Lucid Dreamer

Christy Puetz, 36, is as colorful a character as the beaded dolls she creates. Her downtown Phoenix apartment, which doubles as a studio, is crammed with large-scale paintings and prints she has bartered her own artwork for. She sits, cross-legged and calm, in the inner sanctum of her bedroom, wearing a purple beaded hat flocked with ringed pustules and protruding twig branches. She calls it her "plague hat" because it was inspired by diseases that ravaged medieval Europe.

The bed has been relocated to the living room, where it's cooler, and the room where she once slumbered has been claimed by her art. Beads are everywhere. A wooden dolly with beaded hair shaped like meatballs tucked under a safety-orange octopus bonnet perches on a rickety shelf.

Aging gratefully
I'm proud of my age. I don't want to be 20 again. No, thank you! Just think of the hairstyles alone.

Hey, it paid the bills
I was fortunate enough that I was in swimming in college and in high school, so I got to have the non-McDonald's jobs. I taught swimming. I was a lifeguard. But I did do the Red Lobster thing. I ruined my favorite pair of Doc Martens. I had to throw them away because they smelled like seafood.

Beading brave
I work with this group called Beads of Courage — it's kids going through cancer treatment. They get a bead for each pin poke or blood draw. They lose their hair and they get little bald people beads. They're so brave. I wonder if I could be that brave if that was happening to me.

Divine inspiration
I grew up in a Lutheran household. In the Lutheran church, everything is down in the basement, and you're eating ham buns. White buns, butter with breadcrumbs, a nasty piece of ham and a sheet cake. So I made this one piece that was myself as a ham bun. I was the meat inside of this big bread thing.

Bringing home the bacon
I wanted to make a full-size quilt for the bed that was all beaded pictures of meat. I don't like the taste, but I like how it looks. So I made a small one because why make a meat quilt? Who would want that? And I thought — I would want a meat quilt.

Background noise
I can get a lot done while having on [the '80s movie] Pretty in Pink. There are also certain videos I like to have rattling on in the background. When OMD comes on, what can you say?? Ooh!

Stumpy, the Garden Rooster
My public art was at Encanto Park; it was one of those Phoenix temporary art projects — a pig and a rooster hitched to a post. They had it outside, so, of course, somebody decided to vandalize it. Somebody pulled the rooster off. They broke it off so it was just the little stumps of its legs. They found it bobbing in the lake and they fished it out. There was green pond scum, like a water mark, on it. So I sent it to my mom and she has it in her garden.

Creative recycling
I've melted a few of my dolls. Ones that I'm not going to use because I thought they were really bad. I tried to take a torch to them but usually it would just burn off the threads, and the beads would fall down. So I put them in a ceramics kiln. I melted this dog I made, and it became this oil slick. It was beautiful. Melting them was one of the coolest things I've ever done.