you can share it through a poem it’s received differently.”

5. It connects us. Logan is also a co-director with Sarah Gonzales of Spoken Futures, Inc., whose after school program Liberation Lyrics uses spoken-word poetry to address social justice issues. He says: “The promise of connections through technology was a false promise in a lot of ways. Technology can connect us to people. The question is, what is the quality of that connection? People are seeking a more genuine human interaction and that is storytelling that has been around for as long as we have been.”


Elizabeth Salper , above and below, with one of her poetry chalkings in a midtown neighborhood of Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

6. It’s a happy thing. Elizabeth Salper, a Tucson librarian who grew up in a poetry-rich household in Los Angeles (her father Donald has the blog Living with Language), knows how happy poetry makes her feel, how much it can change her mood. “I think sometimes poetry taps into a moment that might change someone’s day. Something alters. That’s what poetry can do, it can alter and lift you up.” That’s why she began her email newsletter The Wednesday Poem, which sends a poem to subscribers each Wednesday for free. And it’s why she recently started chalking poetry in Broadmoor, a Tucson midtown neighborhood. She carries chalk in the basket of her bicycle and print-outs of short poems she finds online – many of them Tweetable lengths. “It’s fun [for neighbors] to chance upon them. It’s unexpected. Everything is so lined up these days that I love the surprise of this,” she says.

7. There’s a Tucson poet laureate. Who knew? Her name is Rebecca Seiferle and she teaches college, as well as holds workshops for middle- and high-school students. Rebecca, who has published her own award-winning poetry, was appointed by the Mayor’s office. Which explains a lot, since…

Tucson’s Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is a poet. Photo by Cybele Knowles

8. … Tucson’s Mayor is a poet. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is a member of the American Academy of Poets and the Poetry Society of America, and author of The Last Clubhouse Eulogy poetry collection. His love of poetry began with his mother reading to him from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. He still reads poetry (although has little time to write it these days), and has read his own at Hotel Congress as part of the Tucson Poetry Festival.




Photo courtesy of Words on the Avenue

Words on the Avenue is like an open mic night for poets and writers. Photo courtesy of Words on the Avenue

Photo courtesy of Words on the Avenue

Words on the Avenue takes place at Tucson’s Cafe Passe. Photo courtesy of Words on the Avenue

9. Words on the Avenue. Comedians have open mic night, but what about poets? Thanks to Tere Fowler-Chapman, Words on the Avenue,  gatherings at Café Passé on Tucson’s 4th Avenue, lets writers share their work. “I’ve seen so many people inspired by it,” says Teré of her project. Further down 4th Avenue, Casa Libre en la Solana also provides a venue for writers to read, as well as a place for workshops, meetings and residencies.

10. It’s portable. Part of National Poetry Month is the Poem in your Pocket Day, which this year happens April 30th. Launched in New York City, the project is now national and encourages people to carry a favorite poem in their pocket and share it with people. In New York, staff at Poets House hand out pocket-sized poems on the streets to passers-by. For information and print-out poetry designs, visit

* Find out more about the Tucson Poetry Festival at

* Visit the 5th Annual Tucson Youth Poetry Slam Championship at Tucson’s Gallaher Theatre Saturday April 18th.

* Sign up for Elizabeth Salper’s Wednesday Poem here.

More Tucson poetry connections:

* Barbara Kingsolver, author and poet, began her writing career in Tucson, where she lived for two decades.

* Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of four books on poetry, two anthologies and four non-fiction books, lives in Tucson and teaches at the University of Arizona.

* Poet Richard Siken lives in Tucson, where he helps to run Spork Press. His first poetry collection, Crush, wowed critics and won awards. His second, and long-awaited, War of the Foxes, is imminent.

* The Writers Studio, founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Philip Schultz, has a location in Tucson, as well as San Francisco, New York and Amsterdam. It encourages poets and writers to “try on voices” until they find theirs. As well as face-to-face and online classes, The Writers Studio is getting ready to branch into middle  schools and high schools.

Smarty Pants

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This month sees the second set of Smart Lofts opening in Tucson, and its owners have plans to take the concept even further. By Gillian Drummond. Photos by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

Inside one of the latest Smart Lofts. The dining room table features a metal base made by local artist Mark Wallis. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

When the second set of Smart Lofts opens this month in Tucson, it will bring an enviro-friendly, sleek and, yes, smart concept to the city’s midtown district.

The six-unit development – each 1080 sq feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms – occupies a formerly vacant storage lot at Fort Lowell and Presidio Road in Tucson. As with the first Smart Loft units at Mountain and Glenn, building materials are durable, appliances are energy-efficient and, inside out, it couldn’t be greener (see below, So What’s Smart about Smart Lofts?). Both developments were designed with the help of Tucson architect Bob Vint, an expert in infill and historic development.

Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

Deborah Chah (left) and Krista Miller. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

“Our approach is to not waste and to reuse,” says Deborah Chah, co-owner of Smart Lofts with Krista Miller. The floor plan is designed with minimal hallway space and plenty of storage. Closet space is double what residents of this size of apartment would usually get, says Deborah.

As important as being environmentally friendly is being community friendly, say Deborah and Krista. They believe neighborhood associations appreciate the fact Smart Lofts keeps its building standards high, and works with neighbors and community groups on its plans.

In the case of the new Presidio units, Krista corralled residents of the Cabrini neighborhood, whose interest in neighborhood meetings was waning partly because they were divided over plans for a nearby cell phone tower. She helped win a grant for the neighborhood, organize a community event, and is still on the board of the neighborhood association. Her work is not over. “It’s had a sad effect on the neighborhood association,” says Krista of the cell phone tower debacle.

Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

Heat-resistant terracotta colored metal graces the roofs at the latest Smart Lofts development at Presidio and Fort Lowell Roads. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Smart Lofts, though, has residents’ full support, in particular the backing of its 90-year-old next door neighbor. “She’s lived here almost 40 years. We shared with her our thoughts and intentions. We’ve become friends,” says Deborah. The woman told them of any suspicious activity on their lot, brought them food, and gave them her overwhelming backing. “Just because we have entitlements and a right to build whatever, we feel it would be remiss not to include her,” says Deborah.

Deborah and Krista met through a mutual acquaintance, and through Deborah knowing Krista’s father, Tucson builder John Wesley Miller. Deborah is a property developer, Krista worked with her father on the ‘green’ building community Armory Park Del Sol in downtown Tucson. The women clicked, and so did their dogs. It was on dog walks that they got chatting about their desire to develop and flip properties, but in an environmentally-friendly way. Krista says she wanted to leave a green and modern imprint on whatever they touched, remodeling homes so that they were more energy-efficient.

Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

No space is wasted at Smart Lofts. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

The goal of the first Smart Lofts development – built on infill land owned by Deborah – was to build to sell. But building happened “in the worst of times”, says Deborah. Because of the downturn in the property market, they decided to lease the units. That’s the strategy at the Presidio site too, where units will rent for $1200 a month. The Presidio units are almost 500 square feet smaller and one-story, as opposed to the two-story units at Mountain and Glenn. Eventually, though, the Presidio properties will add a little floor space for residents with a mezzanine level in the living room, which can be used for a library or office.

The feel? Industrial, modern and, despite the grey walls and bare aesthetic, cozy. The women’s love for sleek surfaces, white and retro green, and metal are obvious throughout.

Lessees will receive an hour-long orientation, a binder with information, and energy efficiency tips. Krista and Deborah are so determined to carry on their earth-friendly living credo that they will replace all the light bulbs themselves. “That way we know they’re using the correct [compact fluorescent] bulbs,” says Krista.

The Smart Lofts model is already approved by the City of Tucson, which means it is ready to be spun off into another development. Krista and Deborah say they are getting interest from individuals who want to use the concept in building their own private residence – which is another way the women hope to build their brand.

There will be more developments like the Presidio one too. They plan to begin construction on a third set of Smart Lofts dwellings this year at Stone Avenue and Alturas Street.

Much has changed since they were wrapping up construction of the first Smart Lofts. Their lender pulled the plug at the last minute on that first development. Now, says Deborah, lenders are asking to be on board.


Photo by Jocelyn Warner Brocamp

Smart Lofts feature Integra block construction. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

So what’s smart about Smart Lofts?

  • Energy-saving Integra block construction. The Integra wall system uses H-shaped blocks, polyurethane foam, and vertical steel reinforcing rods. The materials and the tensioning of the rods mean less heat travels, so insulation is better, says Bob Vint, architect for both Smart Lofts projects.
  • ‘Green’ metal on the roofs: it’s pre-finished, guaranteed for 20 years and is expected to last for 50, says Bob. The terracotta colored coating is heat-resistant.
  • Compact floor plan with no wasted space. Hallways are eliminated by instead creating alcoves off the living room. The space saved on the hallways is used in the other rooms.
  • Each building has a 3KwH photovoltaic system that could bring residents up to $30 a month in savings on their electric bill. The two solar hot water systems per building may account for up to 80% of a homeowner’s electric bill, depending on usage.
  • The project is an infill development on a previously vacant storage lot.
  • Solar panels are planned for the carport roofs to generate electricity. Shade covers for parking will shade the west side of the buildings and cut down on heat generation. “Big open spaces give a heat island effect,” says Bob.
  • Approximately 90% of the original plant material located on the site is preserved. Additional landscaping is native to the Sonoran Desert and therefore requires minimal water.
  • Local suppliers and materials are used as much as possible.
  • Energy-efficient appliances, low-flow plumbing and dual pane windows.

* Find out more about Smart Lofts at

Tucson tea party

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From peddling chai tea at a farmer’s market to a brand new manufacturing plant, Manish Shah and his Maya Tea Company have barely stood still. And with a stake in a new tea shop chain, there’s more to come. By Gillian Drummond. Cover photo courtesy of Maya Tea Company

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Company

An Indian man selling tea in the Arizona desert. Manish Shah smiles at the incongruity of it.

But even though Maya Tea Company has its roots in Tucson, and even though its products are a familiar sight in the city’s restaurants and coffee shops, today Tucson serves as a base for something much bigger. The Maya Tea blends and concentrates are transported to around 40 states and more than 1000 restaurants.

Photo by Jocelyn Brocamp

Manish Shah. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Demand is so high that the company just opened an 8,000 sq ft manufacturing and packing plant on the west side of Tucson – an expansion of an old warehouse building and a place that smells more delicious than possibly any business warehouse in existence. There’s plenty of empty space in the plant, and that’s deliberate. Manish has high hopes. He says he overbuilt because he’s anticipating even more demand.

One of his major clients is Tea2Go, a chain of restaurants he supplies with private-label loose leaf tea. The Lubbock, Texas based firm is growing mainly through franchises, with 13 stores open, 24 under construction and plans to be in 58 cities. A Tempe location will open this week, marking the company’s first move into Arizona. A Phoenix location opens in May and two Tucson locations in June (a third will follow on the University of Arizona campus in September).


Manish will have a stake in the first of the Tea2Go locations in Tucson, which will be corporate-owned rather than franchises. And with Maya Tea Company close by, the Tucson locations will be test beds for new products, says Tea2Go president Jeff Hunt. “We plan to try out our new Christmas line first, also some summer teas, like pomegranate,” says Jeff.

If the idea of Texans and Arizonans championing a cup of tea seems odd, Jeff points out that his company’s biggest seller is not hot tea but iced. “Iced tea in Texas is a huge deal.”

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

It’s a huge deal in and around Tucson too, where temperatures are above 80 degrees seven months of the year, and hover around 100 degrees for three of them. Maya Tea Company’s second biggest seller is traditional black iced tea, which is big in restaurants. Its best seller, though, is the Maya Chai concentrate that helped launch him on his journey.

For a guy who began by peddling a loose-leaf chai tea blend at the Oro Valley Farmers’ Market  just north of Tucson, the growth of Maya Tea Company is impressive. So what’s Manish’s secret? “I think we do a good job of crafting teas that are real approachable. We use good ingredients. I think we’re just nice to deal with. We do business the right way.” Maya Tea’s slogan is “Serious tea for not-so-serious people”. He scoffs a little at how seriously other tea companies treat the product. “It’s just tea, chill out,” he says.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

A collection of ingredients at Maya Tea’s new manufacturing plant. Photo by Gillian Drummond

That’s not to say Manish is chilled out, however. At the Tucson headquarters of Maya Tea, a blink-and-you-miss-it converted house on the city’s north side, he is polite, amenable and frank. He’s also busy. He may be sitting still behind a desk, but you can practically see the wheels turning in that entrepreneurial head. Much as he loves tea, Manish admits it’s business that he really loves. “I always thought I’d be in business in general. I would do this if it was something else [other than tea],” says the man who is also co-executive director of Heirloom Farmers Markets in Tucson.  Apparently it runs in the family. He shares his office with his father and brother, both investors. Next door is the bright blue retro motel that is Paul’s Hide-A-Way Lodge, formerly owned by Manish’s father and the place where Manish and his family grew up.

Mixing an apricot blend at Maya Tea's new plant. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Mixing an apricot blend at Maya Tea’s new plant. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Three miles to the north of Maya Tea is Tucson Mall and the Dillards department store where Manish used to sell Ralph Lauren polo shirts and, during his down times, daydream about possible business launches and do a lot of sums on his calculator. He was still employed by Dillards when he began selling his tea at that first farmer’s market. The year was 1996 and chai tea was coming into vogue in the USA. Making a  good pot of chai was second nature to this child of Indian parents. During his childhood in Manhattan, he was preparing tea at an early age for a family who would consume three or four pots a day. Then came the family’s move to Tucson, a degree in psychology for Manish, a flirtation with coffee, then a renewed love affair with tea. He now favors oolong, which he makes simply by boiling a pot of water on a stove.

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

Matcha green tea powder. Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

When Manish put together his first blend of chai – using ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, cardamom and black pepper – it wasn’t great at all, he says. “But people loved it. The second [batch] I fixed and improved, and by the third batch I got to where it was really good.” People at the farmer’s market began asking for more, and he added other blends.

Meanwhile, his day job wasn’t going well. “It was was 2001. We had 9/11. Business tanked. I was a little mouthy. I said a few things I shouldn’t have [at Dillards].” A financial gift from his family helped him pay off his mortgage and give him some breathing room to grow his company. For a while, he had another company manufacturing and packing his tea, but with the new facility in Tucson he’s bringing production back home.

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

Another successful blend for Maya Tea Co. is Prickly Pear, despite Manish’s initial opposition. He held firm on going the fruity tea route for a long time but his staff wore him down. “I thought it was gross. I don’t like my teas prettied up,” he says. He was also conscious about not getting too cliched: a southwest company providing a typically southwestern-style tea. Prickly pear is now one of their most popular products.

Maya Tea has been approached by another major tea shop chain to be a supplier. This one is in India. If it happens and Manish finds himself taking his tea product back to his home country, he’ll have even more to smile about.

* For more about Maya Tea Company, including recipes, products and accessories, visit

As we head into spring, find more ways to enjoy your tea with these recipes.

Chai Frappé – for day

A Maya Tea Company shot glass, just one of the accessories it sells. Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

Maya Tea Company shot glass, Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

1 oz  Maya or Devi Chai Concentrate

11 oz coconut milk, regular milk, soy milk, half and half
(or any combination of the above)

Blend with ice in a blender until smooth.

 and for night . . .


2 oz Maya Chai or Devi Chai Concentrate

1 oz Baileys

1/2 oz Frangelico

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

Photo courtesy of Maya Tea Co.

1/2 oz Kahlua

1/2 oz vanilla vodka

1 oz half & half

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with cinnamon ground or stick, vanilla bean or chocolate shavings.

(Source for Chaitini recipe:

The Tin Man

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He’s the ultimate recycler, an artist known for his metal collages. Tucson’s own Tin Man, Rand Carlson, answers our Q&A. By Joan Calcagno.

Photo by Rand Carlson

Blues Man  Photo by Rand Carlson

Early bird or night owl? “Definitely early bird. I get up in the dark now – about five or six. I read the paper. Then I trudge in. I try to get into the studio [at Citizen’s Warehouse] five or six days a week. I’m what I call a ‘lunch pail’ artist – you go in, you do the work. I call it my office – it’s my mess. I started my own business, Random Arts, in 1987 so you have to be self-disciplined, be a self-starter. You can’t work for yourself and expect somebody else to say ‘Alright, get on with it!’”

Favorite accessory? “My purse. I don’t know what you call these – briefcases or whatever. I carry it wherever I go. It has all the crap – my cell phone, garage door opener, my papers, my pencils – all kinds of stuff. So it’s my purse.”

Photo by Jocelyn Brocamp

Rand Carlson. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Favorite faux pas? “I keep expecting the voters of Arizona to do the right thing and they always let me down. From the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to the Governor to the Legislature to the – I mean, you name it! It’s like ‘What the hell happened?’ And I keep thinking ‘Maybe this time.’”

Who is your dream customer? “There are two kinds. There’s a family that owns about 25-30 pieces. The daughter’s husband has a huge game room. She gave me a bunch of money and said ‘Do it. [Make something] wonderful!” I asked some questions of course. Then they sent me a picture of him with the art. It was a gas – a blast. Being part of people’s gift-giving is great. It’s a joy. The other kind of collector is rare but it’s the person who kind of knows what they want and they push me to try – because finding tin is an act of randomness. It’s not something you can just pull a color out of a tube. You have to find it. So those collectors who say ‘I really want a particular subject’, then you’re really pushed to make it.”

Photos by Jocelyn Brocamp

Photos by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

If I weren’t an artist I would… “I’d be a scientist. Astro-physics, archeology, botany. The idea of analysis of information – my curiosity is off the charts. It’s my curiosity that really drives me.”

Photo by Jocelyn Brocamp

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp


Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

If I could change one thing I would… “I’d change the politics of Arizona. I’ve been doing the Random Shots Tucson Weekly cartoon for 27 years. I did a cartoon about the gem show. It’s new dinosaur bone finds. One is butt-head-osaurus, which is Congress. The other one is consumer-osaurus – huge, with a short life-span. And the last one is Ducey-osaurus Rex, only found in Arizona. It eats its young. That refers to the fact that he’s starting to cut education. [With all Ducey has been doing] I think we’re in for quite a ride. As a political cartoonist, I love that sort of s**t. The bigger idiot, the better – but from that perspective only.”

How did you get into tin collage? “I started in 2003. It was really an accident. I covered a birdhouse with tin and really liked how that looked and thought ‘I can do something flat.’ I found some car letters on the side of the road and I broke them apart and I rearranged them, and that’s what started all the letter stuff. I used to do the alumni art show at the University of Arizona for a fundraiser. I had done some paintings and I didn’t sell anything. I was discouraged. The invitation for the show came the next year and I almost tossed it. Then I thought ‘Wait, I’ll throw in my tin.’ And most of it sold.

Photo by Jocelyn Brocamp

Rand at work. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

“Doing the tin, it’s basically an intellectual exercise. It’s cutting apart printed lithographic tin – sheet steel that’s been run through a printing press – cookie tins, candy tins, and commemorative tins, and sorting it and either keeping some of the subject matter or disconnecting it completely. And then reassembling it into another form without touching the tin in any way.

“I had been wanting to do paint on tin. So for this Wee Gallery show, I’ve assembled a tin collage and then I got my paint brushes. Blues Man is a good example (see photo, top). This is one of my favorite pieces in the show. I’ll paint around the tin pieces and make them disappear. You really can’t tell [what’s paint and what’s tin.] That’s what I want!”

Pink Lady Photo by Rand Carlson

Pink Lady Photo by Rand Carlson

*Find out more about Rand on his website, the Citizen’s Artist Collective website, and the Wee Gallery website. Follow him on Facebook. His show at Wee Gallery runs  through March 1st.