Bead World

There's a bead for every personality at Bead World Phoenix, where sorting through trays of intriguing beads puts you in touch with parts of yourself you'd long ago forgotten even existed. It's easy for beginners to navigate, with enough choices for creatives who are experienced with making beaded jewelry or other items. The shop offers classes at every experience level, so beginners can learn how to string beads, while others can learn to realize complex designs. While you're shopping, you can get tips for making particular beads work together, and the staff is happy to help people find beads that reflect their unique interests. Best of all, Bead World Phoenix is a fun, affordable place to find beads that help you tell your story and embrace your singular identity.

Walk into Tempe Yarn & Fiber and you're likely to see a diverse cross-section of people seated around a table learning to knit or crochet together, which elevates this retail store to community gathering space. Fiber art long has been a way of documenting and connecting both individual and group histories. You get the feeling at Tempe Yarn that it's all unfolding before your eyes, and you can be a part of it, whatever your experience level. The store carries a broad selection of yarns and knitting tools, and it never makes people feel intimidated about asking for help with what to choose or which yarns are the best match for a particular project. You might walk in thinking yarn is about as glamorous as a glue stick. But you'll walk out with a sense of wonder – and your very own knitting needles.

During a day and age that seem to value pretty and polished above all, Phoenix maker Alex Ozers is making jewelry that's distinguished by its markings. Ozers creates hand-wrought metal jewelry, sometimes embellished with various types of stones. The metals are distressed with various tools to create a raw, organic feel that plays off the fact that nothing in life escapes scars. The scars are beautiful for this maker, whose work conveys the individuality of each person who wears it. Ozers shares his techniques in affordable art classes, empowering others to create and wear jewelry that reflects their own aesthetic sensibilities and life journeys. If given enough time, he'd make makers of us all.

If she only ever wears black clothing, it's not because Nancy Hill has gone goth later in life. It's because she spends so much time around ink — and boy, are we glad she does. Her dark frocks hide inky smudges, but Hill is out in the open about every other thing about the joys of letterpress. At Hazel & Violet, her Grand Avenue letterpress print shop, students can take Hill's letterpress workshop, where they'll learn to set type and run an antique printing press smeared with an ink of their choice. Hill offers time on letterpress machines large and small, as well as tutelage on the proper use of spacing materials, the right kind of ink to choose, and the proper trays to load it all into. Students print custom stationery, wedding invitations, and event announcements — or just throw caution to the wind and buy some of the gorgeous letterpressed coasters, calendars, and small-run art prints Hill offers for sale. All the joys of Arial Narrow, plus a whole lot more, can be found at Hazel & Violet.

The Latin meaning for the word occult is "hidden." Keeping true to the meaning of their merchandise, Fantasia Crystals is hidden away in a Phoenix strip mall. You can drive down Seventh Street and never notice it. But spiritual seekers, Wiccans, and appreciators of really weird shit would do well to keep their eyes peeled for the store's sign: Fantasia something for all of them. It isn't a large store, but it makes up for its humble size with a dizzying array of items and ideologies for sale. Looking to stock up on chaos magick books and fill the gaps in your Aleister Crowley collection? It's got you covered. Interested in reading up on Nordic mythology or getting a bag full of crystals for your Stevie Nicks altar? It's got stones for days. Whether your interests lie in Western Ceremonial Magic, Wicca, or Eastern traditions, there are books and items available to help you in your practice. And if you need a little extra help, Fantasia regularly hosts classes on a variety of topics ranging from divination to the Kabbalah and beyond.

You can only drive past a shop that reads "Zombi Conjure Co." in a font made of bones so many times before you have to stop and check it out. Opened earlier this year by Oshun priestess Oshun Atilewa, the shop sells supplies for a number of religions and belief systems, including "Root, Conjure, Cuban Santeria, Occult, New Orleans Voodoo, Hoodoo, Haitian Vodou, Palo Mayombe, and Ceremonial High Magic," according to the website. There's lots to see in the small space, and if most of it mystifies you, the staff is welcoming and eager to explain what everything is and how to use it. Tarot card readings are available for purchase, and the store holds inexpensive classes on topics like "Sacred Herbs and Spiritual Baths" and "The Art of Conjure: Mal de Ojo — The 0x000AEvil Eye."

We can safely say that there is no store in town like Curious Nature. It's like walking into someone's weird uncle's den — and we mean that as a compliment. The small store is packed with strange, macabre, and fascinating items, most of which are nature-themed. Think gorgeous mounted butterflies, a surprisingly wide selection of animal skeletons and bones, and organs in jars. There's taxidermy on the walls. There's a basket of vintage death photos by the door. And yes, the store even sells human skulls, although you can expect to drop more than $1,000 to take one home. In addition to the merchandise, Curious Nature offers taxidermy classes and drawing events where you can sketch the store's macabre offerings.

Best Place to Experience Japan on the Cheap

Cutie

Airfare to Asia can be pretty expensive, but everything at Cutie's two Valley locations is dirt cheap — $1.50, to be exact. Most of the products are Daiso brand merchandise, a Japanese company that has thousands of discount stores in Asia. Cutie has a little of everything, from snacks and craft supplies to holiday goods and socks. The Mesa location opened earlier this year and is significantly bigger than the original north Phoenix space. The larger footprint means there are wider aisles and way more to look at. We love to wander the store and fill our basket with low-cost beauty supplies, ramen, and paper goods while listening to the aggressively cheerful Japanese pop music.

Whether you like true crime, forensic science, or — oddly enough — movie posters, Crime Scene's got something to interest you. The company does a lot of its business online, selling forensic equipment and supplies to entities like the FBI, the ATF, and the FDA, but interested shoppers can visit the strip-mall storefront to check out some very interesting merchandise. There are body bags, evidence-collection kits, crime-scene tape, and much more. And if movie memorabilia is more your thing, a few rooms of the space are dedicated to vintage film posters, some of which can be had at really reasonable prices. Whatever your motivation for checking out the store, it'll be an unforgettable experience.

Half the fun of container gardening is picking the container, which is one reason Matt Pfeilstucker is one of the best makers around. Instead of boring, uninspiring planters, he makes planters with a fun twist — drawing on everything from zombie lore to skull iconography. His own personality shines through in his work, which helps others create spaces that show off their unique ways of looking at the world. In his world, every planter tells a story. His small-scale pots resonate with alternative culture, and you can find them in several art and retail spaces around town. Our favorites include his zombie baby heads, which we think everybody should fill with a festive plant and place on the dinner table for their most conservative relatives when holiday time comes around. They're miniature works of art and conversation starters, all rolled into one.

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