Designer for Hire

Diary of a blind diner

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3 Story Magazine’s Gillian Drummond on a blind dining experience that opened her eyes (and nose, and ears, and taste buds).


Blindfolds on, and the blind dining experience begins. Photo by (a blindfolded) Gillian Drummond

What I expected when I accepted an offer of a blindfolded dinner was what was promised: sensory overload, a lot more attention paid to what I was eating, and an olfactory revelation in which smell would count as much as taste.

What I didn’t expect were the accompanying feelings - of co-dependence and vulnerability - and even a slight change in my personality.

Hosts Kristine Jensen of Gallery of Food and Nancy Bender, owner of the Whistle Stop Depot, kicked off our adventure in the same playful mood as they meant it to go on.

We gathered at a downtown parking garage - I, my husband, and a busload of other diners. We were blindfolded shortly after boarding the bus so that the venue would remain a mystery. I could still see through the scarf across my eyes. I toyed with cheating, but thought better of it. After all, if I was reporting on this, I needed the full-on blind experience. So I requested an extra scarf. Result: total darkness, and just the reassuring hand of my hubby in mine.

I had one advantage over the others, which was that I knew where we were going. But that didn’t make me any more confident as I was led off the bus, down the steps, across a parking lot and into the Whistle Stop Depot. Funny how slow you go when you can’t see. You take tiny steps, despite the assurances of your guide (we each were assigned a member of staff to walk us in) that you were not going to bump into anything.

We were led to our seats, our hands gently guided towards the table, a glass of water, and a wet cloth. The cloth would come in handy, since there was no silverware.

The idea was to get our auditory senses going wild, and the ongoing music – pipes and drums, rattles and, later, a band – certainly did the job. In addition to that, performers wandered around the two tables chanting, laughing and reciting poetry. It was a haunted house, a loud party, a Native American ritual, all rolled into one.

The menu had been put online in advance. And as the courses rolled out - five of them -  we were told what food we were being served. But still we found the food difficult to identify. So we tried to help one another. ‘What’s the crusted thing?’ ‘Oh, careful, that mushy thing’s hot.’ ‘Oooh, that’s lemon on the side’.


Well, you try taking photos blindfolded.... Photo attempt by Gillian Drummond

Did I like eating with my hands? Absolutely not, especially when it came to the only meat course: quail. It felt like I was picking apart somebody’s (rather than something’s) body. That said, the food was revelatory (see menu below). You felt the need to explore your plate first, and therefore ate more slowly and carefully. That, in turn, made the taste buds take notice. I wasn't prepared for the food to be so, well, mushy... I'd thought things like cream of avocado, pesto and salsa would be classed as too messy for finger-eating blind. But that's why we had the wet napkins. I only passed on one thing: a plate with sliced jicama and pickled vegetables. The vegetables just tasted way too strong.

We were served cocktails too, and had fun trying to determine both the liquid and the salt/sugar around the rims of the glasses. Was there chocolate in there? Maybe. We thought we tasted citrus, but weren’t sure. There was lime, but something else too.


Time for some sensory overload. Photo by Gillian Drummond

A curious thing happened to me, social butterfly, chatterbox, and lover of gatherings and new people. I went deathly quiet. Not being able to see who was across from me just shut me up entirely. I didn’t realize how much eye contact, smiles and body language counted in social interaction.

I knew my husband was to my right, so no problem there. I reached out a hand to the person to my left, and touched him on the arm: “Hello, who are you?” It was a strange intro. How often do you touch someone and then ask who they are?

“Hi, I’m Bill,” he replied. We chatted at length (I giggled to myself when I found I was nodding to Bill as he spoke, and turning to face him.. even though he couldn't see me.) He was a geologist, an expert in caves, and also well-versed in Native American ceremonies. So being in the dark was something he was used to. He could even identify some of the rattling noises that passed us, as performers shook things in our ears, stroked us with feathers, and spritzed us with rose water.

I tried to talk to the person opposite me. “Who’s across from me?” I asked, twice. No reply. So I did not persist. Meantime, my hubby was having a ball with the people to his right and opposite him. Being blindfolded had not seemed to quell their sociability one bit. In other blind dining experiments, the hope has been that the darkness removes your preconceptions, and protects you from shyness. That hadn't been the case for me at all.

When it came time to visit the bathroom, there was nothing for it but to act like a kindergartner again, raise your hand and declare that you needed to go. A server was at my side immediately. She passed me on to ‘Anna’, who led me to the loo. She walked me into the stall, closed the door on me, and said I could remove the blindfold, but only to pee. When I came out again, blindfolded once more, she led me to the sink. “The faucet’s there, and the soap is right beside it,” she said, without actually taking my hand and guiding me. I fumbled. For a blind person, ‘there’ meant nothing.

After four courses, another plate was put in front of us, very quietly. “There’s something there,” said my hubby, “and there’s a spoon as well”. He put his fingers in it anyway. It was smooth and cold: ice cream.

Then our blindfolds were gently removed – to cheers all round – and we faced not only two long tables full of diners, but our dessert. I was disoriented; the band I thought I was taking photos of was actually to my right. I had been convinced they were straight ahead of me. There was music and dancing afterwards, but most of us wanted to leave. Nancy would tell me afterwards that the most consistent feedback she had was that people, although having enjoyed themselves, felt dog tired. Tapping into all of your senses so intensely must do that to a body.

Oh yes, the photos. Trying to take photos for an assignment whilst blindfolded is, ahem, challenging. It puts a whole new spin on the concept of point-and-shoot.


Blindfolds off! Photo by Gillian Drummond

Blind dining experiences are not new; the French-owned Dans le Noir? restaurant - where customers dine in the dark, with blind waiting staff - is franchised in London, Barcelona and St Petersburg. Sadly, it didn't work in New York City, where the franchise closed. As for Kristine and Nancy, they plan another blind dining event in the Fall. (Stay tuned to Kristine's Facebook page for details.)

So how did we rate it? Ten out of ten for adventure and pushing the boundaries, eight of ten for food, and overall a huge thumbs-up. How often do you leave a restaurant or dinner party gushing, laughing, reliving the experience, analyzing every single bite or sip? Certainly, it seems, when you are dining blind.

* See The Backwards Building Project, our feature on the Whistle Stop Depot, in this issue. For information about Kristine and Nancy's next blind dining experience, call 520 488 0869.

The Menu

Chilled Savory Avocado Crema
Sweltering in a Crisp Cumin Masa Drape
Mango Mojo Drizzle

Summer Squash Birds Nest
underneath a delicate Sweet Corn Alfredo
Sprinkling of Miniature Caramelized Onion Gnocchi

Thirst Quenching Jicama Wafer
with Herbed Goat Cheese
Special Escabeche Salsa

Smoked Quail dressed with Sunset Shaded Chile Threads
Perfect Lemon Pesto

Sultry Tropical Passion
Icy Scoops of Dulce del Barrio’s Favorite flavors
Smoked Cacao Mesquite Cup ~ Caramel Velvet

Square Feet

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Michelle Hotchkiss, real estate agent and mid-century fiend, has square feet and a nose for great property. Each issue she brings us her pick of properties for sale.


Photo by Ray Albright


Photo by Ellie Leacock

Listed by: Long Realty

Where it is: On five acres deep inside the eastside Indian Ridge subdivision.

The damage: $649,000

You'll love it because: This 1930's desert estate draws its design from early modernist international style. It's significant because it's so different for its era. Over to Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation: "Attributed to architect Richard Morse, the sophisticated progressive simplified design is a departure from the Spanish and Pueblo Revival styles fashionable in Tucson between the First and Second World Wars.  The clean lines, corner windows and streamlined massing of this chic modernist retreat is one of only a handful of pre‑WWII modernist projects. Morse's work was influenced by the European Modern movement and Bauhaus," says Demion.

Here comes the but: This property needs a preservation-minded buyer who will restore the home to its former glory and the fabulous estate it could be. Money needs to be spent on landscaping, and restoring the drained pool.

Read more about Michelle, a RE/MAX Catalina Foothills Realty agent, at Atomic Tucson.

Photo by Ray Albright



Photo by Ray Albright



Photo by Ray Albright


Our cool hot design picks

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Billed as America’s largest design show, the three-day Dwell on Design showcases the best and brightest products in modern design today. 3 Story's own Madeleine Boos was there, and brings you her picks of what's desert cool and urban hot.

Curated by the editors of Dwell magazine, Dwell on Design in Los Angeles featured 2000+ products and 400+ exhibitors. But what stood out at this year's show?

1. Stikwood

Photo courtesy of Stikwood

Why we love it: This is DIY for the modernist: wood planking for walls and other vertical surfaces that sticks on. In just one weekend you could transform any room of your home into a modern space worthy of a shoot in Dwell itself.

The story behind it: Jerry McCall has been fascinated with high performance double-sided adhesives since the 1980s, when he was outfitting executive jet aircraft with the best in wood cabinetry and millwork. Sine then he's been in pursuit of the best ways to stick wood to walls. Wood moves and wants to pull itself free from glue and adhesives, so making that work was not easy.

Now Jerry and his wife, Laura McCall, have launched a lightweight wood planking system that sticks to the wall with no backing, no nails and no glue. Next stop for Jerry and Laura is West Elm, where their product will be for sale in select stores starting July 9th.

Photo courtesy of Stikwood

The details: Most planks measure 5” x 12” to 48” in length. The thickness is 1/8”, the same as most engineered wood floors. Wood species include stained oak, ash, bamboo and a variety of reclaimed woods, even reclaimed barrel oak in 2” wide strips. Prices range $8 to $12 per square foot.

In terms of attention to detail, they've thought of everything, including transitions and outside corners.  They offer an aluminum edge trim for a finished modern look. A 4’ length runs $6 and also sticks to the wall.

All you need to know is on their web-site with step by step directions, including how to prepare the surface, and how to repair the wall it if you opt to remove it.

More at:

2. The Aurora lamp

Photo courtesy of The Good Flock

Why we love it: Known for their sustainably sourced and beautifully hand crafted goods, The Good Flock and its products have a minimalist aesthetic and an old world soul. The firm's latest design is a hand-crafted light fixture with a conical wood base, cotton covered cord, and single bulb in a porcelain socket.

It's simple, elegant and versatile, with stainless steel and brass hardware and an engraved label. You can set it on a table or simply hang it on a screw or nail via the key-hole opening in its back.  New to the show was the hard-wired sconce, with no cord for a clean look.

The story behind it: The Good Flock is based in Portland, Oregon and the lamp was named for the Oregon town in which it was made. Owner Marco Murillo left product creation at Nike in 2010 to create a company that manufacturers goods of seminal materials, by skilled artisans with minimal waste.

Each product is designed to solve a specific problem. In the case of the Aurora, the challenge was to deliver light in a sophisticated form that takes up minimal space. In an urban setting where horizontal surfaces are precious, the Aurora hangs on the wall doing just that.

The details: Each base is hand turned by a master craftsman. The engraving is done with a state of the art CNC laser. Prices: Walnut $199, Black Oak $179, White Oak base $169, with your choice of Edison bulb, reflective bulb or just plain white. Ships free in the US. Just specify with chord or as fixed sconce. Price is the same.

More at:

Photo by Madeleine Boos

3. The Helios Lounge - heated outdoor furniture

Why we love it: This is ergonomically cast concrete furniture with a built-in adjustable heating device that can be plugged in or hardwired for a concealed connection. It takes the same amount of power as a hair dryer and takes just 15 to 20 minutes to heat up. The smooth stone surface is cast in an ergonomic shape that provides comfort during hours of lounging. And because of its heating efficiency, you’ll stay warm all day and all night with minimal energy output. We much prefer the idea of a getting cozy on the Helios, than trying to huddle around a space heater.


Photo courtesy of Galanter & Jones

The story behind it: Galanter & Jones is a design and fabrication studio based in San Francisco. Aaron Galanter Jones is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where he studied architecture and was inspired by the use of concrete in lightweight structures. While working on a backyard design for a client, he wanted to create an outdoor seating area and provide warmth, but ran into limited options. Heat lamps, for example, disperse heat, but they don't warm your blood to the core. He began casting concrete - strong, lean sculptural profiles and the Helios was born in 2013. It's no surprise that this piece has been likened to mid-century modern furniture.


Taste and style is a family affair. Aaron's partner and sister Miranda is also an editor at Pop Sugar Home and former style editor at Sunset Magazine.

The details: Made to order in 8 weeks. Price: $4900. There are 20 color combinations (5 cast stone colors and 4 base color options). The seat is comprised of cast stone/concrete and the color is fully integrated. The base is powder coated steel in your desired finish - white, black, silver or brass. Custom colors available. The heating element is fully adjustable to your liking

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4. Organic Modernism - The Bronze Collection photo


4th of Photo by Madeleine Boos

Why we love it: These hand-forged bronze pieces with Japanese patina finish are organic, imperfect, one-of-a-kind pieces that would look as at home in the chambers of King Henry the VIIIth, as airy, modern-day digs. (And if it means anything, Ivanka Trump has them in her Manhattan apartment).

The story behind it: Organic Modernism is a New York furniture company poised for expansion. With a new showroom in Los Angeles, and sights on Scottsdale, their furniture appeals to those wanting an earthy mix of bronze, wood and leather. We're loving the rugged, sensual bronze pieces.

The details:  The Kashgar (as seen in Ivanka Trump's apartment) costs $1995. Seating ranges from $1600 to $3200, dining tables $3000-$5000, and coffee tables $1400 - $3000.

*4th of July SALE through July 7th - 25% off

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IMG_1340 5Evolve concrete-look tile

Why we love it: This porcelain tile by Pental Granite and Marble has the refined look and texture of hand-troweled concrete. These days we're having a love affair with raw industrial materials in a luxe setting. So if you love the modern and monolithic aesthetics of concrete but are not so willing to build the form work for a concrete pour - mixing truck and all - then Evolve may be the product for you.

How to use it: To achieve the massive look of a concrete wall, go for tight joints and a grout color that matches and blends with the tile color.

The details: The cost starts at $7 per square foot. Sizes range from 24” x 24” to 12” x 24” to 3” x 24”, and the matte colors are a minimalist’s dream palette – camels, grays and taupe.

More at:

One last thought on concrete: If you prefer the unfinished rugged and urban look of concrete, then you'll want to check out the new line of wall coverings by ConcreteWall available at Resource Furniture,

Made of polyvinyl, and with no repeat pattern, it can be sized so that the photo fits your space, and also color-enhanced to match your surroundings. Price: $18 per square foot. (See our graffiti feature this issue for more on ConcreteWall).


Photo by Madeleine Boos

Pleased to Meet You

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Erika O'Dowd is a real estate agent and the person behind the outdoor movie venture Cinema La Placita. Here she talks scarves, infomercials and the downside of knowing so many people. By Gillian Drummond.


Early bird or night owl? “I'm not either. I don't like to sleep late. I feel like it's a waste of time. Late for me is past 8 am. But then I'm not one of those people who get up at 5.30a m. If I can't sleep I'll stay up till 2 am watching infomercials or Arrested Development reruns. Infomercials are OK because they don't really have a plot, and they won't get interrupted by commercials because they are a commercial. But usually I'm an 8 am to 11 pm person."

Favorite accessory? "I think a lot about scarves. I have a ton of them - maybe 30 - and I don't 'wear them as often as I probably wish I could. There are only three months of the year in Tucson that you can even wear a scarf. Also, I'm short so I don't have a lot of real estate. I don't have a lot of distance between my collarbone and neck.

"I have all shapes of scarves, and winter and summer ones. Some of them I don't know that I've ever worn them. Those little square ones, what do you do with them? Do you fold it into a triangle and wear it like a bandana? You have to be really bold to wear them. Eighty per cent of wearing a scarf is having the guts to wear them. It's like 'I'm going to wear this scarf and I'm going to own it'."

Favorite faux pas? "Maybe because of my old age, I'm comfortable saying to people 'Remind me how we know each other?'. You live in a town long enough and it could be junior high or it could be from somewhere else. Between real estate, where I meet a lot of people, and Cinema La Placita and just day-to-day living, there are so many different ways you can know somebody, and you see hundreds of people a week.

"Recently I was at Himmel Park Library and the woman behind the desk said 'How are you?' I said 'Remind me how we know each other?' and she said 'I'm your next door neighbor'. I was like 'I didn't know you volunteered at the library. You're my next door neighbor, that's where you belong, in that house!'"

Who is your dream customer/client? "I have two of them going on. For Cinema La Placita I would say someone who is there for the experience, someone who's there for the chit chat, for meeting up with people from work - because it's an opportunity to stay out at night and not just go home. Someone who almost doesn't care what the movie is because they're there to be a part of the community. That's why I started it, it's 'Don't go home, stay up, it's only three bucks, it's not a big deal'.

"In real estate, I enjoy it when folks enjoy the process of narrowing down properties and getting real specific. I enjoy being a part of that. Because I understand buying a house is very stressful but it should be fun. It's also an adventure. Every time you see a new house it's like you're saying, 'What would our life be like if we were here?'"

If I weren't a real estate agent I would... "I feel like Cinema La Placita fills a space for me. It's kind of my dream, doing something for the community that's fun and makes it better."

If I could change one thing I would… "I drive past the airplane graveyard in south Tucson and it makes me so depressed. I think about where we would be if [things like this] weren't our priority. I wish our country saw its people as its best resource and invested in them, and not just in terms of giving them a good education."

IMG_1960[1] Cinema La Placita screens classic films at the colorful La Placita Village every Thursday night during the summer. The movies start at 7.30 pm and cost just $3 (that includes popcorn). Find out more about Erika's real estate business here. 




Fashion Crush

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In celebration of the upcoming Tucson Fashion Week, we profile some home-grown fashion designers. Our fashion crush this month: Cybil Waite of Julia Love. By Gillian Drummond.


Photo by Tyrone Lavigne / Model: Dash Kolos

3S: Why 'Julia Love'?

Cybil: "It's my grandmother's name. I wanted to name the collection after someone I aspire to. I have a few of her pieces. One is a coat with a fur collar. I probably couldn't wear that in Los Angeles."

3S: You relocated to L.A. after graduating from the Art Institute of Tucson last year. Why did you move?


Designer Cybil Waite
Photo by Gillian Drummond

Cybil: "I moved there with my boyfriend. He's a filmmaker. We decided to come out and live here for a year.

"I feel like in Tucson you're nurtured to become an independent designer. I interned for Elizabeth Albert, Tucson Fashion Week founder and owner of CandyStrike, and Paula Taylor, TFW creative director. In Los Angeles it's much more commercial. Out there it’s so much about who you are. It's more about 'I'm a designer'. [In Tucson] nobody would ever know who I was. I don't want to criticize my new hometown, but I like Tucson a lot."

3S: When and why did you get into fashion design?

Cybil: "I started at the Art Institute of Phoenix where I was studying graphic design. I really enjoyed it but I felt like I was always in front of the computer. My sister had just moved to Tucson so I followed her. I started studying fashion because I wanted to learn how to sew. After [a short while] I felt like I was creating something and watching it come to life on a person and how it makes them feel. I like how people interpret your garments."

3S: How would you describe the Julia Love style?

Cybil: "I create these themes. My Fall collection [to be launched at Tucson Fashion Week] is early '60s space race. It was partly inspired by women fighter pilots. I was really inspired by that and wanted to create glamorous clothes but tough, like they were an atomic blast, like the clothes are coming out of the ashes.

"I like structure and solid lines and form-fitting clothing. Every one of my collections has a story. It makes it a little bit more exciting. I like to create a line based off of characters. Sometimes I get more way more involved in my head [with the characters] and don't tell everyone how deep it goes!"

3S: What designers influence you?


Photo by Tyrone Lavigne / Dash Kolos Model

Cybil: "Marc Jacobs is my ultimate favorite. Oscar de la Renta. Carolina Herrera. Louis Vuitton Paris."

3S: Who was your first fashion crush?

Cybil: "Gwen Stefani. She has always been an inspiration for me both in music and fashion. She is such a bad-ass in the way she confidently carries herself, while also managing to make it look so effortless. For me, Gwen really knows who she is and isn't afraid to rock her personal style, which was always very inspiring to me as a young artist trying to build my own unique style."

3 Story is a proud sponsor of Tucson Fashion Week, which runs October 17th to 19th, 2013. For tickets and info visit

Bombing Tucson

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It says something about graffiti when it's being considered not only as high-end art, but as a home decor choice. We take a look at the graffiti scene in Tucson, and ask why it's struggling to remain underground. By Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

When a spray-painted piece by elusive British graffiti artist Banksy sold at auction last month for $1.1 million, it wasn't just the price tag that got people talking.

The stencil piece, named Slave Labour - showing a young boy hunched over a sewing machine stitching Union Jack bunting - had been displayed on a shop wall in a neighborhood of north London. Earlier this year, it disappeared and resurfaced at an art auction in Miami. After a campaign to have it returned, it was sold at a private auction in London.

Banksy himself is said to believe his art should stay where it is. The anonymous buyer, who can now enjoy the piece at his or her leisure, would no doubt argue otherwise. But what does it say about graffiti - a movement that prides itself on being public and free - when it has become art that is both sought-after and private?

Jaque Fragua, an artist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico who practices graffiti and mural art frequently in Tucson, doesn't even like the words 'graffiti' and 'art' being used together. "I'm trying very very hard. I'm training myself to never say that compound phrase," he says. Why? Whereas Jaque sees art as a career of hobby, he sees graffiti as a way of life, and one that is tribal. "It's like a community of hobos or bikers. It's like a whole new fraternity."

Phil Tanfield, editor-in-chief of graffiti magazine The Infamous, echoes his argument. "I don't think people really understand about graffiti unless they know, spend a lot of time with, and care about somebody who writes graffiti," says Phil. "But even then, no matter how much one knows or has researched/talked to people/knows "famous" writers, one never understands it unless they try living it. Not just going out for street tags once, but living the way a graffiti writer lives for a minute, by which I mean several months."

jaque unite

Jaque's work outside Cafe Desta. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Jaque uses graffiti and mural art to spread political and racial messages. A Native American, he references America's class and racial struggles in his work, which appears outside of Tucson's Cafe Desta, among other places. "For me, there's no other thing that you can feel that comes close to what graffiti is, on a spiritual, emotional and mental level. It's complete freedom. I have the ability to create an environment where I have self-love, I have self-pride, I have self-dignity, I can create whatever I please," he says.


Filmmaker Ricardo Bracamonte
Photo by Riley Lane

Filmmaker Ricardo Bracamonte grew up with graffiti on Tucson's south side. He even dabbled in it himself, with some late-night 'bombing' in tunnels when he was a teenager. But it was short-lived. "I was terrible at it," he laughs.

After spending a summer living in Spanish Harlem in New York, he gained a deeper appreciation and fascination for graffiti; he was moved by it, he says. So much so that he decided to turn it into the subject of his University of Arizona BFA film thesis. The result, the 8-minute-long Bombing Arizona, was part of the Arizona International Film Festival in Tucson last Spring, and has appeared in four other film festivals, including this year's Chicago Latino Film Festival and the 2012 San Francisco Latino Film Festival.

The film documented graffiti artists and their reasons for doing  it - from a love of the Bible and wanting to share religious messages, to escaping troubled family lives, to enjoying the adrenalin rush. And in telling their stories, it created art within art. Ricardo secured permission for artists to create murals at several locations. One of them was the Tucson meat market Carniceria La Noria at 1st Avenue and Prince, where an image of Frida Kahlo is so popular, the owner has told Ricardo he wants more.

Another location Ricardo used was a residential perimeter wall at his aunt's house, by a wash on the south side of Tucson. "That wash is the main walkway for a lot of kids who go to Sunnyside's Sierra Middle School. I wanted to create art for that community and give them a sense of pride," he says.

He had personal reasons too. His aunt helped raise him; his parents both worked and would drop him off there at 7am and pick  him up at 5pm. Ricardo remembers his Tia Elsa teaching him a lot, from tracing letters all the way to reading and National Geographic magazine. "She's a very smart woman. I wanted something colorful for her house," he says.


The mural on Ricardo's aunt's wall. Photo by Kayla Murray

The mural, depicting barrio-to-border living, and Tucson's controversial Mexican American Studies program, didn't last long. Within weeks it was run over, he says, using a graffiti term for being painted over. "It upset me how quickly it happened, but it comes with the territory," he says. "We ran over someone when we did ours. It goes back to the idea of ownership."

Mezo (his nickname and graffiti signature) is one of the writers who decorated Ricardo's aunt's wall as part of the film project. Mezo tried for some time to secure legal graffiti space for Tucson's youth, attempting to get non-profit groups involved and "the City on our side". But he says: "I never fully succeeded and my energy and drive to do that isn't there any more."

Mezo works three part-time jobs and doesn't do as much graffiti as he used to; he says he doesn't want to risk getting arrested, because he has jobs to hold down. But he carries markers in his pockets just in case the urge comes; he says it's a habit that's hard to kick.

Meanwhile, the graffiti movement is proving to be a challenge for local authorities. Mezo says graffiti is not going to go away, particularly given its resurgence in connection to the hip-hop culture. "For youth, hip-hop is a universal language and the graffiti ties it all together," he explains. Those battling graffiti in Tucson know this only too well. With around 70 cases reported a day and more than 2,300 in the last year, Tucson City Council and police are stepping up their fight. The council uses a private contractor to deal with covering it over or removing it, and police have assigned more officers to graffiti. Tucson City Council spokesman Michael Graham says graffiti costs the city $60,000 a month, a figure that has more or less stayed the same for the last three years.

Jaque draws a distinct line between what is graffiti and what is a mural: murals have permission, he says: "I feel like graffiti is illegal. That's the universal definition of graffiti." And he's spent time in jail for some of his own graffiti work. (In Tucson, a graffiti misdemeanor will get you a $250 fine and a minimum of 20 hours' community service.)


Frida Kahlo appears outside a meat market as part of Ricardo Bracamonte's film. Photo by Britton Zogg

For public artist Joe O'Connell of Tucson-based Creative Machines Inc and JB Public Art, the illegality of graffiti is part of his attraction to it as an art form. "I respect how graffiti artists in the 70's in cities like New York and Philadelphia carved out a space to express themselves. To some extent that lets me overlook the fact that a lot of the work doesn't look all that great. The fact that it was done against the law by people who figured out the logistics of the subway system - how to get in, create a little art, and get out - that raises it closer to the level of art. When you take the act as a whole: the finished piece plus what it took to make it, you get closer to art."

7AVPI0-G-d-jP_DWdt_77L1-pb22hQBQO7o1U2E8JXU Adds Joe: "A lot of times graffiti has to be done in a hurry so you don't get caught, and it is not easy to erase mistakes. That puts a premium on simple, powerful designs executed without hesitation - and that's a good thing to cultivate in any field."

Joe's own work is sculptures, but he admires many graffiti artists, including Banksy, as well as "ad-busters" who alter billboards. But he says he has neither patience nor respect for tagging, when graffiti writers and crews simply leave their initials on a surface.  "Maybe if you climb a tower and put your name in a really tricky spot that means something, but I remember somebody tagged the gate in front of my shop and I was pissed. All they added to the world was their name, executed in a lame loopy piss ant derivative style that said nothing new. It was as if they stood up in class, interrupted the teacher without raising their hand, got the attention of the class, but then had nothing to say."


Photo by Ricardo Bracamonte

For his part, Ricardo does not distinguish between a spray-painted defacement of a garden wall and a giant mural that took half a day to do. "For me it's all the same. It's the same because it's an expression. It reminds us of class struggle and where we are in our society." His film is designed to provoke as much as graffiti is, he says. "I went into it wanting to put it into people's faces. I wanted people to ask themselves 'Where did this come from? Why did he put his name on this?  And what gives him the right?' I wanted to start a conversation."

Ricardo was limited by both time (the film had to last no more than ten minutes) and resources. He raised $800 on Kickstarter, put in another $200 of his own money, and couldn't afford proper lighting to film at night. And so this is a subject he would like to return to. As he narrates at the end of Bombing Arizona, "There is no resolution to this story. Graffiti has none. As urbanization continues, so will graffiti."

Adds Mezo: "If you look at history, writing on a wall isn't anything new. The urge, that need to express something, that's always going to exist."

From street to living room: graffiti becomes home decor


Photo courtesy of Black General Contracting

For homeowners looking for a bit of street art in their living room, it's never been a better time.


Photo courtesy of Eazywallz

"There's been a surge in the graffiti street art movement, thanks to people like Banksy," says Wendy Fixman, owner of Montreal-based Eazywallz, which produces stick-on fabric wallpaper for residential and commercial use. Graffiti images are one of its biggest sellers, snapped up at a reasonable price - from $119 for a 12-square-foot panel - by people who want a splash of color or something urban-looking in (usually) a modern home.

"Artists like Banksy have really catapulted a lot of these ideas and images. A lot of our customers want to add a splash, and that's what this gives," says Wendy.


Photo courtesy of Eazywallz

Eazywallz panels are designed so that they can be removed and re-applied - in case you make a mistake installing it, or in case you want to redecorate or move the wallpaper elsewhere. The company says the product won't damage the wall behind it.

Resource Furniture, which just opened a showroom in Los Angeles, has a new line of high-resolution photographic wallpaper called ConcreteWall, featuring images of concrete, brick and graffiti. Made of polyvinyl, and with no repeat pattern, it can be sized so that the photo fits your space, and also color-enhanced to match your surroundings. Price: $18 per square foot.

"It's a brilliant decor for urban chic interiors like edgy underground restaurants and boutique hotels", says 3 Story's Madeleine Boos.

Tucson graffiti writer Mezo has mixed feelings about what he calls the "glorification" of graffiti. He sees the irony in people making money out of a movement that was based on being public and free. "But at the same time there are opportunities for artists. It's a really cool opportunity for a lot of these people to make money and make a living out of the thing that they do." Some of the best artists he knows are friends in Tucson who will never make any money out of their art, he says.

Mezo and a friend have started a sideline business selling clothing like T-shirts, with graffiti images on them. Its name is Flowers & Bullets. "Flowers are the art," says its Facebook page. "Bullets are the struggle."

* Find out more about Bombing Arizona here. Read Art, Willy Wonka Style, our award-winning feature on Joe O'Connell, here.

The Lone Ant

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You may not have heard of Cipriana Salazar just yet, but it's only a matter of time. Here's why. By Gillian Drummond.


Photo by Gillian Drummond

Here is what excites Cipriana Salazar: tools, problem-solving, inventing, designing, and sometimes inventing tools to solve said problem or to come up with said design. Also: Apple gadgets, powder coating and thrift shops.

Here is what does not excite her: too much of the same thing, college classes, sleep, and photographs. Yes, the photographs are a biggie. She detests having her image captured, and has never owned a camera herself.


A hand-crafted set of dominoes made by Cipriana. Price: $85

If you're starting to conjure up a picture of a workaholic engineer with a bent for the arts, you're just about there. But not quite. There is so much more to this 35-year-old than meets the eye. And because she dislikes self-promotion, it's easy to ignore her talents altogether.

You may have come across her fixing up a house (her handywoman business), or remodeling (she does that too). You may have crossed paths with her at a Tucson thrift store; she frequents them often, particularly Casa de los Ninos. Or maybe she helped you out at Originate, the natural building materials showroom she has worked at, selling you on some sustainable and eco-friendly looks for your home. Soon (she hopes) you will know her for something she has invented called TiLt connect. More of that in a minute.

But although Cipriana dreams large, she lives small. She's quiet to the point of shy,  and almost avoids self-marketing altogether. It's only when you start admiring some of the contents of her house that she admits she made them - just about all of them - or at least had a part in re-purposing or redesigning them.

Cipriana's TiLt connect, patent pending

Nothing, it seems, is outside of her realm. She has made bamboo and leather switch plates, she has created a slick wooden dog bowl stand and a domino set, she has powder-coated secondhand and new furniture - a salvaged medicine cabinet, for example, and an IKEA dining set. She has re-covered the fabric of chairs, and created the TiLt connect (the patent is pending), a small plastic widget that makes modular shelving a cinch. It allows the shelves to be snapped together both vertically and horizontally.

The TiLt connect at work

But it's when Cipriana steps outside, over the yard, and into a large work studio that she becomes animated. "This has been my dream since I was a little kid," she says, grinning, of a space that's part-DIY shed and part manufacturing plant. A powder coating station has been created in one corner. Next to that is an oven she uses to cure the powder-coated items.

There is a mixture of both bought tools and manufactured ones: a band, miter and table saw; a clamp rack she made herself; a drill press, ceramic kilns, a router table, and her own computer numeric-controlled router. Why would one go to the bother of making a computer-controlled router? "Because I like to know how thing works. It's pretty important to me to understand how things go together," she says.

So what's the story behind this genius, beautiful mind? It would appear Cipriana inherited many of her father's characteristics and talents. "He was a welder, a contractor, a ceramicist. He had a masters in sociology, a minor in labor law, and spoke six languages," she says of her dad.

Growing up in San Pablo, California, Cipriana shared a room with her dad's ceramics equipment. He died when she was ten years old, not before Cipriana had developed a love for tools, creating, LEGO... and making money. Her mother Georgette reports that she was doing puzzles before the age of one. At a young age she was making jewelry and hair barrettes and selling them to her classmates. Aged eight she had learned Photoshop. At eleven she had her first tool, a jigsaw. You could say Cipriana took up her dad's baton and kept his memory, and talents, alive, and throughout it, Georgette  has barely left her side (they now share a house in Tucson).


Liberal coastal California proved to be too easy for Cipriana. At one point she threw herself down a challenge: to make the biggest change to her living situation that she could think of, to live in a place opposite to Berkeley.  She chose North Carolina. "I wanted to put myself in the most difficult situation I could think of, and living in the bible belt in the south versus liberal California was about the biggest change I could think of," she says. Just to add to the challenge, she became a body piercer.

IMG_1657[1] Her undergraduate degree is in interior design, although her studies - which continue now - run the gamut, from graphic design to interiors and furniture design, to web design. Although school "never moved as fast as I wanted it to", she can't stop studying, she says. "I'm constantly learning."

She does not sleep much. Her mind is thinking of designs and objects and, all too often, the equipment that might help her with her inventions. "A lot of the things I make are because I need to fix some problem I'm having," she says, adding: "I need to make things. If I'm not making things I'm not doing anything. Everything is a problem to solve. I enjoy sitting down and figuring out how to make something more than completing it."


Cipriana's dog bowl stands start at $85

Joan Wike, an installer in the construction industry, has worked closely with Cipriana for a number of years. Asked what sets Cipriana apart, Joan says: "It's quality of work. There is good work and there is great work. There is good art and there is great art. There is good architecture and there is great architecture. The difference between them is attention to detail and creativity. There's a balance there [with Cipriana] of creativity and a sense of style. It's hard to put into words."

A leather and glass vase: $30

Her mother, as well as being a companion and best friend (they say they never fight), keeps that brilliant mind on track. "She's my sounding board and the person to help me stay focused. I have a tendency to go off in different directions and she is the one to roll me back in. And she cleans up after me," says Cipriana.

Now 35, Cipriana is ready to consolidate her talents under her own business name, Lone Ant Design & Manufacturing. Like everything else she does, the business name was thoughtfully constructed. "I think the ant is my support animal. They're individuals and I like the idea that the ant is constantly moving around and toiling away on whatever they're doing and nobody even notices they're burrowing around," says Cipriana.

Georgette sums up the ant metaphor more simply: "It defines her."

Cipriana may be loaded with talent but a lot of the time, self-confidence eludes her. "I'm plagued by self-doubt but I work very hard to not let other people see it," she says. Just like the insects she admires, she's more about the work than being noticed. But she's taking the plunge; a re-painted Volkswagen van bearing the new company logo sits in her driveway, a sign that this lone ant is finally ready.

Contact Cipriana Salazar at [email protected] or visit

Et Cetera

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The kindness of strangers and crossing the Great Divide for Beads of Courage


We launched Tucsonan Stacie Eichenger and her long walk for charity in our May issue and we're checking in with her every month for a walk 4 courage update. Stacie is committed to trekking 3800 miles across America to raise money for Beads of Courage, an organization providing 'arts-in-medicine' supportive care for seriously ill kids.

Cheers to a well deserved day-off: Stacie Eichenberger savors a lavender martini at Headframe Spirits in Butte, Montana.

Last month we caught up with her in Leavenworth, Washington, as the official guest of the Chelon County Fire District 3. Since then she's traveled across the Continental Divide at an altitude of 6000 feet. It's not all cocktails and smiles on the road. If it weren't for the goodness of strangers, there would be many a night of Stacie camping under overpasses, crossing paths with the occasional moose. Turns out there is an entire network of like-minded people crossing the continental US that help each other find lodging with friends.

Next stop: Billings, Montana. Before she gets to Billings - mile marker 1000 on her journey - she's hoping to have raised $10,000 ($10 for every mile). To date she's raised $7300. Make your tax deductible donation at Crowdrise benefiting Beads of Courage. Follow Stacie on Facebook and on her blogDonate to Stacie directly for food, an occasional hot shower along the way, and other expenses she'll incur on her eight-month journey.

* Beads of Courage was founded in Tucson by Jean Baruch, who gained a PhD in Nursing at the University of Arizona. She came up with the idea for using beads as symbols of strength and support for seriously sick children, and grew the program from there. Find out more here.

Five minutes of fame

Gather July 12th at the Steinfeld Warehouse for Ignite Tucson!, a set of 15 five-minute talks by a varied and interesting bunch of locals. There's Jeannette Valencia on a project that combines DJ music and fingerpainting; stand-up comedian Bridgette Blantom Thum on her life as a serious person; Christine Scheer on whether robots will take over the world, and much more.

When: Friday July 12th,  6.30 pm onwards. Free belly dancing display at 6.30 pm; talks begin at 7pm. Food Truck Roundup will be there 5pm to 9pm.

Where: Steinfeld Warehouse, 101 W. Sixth Street, Tucson.

Cost: Free

More info: David Aguirre, 520 869 3166, or [email protected]

Out of the box at MOCA

coke o'neill

One of Coke O'Neill's box portraits. Photo courtesy of Coke O'Neill

Coke Wisdom O'Neal is a photographer who likes to take a non-traditional approach to portraiture. His 'Box' is an interactive, theatrical sculpture that will get you talking, thinking and enjoying. Join the opening party of Coke Wisdom O'Neal's Box exhibit at MOCA Tucson, including an ice cream food truck, cash bar and music by DJ Matt McCoy. And it's free!

When: Saturday 13th July.

Where: 265 S. Church Ave, 7-9pm.

Cost: Free

More info:

 Celebrate Independents Week

ARTE DE LA VIDA Tucson businesses are stretching out their Independence Day celebrations beyond July 4th, with Independents Week. As in incentive to get people to shop local between June 30 and July 7, Local First Arizona is offering a 20% off  'Golden Coupon' to customers. Mexican folk art shop Arte de la Vida is just one of more than 50 Tucson participants. More here.

4th July at Mercado comes with food trucks... and a pig

mercado logo Tucson's finest food trucks and a pig will make an appearance at the second annual July 4th Pig Roast and Festival, presented by Mercado San Agustin and the Tucson Food Truck Coalition. Catch the A-Mountain fireworks from the roof deck, or the courtyard. (And note  that the Agustin Brasserie will be closed for its summer hiatus until August 1st.)

When: 5pm, Thursday, July 4th

What: Food, fireworks and fun, including a pig-roast, live music, cold drinks and Tucson Food Trucks.

Where: 100 S. Avenida del Convento and Congress Street, on the west side of Interstate 10.

More info:

Housing with smarts


Smart Loft's upcoming Presidio Project
Architect Vint and Associates


Smart Lofts at Mountain and Glenn

Ever driven by Glenn and Mountain and wondered what the deal with the modern lofts is? Now's your chance to find out. Infill developers Deborah Chah and Krista Miller, who make up Smart Lofts LLC, will be hosting an open house in July to show off a unit or two (in between tenants). The units are rented through 2014, but don't fret; the eco-sensitive builders are poised to break ground on a new project in the Fall. Click here or on Facebook for more information.


Etherton comes home

Photo courtesy of Etherton Gallery

After exhibiting at four fine art fairs since January, the Etherton Gallery is doing a bit of nesting this summer. Check out its photography and mixed media show between now and August 31st.

When: Now until August 31st.

Where: Etherton Gallery, 135 S. 6th Avenue

More info: 520 624 7370 or click here.

Arizona black officers' club gets a temporary reprieve

A building that serves as a reminder of white-black segregation in America has joined The National Trust's 2013 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.


After a three-year-long effort, the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation succeeded in getting the Mountain View Black Officers' Club in Fort Huachuca on a list that, it is hoped, may save it from being torn down.

Having Mountain View on a national list like this shines a spotlight on the building, and hopefully buys it some time, said Jennifer Levstik, an archaelogical preservationist for the City of Tucson and a board member of THPF. "These campaigns by the National Trust have been pretty successful. They have a high rate of projects being saved," she said.

The 1942 building, built for African-American servicemen and women and host to performers like Lena Horne and Dinah Shore, is on the U.S. Army's active disposal list, said Levstik. THPF and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are hoping Mountain View will instead by preserved and re-used. However, only the U.S. Army is authorized to apply for a historic  building nomination for it. So far, says Levstik, the Army has not acted and now argues that the building is in too much disrepair. "For the past four or five years [the Army] neglected it. It's demolition by neglect," said Levstik.

IMG_1923[1] Speaking at a press conference last month, retired General Julius Parker (pictured), a former member of the all-black Buffalo Soldiers, said: "For me this is an integral part of the U.S. Army and the history of the USA because it's the only structure in our existence that has been built expressly for black officers. The preservation of this structure will acknowledge and serve as a reminder that even during the darkest days of racial evolution in this country, blacks have remained loyal to the USA."

In a statement, Fort Huachuca said: "Fort Huachuca is committed to preserving the legacy of the African-American service men and women who served at Fort Huachuca during World War II. We continue to explore all options for Building 66050 that balance our commitment to historic preservation with the very real budget contraints we currently face. The Mountain View Officers Club is not listed on an Army disposal list as reported by some news outlets or the National Trust."

You can make your voice heard on this issue by contacting your local lawmaker or Government representative.

My Space

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In the latest in our series on people's favorite spaces, Crystal Flynt of Bon Boutique invites us into her tiny work studio. By Gillian Drummond.

bon my space

"Our work space at the back of the store used to be a bathroom. When we took over the store we took down the wall and there was a window behind the wall. So we turned it into our work space.

"My mom, Bonnie - who I run the store with - does her bookkeeping in here. It's also a place for me to put all the stuff I'm working on and to keep ideas for store and store window designs. On one wall I have clippings from magazines. layered on top of each other. I'll come in here at night - that's one of my favorite things to do, is just to be alone and have a moment and process a thought and work on something.

IMG_1937[1] "I'm always making things. I'm always messing around with paper. I've been making a garland for an artists' show in Montana. And there's a halo hanging up that's featured on our website right now - over a girl walking in a cemetery. I think we all remember as a kid making stuff out of paper. I remember making little paper  houses. When I was living in New York City, I would send handmade cards to people. I still make them.

"We have what we call a 'wall of fame' on one wall of the work space, with magazine and newspaper clippings of artists and friends and designers we know. There's a couple I know in New York who are featured in Bill Cunningham's On the Street feature every Easter in The New York Times. My mom and I visit there [for shows and to meet artists] pretty often, so I have that balance of being able to go there and get energized, then coming back to Tucson and having open skies and spaces and ease of life.


Crystal Flynt of Bon. Photo by Gillian Drummond

"This work space is about 20 sq ft. I've always liked small spaces. I'm not a big space person. It's less cleaning, for one thing, and I just like things to be quiet and cozy, not big. I feel like a space becomes not human when it's too big."

Bon will be having a sale July 19th and 20th, with 20% off everything. Visit at 3022 E. Broadway in the Broadway Village shopping center, or online at