This place has umpteen thousand shiny rocks -- for jewelry, for metaphysical conjuring, for decorating your home. Whether you're looking for amethyst, quartz or feldspar, this is the place.

What drew us to the store originally was its collection of what appeared to be African animal and death masks (turns out they're Indonesian, but they're still cool). We had just bought a house, and the previous owner had left zebra wallpaper in one of the bedrooms. At first we were horrified, and then we decided to just go with it. We set out in search of decorations. Boy, did we find what we were looking for at Black Market! If you're into masks, you'll get your rocks off perusing the bulkheads of this place. There are many varieties of authentic wooden ones, and they're cheap. For under $20, you can put an elephant's face on your wall, or a zebra's or a giraffe's or a leopard's. For those into the macabre, there is a variety of skull masks.

We bought beautiful rocks for our planters, masks for our walls, and wooden wind chimes that are music to everyone's ears.

BEST PLACE TO BUY EVERYTHING FROM A DINETTE SET TO A STUFFED PIRATE

Furniture Row, Bell Road at 28th Street

There's nothing conventional about a couple of the stores on Furniture Row, where you could accessorize your entire home without leaving the parking lot. The best of the places along the strip offer cool secondhand stuff. There are about half a dozen businesses here, the crème de la crème being Eclectica and Cupid's Furniture. We purchased a killer retooled dinette set at Cupid's -- you know, the kind you used to see on I Love Lucy or in your grandmother's kitchen, only black and silver instead of orange and yellow. And we bought a gigantic ceramic wall hanging of three exotic nudes fading into the ether at Eclectica. Neither was cheap (both in the $400 range), but they were unique, and when we surveyed the prices at conventional furniture stores for stuff we wouldn't dream of putting near our contemporary digs, we were satisfied.

Eclectica is famous for its exotic merchandise. On last inspection, it was selling a stuffed pirate swinging down from a rope, red phone booths straight out of Piccadilly Circus, a mint-condition standup bass, gigantic Alice in Wonderland chairs, three-foot-high statues of Elvis, and that's just the beginning. The funky lamp selections at both Cupid's and Eclectica are out of this world.

Another store on the row that will usually have something unique is J&K Furniture. We bought some glass-topped metallic coffee and end tables there, and the place always has great prices on couches and beds. (Last time we visited, there was a canopy bed big enough for Henry VIII to have slept on.) Here's a perk: Right in the center of Furniture Row is Fuel Motorsport Café and Bar, an interesting place to stop for a cold one on a hot day of furniture-store hopping.

H & R Sales
If you're in the market for key tassels, beaded fringe, tiebacks, bullions or similar trimmings, you've come to the right place. H & R carries a wide assortment of the fancy stuff, as well as related items and accessories for home-decor improvement. Depending on your mood and needs, you might find some new legs for that vintage couch or a cool hide to re-cover a tacky kitchen chair. H & R is also one of the Valley's go-to places for hard-to-find fabrics like glittered vinyl, tanned leather, Ultrasuede, and shantung silk. And while you're there, why not check out the store's prints? Our favorites are the Copa Cabana (a nifty repeating pattern of fez-wearing monkeys) at $12.95 per yard, and the appropriately named Beach Umbrella at $11.95 per yard. Be sure to ask for Larry, who'll escort you around with his scissors, hacking off swatches at your command.
Arizona Knitting and Needlepoint
These days, knitting is hotter than a nickel on a car seat. With-it Valley knitters tend to flock to Arizona Knitting, a floor-to-ceiling mass of high-quality yarns and fibers, as well as needles, crochet hooks and needlecraft paraphernalia. It also stocks a surprisingly thorough collection of literature on the subjects of knitting, crocheting and needlepoint. The most endearing quality of this wonderful shop, however, is the communal table at the rear of the store, where clientele meet to discuss needlework, fix knitting problems, and hang with other stitchers. Informative and well-organized workshops cater to all levels and are taught throughout the year by a knowledgeable and engaging staff. The only problem you might have to contend with at Arizona Knitting and Needlepoint (other than an occasional dropped stitch) is deciding which amazing knit to pick for your next project.
Diane Ribbon and Notion
Considering that we still haven't figured out how to enter phone numbers into our cell phone (which we've had for a year now), we're not so sure we're candidates for phone rhinestoning, the hottest craft trend among the under-20 set. What are those kids doing with cell phones, anyway? And do you think any of them would be willing to show us how to put numbers into our phone?

Maybe they will after we tell them that Diane Ribbon is the place to get the goods to rhinestone a cell phone. They might have some trouble convincing Mom to venture to the somewhat sketchy, industrial 'hood where the huge craft warehouse is located, but as soon as mother and daughter see the goods inside -- enough ribbon to put SAS to shame, enough craft gear to make Michaels blush -- we promise the two will be rushing back to see Diane at every opportunity.

BEST PLACE TO DIG FOR BURIED BEAD TREASURE

Beads Galore

Beads Galore
You know something's become way too mainstream when PBS creates a TV series about it, like the new one just for jewelry-making and bead-stringing (we haven't yet gotten Beads, Baubles and Jewels in the Valley, sponsored in large part by Fire Mountain Gems, so start vigorously lobbying our local PBS station now). But long before the craze hit, Beads Galore, the veritable grandpappy of bead stores in the Valley, was pushing beads and stringing material for do-it-yourself accessory designers and homecrafters.

Beads Galore finally outgrew the funky industrial warehouse space it thrived in for years and now has moved to a sprawling retail store next to REI in Tempe. What it hasn't changed at the new location is its big open bins overflowing with glass, porcelain and clay beads from Czechoslovakia, China, India and Peru, which you can pick through for tiny treasures. Go ahead, let those sparkly jewel-like orbs slip luxuriously through your fingers as you dig deep into a pile -- you can actually afford these babies. Prices for bin beads range anywhere from 4 to 8 cents a gram, so they're always in demand. In fact, one Saturday it became virtually impossible to bag a space at the gigantic bead troughs hogging up a huge area in the rear of the store. If we didn't know better, we'd have thought we had stumbled onto a gaggle of crazed miners panning for gold.

Bead World
Sandwiched between a pottery-painting enterprise and a florist shop in a small strip mall adjacent to a floridly decorated Chinese restaurant, Bead World isn't much to look at from the outside. But swing open that glass door and, if you're a beader, an involuntary gasp will slide from your jaded lips. Though small, this new bead shop is artfully covered floor to ceiling with every conceivable type of bead, many of which we hadn't seen before -- and the quality of its carefully handpicked stock is refreshingly remarkable.

Not only does Bead World carry silver and vermeil beads from Indonesia and India, but also copper and brass variants you'll have to have. From Swarovski crystals to unusual Czech glass shapes, ethnic bone beads to enameled Chinese cloisonné, freshwater pearls to semiprecious gemstone beads, from basic findings to intricate carved jade pendants, this place has got it all -- and then some. And we've found every last one of its sweet staffers, for whom no question about beading is too stupid or ridiculous, to be helpful and pleasant. If you find otherwise, feel free to string us up.

If beads were edible, we suspect we would be considered morbidly obese at this point. Our insatiable appetite for the latest in jewelry-making components has even driven us to brave the wilds of the world-renowned Tucson Gem and Mineral Show every February for days on end. When the show is over, we pine for the high quality and good deals we've gotten there. To sustain us until next February, we hit AZ Gems in Tempe, a relative newcomer to the bead-store scene in the Valley.

This place is actually a wholesale importing business that's open to the public, and the prices reflect the wholesale aspect. We found beautiful turquoise, coral, rainbow fluorite, labradorite, amethyst, tourmaline, serpentine, jasper, amber, aquamarine and other semi-precious gemstone beads there in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, and at prices that come close to the ones we get at the big gem shows. But be sure to follow proper "bead etiquette" when at AZ Gems, or Cye, the mountain man/prospector from Oregon who's the manager, will not be happy with the resulting mayhem you create. Cye will walk you through exactly what you should and should not do to organize your purchases, e.g., it's an absolute no-no to pull a strand of beads from a group of them without first holding on to the top of the hank (that's bead talk) and gently pulling your chosen strand away from the bunch. Hey, we know, but it's a small price to pay for the quality and prices you get at this place.

Scrapbooks Etc.
Locally owned Scrapbooks Etc. provides a haven for both serious and novice scrappers, all of whom walk around in a joyful haze amid the store's extensive -- and we do mean extensive -- selection of scrapbook- and album-making supplies. You'll find printed and solid-color papers of every conceivable hue and weight (including vellum and heavy cardstock), as well as punches, scissors, glue sticks, idea books, organizers, die cuts, stickers, and embellishments galore. Another plus is the store's scrapping classes. If there's not one in session when you stop by, you can visit the workshop at the back of the store and use the on-site tools to assemble individual pages or an entire album. We recommend calling ahead to make sure that the "open lab" is not full.
The Paper Studio
Phoenix still doesn't have a chapter of the Church of Craft -- the campy club that's popped up in other cities, devoted to, you guessed it, the art of craft. (Check it out at www.churchofcraft.org -- start a chapter here and we promise you a Best of Phoenix next year!)

But we've got better -- we've got Cindy and Gary Iverson, and the Paper Studio. This wonderful gallery/shop/school opened quietly this year, and we couldn't believe it when we popped in on a hot Saturday afternoon. The beautiful space, just across the street from the Tempe Library, is friendly to paper artists from scrapbookers to bookmakers -- a wide range. Cindy, who has an MFA in book arts, teaches a range of classes, from paper pouring (you literally mix and pour the pulp that will become handmade paper) to scrapbook-making. Gary teaches a variety of binding courses, and other local artists round out the schedule with classes like Polaroid transfers.

One of the nicest things about the Paper Studio is that it doesn't look down on scrapbookers but also doesn't stock a bunch of cheesy stickers. If you don't want to get too involved, you can buy beautiful stationery for a few bucks. Or you can have invitations printed for you.

The Iversons will even host a private party for you, with your choice of guests, teacher and class. Phoenix may not have the Church of Craft, but paper people still have a lot to be grateful for!

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