Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2009

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Vintage Girl Toys
Auntie Em's Miniatures

The shelves of today's toy stores are stocked with plastic cell phones and dolls that make a Van Buren Street hooker look elegant. That's why we adore Auntie Em's, where old-fashioned dollhouses and fully clothed dolls reign supreme. The feminine yin to Smilin' Jack's Pedal Cars' yang, Auntie Em's carries everything a girl needs to build and decorate her own miniature world, from teensy tables and beds to accessories such as a sleeping cat and a white picket fence to make her dream home complete. Every summer, the shop hosts a series of Dollhouse Camps where little princesses can build custom five-room bungalows for about a hundred bucks. All she'll need afterwards is tiny designer furniture, a matchbox-size sports car, and a miniature husband to pay for it all.

5625 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 85301
MAP
623-435-0783
Best Letterpressers
See Saw Designs

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.

6125 E. Indian School Rd., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-284-4987
Best Art Supplies
Wet Paint Artist Supply

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.

806 S. Ash Ave., Tempe, 85281
MAP
480-967-2002
Best "Out of the Box" Art Supplies

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.

Best Place to Get Creative on the Cheap
Dollar Tree

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.

3909 E. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-273-9290
Best Place to Prep for Your Project Runway Audition

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.

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Best Vintage Girl Toys: Auntie Em's Miniatures

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