Best Of :: Shopping & Services
"I spent the first nine months of my life in a Ziploc bag and have been clawing my way to freedom ever since."
That's her life, in a nutshell, according to Vyle Raven-Greyv, the eccentric owner of the weirdest shop in the Valley, Curiouser & Curiouser.
"I can't say more because it would ruin my mystique," Vyle maintains. (Everyone calls her Vyle.)
All you really need to know is that Vyle is a woman who collects everything. Everything. Here's just a sampling: She has five hearses (which she actually drives), a large collection of military vehicles (some of which sit outside her store on Seventh Avenue and Missouri and serve as her "Open" and "Closed" signs), two I.G.huahuas (a breed of dog she says she invented herself, a cross between Italian Greyhound and Chihuahua), and a 4,000-square-foot house that she says is so full of stuff and reptiles that she can't walk through it anymore. And that doesn't even include anything that's lost in the amazing mass of "curioddities and obscuriosities" that you can find inside her store.
When you walk in, you're greeted by an Egyptian coffin, a mummy listening to headphones, and a skeleton sitting with his head under an old '50s-style salon hairdryer. There are shoes, jewelry, records, B-movies, bear traps, jukeboxes, crosses, Buddhas, couches, an entire room full of vintage clothes, another full of dolls, more bags than you can count, a row of sunglasses hanging on a line, a sophisticated collection of old candy, lamps, statues of anything from dogs to zombie soldiers, army helmets, feather boas, witch hats, a lawn jockey, glassware, an African mask, an alien mask, dog collars, kites, a rocking horse, an old cigarette dispenser . . . and a wood-carved rendering of the Last Supper. Whew! There's much, much more, but we've run out of breath.
"I spent most of my life finding things," Vyle says. "Clearly, I don't need anything else."
Vyle refuses to share her age, and she compares herself to Michael Jackson (she says she has a Peter Pan complex and refuses to date anyone over the age of 19; let's just say she's probably old enough to have been Jacko's mother), but we think she's beyond compare — a one-of-a-kind, an original, a total mystery. This is a woman who is and/or has been, she says, a military historian, an artist, a graphic designer, a multimedia pioneer, an event manager, a public relations specialist, a ferocious patriot, and a number of other occupations we can't fit into coherent phrases.
So, what does it all mean — all the stuff, all the identities? "They're souvenirs of having lived," she says. And, even if the rest is a mystery, the fact that Vyle Raven-Greyv has lived is most certainly true.
Now that Phoenix has "made it," we're all searching for the little things to help round out our city's Mid-Century Modern aesthetic. And See Saw is here to deliver. Run by six young and talented designers and boasting two massive old-school letterpresses, See Saw is more than an Urban Outfitters-style paper factory. Its cards and calendars capture a clean, minimalist design that stands out in a very powerful but understated way. And it's a heavy hitter, to boot. Boasting a client list that includes the much missed Palatte restaurant and Mayor Phil Gordon, these designers are quickly establishing themselves as the people to go to in Phoenix for hip and unique cards, invitations, or branding. Their blog is pretty cool, too.
So you've run out of gouache and if you don't get some fast, your artistic muse will leave you. No worries. Head to Ash Avenue in Tempe and talk to the good people at Wet Paint. Whether you're in need of blue Prismacolor pencils to lay down the sketches for your next Web comic or bamboo brushes to practice Japanese calligraphy, you'll find Wet Paint well stocked. Also check out the posters and fliers near the store's entrance for events around town targeting art enthusiasts. As for that muse, it comes and goes, but maybe a few peeks at the art mags on display at Wet Paint will give you a jolt of inspiration.
Painters have it easy when it comes to sourcing materials. Paints and canvases are available at art shops, craft stores, even Wal-Mart. On the other hand, if you specialize in "found object" or recycled art, you'll likely be stuck scouring back alleys and diving through smelly dumpsters, unless you're in the know about The Town Dump, a funky backwoods store hidden in Cave Creek. The dilapidated red shack is chock-full of treasures, from cowhides and bear pelts to printed textiles, antique hardware, and vintage tin ceiling tiles. Need an authentic lasso for a Wild West-themed project? Castoff rebar bits or iron scrollwork for welding? A 7-foot-tall wooden cross for your giant Piss Christ knockoff? Yeah, it's all here. Grab some funky estate sale castoff and display it in a gallery, à la Marcel Duchamp's Fountain — just don't expect us to buy it (literally or figuratively) as fine art.
For those who lust after art and craft supplies, there is only one place you need to visit to completely load up. Sorry, but it ain't fancy. The good news, though, is that there's likely one in your neighborhood. Dollar Tree dollar stores (and we're not talking about just any dollar store; it's gotta be a Dollar Tree) are the absolute best for basic art supplies. They have paint, markers, poof balls, and stickers as well as pads of paper, rulers, scissors, tissue paper, crayons — you get the idea. And it's all dirt-cheap. If you have an art studio or just a kitchen table, run out and stock up so you're ready when the creative spirit strikes you next.
Ready yourself for Project Runway status by learning how to sew at this cute-as-a-button shop in Phoenix. Bernina Connection offers "bring your own project" open sessions on nights and weekends; just bring snacks to share and come ready to giggle with the local gals. Don't worry about the fact that you can't find a Jo-Ann Fabric in central Phoenix to save your life — Bernina sells all the fabric and notions you'll need. Classes for all skill levels are offered, so get on down there and sew yourself a vintage apron or a recycled T-shirt quilt.