Best Ceramics 2018 | Her Name Is Mud | Goods & Services | Phoenix

We're constantly impressed by the creativity and artistry of our local makers. Case in point: Krista Coons of Her Name is Mud. In Coons' Etsy shop, you'll find ceramic pieces that are simple without being boring, whimsical without being corny. The items make great gifts: We've given the plant pokes (bamboo sticks topped with porcelain banners emblazoned with sayings like "Plant Lady" and "Don't You Die on Me") to our green-thumbed friends, and sent the Arizona-shaped Christmas ornaments to out-of-town relatives. We kept for ourselves the delicate ring cones, the porcelain stud earrings dipped in gold, and pins in a variety of motifs.

How happy are we that enamel pins are a thing again? About as happy as we are that some of our favorites are made right here in Phoenix. Owner/maker Brendan McCaskey loves a lot of the same things we do — like the desert aesthetic and pop culture of the '80s and '90s — and his pins reflect that. Our pin board is graced with designs like "I carried a watermelon" Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, a retro-style Arizona pennant, and a pin signifying our Harry Potter house (it's Ravenclaw, in case you were wondering). We love to check out Jar of Buttons items at local shops and markets to look for the next great addition to our collection.

There was a time when we enjoyed the hubbub at larger malls like Scottsdale Fashion Square and Arizona Mills. But these days, when we're looking for a shopping experience that doesn't want to make us reach for some Xanax, there's only one place we even consider: Biltmore Fashion Park. We can take care of most essentials at stores including Macy's, J. Crew, lululemon, and Sephora, while gift-giving can be knocked out in one trip thanks to stops including Papyrus, L'Occitane, and Cornelia Park. Even strolling down the verdant outdoor pathways past teacup poodles and their owners sipping specialty coffee has a kind of calming appeal. It's true that you might spend a little more, because this mall caters to the high-end shopper, but can you really put a price on maintaining your sanity?

Metro Phoenix is so spread out that sometimes we feel like all we do is drive from one far-flung destination to another. So it's nice when we can just park the car once and get access to a whole bunch of cool stores. Uptown Plaza, on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Camelback Road, has plenty to do and see. We can find things to decorate our home at Urban Silo Market, Modernique, and West Elm; pick up a chic baby gift at Cricket & Ruby; and fill our closets at Manor, Local Nomad, R&R Surplus, francesca's, and Muse Apparel. And after our car is filled with shopping bags, it's time to either shop for dinner at A.J.'s Fine Foods or grab a bite at one of Uptown Plaza's popular dining options, eateries such as Shake Shack, Lou Malnati's, Flower Child, or Zookz.

We've all been there. You're running to catch your flight with one carry-on bag flung over your shoulder, ready to whip out your mobile boarding pass on your way to battle through security when it hits you: You forgot a card (let alone a present) for your BFF's birthday. Fear not. You don't have to settle for a "I love Phoenix" T-shirt-clad teddy bear and a Walgreens-quality greeting card. Just head for the airport outpost of local favorite Bunky Boutique, where you can score a gift so good your bestie won't even know she was forgotten. High-quality and locally minded merchandise, including letterpress cards, succulent-stamped tea towels, and jewelry from local designers, make this a don't-miss shopping spot for visitors and Valley residents alike. The airport boutique even stocks men's and women's tanks and tees with Bunky's exclusive AZ Love design.

We couldn't live another minute without a pristine penguin ice bucket, and so we headed to The Brass Armadillo Antique Mall. Would they have one? We knew they would — and they did. Two of them, in fact. We also came away with a 1960s brass-and-glass standing ashtray, a plaster cherub lamp, and a set of Scio Pottery Hampton dishware we'd been hunting for ages. Conveniently located just off Interstate 17 and Cactus Road (with another location in Goodyear), and chockablock with gorgeous old stuff, the Armadillo is open till 9 p.m. seven days a week, for those of us who like a late-night hunt for a mint-in-box Oscar the Grouch hand puppet, or a pair of Drexel china cupboards in mint condition. Nicely organized with street signs, the Brass Armadillo's boulevards of merchant boutiques are all neatly arranged and frequently restocked, so repeat trips are a must.

We looked high, and we looked low, and we couldn't find a 1960s sectional sofa with rounded corners that wasn't either beat to crap or cost a bazillion dollars. And then we stopped by Modern Manor in the Seventh Avenue Melrose shopping district, and ... there it was, for a song. Newly restored, too, re-covered in nubby vintage fabric and precisely what we were looking for. This place is jam-packed with midcentury gems — everything from 1950s table lamps to 1970s television sets (fully restored and working fine, of course). The friendly owners are always on hand to talk armchair this and swag lamp that, and our only complaint is that the pristine stock is so gorgeous, it never sticks around. If you see it, buy it — from Modern Manor.

We wanted a bunch of interior decor from the '60s, and lately, who doesn't? Prices on this never-hotter era of furniture reflect its popularity, and after slogging through every local Midcentury Modern shop in search of a bargain, we wandered into Jane — and struck pay dirt. For less than a grand, we drove away with a good-as-new Herculon sofa and matching armchair, a neat metal-and-teak magazine rack, and a gold-foiled cocktail set that screams "Don Draper!" The staff at Jane is friendly and helpful, and the prices on the pristine merchandise are more than fair. Both of these things make Jane a special standout among purveyors of swinging '60s furnishings.

One day last spring, we stopped by Flo's hoping to find a nice piece of ceramic or maybe a swell saucer. We came out with a bag full of Fiestaware, Harker pottery, and French Saxon side plates. A few weeks later, we stopped by again, certain we'd never have that kind of luck again. Wrong. Our booty that day included service for eight of unused, mint-in-box Boontonware — and all for less than $30. On a later visit, we snagged a rare Steubenville Plaid gravy boat and an Anchor Hocking lunch set for just $5. All the dishware here is clean as a whistle and attractively displayed in a fresh-smelling thrift shop every dish collector should know about.

Searching high and low for a round leather sofa meant two things: exhaustion and prices beyond our budget. Then we fell into Copenhagen Clearance, where we found our holy grail: a colossal, circular sofa of delicious gray buckhide, marked so far down from its original price that we asked if they had another, so we could buy two of them. All the gorgeous Danish-inspired, Midcentury-perfect lamps, side tables, and armchairs anyone could ever want can also be found here. Check back often, as the Copenhagen crew restocks this tidy warehouse space daily.

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