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 properties for sale. Photos courtesy of Michelle Hotchkiss/Atomic Tucson.


Where it is: Kingston Knolls Terrace, Tucson

Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

The damage: $225,000

scrotumhouse3How many square feet? 1711 sq ft with detached storage. Others with this model in the same neighborhood have turned the storage space into a fourth bedroom.
You'll love it because: This is better than a Barbie Dream House, because it's been designed for adult fun! And fun we've had with the advertising on this property.  Jay Leno picked up on a print ad I ran highlighting the scrotum-shaped pool, so you could say the house is now famous.
There's nothing left to re-design in this 1959 split-roof house if you like atomic ranch-era homes with soffit lighting and custom built-ins. You'll instantly warm up to the  elevated, peninsula fireplace. Both bathrooms have been
updated, with a spa-tub in the master and little white marble mosaic tile going all the way up the wall, and the hall
bath in a delicious color scheme of pink and black.
scrotumhouse6The floor plan has lots of open indoor living space attached right to the back patio by sliders. And there's a very private and fun back yard. The seller is leaving her very detailed and authentically accessorized back yard Tiki bar for your pool-side entertaining.
scrotumhouse7Here comes the but: While there are many things custom to the home waiting to surprise the new owners, the moai statues collected in Easter Island that are placed around the pool don't come with the house. Sorry!
See more photos on Michelle's Atomic Tucson Facebook page. For more info contact Michelle Hotchkiss, a RE/MAX Catalina Foothills Realty agent, here.

Ask Away: Complete Dimensions

 feature sponsored by

Complete Dimensions LogoOur population is aging, but are our homes ready for it? Tucson-based interior designer Sharmin Pool-Bak, owner of Complete Dimensions Interior Design, offers some advice. Cover photo by Robin Stancliff.

Bathroom by Complete Dimensions Interior Design. Photo by Chris Mooney.

Photo by Chris Mooney


Q: “I’m in my 50s and about to remodel my home again. Is it too early to be thinking about preparing it for old age?”

Sharmin says: "Your home is filled with family memories and traditions. Planning ahead to create an appealing home environment that is also safe, familiar and accessible is becoming a top priority for those 50 and older.  One of the unique aspects of a remodeling consultation with Complete Dimensions Interior Design is designing those accommodations for you earlier rather than later in life. Whenever you start to think about a remodel, consider how you can incorporate aging-in-place products and standards.

Photo by Robin Stancliff.

Photo by Robin Stancliff

"The elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. According to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), “the aging of the population will affect every interior environment.”

"At some point you may have to make a decision on if and how long you can remain in your home. This may be a choice you only get to make once - so let the interior design of your primary home keep those decisions from being made as long as possible.  A number of factors may start that process - from arthritis, dementia or other illnesses associated with aging. An accident or illness may also contribute to this sooner such as a broken leg from skiing or cycling.

"Overall, the common response from adults falls into the- "People who can stay at home, will stay at home" option. My advice is to prepare now to be one of those who get to be in control of remaining at home.  And it’s not just about comfort and familiarity – it makes sound financial sense.

Photo by Robin Stancliff.

Photo by Robin Stancliff

"The  average cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,022 per month, according to research compiled by several nonprofit senior living organizations, including the Assisted Living Federation of America (2009 Overview of Assisted Living). Assisted living is often less expensive than home health or nursing home care in the same geographic area.  That $3,000 could go a long way towards an accessible bathroom remodel.  How long could you manage on your own in your home if you could not attend to the functions and needs of daily living?

"Some of the top aspects of a remodel to examine if you want to ‘age in place’ in your current home are:

* Step free entrances

* Lever door handles instead of knobs

* Electrical outlets with a higher placement from the floor

* Added task lighting for easier work

* Higher toilets

* Grab bars in bathrooms and showers

*Wider doorways

Sharmin Owner of Complete Dimensions Interior Design

Sharmin Pool-Bak, owner of Complete Dimensions Interior Design

"Some of these options are inexpensive - such as the door levers or even the replacement toilets. Choices that are more expensive, ones that involve major structural changes, still provide an opportunity for you to keep living in your favorite place longer - in the comfort of your own home.  And the happier, safer and healthier you are will reap a benefit of other savings for the future!"

* Contact Sharmin Pool-Bak and Complete Dimensions Interior Designs at  www.completedimensions.net  or call 520 403 1572




Dear Tucson...

Love Letters to Tucson logoEach issue  we link up with Rachel Miller's Love Letters to Tucson blog for a letter from a Tucson inhabitant about why they love this fair city. This month: Soleste Lupu of non-profit dance studio Dancing in the StreetsPhotos by Rachel Miller.






Dear Tucson,

"I love you, though I admit I love other cities and other places too. I love Seattle, I loved South Korea and the East Coast, but coming back to Tucson is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans.  It feels like home, like comfort.

"When I was young I was convinced that Tucson was too small, boring and I couldn’t wait to get away. I didn’t appreciate my hometown.  I didn’t realize just what I had here…the arts, the nature, and the rich culture.


Soleste Lupu

"At 21 I moved away. I married and moved to South Korea, and then Seattle for 10 years and then divorced.

"Joey and I had met when we were kids, in ballet school here in Tucson.  We were together as teenagers until 1986, when we separated, but we kept in touch, through postcards and long distance phone calls.  We reconnected 15 years ago and have been married for five of those years. Underlying our friendship there was always this Tucson connection.  And it is that connection of Tucson that really cements and bonds us together, always having the pull of Tucson no matter where we were. It was great to be together, in Milwaukee or wherever, and say “In Tucson…”

"I think there is this piece of Tucson that lives in your heart…this feeling, deeper than a building or a place, just a wonderful acceptance of different lifestyles, different cultures, art, and it’s part of growing up in Tucson. I didn’t recognize that I had this sense until I moved away. Historically, we have had this wonderful mix of cultures - Native American, Mexican American, and Asian - that, along with the natural habitat influences peoples’ creations and I don’t think that exists in quite this way anywhere else in the country.

"I love that I grew up and still live in a neighborhood where wild animals roam. I don’t think there is a hierarchy of humans over animals when it comes to rights to exist, and I think that is in part due to growing up in Tucson. I used to walk home from school, through St. Joseph's Hospital grounds, and it was still desert. There were javelina and coyote along my path home, they never threatened me. When I moved away I met other people who hadn’t had that experience, who weren’t familiar with having wild animals around and were deathly afraid of birds, ants, coyotes and all the other animals that we grow up with.

"Did you know that we have an incredible legacy of dance here in Tucson? Joey and I were fortunate enough to be taught by George Zoritch, an original Ballet Russe dancer, and one of the founders of the University of Arizona Dance Program.  I didn’t know what that meant at the time. It wasn’t until years later when I was thumbing through an old program of the Ballet Russe and there was his picture! In the 1950s  and '60s George Zoritch, Mitrovich and a number of very prestigious dancers settled here in Tucson and started ballet schools. It was wonderful to have that whole generation dancers here, but they’re dying off and I worry that this wonderful history and legacy is slipping away.


Soleste and Joey with some of their dance students.

"Tucson has managed to keep what is rich and great in diversity, in culture, in population, but can we continue? Arts and cultural events need people to attend, and they need dollars to survive. Phoenix has traditionally has been better at regular support. It’s important to remember, though, that we have incredible homegrown talent in Tucson, all over Tucson. We have many talented musicians, artists, dancers and tile artists in the city. I don’t think many people realize just how much talent we have. There is this idea that people from out of town have some sort of magic, that they have a better art that we have, and that isn’t the case."

Rachel met Soleste at the Dancing in the Streets studio on 38th Street as Soleste prepared for the school’s upcoming Nutcracker performance at the Fox Theater. You can rise to the Soleste’s challenge and support the arts and Tucson’s homegrown talent by attending this family performance of the Nutcracker on December 14th or 15th at the Fox Theater downtown. Can’t make it? Sponsor a child’s lessons, or dance supplies, or perhaps even their costume for their first public performance. 

* Dancing in the Streets is dedicated to using the power of dance to break down cultural barriers and enriching the community’s artistic experience. Based in the City of South Tucson, where Joey grew up, the school is focused on providing children and their families from the immediate community with programs that build self-esteem through dance. Find out more about it here.

Ground Floor

 brought to you by

boxhill logo

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: alien plant invaders. Plus, Boxhill has some Holiday picks of the month.


”If we don’t find that pod before it germinates, it’ll be the end of everything. Everything, do you understand? Even your pension!” The Seeds Of Doom (Doctor Who, BBC, 1976)

This may seem like an outlandish way to start a plant rant, but truth be known it isn’t far from reality.  Last month, the Tucson Botanical Gardens opened their newest exhibit called “Alien Invasion of the Plant Kind.”


Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

According to TBG's marketing manager Melissa D’Auria, the concept was inspired to “educate and inform the public about invasive plants and their impending environmental impact through the lens of colorful, vintage media” – specifically sci-fi horror films and their accompanying posters.

While the films are not rolling at the exhibit, they all allude to man-eating plants that take over the world - kill, murder, steal, and strangle anything in their path, not unlike that famous episode of Doctor Who.  It’s a metaphor that appropriately illustrates the impact alien plant species have on our ecosystem. And their potential effects were underscored recently when singer Katy Perry’s new album Prism - containing seed paper that can be planted - was labeled a biohazard by Australia’s Department of Agriculture.

Outside of Hollywood, these plants are called invasive species typically introduced to a new region where they take up residence, and then take over.

Fountain Grass. Photo by National Park Service.

Fountain Grass. Photo by National Park Service.

There are a handful of prolific plants of concern in the Sonoran Desert, some earning special project status due to their destructive tendencies, such as buffelgrass.  Others are basic pests, and others syphon water until there is nothing left to share with the natives.  We have highlighted four invasive desert plants most likely to be found in your back yard. So beware; you might be tending to them a bit too carefully.

1.  Rhus lancea (African sumac)

African Sumac. Photo by

African Sumac. Photo by Darbi Davis

Have you heard the saying “Leaves of three, let it be”?  This is a good way to identify this weed that quickly grows into a dense shade tree and then via sucker or seed turns your yard, and your neighborhood into a water-slurping weed forest.  The leaves and bark can be an irritant and the pollen is highly allergenic.  It grows fast, and by the time it becomes a short shrub it is tough to remove.  If after reading this, you are inspired to chop yours down, whatever you do don’t burn the wood, because inhaling the smoke may irritate your lungs.

2.  Tamarisk spp. (Saltcedar)

Salt Cedar

Salt Cedar. Photo by Darbi Davis

Saltcedar is a riparian species, meaning that it likes water.  This tree can be found along our desert waterways and in urban areas.  It tends to be more opportunistic when water is abundant, germinating quicker than our native willows, cottonwoods and mesquites.  They compete for water and win.  Additionally, they contain high levels of salt (hence their name). This increases the salinity of the topsoil, which is undesirable for our local friendly flora.


3.  Pennisetum setaceum (Fountaingrass)

The other day I opened my kid’s lunch box and found the soft, sexy, furry burrs of fountaingrass.  Some remained attached to the inflorescence.  The remainder lined the interior of the lunch sack.  I was horrified.  Fountaingrass is sexy and seductive as it sways, backlit by the sun, but it reseeds and pushes out the natives.  Carefully get rid of it, and remember to regularly inspect the area for seedlings. There are lovely native grasses to replace fountain grass.  Deer Grass, Bull Grass and Little bluestem are three of my favorites.


Fountain Grass. Photo by Darbi Davis


4.  Enchylaena tomentosa (Ruby saltbush)

A recent move provided me with a lovely specimen of Ruby saltbush, straddling the property boundary from my neighbor’s yard into mine.  It drapes over an ocotillo fence, and it doesn’t look bad.  The birds love it.  The seeds are brilliantly colored– pink like that of prickly pear fruit.  But each seed that drops into my yard proves endless weeding opportunities.  It really doesn’t need water.  After visiting the Tucson Botanical Gardens exhibit, I learned Ruby saltbush is a relatively new invasive species to our area.  It is an Australian native, and I can see it as the next Sonoran strangler.  It thrives… on nothing.  The experts at the Gardens suggest “pulling it out and carefully disposing of it,” but for the life of me I can’t seem to dig down far enough to get the sibling volunteer out of my front yard.


Ruby Saltbush. Photo by Darbi Davis

Next time you stroll the yard or walk your neighborhood, look out for these destructive devils.  They thoroughly enjoy our harsh climate, have a complex subterranean water-sourcing network, and bully the natives with their aggressive growth and reproductive behaviors.  Some of them burn hot, but not so hot that they endanger their own, just hot enough to suffocate the native seed.

* The exhibit at Tucson Botanical Gardens runs through April and is abundant with feared foliage, paired with vintage horror and information on the most destructive invasive species threatening our desert.


What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks of the month. This issue, it's merry and modern.


1. TIN & GLASS STARLIGHT - Designed to be versatile, these stars add great light to a design space.
2. MOSS LETTERS - This 18-20" high, moss covered letter is constructed using real, live green moss
3. SNAZZY STILT BOX - This stilt container allows for proper drainage of plants while keeping the container off of the ground while adding spice and décor to the landscape.
4. LUSTROUS LEMON WREATH - A taste of the Italian Countryside! This bright yellow coated magnolia wreath is sure to brighten your front door.
5. RED + WHITE TANGIER RUG - These rugs offer a rich textural surface while being durable enough for any high traffic area of your home
6. URBANFIRE - The Urbanfire has a modern star burner mounted to its firebowl to provide a perfectly dispersed flame.

Doctor Who Special

In celebration of the television series' 50th anniversary, we talk to Maureen Heneghan Tripp, the costume designer for the very first Doctor Who. By Gillian Drummond 


Photo © BBC 2013

William Hartnell was known as a difficult actor. And when it came to his new role, as a time lord for a brand new BBC series called Doctor Who, he and the show's director were already butting heads.

"William Hartnell was not an easy man to work with. He was an angry actor, not simpatico. And he had definite ideas of what he wanted Doctor Who to look like. I was stuck in the middle and told to please both of them," says Maureen Heneghan Tripp, the BBC costume designer who came up with the Doctor's first look back in 1963. It was her job to outfit both the Doctor and his grand-daughter for the show's pilot episode, An Unearthly Child.

"You learn all the tricks of the trade. You have to make sure the actor wants to act in the costume. It's important they really want to wear it. You have to go into their inner thoughts somehow. And you learn never to say no to an actor," says Maureen who, after a costume design career spanning four decades and three different countries, lives part-time in Tucson.

William Hartnell, who played the original Doctor Who. Photo © BBC

William Hartnell, who played the original Doctor Who. Photo © BBC

Maureen's first hurdle was William Hartnell's bald head. TV shows were still broadcast in black and white, and the glare of the studio lights would be a problem. So it was decided that a wig and a hat were necessary. Maureen says Hartnell wanted to wear a cloth cap, but she gently suggested he at least try something else - something more exotic and interesting for what would become television's most famous time lord.

Photo © BBC

Photo © BBC

Maureen went shopping in London for some Astrakhan fur hats, and came back with six, all in different shades of black. "I thought he would like himself in it," she says. She was right. "He liked it. He liked it with his face. The most important things on TV are the extremities - the hands and face - because that's what you see most of. And the hat was great with a wig," she says.

For the rest of the Doctor's clothes, Maureen - in time lord fashion - skipped back a century to the 1900s. "It had to be something related to the 20th century but not too far away from it, so I thought why not go into the 19th century. The streetwear at the time was Edwardian-ish."

So Maureen gave the Doctor an Edwardian style coat. "He had to have fobs and a chain and a pocket watch - it was part of the script - so we gave him a waistcoat. Then he had to have a muffler [neck scarf], because all travelers seemed to wear mufflers."

Working for black and white television meant learning what colors read certain tones, and which fabrics - like wool - absorbed more light.


Peter Capaldi become the new Doctor Who in a Christmas special this December. Photo by Rankin, copyright BBC

Maureen, who grew up in England and Scotland, says she was always fascinated by the history of dress. The daughter of an actor and sister of actress Patricia Heneghan, Maureen studied costume design in London. After three years with the Royal Shakespeare Company - where she worked with the likes of Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Redgrave - she spent five years with the BBC.

She emigrated to Canada, where she continued her theatre and television work. Then, wanting more regular hours, she moved into academic theatre, first at Harvard, then Boston University and, latterly, at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachussets, where she still has a home.


Maureen Heneghan Tripp, the costume designer for the original Doctor Who, now lives in Tucson.

She first visited Tucson on a lecture tour 22 years ago, and returned as a winter resident five years ago.

* Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor special is out on DVD and Blu-ray December 10th. BBC America will air The Time of the Doctor - Matt Smith's final episode and the Doctor's regeneration into Peter Capaldi - this Christmas, date to be announced.

Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary Special - The Day of the Doctor

The latest two doctors, played by Matt Smith and David Tennant, battle it out in  the episode The Day of the Doctor. Photo © BBC/BBC Worldwide


Et Cetera

 This month: get on your bike, get fashion-wise, get inspired, and win some gifts for the Holidays. Cover image courtesy of BICAS.

Sprinkle some cheer with these free gifts

sprinkles cover photococktail bookWe  have two books to give away that are perfect for those who like those little treats in life. Sprinkles! by Tucson-based photographer and food blogger Jackie Alpers gives recipes and a history of sprinkles. Shake 'Em Up! is a hilarious handbook of polite drinking, originally written in the Prohibition era. There are recipes for (strong) cocktails, hangover cures, and tips for inebriated guests.

Just leave a comment at the bottom of this page, and we'll draw a name by Monday December 9th. Good luck! Congrats to Mary Lyons and Lyn Witte, winners of our draw! Mary receives Shake 'Em Up, and Lyn receives a copy of Sprinkles!


Biking Benefits


Graphic courtesy of BICAS

If you know Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage (BICAS), you know the good it does for our community. Now it’s time to give back. And have a lot of fun. And go home with some great bike-themed art. Get yourself along to the BICAS annual art auction, at the never-dull Whistle Stop Depot.

When: Friday, Dec 6, Art Preview Party  6-10pm. Saturday, Dec 7, Early Bidding 11-5pm. Saturday, Dec 7, Silent Auction 6-9pm

Where: The Whistle Stop Depot, 127 W. 5th St

Cost: Free

More info: More information can be found on the event Facebook page and the BICAS website and 520-628-7950


Eats and Treats at the Mercado

6th Annual Mercado San Agustin Holiday Bazaar

The 6th Annual Mercado San Agustin Holiday Bazaar is a highly curated extravaganza of food, art, crafts, fashion, jewelry and community organizations showcasing Tucson’s diversity through locally owned small businesses. And there’s music and activities for the kids. Some of the 30 vendors include Revolutio, Lila Clare Jewelry, Valerie Galloway, BICAS and Many Mouths One Stomach.

mercado san agustin holiday bazaar

Graphic courtesy of Mercado San Agustin

When: Friday and Saturday December 20-21, 11am – 6pm and Sunday December 22, 11am-4pm

Where: Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento (just off West Congress)

Cost: Free.

More info: 520- 461-1107, on Facebook, or [email protected]


Resolve to Look Great on New Year's Eve

This Holiday Workshop and brunch by wardrobe consulting firm Ten Outfits will guarantee that you start the year off in style. Sip mimosas and enjoy a lovely brunch while you learn tips on special occasion dressing and the yay's and nay's of sparkle. Monica will be handing out a special little holiday gift to all attend.



Monica Negri of Ten Outfits. Photo courtesy of Monica Negri

When: Sunday, December 22, 11-1(ish)

Where: North Restaurant at La Encantada, 2905 E Skyline Dr. (Skyline and Campbell)

Cost: $40

More info: Pre-registration/payment is required. Registration deadline: December 15. Contact Monica Negri 615-6020 or [email protected] to register. More information about Ten Outfits is available here and here.


Some of the Best Vintage in Town – on Sale!


Forget Black Friday... Black Cat Vintage's sale lasts 12 days.

Get yourself into Mad Men style for the Holidays with Black Cat Vintage's Twelve Days of Christmas sale. Each day until December 13th something special from this vintage clothing boutique is on sale.

When: Twelve days December 2 through December 13

Where: Black Cat Vintage www.blackcatvintage.com or by appointment

More info: To find out about the day’s deal, sign up to receive the Black Cat Vintage newsletter and get 24 hours' advance notice of the next day's sale item(s). Or visit the store's Facebook page for that day's deal.

From Chuk Shon To Tucson

jadebeallbbprojectLet intellect and curiosity be your guide at From Chuk Shon To Tucson: Annual TEDxTucson Conference. It features videos, local artists, live music and seven speakers. Featured presenters include Jade Beall, Beautiful Body Project; Esther Sternberg, Place and Wellness; and Allan Hamilton, PrescribingHope.

When: December 6, 8-11pm. Doors open 7 pm

Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress Street.

Cost: $21 general admission. $10 students/military.

More info: TEDxTucson brings together innovative ideas and concepts through inspirational live speakers to examine the story of our Sonoran Desert oasis. More info about TEDxTucson is available here.  Tickets available at the Rialto Box office and here. 


Pop in to PopUp

'Friday's Fish Day' by Katrina Lasko, part of

'Friday's Fish Day' by Katrina Lasko, part of PopUp2

PopUP2: An Art Happening is a one-day, curated art exhibit featuring painting, sculpture, photography, and jewelry by 27 of Tucson’s most talented and accomplished artists. PopUp1 started last year with a grant to revitalize vacant Tucson storefronts and was such a success that PopUp2 had to happen.

You’ll see work by the likes of David Andres, Julia Andres, Moira Geoffrion, and Katrina Lasko (pictured). The show features a first-time installation by Shirley Wagner addressing the loss of industry in Youngstown Ohio.

When: Saturday, December 7, 11am-4pm

Where: Corbett Brewery Building (formerly Borderlands) 301 E. 7th St. (N.E. corner of 5th Ave & 7th St.)

Cost: Free. And free parking across the street.

More info: For more, including participating artists, visit the Facebook page.


 She's walking across America

We began covering 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.

To date, Stacie has trekked a total of 2,900 miles, bringing her recently to London, Kentucky. She spent her Thanksgiving on a farm with a family she had never met before in Columbia, Kentucky, where there was "no TV or internet - just a log-burning fireplace." Stacie also got the chance to reunite with her aunt - whom she hasn't seen since childhood - while passing through Cincinnati.

Stacie wants to give a shout-out to all the fire departments in Kentucky who have been helping her every step of the way. "The put me in hotel for tonight and are transporting my cart for me," she says. Next stop: Johnson City, TN, where she will visit the local hospital.

* Money raised to date is $19,500.  Stacie is hoping to hit $20,000 by the time she hits her 3,000 mile mark, which is only 100 miles away. Help her reach her goal with a one-time donation to Beads of Courage at Crowdrise. Follow Stacie on Facebook and donate to Stacie directly for food, an occasional hot shower along the way, and other expenses she'll incur.  Photos below courtesy of Stacie Eichenger.

 IMG_1879 IMG_1878 IMG_1877

Lipsticks and feminists

Her images have already gone viral, her feminist work reaching to all parts of the globe. Photographer Liora K is on a mission, and it began right here in Tucson.  By Gillian Drummond. Cover photo by Liora K.

Photo by Purple Nickel

Liora K. Photo by Purple Nickel Studio

It's a striking image of a striking image. Liora K, photographer and women's rights advocate, is pulling up a news story on her cell phone. She looks at a photo taken at a demonstration in Tunisia - a gathering of protesters against an alleged rape of a woman there by police officers. Someone in the crowd is holding a banner with one of Liora's images on it, enlarged. It's a woman's naked torso with painted words on it: "Rape is rape. No excuses."

More than ten thousand miles across the world, someone in that crowd had found Liora's photo -  one of many feminist works she has done - and taken the trouble to mount it on a banner.  "I'm honored that women across the world were able to connect with the image," says Liora.

It's not the first time, however. This Tucson photographer got a taste for world headlines last May when her photos of Tucson blogger and body positive activist Jes M Baker and a male model went press- and Internet-viral. Called Attractive & Fat, the photographs were a take-off of Abercrombie & Fitch's black and white ad campaign.


Liora's Attractive & Fat photos gained her worldwide recognition. Photo by Liora K

This was a turning point for Liora, 25, who up until then had viewed photography as a hobby and creative outlet. Now, family and friends were encouraging her to turn it into a profession. By the summer, her day job and her photography were turning her working week into seven days. She credits her then boyfriend (now husband) Andrew with making her step off that creative cliff and hand in her notice at jewelry design firm Krikawa, where she was (happily) in charge of client services.

That was in August, and she has been surprised, and excited, about the work that's come along since. "Once I gave myself permission to do that I was so shocked by the requests I got. And in terms of networking, it exploded," she says.

Liora has Tucson to thank largely for her change of direction. She grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Pennsylvania, and after graduating followed Andrew to Tucson, where he had been attending the University of Arizona. "I said 'It's been four years,  you have a job and I don't. So I'll come to you'." Andrew, whom she had met in High School, had a job guaranteed as an engineer at Raytheon.

Liora's friend, model Katy Gierlach. Photo by Liora K

Liora's friend, model Katy Gierlach. Photo by Liora K

Liora worked at several different jobs here, including retail and a stint at the Center for Creative Photography. One of her jobs was at the beauty store Sephora, which she loved. "Make-up is like painting," she enthuses. Soon after, she would turn to a different sort of painting altogether.

It was 2012, and she became angry at the so-called War on Women and what she saw as  clampdowns on women's health and reproductive rights. The daughter of very liberal parents, Liora was finding it tough living in her first politically red state.

She had met Tucson model Katy Gierlach (pictured on our cover page) at an event in Tucson and told her she would love to photograph her. Katy gave Liora her number. Then Liora, who admits to bouts of shyness, took fright. "I was too scared to call her for a month. Katy had to call me," she says.

The two became friends, Katy modeling largely TFP, as they say in the photography trade. It stands for Time For Print, and means the model gives his or her time in exchange for photos, either prints or digital images.

One day, an image came into Liora's head: words painted on a nude woman's body. At 7 am the next day, Katy and another model turned up at Liora's house. Liora painted two phrases on them with acrylic paint: "What about my right to life?" and "Enough is enough."

The start of a feminist series. Photo by Liora K

The start of a feminist series. Photo by Liora K

Liora posted them online, tagging the women's rights group Unite Women. The group got back to her and asked her if she would produce a series for them.  In the meantime, Katy introduced Liora to her friend Jes Baker. The very next day, Liora and Jes drove to Phoenix together to one of Unite Women's state capitol rallies. They became fast friends. And the rest is feminist photography history. As Katy says: "I had no idea when I introduced them what amazingness would come."


Liora's feminist photos series came in response to her anger at the 'War on Women'.

Together, Jes and Liora are quite the feminist and body positive powerhouse. They came together to both shoot and participate in the charitable photography project Sexy Lady Bookworms (read more about it in this 3 Story feature from Spring 2013). A photography exhibition last Spring at Tucson's Cafe Passe included both of them and their body positive and feminist photography. There was Attractive & Fat. There's a book proposal. (As part of it, Liora photographed 68 women topless, whilst topless herself.) And you can bet there is much more to come. A snap appeared on Facebook recently of them in snow with the comment "We're at it again!" Liora won't say what - not yet, anyway.

Jes says simply of her friend: "I love that f***ing girl." She recalls "huddling" around Liora with ten other men and women at a photo shoot for a feminist photo book cover. "She spoke about the dire need for advocacy within women's rights. Her voice was strong, courageous, and unapologetic as she detailed current events." She recounted them with such conviction, says Jes, "it gave me goosebumps".

Adds Jes: "She's a clear, powerful, and brilliant voice in a world that will never be able to shut her down. I admire her pioneering spirit, her blunt communication, her creative vision, and her dedication to the things that truly matter."

That dedication includes fighting for causes, and working hard to accomplish them, says friend Rachel Garman, who spearheaded Sexy Lady Bookworms. "This is a woman that will get up at four in the morning to get the perfect shot."

Liora has a reputation for working fast and economically on shoots. "She definitely knows when she's got a shot," says Katy Gierlach. "Sometimes though, when she gets really into the shoot and excited, she gets caught up and has to stop herself. 'OK, three more frames and then we have to be done... I could just keep doing this'."

DSC_27201Photographer and graphic designer Steve McMackin (who happens to work for this magazine) collaborated with Liora on shooting the Sexy Lady Bookworms project. He says: "Liora has an uncanny ability to get people to be comfortable in front of her camera. I can only marvel at her ability to pose and orchestrate people in a way that's as much fun for the models as it is for the viewer."

Growing up, Liora was "totally dorky, totally straight-edged", she says - raised a conservative Jew and regular temple goer. She loved drawing, painting, dance and choir, and her parents were "super supportive" of her creative pursuits.

DSC_62181-480x319Her father, an amateur photographer, asked Liora what she wanted for a high school graduation gift. She told him she wanted a digital camera, and didn't want to have to use a flash. "I really like photographs where I can use natural light," she says. He bought her a Fujifilm FinePix, a point-and-shoot with a manual setting, and that summer taught her about aperture sizes and F-stops. It was, she says, like a new dawn; being able to recreate pictures she had had in her head that she couldn't quite nail through drawing or painting was liberating. Her photography flourished in college, and she spent summers interning at galleries and museums in Chicago.

She still has that Fuji camera, although she uses a Nikon D700 professionally. She also has the pictures in her head. "[Sometimes] I'll have an image in my brain and I can't get rid of it until I photograph it. That's how it is 10% of the time." The other 90% of the time, she works intuitively and quickly. "I'm working on having longer shoots and pushing myself to take time over it." she says.

Easy, fun, sometimes a little shy, and with a genuine love for her friends and family, Liora cuts a modest and sincere figure.

She's very well-read - from Simone de Beauvoir to third-wave feminist blogs. Would she call herself a lipstick feminist? No. "Other people might... I think that it's an over-simplistic term to describe a whole person." She prefers the term third wave intersectional feminist, a reference to the theory that oppression is bound up with and influenced by things like race, gender, class, ethnicity.

She talks fiercely about "slut shaming", and don't get her started on Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines song and video. "I dance to it," admits Liora. But "I hate it."


Liora says shooting different events and subjects keeps her photography fresh.

As for the reductive last name, she says the use of the 'K' is nothing more than a general preference. "I just have never used my last name online. I consider my last name personal information, and just got in the habit of using the initial."

She recently got to be on the other side of the camera when she and Andrew got married in the Hudson Valley. Was choosing a photographer stressful? She shakes her head no. She thoroughly researched it, and came up with a woman whose work she had admired for some time: Los Angeles-based Liesl Diesel.

As for her own, increasingly busy, business, Liora says she isn't restricting herself with the sorts of shoots she does; she's game to do portraits, weddings, events and food. She is particularly enjoying her photo projects for the new magazine Edible Baja Arizona. Switching up her photography projects like this "keeps it fresh," she says - something Liora clearly thrives on.

* Find Liora K's website and blog here. For more on Jes Baker read our May 2013 feature, The F Word.


Liora and Andrew's wedding. Photo by Liesl Diesel









Hang it all

There are 'rules' when hanging art, but we say hang it all and go your own way.  By Samantha Cummings. Cover photo by Geoffrey Hodgdon.

In this project by architects FORMA Design, a low-hanging painting ties in with the low furniture. Photo by Geoffrey Hodgdon, and the architect is FORMA Design.

In this project by architects FORMA Design, low-hanging paintings tie in with the low furniture. Photo by Geoffrey Hodgdon

If art is a subjective thing, then so, it seems, is how it is hung. There are 'guidelines' when it comes to hanging art. But we at 3 Story like to find the folks who go against the grain.


Blogger Valorie Hart goes way low with some sofa-side art. Interior decoration and photo by Valorie Hart.

Almost 15 years ago, non-fiction writer, Kathe Lison, remembers reading in a design magazine that most people are guilty of hanging their art too high.

“It should be at eye level when you’re seated, so that’s where I’ve always tried to hang it. But, that often seems lower than most people think it should be.”


At Kathe Lison's home, the low-hanging art was magazine-inspired.

Throughout her 1963 mid-century home she shares with her partner Chris, Kathe consistently abides with the magazine tidbit that has stuck with her over the years. Viewed from a standing position, her wall art hangs from waist to chest level. But while seated, eyes get a front row view.

“The lower you hang anything on a wall, the taller the ceiling seems and the larger a room feels,” says Tim Diggles, owner of Cavanagh Art Installation.

According to Diggles, there are no rules when it comes to hanging art, but there are some useful guidelines. Throughout his 20 years experience, he has discovered that 60 inches from the floor is the magic number when it comes to hanging a piece of artwork.

“I use a formula where I measure from the ground and I hang artwork [measuring] from the center of the piece,” he explains. “The art museum does the same thing and they typically use 58”, maybe 59”, from the floor to the center of the artwork. It’s a pretty simple formula and it doesn’t matter what the size of the picture is.”


Art leans against a wall and creeps down low in this Tucson designer's home. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Each piece of art is a different size and shape, so when a group of artwork is hung together using this formula, the centers match up, but the tops and bottoms fall at different heights.

Hannah Glasston, who is approaching her twelfth year as director of Etherton Gallery, has always hung art as she pleased - wherever it looked good and wherever it felt good.


Apartment? Photo by?

A salon-style inspired wall is created using various mirrors and colorful graphics.  Interior decoration and photo by Valorie Hart.

“You could go way back to Victorians and their salon-style hanging – somebody like Gertrude Stein. Look at any of the photos of her old apartment, with all her paintings jammed up against each other. You can cover the walls with your paintings. It’s kind of a matter of what you like to do,” says Hannah. 

Today, salon-style art walls are more popular than ever, making it hard to believe that the style dates back hundreds of years. American novelist, poet and playwright, Gertrude Stein, was known for walls jam-packed full of art in her infamous Paris apartment, renowned for its Saturday evening gatherings for artists and writers, including greats like Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.

scott neeleylowpic

Victorian family photos reach the floor at Scott Neeley's home.

Salon-style can range from hanging a series of pictures side-by-side in a row, in a grid-like formation, or scattered unevenly.

Tucson architect Scott Neeley and his partner Stephen Russell use the salon style for no other reason than the fact that they have a lot of art. "We find places for our art," says Scott, who admits to rotating the art regularly. Throughout their midtown home, art tends to be at eye level while you are seated. On a narrow wall adjacent to the family’s dining room, four family portraits of Stephen's ancestors are scattered salon-style, reaching from the ceiling to the floor. Not only does it give it an art gallery fell, says Scott, but they are easily seen from the dining table.

Living Room. Photo by Samantha

Architect Scott Neeley's living room, where art is either hung at eye level (when seated) or leans against the mantel for easy removal or replacement.

“If someone has a lot of art and wants to see it all, I’ve done baseboard to ceiling collages,” says Diane Struse, owner of picture framing firm Frame 56. “But, the pieces need to have the same look and feel. It doesn’t have to be the same artist, but they have to go together.”

Family Portraits. Photo by

Family portraits in a guest room at Scott Neeley's home.

When deciding on whether to hang art high or low, Struse recommends hanging more abstract pieces lower than detailed ones. “If it’s more of an abstract, where you’re trying to bring color into the room and create focal point, then definitely you do it,” she says.

"There are no hard rules, it just needs to feel right," says Andreas Charalambous, architect and interior designer, and principal of FORMA in Washington D.C. "How low you hang the art depends on the size of the piece, the scale of the room, the ceiling height and the furniture around it."




My Space

In the latest in our series on people's favorite spaces, Tucson graphic designer and artist Tom Baumgartner talks about his long-time idea made real at Wee Gallery. By Joan Calcagno.


Tom Baumgartner in his wee Wee Gallery. Photo by Gillian Drummond


“This idea has been ruminating a long time. Ever since my days at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago I’ve wanted to do a gallery. Emerging artists need opportunities to show and sell their work - something different than the traditional 50% commission gallery system. It’s expensive to show work and sometimes artists just need a break.

“Last summer my partner Jane Pitts and I found this space for OZMA Atelier, Jane’s vintage clothing store. There was a small space in the back and I started to see a space for my idea to get traction. I had to do a lot of renovation. A month and a half later Wee Gallery had its first show.

cristina gardenas

A painting by Cristina Cárdenas, who shows at Wee Gallery from December 7. Photo courtesy of Wee Gallery

“The space itself is 13 feet by 13 feet, in the back of the store, separated by a partition and short hallway. Part of the draw is that the gallery is a bit hidden. Some coming to the openings really like that it’s in the back of the store – something you need to know about, a little secret place. There’s a sense of discovery.

“I love the smallness. It’s easy to manage. Standing in the gallery, the work surrounds you.

"Every First Saturday Art Walk, Wee has its opening for the artist being featured that month and I get to have a big party. I don’t have a stable of buyers like a traditional gallery does. So Wee has other things to offer, like help marketing for the openings, and the opportunity to show for free. The artists we show are accomplished and doing quality work. Some are still emerging and can’t get a break; some are getting into juried shows elsewhere and Wee provides more exposure; some have traditional gallery representation and Wee provides the venue to exhibit more experimental work.

wee gallery“I thought of calling it Small Gallery, but Wee is a bit more antiquated and a better fit with the vintage store. The logo has its roots in a bit of the anti-commission, anti-usual-gallery-system rebellious spirit.

“This space is becoming popular with local artists. I’m an artist myself so I really appreciate what it takes to master the work. The artists are the stars at Wee. I’m honored to get to know them and to participate in the show experience.”

* Wee Gallery is located at 439 N. 6th Avenue inside Ozma Atelier and open Thursday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm. Information about artists and upcoming shows can be found on the Wee Gallery website and its Facebook page. For the scoop on the space Wee Gallery shares, check out our feature on OZMA Atelier.



Pleased To Meet You

Author and pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix, who visits Tucson this month, argues the case for year-round Holiday lights. By Samantha Cummings. Cover photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix.

charles phoenix

Photo by Matt Blansett

Early bird or night owl? “I’m both. I love to stay up late. I do my best thinking in the middle of the night when there are no phone calls to make, no snacks to have, you’re not going to call your friends and chat. Then I love to get up early and take a brisk walk. It just kind of depends. I can do both.”

Favorite Christmas accessory? “I would have to say, there are too many. I can’t narrow it down to one. I'm all about the whimsical stuff. A classic color wheel, whether you have an aluminum Christmas tree or not. Another one would be a cardboard fireplace - total old school, mid century. If you don't have a fireplace, you get a fake one made out of this really bright red fake cardboard. It's kind of cartoonish and cute.

"I guess I'm a little bit of a pyromaniac because I love fire. But I'm never satisfied with regular fire - I want multicolored flames. There's one product that make a couple of different varieties of logs and one is the multicolored flame log and it burns blue, green, and orange. So, I'm all about the whimsical stuff."


Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

Favorite holiday faux pas? “That’s a tough one! When your friend comes over with a giant gift for you and you didn’t get one for them and you’re like, “Ahhhhh!” You panic.”

Who is your dream audience member? “Anyone with an attention span.”

If I weren’t a humorist/chef/performer/author I would… “I love classic cars, so probably something with that. My first career was as a fashion designer, my second career was buying and selling classic cars. I was born on a used car lot, so used cars, classic cars, American cars are in my blood. If everything fell apart and show business was over, I'd be back to the cars. Currently I have a '61 Pontiac Bonneville."

If I could change one thing I would… “I would make all outdoor lighting multicolored. I love multicolored lighting, at night, outdoors. If there was endless electricity, I would uplight trees at night – every tree in the city. I mean, maybe not every tree, but enough!

"I'd also try and address the amount of food that we waste. We need to eat smaller portions so we don't leave so much on our plate. I remember I ordered a salad in a restaurant and a friend was visiting me from France and the salad was set down in front of me and he goes, 'Oh, I didn't realized you ordered salad for the whole table.' Then I was like, 'No, this isn't for everyone. This is mine.' Then his plate came - it was the same size - and he goes, 'This could feed all of us!'"

*Charles Phoenix will present his Retro Holiday Slide Show, on December 27th at 7 p.m., at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.