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Worms from the Vermillion Wormery

Photo by Darbi Davis

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: Darbi's love affair with, um, worms. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Several years ago, somewhere between graduate school and child rearing, I decided it was time to venture into the world of composting. Food scraps, yard waste and newspapers were collected in the hopes of producing black gold with the advantage of a lighter garbage can. Two years went by, and there was no sign of anything soft or fluffy in that large, black bin. But it was infested with every species of roach in existence. We quit composting as a result.

1) Worm FOOD!

Worm food! Photo by Darbi Davis

Over time, the horrible memories faded and our family grew – as did the guilt of watching the garbage fill with food scraps and yard waste. I reconsidered the art of composting and decided to try out a far more fascinating method – worms.

For months, I researched the process of worm composting, determined to find a system that was convenient, functional, and of course aesthetic, across all phases of the composting process. I was hoping to start my bin with 'local' worms, and discovered the Vermillion Wormery in Oracle, met the most delightful worm coach, Linda Leigh PhD, and began my adventure.

Uncomposted material with news paper shreds and castings when all the critters have completed the process.

Uncomposted material with newspaper shreds (left)  and
castings, after the worms have completed the
process. Photo by Darbi Davis

Linda is the resident expert on worms and many other topics related to the natural environment (she’s lived in an ecosystem outside of the earth’s atmosphere longer than anyone on earth, in Biosphere 2, and she survived an encounter with a 9 foot charging bear in Alaska). So, of course, I asked her a few questions about vermicomposting.

“What I love most about worms is their ability to transform worm food into plant food,” says Linda. “That process of transformation into the microbially rich castings [worm poop]is not well understood by science, and I love that mystery of it. The worm bin is a fabulous educational tool. I also love that almost everyone has a story about worms!”

And I love that worm composting is so compact. All you need is a bin (a regular plastic tote will do it ), bedding, and of course the wriggly farmers themselves.

Here are her tips for making worm composting work:

* Use the right bin Dr. Leigh recommends using a 10 gallon tote to start because it is light enough to move around even when full of castings, and easily starts with a pound of worms. The worms can be purchased online or at the Vermillion Wormery. One pound is adequate for a two-person household and requires a minimal investment in the event that worms don’t flourish in your household.

2) Preparing the Worm Bedding - Coco Coir

Preparing the coco coir worm bedding, Photo by Darbi Davis

* Give the worms bedding Worm bedding, consisting of coco coir, composted horse manure or newspaper shreds, is critical in keeping the worms moist so they can breathe and it serves as a habitat for other microorganisms to thrive and process waste before the worms even eat the food. Think of it as a food processing plant! Coco coir is a natural byproduct of harvesting coconut and is a good medium for the novice and smaller indoor bins because it retains moisture well while still allowing for air circulation.

* Buy local Purchasing worms online is reliable and okay; however, make sure you get a full pound of worms, not worms plus bedding equaling one pound. Worms can quickly die in high temperatures so many places will not ship during the summer. Locally fed worms from places like the Vermillion Wormery are the best source because they eat local waste. Locally produced compost is as equally important as locally-grown food, for many of the same reasons.

* Worms will move to their food.  If it's in a flat bin, they will find it.  If it's in a tower-like bin, they will migrate up to it or over (but worms can't jump, so the tower bins must be touching), and back down if necessary.  They do not like light so if the food is near a light source, they probably won't get to it.

Linda’s information above is critical when starting your own worm composting system. There are also many great books on these delightful subterranean dwellers, such as Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, and my favorite, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart.

Here the worms migrate up through holes in each tray to reach their food.

Here the worms migrate up through holes in each
tray to reach their food. Photo by Darbi Davis

For the last year, I can honestly say that these teeny, tiny subterranean farmers have changed our lives. I love that I don’t fear my compost, and that my whole family has an amazing respect for those ridiculously wiggly worms and their underground community. My children are actively involved in their maintenance, and the harvested castings  have turned around seemingly sterile soil.

They truly have become part of the family. For most of the year they reside on our patio. During the heat of summer, we move them into the hall closet, and on the coldest nights they have been known to join us by the living room fireplace. I kid you not.

* Find out more about the Vermillion Wormery here. Visit them every Sunday at the Tucson St. Philip’s Farmer’s Market from 9 am to 1 pm, where they have worm composting systems and worm compost on display.

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Aloe 

Aloe1Aloes are lovely succulent plants from Africa that do well in the desert, and come in a variety of sizes and flower colors. Their flowers are gorgeous and should be shooting up any day now if they haven't already (these guys are active during the winter months and dormant during the summer).


What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: outdoor solutions inspired by Pantone's Color of the Year.


Pantone is the authority on color, and makes predictions for what colors will be popular and why - in fashion, home, industrial design and many other areas of commerce. BOXHILL has used Radiant Orchid, the color of the year, and paired it with complimentary colors  and products  you could use in your outdoor space. Clockwise from top left:
Outdoor Double Cocoon: A cozy little outdoor swing to snuggle up to or put in your favorite tree or patio, it comes in this yummy fresh avocado color. It's small enough to carry, yet big enough to share. From wind and wet to sun and sea, its high quality, weather-proof fabric resists all the elements.

Brass Tray and Vase : We paired up with HCV (Hot Cool Vintage) with the tray and vase. Loving how we can add vintage bones to any outdoor space. In good vintage condition, this gorgeous hand hammered brass Samovar tray dates back to the turn of the 19th century.

Cement Façade Table: This beautiful and unique pair of decorative details from Arms & Barnes has been salvaged from a building in Philadelphia. The material was crafted into a pair of end tables with custom steel frames. They can be put together making a larger table or separated to flank both sides of your favorite sofa or lounge chair. The pair can also be used on an outdoor patio.Each end table measures 18.5”D x 15”W x 20”H

Classic Boho Area Rug: Our reversible polypropylene mats are made to last! But like everything else we have to take good care of them. Hose clean and drip dry if you wash them. Ideally, roll them up when not in use. For safe indoor use we recommend carpet double face tape at both ends. Product is recyclable at the end of its life-cycle. Comes in 4x6 size.


My Space

In the latest in our series on people and their favorite places, Meg Johnson shares a piece of her yard that is building community and helping literacy: a free mini library. Story and photos by Gabby Ferreira.


 "I first saw Little Free Library on Facebook and thought, 'What a really unique idea for building community.' And it does more than just spread literacy, it does build community. Unquestionably it's become a focal point in our neighborhood.

"It was immediately love at first sight. I like it being outdoors. I mean you see that 'leave a book, take a book' kind of thing at the doctor's office or at a hotel, but not outside where anybody can access it.

"Being near the center of Tucson, we have a high number of rentals, especially south of us. I just thought it would be a way to ground people to an area and make them feel like it's a neighborhood rather than just loose random houses with strangers in them that you don't know. And it's helped a lot with that.


Meg Johnson, whose yard has become a focal point in the community

"Our neighborhood is the Garden District. It's a one-square mile neighborhood and our section here has the highest percentage of homeowners, but across Pima there are high numbers of rentals and a large population of people living below the poverty line. I knew that at [our neighborhood school] Wright Elementary, with 100% of the  kids on free and reduced lunch, which means living below the poverty line, they would not have books in their homes. A lot of those kids walk past my house on the way to school, so I thought it would be a neat way to get books into their hands.


The inside of the 'library' is lined with the pages of old dictionaries

"We talked about different places to put it and it just seemed perfect with the shade there and views north, south east and west. I love that corner of my yard, because of the tree. That mesquite tree grew from seed. It's a rather large space and always seemed to need something more done with it.

"My friend Judy Ostermeyer is the artist, architect, and the builder. I supplied the deep pockets and helped. I spent about $100 on it; we already had some of the materials, like the doors and the roof. It was fun when we were putting it in. We had neighbors constantly coming by. The hardest part was figuring out the roof to make sure it didn't leak.


Meg's dog is the library mascot

"I thought 'What a great focal point for positive happenings' and right under the mesquite tree in the shade with the wall there to sit on, it's perfect. One time I looked out and there was an ambulance out here and I thought 'Oh no, someone's sick!' But the paramedics were taking turns going to the little free library to get a book.

"Reading is about improving yourself, getting the job, having fun, knowing about the world, creating your own world. As a teacher and an older person I worry that paper books are going to disappear. I think the little free library created a different feeling in our neighborhood. When I send out a newsletter there's a lot about graffiti and crime and potholes and all that stuff ,whereas now we have a little free library and this is our community rather than the potholes and the crime. Our community is literacy and getting together with friends, meeting new people. And it just presents a different face to our neighborhood."

* Meg Johnson is a 2nd grade teacher and Secretary of her neighborhood association. You can learn more about Little Free Library here. Read more about Tucson's Garden District here.


Et cetera

 Find out what's cool, hot and happening in Tucson this month. Compiled by Gabby Ferreira and Kaleigh Shufeldt

 Earth, Wind, and Fire

philabaum2Nope, it’s not the band (phew). Arizona is known for its stunning geological features, from the Grand Canyon to our very own Catalina Mountains. In this exhib, glass artists Mark Abildgaard and Caleb Nichols join forces with stone sculptor Merlin Cohen to celebrate the power of nature.

When: Until April 26th

Where: Philabaum Glass Gallery and Studio, 711 South 6th Avenue

Cost: Free

More info: Visit the website or call 520 884 7404

A Fine Valentine Couple’s Relay


Photo courtesy of Southern Arizona Roadrunners

Are you craving something different this Valentine’s Day? If you're getting tired of the same old flowers-and-candy routine, check out A Fine Valentine Couple’s Relay. It's not just for couples, and couples don’t have to be romantically involved either. In addition to a 4-mile couple’s relay, it includes an individual Ramp Run race and a 2-mile walk/jog. Open to the whole family.

When: Sunday, February 9, 8:30 a.m. (Register before Sunday, February 2).

Where: University of Arizona Main Gate on Euclid and University Avenue

Cost: Fees ranging from $15 to $42 depending on the race type

More info: Visit the website or call (520) 326-9383

 Tucson Fashion Week: calling designers


On the runway at Tucson Fashion Week 2013. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Is it your dream to have your creations walk the runways during Fashion Week? Tucson Fashion Week is currently accepting applications for 2014. If you are selected, you could have the chance to become one of 16 curated showcase designers. This is not just open to individual couturiers. Jewelry, ensemble, and accessory designers also have opportunities. Download the application for more details.

When: Send in the application by March 25

Where: Mail application to 7090 N. Oracle Rd. 178-101 Tucson, AZ. 85704

Cost: Non-refundable $50 application fee

More info: Visit the website

Tucson Gem Show and Showcase

A Tucson tradition turns 60 this year. This year’s theme: 60 Years of Diamonds, Gems, Silver and Gold. And if you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of it, we recommend at least taking in these three: the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show; the African Art Village; and the main Tucson Gem & Mineral Show.

When: Until February 16th.

Where: All over Tucson. Find the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show at 475 N. Granada Ave; the African Art Village at 1134 S. Farmington Rd; and the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show at Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.

More info: The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show website or visit Visit Tucson for more details.

christer3AIA lecture series kicks off

A visit from an Iceland-based architect kicks off the new lecture series for the Southern Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Hear a lecture by Steve Christer of Studio Granda, based in Reyjkavik. Studio Granda’s work is known for its respect for traditional materials of Iceland like stone, timber and metal. (Photo courtesy of Studio Granda).

When: February 24th, reception begins 5:15 pm, lecture begins 6:15 pm.

Where: Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N Main Avenue

Cost: $10 to attend (includes a drink ticket), no cost for students.

RSVP and more info: Email [email protected], call 520 323 2191 or click here.

Art on the fly

Love art shows but cringe at the cost of the beautiful creations? Art Fly has the answer. It's a pop-up art market by Dinnerware Artspace's mobile gallery Planet Rabbit with prices set at a maximum of $30. Come by and see work by some talented artists and enjoy treats from Maynard's Market nearby.

Art Fly

Photo courtesy of Planet Rabbit

When: An on-going event, Every Saturday morning 9 a.m.

Where: Inside Planet Rabbit, parked at Maynard’s Market, 400 N. Toole Ave.

Cost: Artwork priced at maximum of $30

More info: Visit the Facebook page. And see our 3 Story feature on Planet Rabbit here.

Unattainable Valentine

IMG_3023Exploded View, Tucson's micro cinema, presents Unattainable, a collection of 8mm films of women with long hair, by an unknown artist called 'Arthur'. Photographer Eric Kroll presents the collection, which truly shows that love takes many different forms.

When: Film show opens Friday, February 14, 7:30 and gallery show continues Saturday, February 15 – Sunday, February 16, 12 – 5 p.m.

Where: Exploded View, 197 E. Toole Ave

Cost: $5

More info: or call 520 366 1573

Save the date for some local love (and visit with 3 Story too!)

As you know, we're all about shopping local here at 3 Story Mag. That's why we're thrilled to be collaborating with Contents Interiors on an event that celebrates local brick and mortar stores. Save the date for Saturday February 15th, when Contents and will host a 'Local Love' event, with a presentation about 3 Story Magazine from yours truly, and refreshments.

contentsinteriorsWhen: Saturday February 15th, 1 pm-3 pm

Where: Contents Interiors, 3401 E. Fort Lowell Road, Tucson 85716

More info: Call 520 881 6900 or visit

Lighthearted Valentine Show


Sharon Holnback brings her whimsical glass and ornaments to Yikes. Photo by Patricia Katchur

This February, our fave funky toy store is putting on the 'Light Hearted Valentine Show' by Sharon Holnback, artist, GLOW founder and owner of Triangle L Ranch, and creator of whimsical glassworks and ornaments.

When: Opening reception is Saturday February 8th, 6–8 pm. Exhibition runs until March 22nd.

Where: Yikes Toy Store, 2930 E. Broadway Blvd.

Cost: Free

More info: Visit the Facebook page



Liz Vaughn will be part of the Designlines event.

Hearts and art

Sip champagne, nosh on treats and soak up the Cupid-inspired art at this viewing and raffle of works by artists including Liz Vaughn. Patricia Mooney, owner of Designlines, will host the event.

When: Saturday February 8th, 10 am– 5 pm. Raffle will take place at 5 pm.

Where: Designlines Interior Design Studio, 2080 N. Craycroft Rd.

Cost: Artwork price varies

More Info: For more information call (520) 885-9577 or email [email protected]

Dwelling on Design


Design demonstrations, panel discussions, an expo and warehouse sale, and the chance to meet interior designers: it's all part of Desert Dwelling Design Week 2014, sponsored by the Arizona South Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and Tucson Lifestyle Home & Garden magazine. 3 Story Mag's Gillian Drummond will be moderating two of the panel discussions, and TV designer Roger Hazard makes an appearance.

When: February 28th to March 2nd

Where: Various locations

Tickets and more info: Visit the ASID Arizona South website 

She did it! Stacie hits the finish line

For eight months we've been following Stacie Eichinger in her 3,500-mile walk across America for Tucson-based charity Beads of Courage. She finally reached her destination of Savannah, Georgia earlier this month. And she's raised $22,000 for the cause. Congrats, Stacie!

You can still donate by clicking here.


Manscape architect

It started with a kiss, and a very bristly beard. Decades later, Tucsonan Noel Trapp has reworked a family recipe into manscaping gold. By Kaleigh Shufeldt.


Noel Trapp. Photo by Kaleigh Shufeldt

“If you are ever going to steal a kiss, you’re going to need this,” Noel Trapp’s grandfather said, handing Noel a small amber vial. It contained home-made beard oil.

As a little kid, Noel remembers that “everybody else’s beard felt like a Brillo pad,” while his gramps’ beard was always soft.

The oil was a concoction thought up by his grandfather Richard in the 1940s to placate his wife, Angeline. She disliked the scratchy bristles that poked her every time she tried to kiss her husband. But Richard loved his beard and did not want to shave it. As Noel puts it: “He wouldn’t give up his beard and she wouldn’t give him up.” To keep both of them happy, they made a deal: he could keep the beard as long as he kept it soft.

3STORYADfinalMore than 70 years later, Noel has reworked that recipe as part of a line of men’s grooming products to be launched in Tucson this month. Noel's Restoratives will be sold online and at various local stores. It’s the latest evidence - as if we needed it - that beards are a hot accessory (see ‘Combing through the manscaping facts’ below).

While facial hair is in vogue, for Noel Trapp it has always been a family tradition. Noel grew up in Northern Michigan, where most men had beards to protect their faces from the harsh cold and snow and where no one spoke of men’s grooming. A taboo topic, it was never discussed in Noel’s family. So when his grandfather handed him this vial, Noel was clueless as to its contents and its origin.

His grandfather’s, or gramps’, original beard oil was a sloppy mix of whatever he had at the time, Noel says. Growing up during the Great depression, Richard understood the concept of rationing and making do with what you had. The result was a recipe that could definitely use some fine-tuning.

Noel spent years working on the beard oil, trying to find the perfect combination of ingredients. He experimented, changing and adding elements with each try. But it was never quite perfect. During the Holidays, he would give his friends small amber vials filled with his newest batch.

Beard oil was a new concept to many of the recipients, but they would soon be clamoring for him to make more, and to sell this novel product. For Noel, the beard oil was a hobby; he had fun making it and he enjoyed giving it to people.

When Noel gave a sample to his friend Rob Easter, co-owner of Too Strong USA, Rob was “stoked.” Beards have no natural oils to keep them soft and strong, they get brittle. Says Rob: “If you have a beard it might as well be healthy, look good and smell good.” One of the few people who had heard of beard oil, Rob says it is rare to find someone who knows the science behind what they are doing.

For Noel, the science came naturally. He has worked with coffee for the past 20 years - from barista to, more recently, Educational Director of Exo Roast Co - and says it is easy to transition into formulating anything when it comes to fragrance. To Noel, it is simple. Coffee involves organic chemistry and understanding how things interact. His experience with coffee aided him in his experimentation with the beard oil.


Noel says his beard oil is part of a bygone era. Photo courtesy of Noel Trapp

HiEnd Tight Barbershop  in Tucson's midtown district sees beards of all shapes and sizes. Owner Chris Willhoite says he sees men with full beards, chinstrap beards and everything in between. Offering hot-towel shaves with lather and straight razors, along with cleaning, trimming and shaping beards, the barbershop speaks to a historical period in American culture. It is an old-fashioned experience that, as Noel says, is the barbershop in the truest form.

Like the barbershop, the beard oil is a part of a bygone era when everything was handmade. There was this generational gap where no one really knew how to make anything, Noel says. It is a product with a story.

Over the holidays, Noel did what he does every year; he gave the batch to his friends. However, this time was different. It was the first year he handed his friend Alok Appadurai a small amber vial.

Alok, co-owner of clothing firm Fed by Threads, was unfamiliar with the beard oil concept, however he decided to humor his friend and give it a try. Immediately there was a noticeable difference in his facial hair – it was supple and began to grow evenly. He pushed Noel to start selling his product, helping him with the business aspects of starting Noel’s Restoratives.

noeltrappproductsEvery year people have asked Noel why he wasn’t selling his beard oil and every year he had an answer. “This year I finally didn’t have a good answer,” Noel says. In December 2013, he decided to “bite the bullet” and start Noel’s Restoratives.

In addition to selling the beard oil, Noel will also sell what he calls cologne solids. Another recipe from his grandfather, cologne solids are a balm or salve with a mixture of natural ingredients and fragrance.

During the Depression, Noel's grandfather grew up in a family that rationed everything, from soap to candle stubs. They would melt thin slivers of soap and beeswax candles, mixing them with whatever oils and herbs they could find. After being poured into a shoeshine tin, the balm would harden into a solid that had a subtle scent and lasted longer than traditional cologne.


Friend and customer Rob Easter. Photo by Dave Dunmyre


Alok, who helped Noel on his way. Photo by Gillian Drummond

While Noel’s cologne solid won’t be quite as rustic as the original, it will follow the same basic concept. Noel said he was aiming for a combination of scents when making the solid, which smells like heat, summer among the pine trees, needles, and bark.

Both the oil and cologne solid will sell for $29.95 each. For people living in the area, Noel wants to set up a local pickup or delivery option. He enjoys talking to the people who want to know more about his products and put value in the concept of American-made.


Photo courtesy of Noel Trapp

For Noel, it is important that his customers know the story behind his beard oil and cologne solid. “I consider value to be based on the history that comes with the thing,” says Noel. His products have a rich history, along with quality ingredients.

noel cologne

Photo courtesy of Noel Trapp

Last February, Noel’s grandfather passed away. This is the first batch he’s made without his gramps. “I felt like this year I finally nailed it,” says Noel, “I really worked hard to tweak it to where I wanted it.” The release of Noel’s Restoratives will coincide – fittingly - with the anniversary of his grandfather’s passing.

‘Manscaping’: combing through the facts

Beards are a part of history, a feature that has defined men for centuries. In prehistoric times beards were for warmth, intimidation and protection. In ancient civilizations they were a sign of honor.

33% of American men and 55% of males around the world have facial hair. It is a trend that keeps on growing.

* Consumer product giant Procter and Gamble recently announced a dip in sales of its razors and razor blades, thanks to beards being in vogue, and events like the annual Movember month, which encourages men to grow beards and mustaches to aid men’s health, including prostate cancer.

* But P&G executives see men’s body shaving as having big potential. Last year it brought out a men’s body razor just for the purpose of ‘manscaping’ body parts other than the face.

* Pogonophobia is the fear of beards, and pogonophilia is the love of beards.

This Hollywood awards season, beards have ranged from the scraggly (Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Fassbender) to the tidy (Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper) to the goatee (Jeremy Renner). Expect more bristles on the red carpet when the Oscars come our way March 2nd.

* You can find Noel's Restoratives at Get 10% off until March 4th on all Noel's Restoratives products! Click here and enter code 3STORYMAG.




Pleased to Meet You

Artist Valerie Galloway gets in Valentine's mood with tales of France, good perfume, and why maps have a special place in her heart. By Gillian Drummond

Valerie Galloway at Wee Gallery, 2014

Valerie Galloway. Photo © Patricia Katchur

Early bird or night owl? "By rights I'm a night owl. I used to stay up really late and get up  late. Now that I'm a mom, I'm an early bird by default. I go to bed by 10 o'clock and I'm up at 6. I need eight hours of sleep or I just can't function. I guess I'm regimented enough to do what I need to do.

"I work from home, out of an Arizona Room, which is a real luxury. I lived in New York for years. Here, you can afford to have space. The studio is organized mess, but in the rest of the house I have to have it just so or I  go crazy. [In the rest of the house] I'm a neat freak."


Artwork courtesy of Valerie Galloway

Favorite accessory? "I don't ever leave the house without wearing perfume and lipstick, these are the two things. My mother is French. I remember an aunt we would visit in France and it would always be a big deal, what perfume you were wearing and the quality of it. I have strong memories of my grandmother visiting once every year or two and when she opened her suitcase it always smelled strongly of certain perfumes. She used to wear Caleche by Hermes. Some of my favorite perfumes are those from the '70s with similar citrusy fragrances, like O de Lancome and Cristalle by Chanel."

Favorite faux pas? "I could go on and on about those but they seem to always be about sending the wrong text to the wrong person and then having to explain myself, or mistakes with the auto-correct function on my iPhone. I only got an iPhone last year and I'm not tech-savvy. I need my hand held."


These pendants are part of a set of Valentines-themed products on sale at Yikes Toy Store. Photo courtesy of Valerie Galloway

Who is your dream customer? “They're all my dream customers. I love my customers. I have conversations with people and meet people because they bought my art.

"I try to have a lot of affordable art. I love working with maps, especially the really old maps from French dictionaries. I love to think about how many people before me used them for their studies, and upcycling them and giving them a second life or purpose.

"To me, maps evoke a variety of emotions - nostalgia, longing, excitement and sometimes even frustration. My father was in the Air Force, and we were forever moving. We moved every two or three years, and my family did some cross-country trips. Maps were always around on these trips of course, and it was exciting to find out where we were moving next."

If I weren't an artist I would... “I would be a French teacher because I love the French language so much. We speak a little bit at home,  just little phrases."

If I could change one thing I would... “The broadest answer would be to see nobody having to suffer. I would try to put more good in the world."

* See Valerie Galloway's Valentine's-themed art this month at Yikes Toys, 2930 East Broadway Blvd. She also sells at PopCycle and online at her etsy store.


Maps feature heavily in Valerie's work. Artwork courtesy of Valerie Galloway

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 by Casey Sapio



Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

Where it is:  Catalina Foothills Estates No. 4

Listed by: RE/MAX

The damage: $525,000

How many square feet? 4169


You'll love it because: Because of the rare pre-cast concrete wall panels.  The swellegant fireplace that divides the living room and dining area. The bi-level bedroom quarters. The big kitchen with butler's pantry. Because of the outdoor ramada with chinese oven, and enclosed large pool. This midcentury house used to be home to Sam and Lee Levitz, of Sam Levitz furniture store fame - hence the multiple dog runs (they loved their Pomeranians). The seller has the original 1969 house plans by architect Stroud Watson, and a wonderful remodel rendering you can refer to by Chris Evans, the architect who founded Tucson's Modern Architecture Preservation Project.

miraval3Here comes the but: The house would look much better if you removed the solarium addition over the entrance hall and restored the front elevation to the vision of Chris Evans.  Chris has also done more detailed plans for the entire property, to include covering all of the eaves with Zinc plate. So while it's priced well for this private Foothills location, I hope someone comes along and has the budget to remodel appropriately.

For more on Michelle read her Atomic Tucson Facebook page or contact Michelle Hotchkiss, a RE/MAX Catalina Foothills Realty agent, here.


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, in honor of Valentine's Day, 94.9 MIXfm's Bobby Rich gets poetic - and emotional - about his adopted town. Photos by Rachel Miller.

bobbyrich2"Dear Tucson,

I didn’t know I’d love you, until I met you.

It wasn’t quite “at first sight,” rather it took several months of being with you every day. Then I started to “get you.”

And the more time I spent with you the better I liked you. Then it became love.

I love the looks of you, the scent of you, the unrelenting friendliness of you.

The east, west, north and the south of you.

I love the mystery of you. Even after two decades of being with you I don’t know nearly enough about you. Yet you know me, providing the familiarity I need when I’m feeling a little lost.

At the same time I can become lost in your strange ways of twisted, turning arteries. And - like the rest of us - you are a bit confused as to what you want to be when you grow up.

bobbyrich3At any given time of the year you can cry me a river or dry my eyes. Feed me, entertain me and show your artistic understanding of colors at the beginning and end of the day.

I love reminding those who would criticize your hotness that they could be living with Chicago or Minneapolis.

And one thing I especially love is how you care for those who need help. Your empathy and concern for the helpless and underserved often proves your heartfelt desire to make yourself better.

I am at home with you. It feels right. Let’s stay together."

It started with a Tweet ('Bobby <3 Tucson'), prompting Rachel to ask Bobby for a love letter. And it ended with Bobby giving her a fabulous behind-the-scenes tour of both 94.9 MIXfm and the KGUN 9 news station. Given Bobby's love of music, Rachel wasn't surprised to see several song titles and lyrics woven into his letter.


* Bobby Rich has been the 94.9 MIXfm morning show host since 1993. He is also active in the community, with projects such as the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona (which he was instrumental in founding), and the MIX Miracles radiothon, which raises funds for pediatric care at TMC for Children through the Children's Miracle Network.

To get you even more in the Valentine's mood, click on the video below for the story behind Rachel's blog. Got a Love Letter for Tucson? Click here.

Perpetual motion

Diana Lopez is a woman on the move and going places – just like the clothing she designs. By Joan Calcagno. Cover photo by Addie Mannan.


One of Diana's designs. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

Diana Lopez’s thinking when she started her own clothing line was less “why” and more “why not?” Her motivation was doing what hadn’t been done. “I had an idea that had to get out there”, she says.

Her idea is this: beauty and comfort can go together. Women should have clothing that works for them, not the other way around. “Trying to fit into this thing” should not even be a consideration. And it should be affordable and locally produced.

Most women have felt at one time or another that commercially-produced clothing choices are just not working for them – that choices are too geared for an ideal body type or too limiting or too expensive. And what about all those questionable labor practices and the carbon footprint? This 30-year-old Tucson-based creator of fashion line INDI Apparel, felt the same way and decided to do something about it.


Diana Lopez. Photo by Craig Bellmann

It was Phoenix Fashion week in 2010 that really launched INDI Apparel and set the ball rolling for this clothing designer who really is listening to what customers want. Once Diana made connections there, INDI took off, its name inspired by one of Diana’s favorite movie characters, Indiana Jones, and Diana’s nickname, “Dee”.

Diana’s vision for INDI Apparel came about on a trip, traveling with just a backpack. She wanted to take such a variety of clothes – some for hiking, some for sightseeing, some for running and clubbing. Why, she thought, did she have to settle for just one style?

Inspiring confidence and a good fit are paramount when Diana is designing for her women customers, which is why she doesn’t rely on traditional sizing. “Sizing is such a silly concept or feeling better when you are this size or that size. You are who you are. You’ve got to work it - own it.”

jumpsuit comp 1 copy

One of Diana's versatile jumpsuits. Photo by Liora K

So, when ordering pieces from her online shop, customers provide measurements using a drop-down with a range of choices and Diana provides the garment that will fit best, based on that. If a customer doesn’t fall into the sizing ranges, she will make one that works. “I like to make what is going to fit rather than trying to fit into a number. I’ve made a full range of sizes,” she says.

Diana isn't aware of any of her fashion contemporaries doing this form of bespoke tailoring. Paula Taylor, owner and creative director of Tucson Fashion Week and Paula Taylor Productions, says that a couple of years ago big names like Prada recognized the need to cater to individual customers and were talking about some “customization” - choosing the color of a garment, for example. But she hasn’t seen it really take off. “And here [Diana] is, doing it. That’s really pretty neat.”


Diana says her ideal customer is her. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

“My ideal customer is me,” says this travel lover, who admits that any money she makes goes largely towards funding her next trip. She caught the travel bug early, moving to different countries with her family (she’s from Argentina). A dozen years ago, a backpacking trip through Europe sealed her wanderlust. She has been traveling regularly since – going abroad about twice a year. She’s backpacked through the Andes and most of South American Patagonia, and visited Spain, Brazil and Japan. In the U.S., she visits friends all over, to mountain bike, rock climb and backpack.

She says she thrives on the excitement of new places. “I need that. I’m stimulated by new things.” And, crucially for her customers, traveling influences her fashion designs. She designs for the comfort, versatility and ‘packability’ needed when traveling. And she’s influenced by what she sees women wearing in other countries – smaller cuts in Argentine bathing suits or the everyday elegance of Japanese women.

Similarly, her fashion line derives from her active lifestyle. “Whatever I’m into, I make a line of clothing for it.”

Take, for example, her ingenious bike skirt. Diana and her friends like to bicycle. “The problem is that when you get to your destination, you aren’t dressed properly.”


Diana's bike skirt can be worn long or short. Here, it is shortened via drawstrings down the middle. Photo courtesy of INDI Apparel

The bike skirt, made from fluid fabric, can be worn long or short, using the drawstrings to change the length. And when you get on your bike, you shorten it, snap it up across the bottom and - voila – bike pants! Hop off, unsnap and you have your skirt again.

This mover and shaker in the fashion world is, literally, moving and shaking in her personal life too. One of her favorite activities is salsa dancing. ”It’s my thing now. It puts me in such a good mood.” So of course she had to design the perfect salsa dress.

“I love wearing short dresses, but I don’t want to have to keep pulling the skirt down. If I wear shorts underneath, eventually they show.” So, the dress has shorts built in, but you can’t tell because they are attached at the side seams and around bottom. Everything stays nicely in place, with, she laughs, “no opportunities for flashing!” When it came to a test drive, Diana put the dress on and danced for two solid hours (see her in the video below).

When INDI Apparel first started, Diana expected that she’d be focused on 25- to 30year-olds. But she’s happy to be selling to a broader age range, and says that 60-year-old women “rock it”.

Esther Huckabay, 32, one of her regular customers, has about 15 pieces. Esther says she loves the clothes because “the designs are super cute and original. You’re not going to see it on everyone. And they’re not too expensive. ” She also likes that some of the pieces are “artsy” and reflect conceptual designs that work in a unique way. For example, she has one top made of fluid fabric that when off the body and folded is revealed to be cut and sewn in a circle. When on, it is lose-fitting, but accentuates the body in motion, especially when dancing. Typical of Diana’s approach to some of her pieces, it's the patterning and cut that create the drape and the fit. That’s why it works on many body types.


The circle shape and cut of this top create the drape. Photo courtesy of Diana Lopez

Esther, like many consumers, has also been questioning the quality of clothes from traditional department stores, and labor practices in the countries that manufacture them. Which brings us to Diana’s next venture: designing for the Tucson-based Fed By Threads.

Her collaboration with the clothing company – which focuses on organic, sustainable, vegan fabrics and feeding hungry families with the profits – was a year in the making. When Alok Appadurai, FbT co-founder , wanted to bring more production to Tucson and be more involved in the design process, mutual friends put him in touch with Diana. They met and clearly had good chemistry.

“We’re about to have a ton of fun,” says Alok of the partnership. The first collaboratively designed dress will be coming off the production line soon. A first for FbT, it will be two-toned - black and amethyst - and reversible front to back, so the neckline changes.

Working with Diana will allow FbT to cater to a broader range of body types and sizes, and possibly expand its men’s line, says Alok. As for Diana, she says she is on board with FbT’s philosophy. “Now I will be making an even bigger difference.”


Diana designs for comfort, versatility and 'packability'. Photo by Addie Mannan

When she’s not designing (or traveling, salsa dancing, biking, hiking or rock climbing) Diana teaches Spanish and Portuguese at a language school she runs with her mother.

Which begs the question: how does she do it all? “My life is pretty random. People never know if I’m here or not,” she admits. When she’s here, she’s up early and on any given day she will work on clothes, teach, meet with clients or producers, go to a photo shoot and then hit the gym. “It’s non-stop, constant motion, 16 hour days.”

Diana immigrated to the USA from Argentina when she was seven and has dual citizenship. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 2006 with an honors degree in Studio Art and Business and then spent three years back in Argentina where she studied fashion design and production. She launched her first clothing line there in 2008 but came back to Tucson in 2010 because of the challenging Argentine economy.


Diana doing what she loves most: moving. Photo by Craig Bellmann

If she gives the impression of being in perpetual motion, this year will be no different. With the FbT collaboration taking off, the designs on the INDI website will be available as they last and eventually, she’ll expand the INDI line. But for now, Diana will focus INDI on custom designs, which she has been doing all along. “Custom-made is really fun,” she says. “I really get to know the person, hear what they are looking for and create a dream garment designed specifically for them.”

Added to that, she has a wedding to plan. Her boyfriend and adventure “partner in crime”, a Marine stationed in Okinawa, surprised her with a ring last New Year’s Eve. He popped the question high up on Gates Pass, where 3 Story's photo shoot for this feature took place. Like so many things in her life, Diana did not hesitate. She enthusiastically said “Yes!" She’ll be designing and making her own wedding dress, of course. “Oh the possibilities,” she says. And you can just hear the wheels turning.

* Find out more about Diana's INDI Apparel line by visiting the website here or the Facebook page.

Hard knock life

Designing a museum for children is tough; you've got to appeal, entertain and survive hard knocks. The newly revamped Children's Museum Tucson gave us an exclusive look at how they do it. By Gillian Drummond

Photo by Steph E Photography

Photo by Steph E Photography

There's a problem with the uvula, and it's causing quite a bit of head-scratching. Kids are trashing it. They stand on the tongue, grab the uvula at the back of the throat, and pull on it - a lot. Kevin Mills has gone through seven uvula upgrades in two and a half years. None of them last longer than a couple of months.

The giant mouth, and troublesome uvula, at Tucson Children's Museum. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The giant mouth, and troublesome uvula (back, at center), at Tucson Children's Museum. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The uvula in question hangs down the back of a giant model of a mouth, one of the exhibits at Children's Museum Tucson.  And while it's an excellent lesson in biology, it's also an all-too-tempting plaything. So the design team, led by director of exhibits Kevin, has adapted it, trying out tougher, more resilient materials each time. The current uvula - "state of the art", say the staff - features a concrete core, heavy duty rubber, a vinyl hose and some of the toughest construction adhesives and sealants available on the market.

tcmnoseThere are similar issues with a giant nose and accompanying fake green boogers. Exhibit designers tugged on them a few times to test their strength, but they were no match for the middle school boys who use them to swing from. Eventually they were wrapped with nylon mesh to give them extra durability.

"The half joke in the industry is that you've got consumer grade, commercial grade, military grade, and then you've got children's museum grade. They just bring this level of brutality," says Kevin of his young customers - valuable, all of them, but uniquely difficult to cater to.

The Museum closed for a month last summer for an extensive remodel, one that not only brought in some exciting new exhibits, but allowed Kevin to stretch his interior design talents to the limit. "Michael [Luria, executive director of the museum] really gives me carte blanche. He gives me a level of trust that I can pull off some grandiose ideas," he says.

And grandiose they were. The way he describes the museum's new entry way is "steam punk with a heavy dose of sky". He also calls it "tongue in cheek on the cheap."

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The 'steam punk' foyer. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The front desk is made to look as if it's floating through the sky; walls and the ceiling are painted with clouds, a hot air balloon tops a column, and there is a piece that's built to resemble an airship. Look closely (which is difficult, as many of these pieces are high up) and you see the 'cheap' element to Kevin's design. The base of the balloon is an upturned lampshade attached to a planter from Home Depot. An urn and a copper pail - also bought at DIY stores - form a piece of the airship, and the faux flares are made out of tubes. The lighting on the walls is made from sconces from Home Depot that have been retooled and added to. A clock on the wall was picked up at discount chain Stein Mart. Around the back of the front desk there are heavy duty decals stuck on to the piece, created from an image that resembles lots of old-fashioned filing drawers.

Decals on the front desk give the impression of old-fashioned filing drawers. Photo by Steph E Photography

Decals on the front desk give the impression of old-fashioned filing drawers. Photo by Steph E Photography


One of Kevin Mills' own custom light creations. His work has appeared in boutique furniture stores and galleries nationwide. Photo courtesy of Kevin Mills

Kevin, who has a degree in industrial design, has worked on private jets for Bombardier, taught at the University of Arizona's College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and worked on exhibits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. He has also designed furniture and light fixtures, and exhibited his work at art galleries like Conrad Wilde and Obsidian in Tucson and, outside of Tucson, in New York, Chicago, Florida, LA, and San Francisco.

"Most of my work has to be brightly colored and antiseptic plastic," says Kevin of his children's museum work. He says that when it came to designing the steam punk foyer, he relished playing with tones and themes that went in another direction. "I was jumping out of bed every morning," he laughs.


Kevin Mills. Photo by Daniela Siqueiros

Children's museums are all about interactivity, and Tucson's is no different. So in order to cope with kiddos' wear and tear, the right - durable - materials need to be used. There are certain no-nos. Painted wood doesn't last, and nor does it agree with young gums and teeth. Particle board is not their friend. "They've lost precious dollars with particle board," says Kevin. He prefers the more hard-wearing MDF, which can also be easily painted to look vibrant.

Nicomia, the Mesa-based company that worked with TCM on some of its exhibits, used laminates, birch plywood and butcher block. Paints are low in VOC and finishes are waterborne as opposed to lacquer  - all the better for when little teeth chew them. "Children are extremely tough little customers. As Kevin has observed, there's something of a mob mentality that goes on," says Tane Clark, one of the owners of Nicomia, which has also worked on the Phoenix Children's Museum.


A tubular air flow system, one of the new exhibits at the Tucson Children's Museum. Photo by Steph E Photography

The Children's Museum Tucson's long-standing dinosaur exhibit has gone, and in its place is Investigation Station, funded by a grant from the Angel Charity for Children. Interactive machines based on science, technology, engineering and math include 'blowers' that keep balls in the air, a tubular airflow system, and a machine that demonstrates sound waves. Some of them cost up to $50,000 each.


Tucson Children's Museum's "tough little customers" applying water to slate. Photo by Steph E Photography

Next door, a new area called Wee World has art and craft activities, including the stunningly simple (but effective) exhibit of pieces of slate that children can wet with water. A play area for tots has proved popular for adults too, says Daniela Siqueiros, marketing and community relations manager. "It creates a spot for families to do something together. We see parents putting away their phones. That's a huge accomplishment and a very happy result," she says.


When it comes to children's museums, the more robust the material the better. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Kevin and Daniela spend time talking to the customers - kids and their parents - and observing how they are interacting with exhibits. She does a few walk-throughs a day. "One, it lets me breathe," she says, "and it's nice to talk to them and see what they're liking about the space."

The Museum has invested a little over $1 million in its exhibits over the last three years. Membership has grown by 15% in the last year, to 2100 members, and attendance has grown by 82% in the last five years, says Daniela.

Although the results are worth it, children's museums can be taxing for designers and technicians used to more straightforward designs and repairs, and normal wear and tear. Kevin tells of the day he met his assistant, Dave Kitchel, a man ten years his senior and a repair and handyman veteran. He had to be persuaded to take the job. When he visited for an interview, "he left trembling saying 'I don't think I can do this'", says Kevin.

But along with the hard knocks come genuine rewards, says Kevin. "I've worked in a number of fields but this is by far the most rewarding and fulfilling. [There's] the crazy use of unlikely materials. I'm one part sculptor as much as I am industrial designer, and there's just so much opportunity for me to play and be creative."

* Find the Children's Museum Tucson at 200 S 6th Ave, Tucson. Tel: 520 792-9985.

Hear our radio feature about Children's Museum Tucson by clicking this link and hitting the 'listen' button.

Born in the USA and growing fast: children's museum facts

* The world's first children's museum opened in Brooklyn almost 115 years ago.

* Today, around 400 children's museums worldwide reach more than 30 million children and families annually.

* Children's museums exist in 25 countries and every continent but Antarctica. In 1975 there were fewer than 40 children's museums in the United States.

* 80 new children's museums opened between 1976 and 1990. Now there are approximately 400 located around the world and about 60 children's museums in the planning phase. In a typical year, five new children's museums open.

Source: Association of Children's Museums



The Children's Museum Tucson occupies the historic Carnegie Library building in downtown Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond