Best Taxidermy 2012 | Kruger's Creations | Shopping & Services | Phoenix

We're not claiming to be experts in the world of hunting, but we do know that the telltale sign of a good taxidermist appears when you find yourself seriously debating whether the stuffed animal you see is alive. That's the reaction that Chris Kruger strives for with every animal he preserves — from bears to bass, bison to bobcats.

Working alongside his wife, Mary, who specializes in animal rugs, Kruger considers himself an innovator in the world of taxidermy. Having practiced the art full-time since 1985, Kruger tries to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to developing more advanced techniques, creating his own materials from scratch, and capturing not just the most vivid animals but also some of their most epic moments in nature.

As you enter Kruger’s at-home studio, you’ll pass by a life-size javelina leaping into the air as a snake extends its body to sink its teeth into the poor mammal’s leg. Traces of the glossy, saliva-covered cactus that the boar had been feasting on still nestled around the grooves of his teeth. It’s details like this that set Kruger apart. If you want further testimony to his craft, you can find his mounts at the Smithsonian Institution and in sporting-goods stores around town. See a slideshow here.

In 1996, Phoenix-based entrepreneur Christina Carlino decided to put her beauty school knowledge and life philosophy to work. The then-34-year-old had had plenty of experience in the beauty industry (she worked for plastic surgeons in Hollywood and developed the BioMedic line that's now sold in plastic surgery offices around the country). As the story goes, the idea for Philosphy skin care came to Carlino while she was hiking Squaw Peak. She was going through a hard time and looked up to see a rainbow. From that rainbow came a book of poems, and from that book came a internationally successful skincare company. Carlino started small, but the business grew quickly. She not only developed the original fragrances, but she wrote the poems on the backs of all her products — a moisturizer called "hope in a jar," a scrub called "deeply superficial," and a perfume called "pure grace," to name a few. And she chose the imagery for each label that you can now pick up at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, and QVC (though in Phoenix, we still have our own standalone stores). Carlino sold the company to the Carlyle Group in 2007, and the brand was acquired by perfume maker Coty Inc. in 2010, though Carlino still vouches for the brand. Her Phoenix-based life now is a little more low-key, with a focus on family and smaller singing and songwriting ventures, which you can hear all about on her website.

Phoenix artist Christy Puetz works on her animal creations with a long needle, a collection of glass seed beads, and countless peyote stitches. Her fragile, delicate, and painstakingly detailed creatures come from a variety of backgrounds and stories. In 2011, she created a collection of “shapeshifting” creatures shown at Modified Arts, and, in 2009, she showcased a series of birds with beaded patterns inspired by the microscopic appearances of diseases including herpes and chlamydia. Together, her animals create a story line played out in the artist’s mind. Over the summer, Puetz was an artist in residence at Gallery@theLibrary (located inside Scottsdale Civic Center Library), where she worked for a public audience and hosted workshops that fed into the exhibition, titled “Monsters and Squirrels,” that surrounded her.

Armed with two turbo-charged Cessna 206 aircraft and a slew of cameras, the Kenney Aerial Mapping crew takes to the sky. From above, the team can capture data that helps it create custom aerial topographic maps, aerial photos, surveys, and digital terrain models of any area in the Southwest. Forget Google Earth; these guys use two Zeiss aerial-mapping cameras that are calibrated regularly by the U.S. Geological Survey and have higher resolution for fine detail. When they're back on land, the team scans and processes film in its in-house photo lab, where custom maps and aerial photos can be processed, printed, and mounted to document your latest trophy hike or the beginning stages of your next big project.

Scottsdale could serve as the poster city for three things: bleached blond hair, bedazzled jeans, and plastic surgery. Which means we shouldn't be that surprised to find out the city with as many plastic surgeons as gas stations is also the home of Medicis, the pharmaceutical company behind one of the most popular family of injectable fillers for facial tissues. The company makes its corporate home in Scottsdale and brought the powers of Restylane from Sweden to the United States. The company reports the stuff has now been used in more than 15 million facial wrinkle and lip injections around the world. And to think, before this, we were pretty sure that Scottsdale's biggest seller was fake boobs. So don't worry about wrinkles; go ahead and smile. We've got you covered, er, injected.

Did you know that the Los Angeles Department of Public Health classifies traditional nail polish as toxic waste? Well, guess what, they do, and you have been putting it all over your flanges for years. Yuck. So, ladies (and gentlemen, if you're into this sort of thing), the days of putting toxic paint all over your pretty fingernails is over. No more worrying about the long-term effects of mysterious chemicals like phthalates, toluene, and formaldehyde; there's a new nail polish out there that's super-ecofriendly, and it's made right here in Phoenix. Ginny Cardena, CEO and founder of Scotch Naturals Nail Polish, has developed a "3 Free" nail polish that uses nontoxic acrylic polymer emulsions with pigments that are commonly found in watercolor paints, instead of the chemical sludge that most companies use. The Phoenix-based line is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, biodegradable, and comes in almost three dozen colors. They even make a special kid-friendly line called HopScotch. Perfect for tiny fingers that love bright colors without any of the bad stuff that you'll find in the traditional lacquers.

Any given day (except Sunday; they're open from noon to 4 Monday through Saturday), ASU Surplus is worth a visit — if you're looking for a super-cool, old-school vintage desk or perhaps a sturdy desk chair. Last time we visited, we found some giant green chalkboards. Nice. The price is right — ASU orders new supplies and dumps the old stuff here. But even better are ASU Surplus auctions, held the second Thursday of the month. That's where you can find the really crazy items, like a gorgeous apothecary cabinet a friend scored. (We're still jealous, years later.) In case you didn't get the memo, vintage science equipment is all the rage — even if you don't have any real experiments to conduct. Happy hunting.

Boy, you wish your high school shop class was as cool as Local Motors in Chandler. It's a space where auto enthusiasts, fabricators, engineers, and designers come to create vehicles conducive to the local environment. The Rally Fighter is the flagship vehicle of Local Motors, designed by Song Ho Kim, who won Local Motors' open competition. It's built for the American Southwest, and as intense as it looks, it's perfectly okay to take it out on Interstate 10. While Local Motors has an international online community of engineers and designers called The Forge, the coolest thing about this space is that you can (for the right price) build a Rally Fighter for yourself. From scratch. In six days. Even if you don't know how an engine works or why it's a called a monkey wrench, Local Motors will pair you up with a member of their team and you can drive this bad-ass car home in about a week. Learn more about it

Plasmids are the key to genetic engineering. You can't just take a string of genetic code, throw it into a pot of DNA, give it a shake and expect a cure for cancer to fall out. Plasmids are tiny loops of genetic material that scientists use to courier desired genes into the heart of a cell, its DNA. Pretty much all genetic engineering depends on plasmids, and keeping track of them can be a hassle. In the past, scientists who wanted to use plasmids had to more or less build them from scratch, which can be a slow and time-consuming process.

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