Designer for Hire

Square Feet

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

Listed by:  Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Where it is: Tucson's north east side, off Tanque Verde Road.

Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

The damage: $699,000

How many square feet? 4491

You'll love it because: If you know me by now,  you know how I won't stop gushing over Tom Gist, acclaimed regional modernist designer with approximately 170 custom homes built in Southern AZ.  Here's a big estate with a private, gated drive, out east on more than four lush desert acres! gisthouse2  The home features signature details not to be messed with, clerestory windows, cement terrazzo floors, handsome custom mahogany carpentry, built-ins, and living spaces that flow seamlessly throughout. There is a total of five bedrooms, an in-home sauna, exercise room, wrap-around brick porches, shoji screens, an extensive Arizona room and a separate studio or mother-in-law suite. As if all that wasn't enough, this home was selected with around 20 other Gists for a book about his work due to be published next year.

gisthouse3 Here comes the but: There is a lot of ceramic tile over the cement floors that would be nice if removed and the floors just left polished. National Historic Register status for Gist properties is in the works. But this property is not eligible to be on the Registry and for tax credit benefits until the year 2020!

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




Fun with metal

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 Steel isn’t exactly new on the home décor scene, but it’s safe to say it’s never been more fun. We take a look at some interesting ways – and new-found purposes - involving metal. By Samantha Cummings.


Margaret Joplin designed this salvaged steel 'weave' for a client's yard. Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

1. The landscape architect

It takes one step into the office courtyard of landscape architect Margaret Joplin for a creative mind to run wild.

Founder and owner of Design Collaborations, Margaret has made her office space a home to dozens of steel, stainless steel, and aluminum scraps that are given a second chance, each telling an individual story of a past life.

Margaret Joplin's Design Collaborations studio. Photo by Samantha Cummings.

Margaret Joplin's Design Collaborations studio. Photo by Samantha Cummings.

The first home to these metal scraps is often at a steel fabrication plant. Once a desired cut is made into the sheet of steel, the leftover scrap metal is known as the ‘drop.’ These drops are exactly what Margaret wants, and some local fabricators are more than willing fulfill that need.

A dropping that features the outlines of what was used to hold down the steel spikes responsible for popping your tires if you disobeyed the, “Warning. Do not back up! Severe tire damage,” sign.

The 'severe tire damage' dropping. Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

“They call me up and say, ‘Hey, come take a look at this stuff. Come pick out what you want,’” says Margaret. “They kind of get a feel of what I like.”

For instance, one dropping features the outlines of what was used to hold down the steel spikes responsible for popping your tires if you disobey those signs warning of severe tire damage if you back up your car.

Now, the steel sheet with triangle-like cutouts has the potential to be used as a door, a table, a gate, a trellis, screening or an art piece for your wall. “It’s all about what somebody wants,” says Margaret.

Half of the fun is trying to guess what each sheet of steel was used to make. “Sometimes you think, ‘What the heck were they making? Like, I have no idea. With all these little doo-dads,” wonders Margaret.

Some sheets of steel display a beautiful symmetry across the entire plane. But on others, you can tell the fabricator instructed their employee to, “Just fit as many of these things on as you can.”

More use of salvaged drops in the yard of one of Margaret Joplin's clients. Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

More use of salvaged drops in the yard of one of Margaret Joplin's clients. Photo courtesy of Margaret Joplin

Margaret’s collection includes the droppings of mailbox flags, trapezoidal guardrails used at Dove Mountain, various letters used to make a sign, and even the top of a water tank.

At the end of the day, says Margaret, it’s all about the hunt. "And that's what makes it so interesting - you never know what you're going to get." She welcomes any passersby of her Design Collaborations Studio, at 403 N. 6th Ave. #157, to search through her metal scraps and conduct a hunt of their own.

  2. The architect

Mary Hardin has been teaching at the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture since 1997. Her favorite class to teach, called ‘Design Build Studio,’ requires students to both design and build a small house from the ground up.

Two years ago, Mary decided it was time to build a house of her own. The architect hired to help her, Jason Gallo, was one of her former students, who happened to take that very ‘Design Build Studio’ course more than ten years ago. Together they would build the first modern residence in the Tucson planned community known as the Mercado District.

Home in the Mercado District. Photo by Liam Frederick.

Mary Hardin's home in the Mercado District. Photo by Liam Frederick.

When the house appears on the AIA Southern Arizona/Modernism Week home tour in a few weeks, Jason’s use of steel is bound to catch a few eyes.

The overall design was inspired by one piece: a brise-soleil. Historically, a brise-soleil - French for ‘sun breaker’ - is a horizontal projection that extends from the sun-side façade of a building. It prevents facades with a large amount of glass from overheating during the summer. Because she wanted windows but not the relentless Arizona sun, Mary was a perfect brise-soleil candidate.

Home in the Mercado District. Photo by Liam Frederick.

The brise-soleil allows sunlight into the living room during winter months. Photo by Liam Frederick.

Jason designed a vertical brise-soleil, standing 9’-4’’ by 9’-4”, which provided Mary with the view she wanted, prevented overheating, and simultaneously served as the main architectural element. The structure is made up by 16” steel squares, each with a depth of 8”.

“I think that was actually the beginning thread,” says Jason. “We figured out we could make it out of steel and then when she wanted other pieces, I thought instead of having lots of different steel elements, have one that has a very similar vocabulary so that you aren’t bombarded with a lot of different designs in one house.”

After passing by the brise-soleil, guests are welcomed by a steel gate, which mimics that square design. Next came a steel exterior staircase, which Jason recalls being the biggest project of all.

Home in the Mercado District. Photo by Liam Frederick.

The interior of Mary Hardin's home, with a view to the steel staircase. Photo by Liam Frederick.

“I didn’t want it to be solid,” says Mary. “I wanted a way to see through it. So he figured out a way to fold the steel so it could be these separate pieces that you could see through the sides and underneath.”

Jason had to also come up with a way to make the staircase architecturally pleasing, yet safe. “This one has slots cut out of it to let the water drain, but then I didn’t want it to be slippery, so I added a steel piece which is raised for traction,” he says.

Make your way up the staircase and you are led to a third steel design: the patio guardrail. One side overlooks the home’s courtyard, and from the other, you have front row seats to the Day of the Dead Parade and 4th of July fireworks.

Home in the Mercado District. Photo by Liam Frederick.

The steel patio guardrail of Mary Hardin's home. Photo by Liam Frederick.

The last and final piece of Mary’s steel collection is a back gate. This still features a square design, but instead of being transparent, a solid steel sheet was placed on the back to give a “real beefy” look, says Mary, adding: “It was such a fun process.”

3. The homeowner

As part of the team at solar firm Technicians for Sustainability, Tim Hagyard is usually working on ways to ensure that Southern Arizona’s natural resources are used efficiently. But, for the past year and a half, Tim has been working on a different set of problems: fixing up rental property to sell, with his brother and mother.

A steel drop re-used by Tim Hagyard. Photo courtesy of Tim Hagyard.

A steel drop re-used by Tim Hagyard. Photo courtesy of Tim Hagyard.

Just like Margaret Joplin, Tim turned to steel drops to solve a number of privacy and aesthetic issues on his property. He started his steel search on Craigslist and was eventually let to a four-wheel-drive shop that was trying to sell the steel remnants used to laser cut various parts.

“I went and bought ten sheets of it and I wasn’t sure if I was going to use it all. I think they were $25 a sheet, so I figured I would use them up some how.” By the end of his project, Tim only had two left.


The steel door screen that blocks onlooking street view. Photo by Tim Hagyard.

The other eight were used to create additional privacy by screening the front door from street view and the carport from onlooking neighbors, among other things. “I wanted to screen the door off from the street looking in, because that house is on a cul-de-sac,” says Tim. “And I planted a bougainvillea there, so I could give it a structure to grow up over time.”

For both screens, in front of the door and on the side of the carport, Tim had to weld a frame onto the sheets of metal, and cement each post into the ground.


Salvaged steel drops enhance the yard at Tim Hagyard's former home. Photo by Tim Hagyard.

In the backyard, instead of replacing an old and unappealing fence, he decided to place the steel sheets in front of the eyesore, ultimately creating an architectural piece that also doubles as a trellis.

Next, Tim found a way to unify a 3 ft. wall and an adjacent 6 ft. gate fit in. The unusually short wall was given some height by having a portion of the steel sheet cemented on top.


A steel countertop inside Tim's former home completes the steel theme. Photo by Tim Hagyard.

And lastly, Tim brought the theme of steel from outside in – with a steel bar counter. All it took was purchasing a 3 ft by8 ft. sheet of steel, cutting his desired shape, and building it a support structure.

It looks like Tim wasn’t the only one who loved this steel-themed fixer-upper; the house sold three months ago.

* For full details of the AIA/Modernism Week home tour on Sunday October 6, keep checking AIA Southern Arizona's website, and the next issue of 3 Story Magazine.

Et Cetera

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Our monthly list of what's cool, hot and happening in Tucson. This month: fashion, food,  beer... and cardboard! 

Dear Tucson...

Love Letters to Tucson logo

"Once, when a pair of Jehovah’s witnesses banged on my door I greeted them in a full bear costume. I answered all questions with growls, roars and grunts until they left." So begins artist Mykl Wells' Love Letter to Tucson. Wells is a sculptor, among the founders of of the All Souls Procession, and the man behind the upcoming Cardboard Ball (see below).

Mykl Wells. Photo by Rachel Miller

Mykl Wells. Photo by Rachel Miller

He is also, clearly, a talented writer. On the Cardboard Ball: "[It] was a bellicose art party, an eclectic explosion of self-expression." On Tucson summers: "Our brains begin to boil and our imaginations steep like a teabag into our bones." On himself: "I greet every morning with a curmudgeonly skepticism and irreverence that makes it difficult to invite me to parties."

We're proud to be linking up with Love Letters every month. (Got a letter you want to send them? Do it!)

The big fashion crush

TFW-Flyer-Front_resized Time to save the date, and get your tickets, for Tucson Fashion Week, October 17-19. You don’t want to miss iconic fashion designer Betsey Johnson, or Bert Keeter from Project Runway. And 3 Story Magazine is a proud sponsor of the whole shebang.

The premiere runway event on Friday will feature looks by four emerging designers, along with the Betsey Johnson/Steve Madden collection. And you can dine with Betsy at the VIP “Inspired Icon" Moveable Feast, a benefit event.

When and where:
Thursday, October 17: Fashion presentation and student textile competition, 5:30 - 8:30pm, Tucson Desert Art Museum Galleria
Friday, October 18: Premiere runway and ensemble presentation, 6:00 - 9:00pm, Tucson Museum of Art
Saturday, October 19: Runway wrap-up and fashion presentation awards party, 4:00 - 7:00pm, La Encantada.
October 11 – 20: Tucson Care Card (a shopping and dining to benefit the Steven M. Gootter Foundation)
Cost: Each evening.:$35; Student/military: $25; Premiere runway seats: $70; Moveable Feast: $150
More info:

cardboardball Get creative with cardboard

The annual Cardboard Ball is a dance party with cardboard art... seriously. If you think it's for 5-year-old boys, you're mistaken: everyone's invited, and the creations are compelling. The event is a fundraiser for the All Souls Procession Workshops, which are free and open to the public, and run for 5 weeks leading up to the November procession.

When: Friday September 28th, 7:30 pm.

Where: The Steinfeld Warehouse, 101 W. Sixth Street (the same location as the workshops).

Cost: $7 in advance, $10 on the door.

Call to Artists: The Cardboard Ball is looking for art and outfits made out recycled materials, but mostly cardboard. Anybody contributing a work of art or who shows up for the ball dressed in a cardboard outfit gets in for free.
More info: Contact Mykl Wells at [email protected] or call 520 665 8025.

Something's brewing

Time to vote for your fave local beer at the second annual Born & Brewed: Tucson's Beer Cup, at Hotel Congress. Which beers will scoop up a prize? It's up to the people to decide.

Ten breweries are taking part: Dragoon, Barrio, Nimbus Company, Borderlands, Thunder Canyon Brewery, 1702, Sentinel Peak Brewing Company and Ten 55 Brewing. There will be food and music, and the winner receives placement of a handle at Congress' Tap Room.

When: Friday, September 20, 7pm.

Where: Hotel Congress plaza.

Cost: $30 per person ($35 on door). Get tickets at

Back on the road


Stacie camping in the 'Badlands' of South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Stacie Eichinger

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

To date, Stacie has trekked a total of 1,650 miles, bringing her to Presho, South Dakota where she camped under the stars to the sounds of crickets. Since we’ve last checked in, Stacie has treated herself to a birthday flight home to surprise friends, family and a much-needed rest.

Next stop: Kennebec, SD and Minnesota. Stacie’s current goal is to reach the Minneapolis by September 21st. September is National Child Cancer Awareness Month, so Stacie hopes to spend some time at a local hospital.

Money raised to date is $13,000, $3,000 dollars shy of her $10 per mile goal. Help Stacie celebrate her 29th birthday on the road August 9th 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.  

Pop goes the music

The popular Tucson Pops Orchestra concert series will continue this fall with two concerts in September. Bring your chair or blanket, join your neighbors, and revel in some free music en plein air.

When: Sunday, September 22, 7pm -  Christian Howes; Sunday, September 29, 7pm - trumpeter Jim Wilson.

Where:  DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center, Reid Park (off Country Club just north of 22nd Street.)

Cost: Free

More info:

Tucson cooking whiz, 12, hits Food Network

Photo courtesy of The Food Network

Photo courtesy of The Food Network

You might remember Haile Thomas as one of the kids who joined the First Lady at the Kids' State Dinner. The Tucson kid, 12, has been making a name for herself as a healthy young cook, an host of her own cooking web show. Now you can see her whipping it up in the kitchen on a new TV show with Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri: Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off, on the Food Network, starting September 8th at 8pm PT. Kids work in teams to create a menu plan and execute the dishes. Celebrity judges taste and grade. The grand prize for one competitor: their own series on the Food Network!

Haile says getting to cook with Rachael and Guy was “amazing”.  The best part was “the opportunity to learn from one of the people I look up to”, especially practical prep tips and timing, so nothing comes out cold. Haile is proud to represent Tucson. But she emphasizes that what she really wants the show to do is inspire kids to see that cooking is “fun, easy and can be healthy”.

What’s hot for Fall fashion (besides us, of course)?

If you've been following our Fashion Crush series, then you'll love Fall Fashion Forecast at La Encantada. Fashion mavens, bloggers, shoppers et al can get their Fall fashion groove going at this event, featuring a soiree of style experts. Fringe Hair Studios will have a series of stylists demonstrating the latest looks and techniques. La Encantada Mall's clothing, jewelry and other retailers will share the season’s colors, fabrics and trends in the main courtyard. Plus, there are light bites and music.

Be philanthropic at the same time by visiting a silent auction of local artists' hand-painted vintage purses, shoes and totes, to benefit Tucson Ladies Council Foundation. The featured artists include Valerie Galloway, John McNulty, Clif Taylor, Catherine Eyde and Johnny Vegas.

When:  Friday, September 6, 6pm-8pm

Where: Main courtyard at La Encantada Shopping Center, Sunrise and Campbell Ave.

Cost: Free

More info: 520-299-3566 or

pasta (1) Cook it up With Tucson Originals

Tucson Originals restaurant group has just announced the line up for the fall series of Master Cooking Classes.  Each session is three hours of fun, new techniques and hard work for 10 to 14 advanced home cooks.  The classes feature hands-on cooking side by side with the chef on state-of-the-art appliances. The students, paired up in teams, each cook a dish and enjoy a great sit-down dinner with the chef.

When: Now till November, every other Tuesday evening at 6pm. September 10 features Chef August Ench of Dakota Cafe; September 24 features Chef Massimo Tenino of Tavolino Ristorante Italiano

Where: TWS Premium Appliance Center, 4229 E. Speedway Blvd. 

Cost: $600 includes six classes, a binder and recipes for each class, a Tucson Originals apron, dinner with  paired beverages.

More info:  Colette Landeen at or call 343-9985.

Parlour Games

liz vaughn provenance

Pop down to The Parlour on 4th Avenue this month for art with your fro-yo. Throughout September one of 3 Story's fave Tucson talents, Liz Vaughn, will be showing her wares. And that frozen yogurt is full of probiotics... so you needn't even feel guilty.

Where: The Parlour, 611 N. 4th Avenue.

More info:


Fashion Crush

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In celebration of the upcoming Tucson Fashion Week, we profile some home-grown fashion designers. Our fashion crush this month: Heather Lindquist of REVOLuTIoBy Samantha Cummings.

Photos by Heather A. Lindquist©

Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

3S: Why ‘REVOLuTIo?’

Heather A. Lindquist

Heather A. Lindquist

Heather: “It’s the phonetic spelling of 'revolution.' I came up with it with my son’s father in Chicago. We had discussed maybe opening a gallery or coffee place a long time ago and he was talking about ‘Revolution,’ and since I’ve been home, the last three years of my life have been pretty crazy. My mother died, my son had a disability… I’ve just had a lot of stuff going on. When I decided to open the store, I got a space in the building, shockingly, that my parents used to own. This was after my mom passed away.

"I came up with this name for a lot of reasons, because it means a turnaround and change of events. So I thought after all the stuff I’ve been through the last year my company is my turnaround for the better, basically.”

3S: How would you describe Revolutio?

Photos by Heather A. Lindquist©

Revolutio. Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

Heather: “It’s kind of an eclectic boutique. I used to carry more consigned items. I would take in local artists and I’ve had shows for painters. I try to bring in different products and scout out unique pieces. I’m trying to keep the price point fairly moderate. I’ve also been trying to carry things in the store that people can afford, yet there are also these high-end items that may cost a little bit more money. I like to buy things that I would like to have.”

3S: When did you start playing around with fashion?

Heather: “When I was growing up I dreamed of going to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I’m a jack-of-all-trades and I actually ended up instead going to a liberal arts college in Vermont and I studied painting. Then I left for Italy and I got back and was into the high-fashion design I had seen there, but was still a painting major and got into photography. Then I came home and got into glass blowing and got a degree in specializing with glass. I have kind of a diverse background.

"I ended up getting a really bad arm injury, so it ruined my glass career. I woke up one day and I couldn’t write or do anything with my right hand. I had been going to a store in Oakland, owned by Erica Tanov, a high-end fashion designer, and I applied to manage her store. I got the job, loved working there and got to see how she did things.”

“I’ve always worked for other people, I’ve always wanted to have my own store and I’ve managed a lot of boutiques. Then I found the perfect store for us, which turned out to be owned by my parents when I was a kid. It felt like it was meant to be.”

Photos by Heather A. Lindquist©

Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

3S: How would you describe the style of your fashion line, Tonatiuh (Aztec for sun)?

Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

Heather: “I’m calling it a sophisticated bohemian style. For spring and summer I’m doing more light fabrics, sear suckers, and chambray cottons. Now, I’m doing a more sophisticated Fall look (to be seen at Tucson Fashion Week) that’s going to be relaxed, but with very high-end silk and a lot of other trends going on.”

3S: What do you see in the future for Tonatiuh?

Heather: “I have a very hands-on approach to what’s going on right now, which is fun and exciting. I feel like everyone has their own talent in it, so I’m really trying to build a good team of people and I want to make sure to hire people in the United States, especially with our economy right now. I’m considering down the road selling something with the line that may possibly have potential to donate money to a non-profit, especially with what’s been going on with my son disability-wise.”

3S: Where do you find your own clothes?

Heather: “Anthropologie, high-end designer resale boutiques in Chicago, Buffalo Exchange, Loehmann’s, Marc Jacobs, and Lori’s Shoes.

BJ_black and white

Betsey Johnson, Heather's first fashion crush. Photo courtesy of TFW/Betsey Johnson

"When I was in Italy, I was mostly influenced by Jean Paul Gaultier. I would get a lot of his sample pieces at the Italian market. I actually still have some of the pieces from when I was 18 years old, and I’m 40 now. Erica Tanov also had an influence on me. I loved her style and she based a lot of her pieces off of vintage pieces. Other influences include Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors, Alexander McQueen, and Diane Von Furstenberg."

3S: Who or what was your first fashion crush?

Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

Photo by Heather A. Lindquist©

Heather: “I would say Betsey Johnson was one of my favorites when I was younger.  Her and Gaultier were whom I actually had in my closet.”

* It's fitting that Heather's first fashion crush was Betsey Johnson, as both will make an appearance at this year's Tucson Fashion Week, October 17-19. Get your tickets now, and look out for 3 Story's special fashion issue in October.

*REVOLuTIo is at 43 S. 6th Avenue. Click here for details.

Ground Floor

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brought to you by

boxhill logo

Guerrilla Grafters. Photo by?

Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Grafters

In the first of a new monthly column, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: the lawbreakers they call guerrilla grafters. Plus, Boxhill's product of the month.


Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

When urban sidewalks lined with sterile trees suddenly start dropping fruit, people eat and communities come together, thanks to an illegal movement that is establishing itself nationwide in the U.S.

We’ve all heard of guerrilla gardening – turning derelict, barren land into community gardens. The underlying motivation for guerrilla grafting is similar, except one group beautifies neglected space, and the other fills the void.

By grafting fruit-bearing branches onto sterile trees, guerrilla grafters provide a modern – yet illegal – solution to resolving food insecurity among populations living in a “food desert.”

That was the case with Tara Hui, founder of San Francisco-based Guerrilla Grafters. “We really didn’t have any fresh produce. The area I lived in was considered a food desert, but it had a lot of sidewalks,” she says.

The purpose of the grafters, according to Tara, is “not so much to antagonize but to bolster a sense of ownership within the community.” They do not haphazardly graft guerrilla style, and each grafted tree has an “adoptive parent” who monitors the progress of the graft and overall health of the tree as it morphs into abundance.


Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Grafters

Speaking at a gathering in Tucson last month hosted by Slow Food Southern Arizona, Tara stressed the social implications of her grafting work. The newly grafted tree ultimately “creates a sense of camaraderie and relationship with neighbors and a trusting relationship with the space and people around you," she says. They only graft in spaces accessible to the public at all times.

Grafting season is late winter or early spring, when the trees are just beginning to wake up. The Guerrilla Grafters encourage activists to set up guerrilla grafting groups in their own geographical regions and take ownership of their trees.
Some of their greatest volunteer support comes from computer hackers – familiar with a similar form of quick, stealthy work – and artists who view the acts much like a gardening form of graffiti.

Opposition comes from city municipalities, where codes restrict the use of fruit-bearing trees in public rights of way for reasons of safety (someone might slip on the sidewalk from rotting fruit) or nuisance (rats will invade).


Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Grafters

One of the main hurdles the grafters face is vandalism, particularly in their hometown of San Francisco. "We say vandals although we suspect some sort of authority or agency, but we can't prove it. The targeting and skill of pruning were so severe and in a fairly wide area that we don't think it's just random people doing it [the vandalism],” says Tara. “In one case in San Francisco, an entire street of trees had their grafted branches pruned back so much that some have died as a result,” she says.


Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Grafters

For this reason the grafters must be secretive about their work and only release photos or films not depicting street signs or other identifying landmarks. Recently, they abandoned the use of color-coded electrical tape, and reverted back to grafting tape in an attempt to avoid drawing attention to the tree.

So, could guerrilla grafting happen in Tucson? Tucson has its share of non-native, non-fruit bearing trees, such as the Swan Hill Olive (fruiting variety banned due it’s allergenic properties). But, surprisingly, we lack guerrilla grafting advocates.

The reality is that our hot, dry, desert has more than 500 food-producing native plants according to Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert by Wendy C. Hodgson. That number, coupled with our outstanding local organizations who promote native, food-producing plants and their fruits - Native Seeds Search and Desert Harvesters to name two - possibly explains why we don’t have so many vigilante propagators.

The harsh microclimates surrounding our public spaces, coupled with our epic water shortage, would most definitely have an impact on the survivability of non-native, food-producing plants grafted in place along our sidewalks. In fact some would say Tucson is the antithesis of a food desert. Organizations like the Iskashitaa Refugee Network harvest more than 75,000 pounds of edible food each year, from public and private lands scattered throughout our lower desert that would otherwise be wasted. Barbara Eiswerth, the organization’s executive director, believes that this is “only the tip of the iceberg in terms of harvesting edibles in the lower desert.”


Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Grafters

So rather than guerrilla grafting, Tucson is more about guerrilla foraging. Laura Jensen, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture, calls herself an "urban forager".

Once, she took her children on a bicycle foraging expedition through the University area. They collected four pounds of sour oranges, a little under a pound of calamondins, a couple of grapefruits, and olives. The result? Two dozen jars of marmalade and preserves!

For more on Darbi, visit her website,



What's hot for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product pick of the month.


Photo courtesy of Boxhill/Nourishmat

Boxhill loves The Nourishmat, an all-in-one roll-out garden mat, because it takes the guesswork out of gardening. It allows users to grow a bounty of vegetables and herbs without the otherwise necessary experience, time, and resources required by traditional gardening.

This 4' x 6' all-in-one garden mat features a built-in irrigation system, pre-cut holes and plant spacing, 82 pre-planted seed balls, and 19 plant types - all easy to plant. Plus, the mat serves as an automatic weed barrier.

The best part? Anyone can use it. We at Boxhill know how gratifying it can be to grow a garden, and Nourishmat gives you the means and opportunity to do just that. Now available at Boxhill

Pleased to Meet You

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With this being our first birthday issue, we thought we'd get in party mood. Meet Balloon Man FuDD, a.k.a. Daniel Ravia, a man with the enviable job of making shapes out of balloons. By Samantha Cummings.

balloon man FuDD

Photo by Gillian Drummond


Early bird or night owl? "Night owl for sure. It does not help when days get so hot though. Life has a way of making you wake up, even more so when the kids wake you!"

Favorite accessory? "I have a few. My magic growing penny (magic trick), my apron full of balloons and my scissors. A sharpie or two is great as well."

Favorite faux pas? "One time while coming back from a video game convention in Los Angeles, I was stopped by Border Patrol and had my car searched. Because of the odd nature of some of my magic props, I had some explaining to do. They even went so far as asking if I used my balloons to put drugs in and then swallow them, or worse, to get them across.

"And I gave pretty much an impromptu magic lesson for those Border Patrol officers. Not only did I have to explain and show some of my tricks, I also made four of the dog handlers balloon dogs."

balloon man FuDD balloon cake

FuDD's 3 Story balloon cake, made especially for us. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Who is your dream balloon customer? "I guess the ideal customer in dreamland would be someone who did international parties or trade shows and flew me around [the world] to decorate and entertain at those functions."

If I wasn't Balloon Man FuDD I would... "Be working in a restaurant, more than likely: cooking, ice carving or running some kitchen. I have had many jobs but cooking has been a staple throughout my life until balloons. I've worked as a painter, a body piercer, pizza delivery driver, at Bookmans, in call centers, at a video game store, as an ice carver, dishwasher, cook and kitchen manager, among many other things."

If I could change one thing I would...  "Have started working on learning business stuff. Marketing, sales, the art of putting myself out there without the balloons in hand, it's something I have been trying to grasp and implement in the growth of my balloon biz."

Daniel got his nickname FuDD (after baby Elmer FuDD) in High School. Find out more about Balloon Man FuDD here  and on Facebook.


The making of a giraffe out of balloons...

















The great 3 Story Magazine giveaway

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3 Story Mag is one year old this month. To celebrate, we're having a huge giveaway. Yeh, huge... like, more than $600 worth of loot. Each of the prizes is associated with a past feature in the magazine.

We'll be drawing names out of a hat every few days, and announcing it here and on Facebook. It's open to anybody who subscribes to the magazine.

Take a look at the swag below, folks - you won't be disappointed. But before you do, take a peek at this birthday video made by Bret Primack. It features an exclusive performance by Tucson-based blues artist Tom Walbank, and some people very close to our 3 Story hearts.

Big thanks to all who participated, and to Hotel Congress for lending us their space to film.

And now for the prizes!

joplin raincatcher

A 'rain chain' (left), handmade by Tucson artist and landscape designer Margaret Joplin. Value: $400. Winner: Laura McFall.

fed by threads giveaway pic His 'n hers Fed by Threads T-shirts. Value: $50. Winner: Kurt Tallis.

citizens warehouse book Citizens Warehouse book, featuring select works from the artists at Tucson's downtown studio, published by Eponymous Atelier. Value: $40. Winner: Kate Hiller.

velvet glass giveaway

Handmade glass pendant from Velvet Glass Mosaics. Value: $25. Winner: Tracey Young.

YikesLogo2011_purp $25 gift certificate from Yikes! toy storeWinner: Lisa Reeves.

$25 gift certificate for Saint House, 256 E. Congress Street. Winner: Sheila Wilensky.

A free pizza from Falora pizza restaurant, 3000 E. Broadway Blvd. Value: $15. Winner: Casia Fletcher.

cocktail book


sprinkles cover photo

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts by Jackie Alpers, published by Quirk Books. Value: $18.95. Winner: Erin Flinn Hinton.

Shake 'Em Up! A Practical Handbook of Polite Drinking, published by Tin House Books. Value: $16.95. Winner: Leslie Peter.

* A huge big thank you to the following for their generous donations: Margaret Joplin; Alok Appadurai and Jade Beall; Maggie Rickard and Mark Bloom; Patricia Katchur; Saint House; Ari Shapiro; Jackie Alpers/Quirk Books.


Glow in the dark

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As if the GLOW light-up art festival wasn't electrifying enough, this year one performance group will go high-voltage. By Gillian Drummond.


Wendy pouring electro-elixir. Photo by Ruben Palma.

The idea came to Carl Noggle in high school in Prescott, Arizona back in 1958. He and some science-loving friends had constructed their own Tesla coils based on instructions in an old book. Some "cool" experiments and a few 4-feet-long sparks later, they had another thought: what if they could somehow work a human body into it, and have the high-voltage, low-current electrical circuit make sparks jump off people's fingertips?

Sasha standing on her head on the Tesla coil. Photo by Ruben Palma.

Sasha standing on her head on the Tesla coil. Photo by Ruben Palma.

The idea stayed with him for decades as he went on to become an electronic engineer, designing equipment for lightning research, setting up his own consultancy, The Lightning Works, and putting on educational shows at schools and museums.

And then technology finally caught up with Carl's brilliant notion, and suddenly it seemed possible that he might jump a person with up to half a million volts.

While other performers - including the magician David Blaine - can pass electricity through themselves by wearing a heavy chain mail suit, Carl calls the suits "cumbersome". The technology Carl's performers use is proprietary and he believes nobody else in the country is using it for artistic purposes. All he'll say is that it's like having a set of electrical conductors under your costume, and it's hidden enough that his performers can wear whatever outfits they like.

Wendy Craft, one of Carl's performers, says the experience doesn't hurt; after all, it's not like the electricity is passing through her, it's passing through her conductive 'suit'. "Sometimes  you feel the energy. It's like an itch or a tickle. And when I get down [from the coil] I'll be tired."

Wendy, the woman who laughs at 500,000 volts. Photo by Ruben Palma.

Wendy, the woman who laughs at 500,000 volts. Photo by Ruben Palma.

Circus Amperean, the group Carl has formed, has been one of the finale acts at the All Souls Procession in Tucson for the last three years, and performs regularly on Friday nights at Sky Bar. This month, for the first time, the group will join almost a hundred other artists at the tenth annual GLOW, a two-day light-up art festival at the Triangle L Ranch in Oracle, an hour north of Tucson.

The festival is always timed to be as close to the September full moon as possible. Artists and performers are asked to come up with something that glows. Visitors, who are encouraged to wear glow-in-the-dark costumes (and sensible footwear), are treated to illuminated art, fire dancers and live music.

angle Ranch Glow Festival

© 2012 A.T. Willett Photographer.

Artist Sharon Holnback, the owner of the ranch, got the idea for GLOW while taking a walk one day along one of the desert paths on her expansive  property. "I thought, what would be the most unexpected thing you would expect out here? I've always liked things with lights. I love luminarias. It kind of combined for me all the things that I loved about the place: the desert at night, the full moon, it was fun, it was artists."

At the time, Sharon was still missing city life; she had moved to the ranch in 2000, after running two art galleries in midtown Tucson. So she decided to bring the artists, and the art, up to her in Oracle. She asked her artist friends to come up with illuminated art and charged the public $5 at the door. That first year, 500 people showed up, from Tucson and from the town of Oracle itself.

"After that, everywhere I went, [people were talking about] GLOW. It sparked something in people and I think that's still true because it's a really out-of-the-ordinary experience," says Sharon.

Up to 200 artists, musicians and performers have taken part in the past. This year, Sharon is keeping it to under a hundred performers and, for the first time, is supplying shuttle buses from Tucson Mall. Also new this year is free, off-site parking in Oracle and free shuttles to the front gate of the ranch (see link below for details).

		© 2012 A.T. Willett Photographer.
© 2012 A.T. Willett Photographer.

The acts perform for free, and proceeds go to the ranch, a 50-acre, six-parcel place consisting of twelve buildings, including vacation rental cottages, a barn that has been converted into an art gallery, and a gift shop. "I'm into sharing this place with people. But between the repairs and maintenance, I'm never making any money here," says Sharon.

GLOW is a draw not just for Tucsonans, but for the people of the small town of Oracle. As such, it has created a close bond between Sharon and her neighbors. After a raid by Pima County Sheriff's Department, and subsequent investigation, when GLOW was in its third year, Sharon had her doubts about continuing. Sheriffs questioned her special event permit (Sharon maintains all that was needed was a verbal permit, which she had). Everyone was forced to vacate the premises just an hour into the event.

At a community meeting that took place in Oracle between the Sheriff's Department and the public, Sharon was bowled over by the public's support. She tears up now talking about it. "It was packed. They quizzed [the police representative] for over an hour, saying 'What are we going to tell our grandkids? How are we going to tell them to trust the police?' I thought, 'This is my community and they are awesome'," says Sharon.

Sharon Holnback glows at GLOW. Photo by Jeff Smith

Sharon Holnback glows at GLOW. Photo by Jeff Smith

The show went on, and today, Sharon promises that GLOW will happen, come rain or shine. Sometimes the rain has been so heavy that people have been wading, Woodstock-like, through mud. There have been instances when musicians couldn't perform, when outlets were saturated with water. She has even seen her festival through tornado warnings. And she admits that every GLOW she, her ranch staff and the volunteers who help, cut it close. "It's always down to the wire, and I'm always crazy at the end," she says.

Glow Festival Music

© 2012 A.T. Willett Photographer.

Sharon's hope is that she can extend the GLOW idea around the year, to have a sculpture park at the ranch that is open to the public, and to maximize the ranch's use of solar so that she doesn't even use much electricity. "It could be GLOW twenty-four hours a day," she smiles.

Joining Circus Amperean as GLOW first-timers this year will be the The Jonestown Band,  and a group of students from the Southwest University of Visual Arts. The latter is planning to construct a lit, swaying, tentacled sea anemone made from water bottles. Metal artist Rand Carlson will be at GLOW for the second time, this year with what you might call a literally bipolar piece of art: two 6-foot rods that take turns lighting up saying 'Did too' and 'Did not'.

Rand says he finds creating something electrical a challenge, but in a good way. "I think GLOW is considered to be an edgy [arts] festival. It's exciting in terms of its parameters."

"That's the part I love, is dealing with the artists. That's the curator part - the presentation, where is that person going to go?" says Sharon. For her part, she has been producing her own pieces of artwork that will be on display in the barn/gallery. These include black and white photographs mounted on colored glass, then airbrushed, and an installation piece with CCTV footage of desert critters at its nucleus.

"GLOW is a three-ring circus," says Sharon. "No-one is going to have the same experience." But she is sure about one thing: "It's a chance for adults to be kids."

Glow Festival - Second NIght

© 2012 A.T. Willett Photographer.

* The tenth annual GLOW takes place September 20th and 21st, 7pm-11pm, at  Triangle L Ranch, 2805 N. Triangle L Ranch Road, Oracle. More information, including shuttle bus details, here. 

* Listen to our radio feature on GLOW, in association with NPR 89.1 FM.

My Space

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In the latest in our series on people's favorite spaces, Tucson-based food photographer, blogger and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her kitchen - a place of work, play and sprinkles.



"We bought this house ten years ago and the kitchen was really why I wanted the house. This kitchen has a lot of space. That and the pantry, which is huge. I walked in and said to the people selling it, 'You cannot sell this house to anyone else'.

"The house was built in 1965 and the kitchen is original, although I think there might have been a wall taken down in the '80s. There is a mirror on one wall of the kitchen. I love the mirror being here. It lets me see what's going on behind me and out in my yard while I'm cooking.

"Up on one shelf there are very old packages; my husband Jason likes the color and design of them. This house is very much a mish mash of he and I.

"Because I cook and take photographs of food for my work, I spend a lot of time in here. Sometimes I'm here first thing and I'm cooking until the room loses light. But the best days are when I just do one or two recipes. While I'm cooking or baking I have my iPad sitting to one side so I can consult that at the same time.

Jackie Alpers. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Jackie Alpers. Photo by Gillian Drummond

"I've always been a pretty good cook and I loved to invent things. I only started photographing food when I worked in marketing for Canyon Ranch and food magazines would want shots of their recipes, so I would shoot them. It was my husband Jason who said, 'You really have to start a blog, and write down all these recipes.' And that's how Jackie's Happy Plate started.

"My editor at Random House, Margaret McGuire, came up with the idea for the book Sprinkles! She knew it was more of a creative book and she needed someone a little more crafty. I'm coming up with the recipes, the styling, the photographs. You get a whole concept with one person, it becomes a single vision.

sprinkles cover photo "I like to decorate, but I'm not the kind of person who will bake cupcakes regularly. Now, I use sprinkles all the time. You can add a sprinkle to something and it makes all the difference in the world. Also, I tend to follow a low-carb, paleo type diet so I try to keep things low in sugar. Sprinkles add a little extra sugar.

"I try to be good when I'm baking sweet things, but sometimes I can't help myself. Sometimes I will stop photographing and just eat the cake as if it were a sandwich."

Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers is published October 15 by Quirk Books,  division of Random House. You can pre-order it right here. Or head over to our giveaway page for details of how to win a copy.


Jackie's husband collects retro packaging. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Jackie's husband collects retro packaging. Photo by Gillian Drummond


The kitchen and pantry sold Jackie on the house. Photo by Gillian Drummond



Don't say cheese

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The owners of Purple Nickel are breaking all the rules with their portrait photography studio. There's only one requirement: you have to have lots of fun. By Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

When Casia Fletcher looks back at her family photographs, it's the candid, unplanned shots that strike a chord: Casia, still a baby, sitting with her dad on his Honda motorcycle; Casia as a kid playing in a pile of leaves.

"It's so real," says the University of Arizona graduate of that photo with the leaves. She also smiles at the memory of a photo of her sister wearing a vintage dress on her dad's property in Marana. "That photo could totally work right now," says Casia.

The last one wasn't candid or unplanned; Casia took it herself, as part of her teenage experimentation with photography. But it speaks volumes about Casia's need to "not do something traditional, to do something different".

Photo by Purple Nickel.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

So it's no wonder that Purple Nickel, the portrait photography studio Casia runs with her husband Eric, is out of the ordinary. First off, they don't use the studio much. Their preference is to capture their clients - families, graduates, business people wanting a different-looking head shot -  in unexpected places. Backdrops might include concrete bypasses, brick walls and random sidewalks. The desert makes an appearance sometimes, but cliches like cowboy hats among the saguaros are out. Instead, it might be a big-sky shot with a kid, tiny, running towards the edge of the frame.

Cora Joy. Photo by Purple Nickel.

Cora Joy. Photo by Purple Nickel.

Secondly, the shots are unexpected. Babies scream. Kids scrunch up their faces. Sometimes you only see the back of the children's heads. The top half of the parents' bodies might be cut off completely, to showcase the toddler at their feet. There may be just the limb of a child as his or her leap into the air is caught on camera.

A big difference with Purple Nickel is that their subjects are allowed - and encouraged - to be themselves, to get a little crazy, and to laugh. To Casia and Eric, worlds, and families, are imperfect, casual and fun. And so to portray a family sitting in a row with forced smiles would be disingenuous.

"It's a reaction to the traditional portrait studio," says Eric. If anything, Purple Nickel is the anti-portrait studio, focusing instead on those candid shots that are taken by family members, but that become their own family treasures. "The candid stuff was left for mom and dad to take, and that's the stuff everyone wants. The problem with all of these shots is mom and dad are never in them. Now you get the opportunity to be in them," he says.

They meet with the families or individuals first, find out what they love, discuss appropriate outfits, and get to know the kids. Then, at the shoot, both Casia and Eric take pictures. Their styles are similar enough yet different enough - Casia gets the good close-ups, Eric likes wider shots and ones where buildings feature prominently - to provide a rounded package for their clients.

"We both have our distinct styles but aesthetically they're the same," says Eric. "I like wider, bigger shots, Casia is much better with closer, tighter shots." Adds Casia: "So the clients get variation."

Photo by Purple Nickel.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

When they start shooting the photographs, especially of families, they create their own rhythm. Years of being together, and several years now of taking photographs together, has created a silent artistic shorthand between them, and respect for how each other is handling the shoot and the clients. Casia explains: "We know when to step back. If Eric is totally bonding with the kids, then I [step back]. Sometimes I have to say 'Am I hogging?' or 'Do you want to step in?'"

Casia + Eric of Purple Nickel. Photo by Chelsea Blue

Casia and Eric of Purple Nickel. Photo by Chelsea Blue

The couple met in 2002, whilst at the University of Arizona, on a blind date that was arranged by a mutual friend. They moved in together a year later, and were married in 2006 in what Casia calls a "DIY wedding", a casual, low-key affair held in the backyard of downtown Tucson's historic Stillwell House. There was a friend officiating, another friend playing guitar, Tucson architect Page Repp DJ'ing, and a Polaroid photo guestbook. Pomp and ceremony are not this couple's thing, which is one reason why they don't shoot weddings for work. The exception was their friends Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush, owners of the architecture and design firm HA/RU, who twisted Casia and Eric's arms into photographing their own wedding in rural New Mexico.

Purple Nickel operates out of a former tire warehouse in the Firestone building at 6th Street and 6th Avenue, a place that now houses retailers, galleries and artists. Together with the likes of the Conrad Wilde Gallery, OZMA Atelier, the Wee Gallery and, close by, the new Tap & Bottle, these businesses are helping create a burgeoning little arts district just off of Tucson's counter-culture hub, 4th Avenue.

To boost their summer business, Purple Nickel recently turned part of their loft-style second-floor space into a studio to photograph kids. Clients of their new division, Purple Nickel Kids, get to play and clown around in a big expanse of white: a white platform and two white backdrop walls. Eric made the kids' area with wood and MDF board. He glued the boards together, filled in the joints, and painted it with epoxy garage paint.

Casia admits that when they do in-studio shoots with kids, the children are taken aback when they're told they can run around, jump, get silly. "They look at us like 'Really? You don't want me to sit still?'" says Casia.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

If props are used in the studio, they're in keeping with Casia and Eric's mid century, thrifty aesthetic. It's likely to be a mid-mod-style steel chair, with perhaps a sock monkey or two.

Most portrait photographers use their studio to show off their wares, with framed photographs, catalogs, coupons and some standard props: giant numbers to signify a child's birthday; baseball gear for the boys of the family; wrapped fake presents at Christmas. Casia and Eric's second floor space is sparse, urban and risky - just like so many of their photos.

Eric, a former architectural designer who turned to photography full-time to help Casia run her business, fixed up the interior himself. They have kept two exterior red brick walls, and created some more walls with shipping crates (plus a friend's garden gate) they found abandoned in an alley. A seating area features two mid-mod sofas picked up through Craigslist, a vintage table, and a smattering of other pieces bought through Craigslist and thrifting. A powder-coated white desk and set of white wall cabinets are from IKEA.

Inside Purple Nickel Studio

Inside Purple Nickel Studio, with the kids' platform and shipping crate walls. Photo by Purple Nickel.

With both the platform and the shipping crate walls, Eric made sure they were floating, and barely attached to the original floor. "Everything was built with respect for the old building," he says.

Eric, always a keen photographer, says he has made the transition from architectural designer to professional portrait photographer well. "I still love architecture and I still read about it. I follow people and I do drawings. I get my creative outlet that way." As well as taking photographs, Eric is in charge of their design, website and blog.


Photo by Purple Nickel.

Casia got hooked on photography at Tucson High School (she still sings the praises of the school's darkroom facilities). One teacher in particular stood out for her - a man named Jerry Halfmann. When the seniors graduated from the photography program, Mr. Hafmann would create a nickel-sized coin for each of them, using the silver from developing chemicals in the darkroom. "It had a little purple hue to it," says Casia. Hence the name Purple Nickel.

While studying photography at the U of A, Casia worked part-time for The Picture People,  a chain of portrait photography studios. "It was stiff and rigid. You only had five poses. I knew if I had my own company it would be the complete opposite."

Frustrated as she was, Casia found she was great with the kids - to the point where parents would request her for sessions. Even within The Picture People's tight framework, Casia pushed the envelope. Some simple tweaking of angles and poses resulted in pictures that were out of the ordinary. Casia even persuaded her bosses to let her do an extra, sixth, pose. "With that one I got to do what I wanted."

With Purple Nickel's kids' portraits, there is a 15- to 20-minute get-to-know-you session at the beginning, then another 45 minutes or more of shooting. Casia acts as a stylist too, asking the parents to bring one or two outfits and advising them on what might be a good look.

Willy & Gaby. Photo by Purple Nickel.

Willy & Gaby. Photo by Purple Nickel.

They both use Canon 5D Mark II cameras and a software program called Adobe Lightroom Presets, to make adjustments with shadows, contrast and color. Although they are full of praise for digital photography, they believe every professional photographer should learn to use film, and develop it in a dark room. "Then you understand the foundations. It's like an architect should learn how to hand-draft and sketch," says Casia.

Purple Nickel's photos don't come cheap; they reckon the average spend for a family is $2000. Kids' portraits start at around $300. But they make no excuses for being possibly the most expensive portrait studio in Tucson.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

Photo by Purple Nickel.

Included in the fee is custom installation of the artwork, something Casia and Eric feel strongly about. "Sometimes it was six months or a year later and [the clients] still hadn't hung them. Plus, I'm a control freak," says Eric. "I wanted them to be hung correctly."

These aren't just photographs, says Eric. "This is art for your walls."

* Find Purple Nickel Studio at 439 N. 6th Avenue. Tel: 520 477 8128.