Marjon Ceramics Inc.
A trip around this under-the-radar west-side shop quickly puts those overpriced pottery stores scattered around the Valley into immediate and lesser perspective. You'll know a potter's truly devoted to ceramics if he or she mentions Marjon's. It's hard to imagine a better selection of pottery wheels, molds, bisque wear, glazes, and, of course, the magical clay itself. But this joint ain't just for pros. If, like us, you utterly lack talent and experience, fear not. Buy an already "fired" mold, glaze it on the spot, and the staff will stick it in a kiln for you. Or better yet, take it home and paint it at your leisure. The results are guaranteed to make you appear "artistic." Maybe.
Beads Galore
You'll want to leave your purse in the car before entering this bead store (no large bags are allowed for fear you'll "accidentally" drop a few beads inside), but don't forget your wallet! Putting a crafter without cash in Beads Galore would be like shoving a plate of tiramisu in front of someone who just had gastric bypass surgery. This store a staple at the gem show held each winter in Tucson packs in a massive selection of bead strands, from freshwater pearls to malachite and jade to exotic baubles of carved bone and wood. The smiling staff is always ready to assist in picking good color combinations or point you in the direction of basics like wire and spacers. We've spent hours digging through the bulk bins for just the right shade of periwinkle Czech glass flowers, or drooling over semi-precious strands. When we had a question about some vintage beads we hadn't even purchased at Beads Galore, a staffer led us through a hallway to the back office, where Bernie, the proprietor, sat at a desk. He fingered the strand for a moment, then rattled off the bead, country of origin and year created. This is a bead shop that won't just string you along!
If you actually know what the term "findings" means, then you've come to the right category because our guess is that many of you won't, even if you've delved into the world of beading. It took us months before we figured out the term; we were too busy buying beads at gem shows, bead shops, on eBay. Then one day we realized we had pounds of beads, but no way to wear them. That's where findings come in clasps, wire, loops, tools all the stuff you use to make the stuff you wear. S II only sells wholesale, so you've gotta be hard-core (or, like us, have a friend who is), but trust us it's worth it for the friendly service, wide selection and great prices. And finally, you'll be able to display those cool vintage Czech buttons you bought in the middle of the night online last winter.
The Paper Studio
This place is a paper slut's dream and if you don't think such a person exists, head over to the Paper Studio, and you'll see them wandering the aisles, fingering the handmade paper and super-cute stationery. This store is a cut above the rest, featuring a gallery with rotating exhibits, and classes on topics including letterpress, papermaking and Polaroid transfers. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better paper shop!
If you're looking for the basics for hot pink envelopes with matching paper or brown paper bag cardstock head to Xpedx, where we've found the biggest selection and the friendliest staff in town. Call ahead; this place keeps odd hours, probably aimed at big business more than the little person (the store opens and closes early), but even you, looking for just one ream of pale pink paper that will offset your newborn's face just so, will get great service, good prices, and the prettiest paper we've found.
We love stamps. Not the cutesy ones you can buy at the craft store, but the kind we make ourselves sort of with the help of the kind folks at the Phoenix Rubber Stamp Company. Did you know that you can take your kids' artwork (or your own, for that matter), Xerox a black copy and get a stamp made out of it? You can, and at this place you can do it in almost every size. Okay, so now our holiday cards won't be quite so original, but we figure Best of Phoenix is all about sharing the love.
Scrapbooking has practically eclipsed baseball as the national pastime. There are scrapbooking clubs, scrapbooking newsletters, even sold-out scrapbooking conventions. When's the last time you saw a full house at a Diamondbacks game? Mystic Paper may not be the largest scrapbooking store in the area, but it's always well-stocked, and with the antique store in front, you can pick up a couple of old tintype photos or antique advertisements to lend authenticity to your keepsake. There's a huge assortment of printed papers and vellum, punches, die-cutouts and cute little knobs shaped like door handles. The reason we love this shop so much is that the staff's friendly craft ideas are (mostly) idiot-proof. So, guys, next time you're looking to impress your wife or girlfriend, grab a fistful of photos and get some supplies from The Peddler's Wife. Chocolates melt, flowers die, but a handmade scrapbook is forever.
Diane Ribbon and Notion
Just when you think you've seen everything Phoenix has to offer, you discover this towering maze of boxes stuffed with papier-mch teapots, tiny plastic feet, and soaring stacks of grosgrain. Diane Ribbon and Notions, founded by Diane Rust's family in the 1940s, is likely to awaken the inner crafter in anyone. There, you'll find everything you'll ever need to make stuff prettier: sacks of bugle beads to gem-tone your cell phone with; "Sad Hobo" heads to adorn a yarn-covered Kleenex box; and enough Mod Podge to shellac your entire house with. We can't remember what life was like before this wholesale notions company was opened to the public a couple of years ago, and we don't want to. All we know is the present, which is covered in sequins and decoupage; and the future, which we plan to devote to the lost art of safety pin jewelry. We know we'll find everything we need at Diane's.
There's something exciting about watching a fully restored classic car cruise down the street. In a sea of Hondas, Toyotas and other off-the-assembly-line cars, it's nice to see people putting thought into what they drive. And if you're into classic or custom cars, you've probably experienced the frustration of trying to buy a part from Pep Boys or any other chain auto parts store. Which is why So-Cal Speed Shop is a car customizer's dream. The shop has specialized in vintage Ford and Chevrolet parts for 32 years, and the knowledgeable staff can get hard-to-find parts from the manufacturer and into your hands with a quick turnaround. If you're into cars, this is the kind of place you could spend a day in, and even if you don't know (or care) about auto parts, there's enough Americana and nostalgia in here to keep you occupied while your car buff shops. Check out the fully restored Model-T in the front of the shop it's cool enough to make it obvious why some people spend major dollars fixing up a rusted-out piece of junk and turning it into something that'll turn heads on the freeway.

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