Pleased To Meet You

Glass artist Tom Philabaum on living with a "cruel mistress", and a mishap with a horse.


Photo by Steven Meckler

Are you an early bird or a night owl? "An early bird, totally. I used to be a musician but I always thought the musician's life was never for me because I couldn't stay up late. I have wine with dinner and read a book and go to bed at 9 o'clock.

I like being the first one up in the morning and out in the dark of the morning. I swim six or seven days a week at the YMCA downtown, or in one of the City pools, and I have a regimen of yoga and calisthenics. I come here to the studio at 5am, go to the Y at 6am, and I'm back here at 8am."

Favorite accessory? "My bike. Unless I have to go pick up supplies, I ride my bike all over downtown. It gives me freedom and the ability to create new routes. I like going down alleys and checking things out."

Philabaum Glass

Part of Tom’s Precarious Rock sculpture series, featuring individually blown rocks that are cut, polished, and joined with adhesives. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Favorite faux pas? "I was invited to be guest artist at the Littleton Studios for two weeks, in North Carolina. They had brought someone in to be my assistant, a young lady of about 22 or 23.

"On the night before we were due to start, she told me she was an equestrian and that she'd noticed there was a big black stallion in the field next to me. She said would I jump the fence and help her mount him.

"It was dinner time and I'd had a little bit of wine, so I helped her get on the horse. She had a halter in her car, but she was riding bareback. She came back from the ride and said 'Your turn.' I said 'You're crazy, I can't do that!' She said 'Chicken' and I went 'All right then'. The little boy in me came out and I jumped up on the horse. I've had two back surgeries and my right leg is atrophied so I'm sliding to one side, and before long I was perpendicular. I fell off and landed on my shoulder, on the arm with my drawing hand.

"I had two weeks of massage and herbal remedies and somehow I pulled through that two weeks. But when I got back to Tucson I had to have surgery on my shoulder. I was the fool."

Dream client? "Anyone with an unlimited budget. I like doing major installations and I would love to do a project that would take me a year of planning and execution. Right now I'm working on an installation for the Pima County Administrator's building. It's an effect called 'dalle de verre' (French for tile over glass). There will be a glass sunset on the west side and a sunrise on the east side of the building."

Tom Philabaum in Front of Red Flowers 2

Photo by Carter Allen

If I weren't a glass artist I would..."Want to be a painter because I like pushing paint around on surfaces. I have a painting studio at home where I do sketches, and for 20 years I was in a drawing group. We met every Tuesday night. Then people started moving away and it disbanded. That was a sad day for all of us.

"But I don't have the drive to be a painter. And somehow it's been decided by a higher power that I use this medium of glass. I've been seduced by glass. When I travel the world in my role as a glass artist, I find people doing things with glass I've never thought of. The material itself is so flexible, so plastic, the possibilities are endless. But it can burn you and cut you. It's a cruel mistress."

If I could change one thing I would..."Eliminate guns. I was blessed to have a father who was not interested in hunting. I think guns have no place in society other than for protection or securing the safety of others. I don't know how the NRA can say they'll get rid of everything that Obama has proposed in the light of what's just happened in Connecticut - little children being killed."

Philabaum Glass Studio & Gallery is at 711 South 6th Avenue. Cast & Cut, a show featuring glass artists Mark Abildgaard and Michael Joplin, runs February 2 to April 13.


Philabaum Glass

Photo by Gillian Drummond


Et Cetera

It's the largest show of its kind in the United States. But having 20,000 mineral-crazed tourists in town can be a little overwhelming. So follow our guide to how to navigate the Gem Show.  Cover photo of fluorite by Joe Budd; fluorite courtesy of Rob Lavensky through the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show


"Blue John" courtesy of owner David Hacker,
through the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
Material mined in England, near Derbyshire Peak National Park

When hoards of people descend on Tucson this week all shopping and talking precious stones, there are actually two shows going on.

The first is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, put on by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society and the largest of its kind in the United States. Since 1949, this enormous event has put Tucson on the geological map and spun-off 40 different mineral shows to the Tucson area each year.

One of these, which has become the granddaddy of all of them is the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase, more commonly recognized by its street name the Gem Show. Confused? So were we. Just do us a favor and don't, mistakenly call the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show the Gem Show. The organizers get peeved. They like to keep themselves separate.

Being amongst 20,000 mineral-crazed tourists sounds beyond overwhelming. If you’re Gem Show virgins like us, plan on using these tips to create an experience that will be sure to rock… pun intended.

1. Expect a little chaos

“Prepare to be overwhelmed,” said Gloria Quigg, the TGMS publicity chair. “We have a lot.” TGMS is responsible for drawing over 19,000 people to the Tucson Convention Center, where every square inch is utilized to house the 4-day event. Attendees can choose from roughly 250 vendors, 40 exhibits, and a variety of lectures.

Macie Myers, 22, who visited for the first time last year, suggests buying a two-day pass to see it all. “When you go for one day, it’s not enough time to look at everything,” says Myers. “The first day I took the time to scan the goods and on the second day, I actually bought something.”

To avoid the rush, Quigg suggests coming later in the afternoon. Many people tend to arrive early in the morning and only stay for a few hours.

2. Bring cash

Very few of the vendors accept cards, so plan on bringing cash to avoid limiting your purchase options. Also, decide your budget beforehand, so you know how much cash to bring. According to Quigg, jewelry prices can range anywhere from a $25 bracelet to a $10,000 necklace.

3. It's budget-friendly

At last year’s Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Myers remembers spending $60 and coming home with 2 ring settings and 2 precious stones.

Most vendors want to avoid lugging or shipping heavy items at the end of the weekend and are willing to bargain prices. Vendors don’t advertise this, but it’s always worth asking!

4. Its nice to kids too

TGMS will have over 40 exhibits where kids can look at different minerals and precious stones. Not only will they be occupied, but they might actually learn something!

Kids are also welcome to participate in a program run by University of Arizona students, called Junior Education, where they can take part in several hands on, interactive, experiments. This will be available starting Friday, Feb.15,  at 2 p.m., all day Saturday and Sunday.

5. Parking

The Tucson Convention Center has provided parking, but once available spaces are taken, attendees must look to park in the downtown area.

We're all crossing our 3 Story fingers here that all that Streetcar-related construction will be over with - but we all know construction never really ends when it's supposed to.

If the parking gods aren't looking over you, several special Gem Show parking areas in the downtown area are available:

  • 22nd St. and I-10 Frontage Rd. (East side)
  • Congress St. and I-10 Frontage Rd. (West side)
  • JOGS Show at Tucson Expo Center on East Irvington Rd.

Or make use of the free Sun Tran Downtown Loop shuttle that runs Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For details call 520 792 9222.

We recommend:

5 pearl bracelet-0622

5 pearl bracelet by Jude Clark
Photo by John Villinski


* Obsidian Gallery (Feb. ongoing - call for days and times 410 N Toole Avenue, #130 Tucson, AZ 85701 tel. (520) 577-3598 [email protected]

In honor of the Tucson Gem Show, Obsidian gallery is currently featuring the jewelry of Petra Class, Jude Clark and others through February. Head downtown and visit Obsidian Gallery in its impressive new space in the Depot building.



* The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (Feb. 14-17; 10 a.m.-6 p.m Thurs-Sat; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday; Tucson Convention Center, 260 S Church Tucson)

*African Art Village (7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Feb. 1-17; 1134 S. Farmington Road)

• * The Best Bead Show (Feb. 6 -10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Feb 7-9-10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Feb. 10- 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Kino Veteran’s Memorial Community Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way)

Main Avenue Gem Show (10 a.m.-6 p.m., Feb. 2-15; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb 16; 1202 N. Main Ave.)

•* The Rock Show (9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Feb. 2-17; Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way)

•* To Bead True Blue (10 a.m.-6 p.m., Feb. 3-8; Doubletree Hotel Tucson at Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way)

•* Tucson Botanical Gardens Gem Show Sale (10 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb. 15-16; Tucson Botanical Gardens, Porter Hall Gallery, 2150 N. Alvernon Way)


In other news...

Sonoran Glass Flame Off 2012-124


Flame Off 2013  a fundraiser for the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, February 8th at 6:30 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Make sure to check out our feature on the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, too!




Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 4.59.52 PM

Fundraiser for the Rialto Theatre on February 9th at the Rialto Theatre Foundation's first annual Inaugural Fundraiser Gala. It includes a live auction, music and an after-party. Doors open at 7:30; tickets are $25.

Nick Georgiou self-portrait with paper




Visit the Tucson Sculpture Festival from February 1-15 within a two-block radius in the Tucson Warehouse Arts District. Artists include Nick Georgiou, Greg Corman and Alison Aragon.  Read about Nick in our feature, Paper Boy (Volume I, Issue 1 September 2012)





Square Feet

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 the week.

Photo by Gillian Drummond


Photo by Ellie Leacock

Where it is: Villa Catalina Apartments in Sam Hughes

Listed by: Long Realty

The damage: $107,500

You'll love it because: These "garden apartment style" condos are the most swinging places I can think of in town!  This is iconic architecture of the MCM style, built in the late 1950's featuring mint green accents on the metal railings and deep eaves, and more horizontal spansions of brick and glass. Most of them I've seen on the market still retain their original finishing touches in the bathrooms and kitchens.  This one is absolutely in the most coveted location in the complex, with mountain, sunset and courtyard-side views. The property is listed on the National Historic Register.

Here comes the but: At least one resident must be over the age of 55, and none can be under 18. The HOA fee is practically an entire mortgage payment, with averages of around $600 per month. But keep in mind this includes two pools, free use of a laundry room, water, electric, trash, sewer, property tax, building insurance, landscaping, roof and building exterior maintenance, and HVAC/plumbing maintenance.

Find more of Michelle’s property picks at Atomic Tucson


Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond


The Glory Hole

Tucson's glass art scene is a tight-knit one, and thriving. At the hub is the Sonoran Glass School, whose reputation, well, glows.

Paul Stout in front of 'The Glory Hole'. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Hot shops. Warm shops. Fusing and slumping. Frits and torches. And a big, glowing cave for reheating that they call The Glory Hole.

Glass art is factory meets studio, heavy trade meets fine craft, and a world of words that sound part-Tolkien, part porn. When it is tentatively suggested to the men who run Tucson's Sonoran Glass School that they do not fit this reporter's typical image of an artist, there is chuckling.


Executive Director Michael Nicholas.
Photo by Gillian Drummond

"My hair isn't long enough?" quip executive director Michael Nicholas, whose other job is running a construction company. But he and Dave Klein, co-founder of the place along with artist Tom Philabaum, nod in agreement. Dave concurs that, were he to be stopped in the street, this burly guy would be likely to be taken for a manual worker of some sort, but not an artist. It's that heavy trade aspect of glass art, they say: the fact that lifting, turning and blowing glass is a job that requires strength.

When Tom Philabaum told Paul Stout he had the build for glass art, "he meant it's because I'm strong," says Paul, a taut, muscly guy who looks like he'd be better suited to a body building studio than an art one. Holding glass on the end of a long pole, as one does while blowing it, can mean the glass feels heavier than it is, he explains.

"It takes endurance and strength. The glass might weigh 20 pounds but it feels like it's a hundred," says Paul, then a dishwasher in a cafe and now a glass artist in his own right. "It's the wet towel effect. It's called lag." And with that he adds yet another word to the layperson's vocabulary.


Photo by Gillian Drummond

With glass comes an "Aha" moment, the time when a person falls hook, line and sinker for the art form. Some will tell you it's the fluidity of the material. Others will tell you it's that glass is both strong and delicate at the same time. Yet others will marvel at the color you can bring into glass, and easily too (this is where frits come into it - tiny ground-up colored pieces of glass that clear glass can be rolled in to add hue).

For Michael Nicholas, now in his third year as executive director, the appeal of glass came from the instant gratification it gives. "When I saw the glass and how instant it was, I was like 'I need to do that'."

Co-founder Tom Philabaum calls glass "a cruel mistress". He and other glass artists "worship" the material, he says, for its flexibility and the color potential. "But it can burn you and cut you."

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Tom began the school in 2000 with Dave and artist Michael Joplin (see our feature Glass Act in this issue) from Tom's downtown studio. William Justiniano recalls calling Tom up to ask him for work, and being launched headfirst into remodeling the building that is now the school's home, on 18th Street just south of downtown.

"I wouldn't have lived in south Tucson 11 years ago and now I live a block away. It's got a lot more gentrified," says William, who sports the rather enviable job title of lead hot shop instructor. When he's not teaching at the school, he's specializing in glass lighting for restaurants and homes in Tucson through his company Justiniano Glass.

Since opening, the school has had another studio added to it, grown to ten full-time employees, and built up to a budget of around $500,000. Glass classes and 'experiences' are held throughout the year, apart from the two months in the summer when the school closes. These range from making mosaic trivets to a six-and-a-half-hour stint making paperweights, tumblers and vases.

The Sonoran Glass School is always reaching out to schools and colleges to promote glass art among the young. If a school can't afford to pay for a program, says Michael Nicholas, the Sonoran Glass School will try seeking a grant to make it happen.


Money comes mainly from two fundraisers: a glass pumpkin festival in October, and Flame Off on February 8, which the school describes as like the flameworker's version of Iron Chef. Originally a handful of glass artists in a glass-blowing competition around a table at the school, Flame Off is now an event drawing hundreds and takes place at the Rialto Theatre. Around 20 artists vie with each other in two sessions. They are judged, and their results are auctioned off.

Flame-Off 2012
Photo courtesy of the Sonoran Glass School

The people behind the school are proud, not only that it stands on its own with no affiliations to another body or college, but also of the reputation it's built up. Says William: "We've started to gain popularity to where now people I talk to in Seattle and San Francisco and the east coast, word has gotten around enough without them even being here that it's a studio to check out."

The studio's range of equipment gets positive comments, says Michael. People are coming here from abroad to take workshops, and next month the school will begin its first artist-in-residency program.

William's "Aha" moment came the first time he watched glass being blown. "It's the most magical type of art there is. Glass is one of the few mediums you can do anything with. You can paint on it, carve it, sculpt it, inflate it, mold it, you can put it on a lathe like you would wood or metal. No other art can have the versatility and be strong and fragile at the same time."


Flame Off 2013 takes place February 8 at the Rialto Theatre, and is the school's own wrapping-up of the Gem Show. Doors open at 6.30pm. Click here for details. For more info on the Gem and Mineral show, see our Et Cetera section.

Happy Hour

Drink up, folks. Tonight’s happy hour could become tomorrow’s countertop. We look at the trippy things being done with recycled glass.

recycled glass countertops

IceStone "Sapphire Snow"
Photo by Jeff Smith, courtesy of Originate

Thought you'd seen the last of those empty wine and liquor bottles? Well they could be coming back into your home, in the form of countertops.

Recycled glass counters are not only red hot, they're getting trippy. Turns out companies are salvaging everything from decommissioned traffic lights to Skyy vodka bottles - making for a set of vibrant colors (or more subtle tones, depending on your taste) and a variety of textures and patterns.

They're manufactured in slabs, and made from 100% recycled glass and Portland cement. The glass is then crushed or fused before its embedded in cement. Or long strips of float glass are fused together into one slab.

"Ribbon" in Garrett
Photo courtesy of Interstyle

Natasha Winnik owner of Originate Natural Building Materials  is a long time purveyor of recycled glass countertops. Her studio/showroom specializes in environmentally sound building materials and finishes. The two most popular glass countertops at Originate are Vetrazzo and IceStone. The main difference between the two, says Winnik, is the size of the glass pieces.

Georgia-based Vetrazzo, considered by many as the original recycled glass surface manufacturer, features the largest pieces of glass. Its slabs contain 85% recycled glass and 15% Portland cement.

recycled glass countertops

Vetrazzo's "Umbo White"

So why, apart from the obvious fun of it, would you opt for a recycled glass counter?

1. There's a story behind it.

These are countertops that tell a tale. Most of Vetrazzo's glass, for example, is reclaimed waste stream glass mixed with material from curbside recycling programs. It’s not unusual to find a tiny bar code or other print embedded in your countertop, or parts of windows, dinnerware, car windshields and more.

2. The colors pop.

recycled glass countertops

Vetrazzo's "Cobalt Skyy"

Vetrazzo's 23 colors are named based on the origin of the glass. For instance, its 'Cobalt Skyy' is sourced from the signature blue glass of recycled Skyy Vodka bottles. And Alehouse Amber, well……you get the gist. A high gloss finish is standard - honed special ordered.

IceStone based in Brooklyn, New York, deals in smaller glass pieces than Vetrazzo, and offers 15 standard colors and six specialty colors.


3. They're one-of-a-kind.

Interstyle, based in Canada, uses new and post-industrial recycled glass for their Architectural Glass Surfaces. Its 'Ribbon' slabs are made from strips of float glass, coated with ceramic glazes and fused together in the kiln. The result? Undulating streams of vibrant colored glass, each piece handcrafted for a slab you won't find in any neighbor's house. Ribbon glass looks, well, like ribbon, distinctive from the aggregate appearance of Vetrazzo and IceStone countertops. Ribbon can be used for countertops and partitions and backlit for a dramatic effect.

For the subdued palette, Architectural Glass Surfaces also makes a line called 'Crush', from recycled granulated glass and ceramic stain, and with a monochromatic appearance. Available in 12 colors ranging from pale blues and greens to milky white and gray.

Slabs can be shipped for local fabrication or finished at the plant in the dimensions you need, ready for installation, says Interstyle.

4. They're low-maintenance.

They may cause havoc in your home in their original state (think bottles dropping on a concrete floor, or glasses smashed on the patio). But once they're manufactured into glass countertops, these babies are easy to take care of.

They're comparable in strength, durability, and care and maintenance, to granite. To clean, just use a damp cloth or mild liquid soap or detergent when necessary. Then seal or polish two or three times a year.

The 'Ribbon' and 'Crush' lines can withstand heat and cold, are unaffected by UV rays, non-absorbent, impervious to liquids, do not need to be sealed, and are easy to clean. They can be shaped, cut and polished for a variety of applications. If they're scratched they can be polished. But be mindful, says its manufacturer, that extreme and sudden changes in temperature may cause the glass to crack.

Ribbon in "Tropicana". Photo courtesy of Interstyle

5. A little goes a long way.

At $187 per square foot, Ribbon is best as a one-of-a-kind accent piece.

Vetrazzo and Icestone run $100-$150 per square foot for material and fabrication. They don't come cheap. And depending on the color and rarity of the glass, the price can go up, says Originate’s Cipriana Salazar. “Red glass is the hardest to come by, so the reds have the higher price point and yield limited edition series.”

But for that small island or powder room counter that requires only a few square feet for a dramatic effect, remnants can be had at Originate, 526 N 9th Ave  Tucson, AZ 85705, 520-792-4207

AGS Crush - Glow in the dark

"Crush" in Aurora back-lit
Photo courtesy of Interstyle

Glass Act

After 10 years away, artist Michael Joplin is back, with a new take on glass, a shared space with his wife, landscape architect Margaret Joplin, and a surprising new business that celebrates his late sister.

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Margaret and Michael Joplin. Photo by Gillian Drummond


"Blue Romance"; Michael's glass pin-up plates, part of a show launched this month. Photo courtesy of Michael Joplin

Michael and Margaret Joplin show off their new studio space like two bright young college grads. They're rejuvenated, excited, and with new direction. After 31 years of marriage, this is the first time they've shared space. And they're now sharing a medium too. For both of them, glass is a love and a living.

Margaret highlights the elaborate line of glass beads she's been developing, and describes the laborious process involved in making them (there's a slow cooker and a camp stove, clay and lots of molds).

Glass bead light fixtures
Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

Michael talks us through the even more labor-intensive technique behind his new glass art: blown platters that carry 1940s pin-up-style images achieved through painting, sandblasting and gradual removal of the paint.

Next month he'll share a show at the gallery of his old friend Tom Philabaum, with fellow glass artist Mark Abildgaard. It's a significant move for someone who took a 10-year sabbatical from the art world. "I got really sick of art. I lost any kind of reason behind the art," he says. So he played a lot of golf, got involved in two touring theater productions about his late sister Janis and, oh yes, launched a clothing line.

The move into fashion began as a discussion with the Joplins' eldest daughter Malyn, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. "Let's bring out a line of purses," they said. Before long they were studying bolts and fasteners, zippers and handles. Michael says he was realizing that it's all very well wanting to produce beautiful-looking purses, but it's a long, meticulous process. "You want them to be great-looking things and they look like turds on your shoulder," he laughs.


Made for Pearl, a collection inspired by Janis Joplin

But both Michael and Margaret are more than happy with the hand-made purses and Janis-inspired boho chic clothing pieces launched last week. They include stretch cotton lace clothes, and tie-dye leather handbags with linings made of hand-dyed silk.

The collection is called Made for Pearl, after Janis Joplin's nickname (she'd use the name Pearl to book herself into hotels anonymously), and of course after her posthumous record Pearl, which reached number one on the Billboard charts and went quadruple platinum. Months earlier she lost her life to a drug overdose in 1970, aged just 27.

Michael Joplin will forever be linked to one of America's rock icons, thanks to a last name that's less than common. Asked whether the name holds him back, he says: "It used to. I would never sign my last name for a long time. I'm trying to make art."

Today, they are proudly putting that name behind the large central Tucson space they're leasing, one big enough for each to have an office,  studio space, and room for Margaret's various endeavours: her landscape architecture firm Design Collaborations; Pure Beauty, a retail space featuring everything from botanical prints to salvaged metal, to glass; and Bellus Lux, those glass creations created by an ancient method called lost wax.

Landscape architect and artist Margaret Joplin

Landscape architect and artist Margaret Joplin
Design Collaborations

Her work shows at the Tesuque Glassworks' gallery in New Mexico and the Tucson Museum of Art store. In February she's headed to Palm Springs Modernism Week to launch her glass beads.

In her landscape architecture work she uses salvaged metal. Her studio space is full of metal off-cuts, many of them the 'negative' panels left over after pieces of metal have been punched out of them.

Several years ago she wanted to try her hand at making huge glass beads (with 12" diameters and up) for a public art installation. Michael gently suggested she start by making small glass beads. The result? The couple's first art collaboration: a memorial for fallen public servants in Casa Grande.

Both are on the board of the Sonoran Glass School, and given her marriage to Michael, Margaret didn't come to the world of glass without prior knowledge. Blowing glass down at the school gave her a new respect for her husband's work, she says, and also made her realize she wasn't interested in blowing.

Today, her set-up with slow cooker, camping stove and aluminum foil debris - could be mistaken for something highly illegal.

The lost wax method is so-called because the original wax model for a shape is burned away or 'lost' in the process. Now that she's got her glass bead process down, Margaret can turn out 25 pieces in two days. Her current work features glass bead lighting, glass beads strung on heavy wire, and a rain chain, with glass beads and cups to collect rain.

The Joplins' downtown studio is the first professional space they've shared together. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Margaret has leased various other studio spaces before now, while Michael has worked from home. Their  new partnership comes at an interesting time; they're childless for the first time, their youngest daughter having just gone to college.

Their marriage, and their shared aesthetics, means they have a sort of shorthand when they're bouncing ideas off of each other. For Michael, up until now the lone telecommuter of the two, it's nice to be able to think his ideas through out loud, he says, and ask Margaret's advice. Still, says Michael: "Renting the studio was a real big commitment on my part."

Salvaged metal as sculpture in the landscape
Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

Michael got into glass blowing after a friend in Prescott, where he was then living, told him about a glass class there. A month later, he was calling himself a glass blower. He and Margaret, who went to Prescott to attend college there, were friends for some time before getting together (she even went to his first wedding). They moved to Tucson in 1981 so she could attend the University of Arizona (she completed the 5-year degree in four years, despite the surprise of a pregnancy and the birth of Malyn.)

Glass Beads
Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

In some ways, the move into fashion shouldn't be a surprise. Prior to glass blowing, Michael was print making and silk screening. Art was part of his make-up for as long as he can remember. "I'd always been able to draw well [as a child]," he says. "I'm the product of that generation where where they said you can be anything you want to be. Everybody said 'You're good' so I kept drawing."

His new sketches on glass are a result of a long-time interest in pin-up art. He takes images from the Internet, manipulates them, and then goes through what's called multi-stage blasting, sandblasting the images, scraping away parts of it for detail and to lose color, and having to tape off sections as he works. "Nobody  is doing anything like I'm doing, mainly because it takes so freaking long," he laughs.


See Michael Joplin's work at Cast & Cut, a show at the Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio. It runs February 2 to April 13. The award-winning touring theatre show, One Night With Janis, opens next month at the Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles.

The work of Michael Joplin
Photo by Gillian Drummond


My Space

Real estate agent Kriss Nicholas shares a midtown home with husband Michael, who heads up the Sonoran Glass School and also runs a construction firm. As part of the home's remodeling, he added a large master bathroom. Here she shares a favorite spot in that bathroom that's full of memories.

My Space Kriss Nicholas

Photo by Gillian Drummond

"This vanity, in my master bathroom, truly is a retreat for me. I can come back here and talk on the phone that's sitting on the counter I have a notebook if I need one, I have a TV mounted on another wall.

My Space Kriss Nicholas

The adjacent wall to Kriss's vanity has a TV.
Photo by Gillian Drummond

"But this corner also has memories of my mom, Lee Birdsong. She lived with us in this house before she died. The cigarette box is hers, and the small make-up mirror, and the old perfume bottles. The tiny clock used to sit on her bedside table. The lamp is hers, and the big mirror, which is wood with gold leaf. I put cotton buds in a silver sugar bowl that she had. My mom bought good things and she kept all of them.

"My mom was always a Do-It-Yourselfer. She was a hard worker. She tiled her own kitchen. I bought a house beside her in Louisiana so I could be closer to her, but it wasn't long before she needed round-the-clock care and I moved her here to Tucson.

My Space Kriss Nicholas

The master bathroom addition
Photo by Gillian Drummond

"We added on the master bathroom as part of a master bedroom addition. The bathroom is 300 sq ft with travertine floors. It's the only room in the house with heated floors. I had my husband put casters on my zebra print chair, so I now have mobility in my little corner."

Read about Michael in our feature The Glory HoleYou can reach Kriss Nicholas and her firm, Treeful Realty, on 520 881 0862. Contact Michael's Nicholas Building Company on 520 904 1378.