Big Brain Awards

Big Brain 2012 Finalist: Aaron Kimberlin

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2012 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 7Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Aaron Kimberlin

Aaron Kimberlin grew up in Chandler, graduated from Arizona State with a design degree, then took off for Chicago to get a Master's in Urban Planning.

"I wanted to learn everything I could about a city," he explains. He's home now and landed a nice day job: Assistant Director of PURL, ASU's Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, where -- among other things -- he's heading up the first-ever Phoenix Urban Design Week, starting April 9.

So are Phoenix and Chicago anything alike?

Not at all, Kimberlin admits.

"With Chicago, the things found you," he says. Here, you have to find them. Or make them.

And so when Kimberlin's grandfather died, leaving a pile of vintage ties that Aaron inherited, the urban planner knew what to do.

Adaptive reuse.

No one was wearing skinny ties like these, although the patterns were cool. But bow ties -- already big in other cities like New York, San Francisco and Portland -- hadn't hit Phoenix yet. Aaron Kimberlin set out to take care of that.

He hired a seamstress, designed a website, and came up with a name -- Dapper + Dash -- broad enough to someday include his other ideas (he's mum about this, for the moment). He'd only worn a bow tie once in his life, with a ruffly tuxedo shirt to a New Year's party. 

These ties are different -- preppy and edgy and equally appropriate with a suit or jeans.

Kimberlin kicked off the line with a party at The Mercantile in Phoenix, the exclusive local purveyor (you can also buy them online at And now he's looking for a second seamstress.

The bow ties are made from ties purchased at estate sales and vintage fabrics online, "anywhere I can find cool patterns," Kimberlin says.

So far, his grandfather's ties have remained untouched. But it might just be a matter of time.

"I don't have the heart," Kimberlin says. "Not yet."

Meet the finalists on April 7 during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia. And check out the other Big Brain Awards finalists we've profiled so far: 

Visual Art: 
Lindz Lew
Andrew Hadle
Thomas Greyeyes

Jon Ashcroft
Victor Moreno
Sweet Salvage

Greg Kerr
Ashley Eaton

Performing Art: 
The Torch Theatre
Dulce Juarez

Esther Mbaikambey
Farmer Woody (aka John Milton)

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at