We Love Bikes! (Kara’s 2 Years Car-Free!)

See that?  Yeah, that’s our artisan-designed-and-constructed bike rack. Practical Art artisan Andrew Seiferth crafted it entirely from reclaimed metal, love, and rad sauce. (Well, the metal is reclaimed….not sure about the love and rad sauce: those might just be pure, direct from the source materials…but I’m sure they’re still ec0-friendly.)

Isn’t functional art great?!? Not only did we add some visual interest to the front of the shop, but it enables and encourages bicyclists to frequent our little section of Central Ave!  We had perfect timing, too.  This gleaming beauty went in just about 6 months before the city opted to create a bike lane between Missouri & the Valley Metro Light Rail Station at Central & Camelback.  So though we DO have nearly 80 parking spots on-site (most in the back lot), we are thoroughly accessible to all modes of transport (sans helicopter landing pad).

Why chat about this today?  Well!  I, Kara, am celebrating 2-Years Car-Free in the valley!  There were many factors that coalesced those 24-months ago to bring me to my current gasoline-independent lifestyle, but mainly, I had resigned from my secondary job to concentrate fully on Practical Art’s well-being and had new economic circumstances to negotiate. Giving up a car, especially in Phoenix, seemed a bit daunting, but with the introduction of the light rail and a couple of trips to cities with HUMMING public transportation systems (San Fran & NYC), I began a process of familiarizing myself with what it would take to do so. And in early Novemeber 2010, I sold off Addie, my 2004 Silver Chevy Cavalier in lieu of THE GOOSE.

The thought recurred to me today that she’s a ‘muscle bike’ (which, she is), because the friendly fella at Slippery Pig Bike Shop was telling me about CARGO BIKES (which I immediately banked into the covet category) and during our conversation I referred to my biceps as my bike’s ‘cargo holds’. Yeah… I said that. I even made the ‘Welcome to the Gun Show’ gesture. ::coughs::  Hey, at least my Mom’s proud of me.

Anyway– we think biking about is the best way to really enjoy our city; it helps with the sprawl factor which often complicates getting about by foot, it’s great for your health and Phoenix’s environmental health, it’s darn-near FREE, it’s socially-conscious given our continuing struggles overseas, and truly, the city opens up in a different way under bike tread. By getting out of that car, you get out of that closed-off, booth-y, cubicle-like auto-bubble.

When’s the last time you let go of those handlebars, spread your arms out, and felt the cool, night air pass your face as you breathed in deeply?  Do it.  Thank me later. In fact, feel free to come by our Pie Social event tonight from 7p-9p, have some pie, and then head out with a few of us who’re celebrating my 2-year anniversary by pub-crawling/cycling down Central Ave! We plan on stopping by George & Dragon and Angel’s Trumpet Ale House, at a minimum! We’d love to have you join us!

And there’s a whole community of folks out there that’re always up for a ride! Check out some of these great collectives: Pedal Craft Phoenix, Rusty Spoke, TBAG, AZFixed, and Critical Mass. (Feel free to post more in the comments section!)

— Lastly, here’s a great place to take your bike this weekend: The Grand Avenue Festival 2012! HAPPY CYCLING! —



Prosciutto, Fig, and Brie; Apple with a Gruyere Crust; and more: THE AMAZING PIES OF KAREN OLSON

As soon as the calendar ticks over to that third week of the month, I know that many of you begin salivating. And by Tuesday, there’s probably even a little drool on your pillow. Of course, I’m talking about those of you who have ventured over to Practical Art for our Third Friday Pie Social featuring the mouth-wateringly scrumptious, creatively-crusted creations of Karen Olson of Vonceil’s Pies.  (Yup, her last name should sound familiar– she’s Lisa’s sister!) For those of you who haven’t made it yet, have no fear! Friday night approacheth!

Whenever we mention our pie social, people are always like, “I don’t get it it. What do you do? Just… like… come and eat pie?”  We know. It DOES sound too good to be true; we’d be incredulous too. But it’s for realsies! Every Third Friday, come by the gallery from 7pm-9pm, and you’ll encounter a group of fun and friendly folks enjoying a sip from a wine glass and slivers of pies that have previously included Pear Cardamom, Peach Habanero, Blueberry Scotch, Strawberry Rhubarb, and, my personal favorite, Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie. (Honest to God, it takes me 30 minutes to eat even a small piece of this slice of heaven.)

The other question we get is, “Where do the pies come from?” And just as we have artist photo essays and interviews logged and in-process for our blog, we’ve chosen to highlight this artisan-of-the-rolling-pin for today’s post.

Meet Karen Olson. She makes each of the classic and adventurous baked goods listed above completely from scratch. Not only does she make and roll out her own crusts, but say you’re nibbling on a piece of Pumpkin Pie: Karen’s baked, scooped, and mashed AN ACTUAL WHOLE PUMPKIN. Mowing down a slice of Cherry? She’s PITTED FRESH CHERRIES; none of that ‘from-a-can’ crap. And when there isn’t a pressing need for a particular type of pie, Karen will head to the store either the day before, or morning of, and pick out the ripest, freshest, best produce for her pies.  Often, there’s no added sugar. When you have flavorful, quality ingredients, nature does most of the work for you; it’s then about recognizing great ingredients and highlighting those flavors, either in their pure forms, or with a complementary flavor pairing. Karen’s got her philosophies down pat.

“Vonceil’s Pies is my dream in the making. My name is Karen Olson and some day I hope that Vonceil’s will be my own store front bakery in which I can share the wonderful, crazy, beautiful world of homemade pie to the Arizona community.”

Currently, if you’d like to order a pie (or many pies), or book a class/pie-making-party, you can contact Karen directly at piemaker88@gmail.com or at 480-329-0301.  

Feel free to come by and taste test on Friday. Go ahead, have a little pie scouting session.  It’s fun, it’s free, it gets you out of the house and enjoying your community… It’s a social, fer-cryin’-out-loud– meet some people! We dig it when you bring your own funky plate, or even better, if you pick up an artisan-crafted plate on the spot, made by one of our 100 local artisans.

Once you become a fan (love at first bite), you can root for Vonceil’s Pies at the upcoming Roosevelt Row Pie Social… Karen’s competing for the first time! November 3rd!

See you Friday at 7pm!

Practical Art loves the Phoenix arts community.
Also this Friday night:
Steve Weiss“56 of 100: Candid Landscapes and the Arizona Centennial” at The Hive

Lara Plecas“Residual Energy” & Logan Bellew’sAngels v.2” at Eye Lounge

Kathryn Maxwell’s “Searching for the Center” at Five15

And this weekend (to be expounded upon in Friday’s blog post):
DON’T MISS!!  The Grand Avenue Festival and, in conjunction, Coffee Cookies & Crafts!


Julio Cesar Rodarte talks about “POP GLYPHS”

As you may know, Practical Art features the functional, usable, craft work of over 100 Arizona artisans. That’s our specialty, but we also have a great appreciation of the visual arts and seek to be an approachable, first stepping stone for emerging Arizona artists on their way to seeking regular gallery representation.  Each month we mount a show from a different artist in a variety of mediums and aesthetics, from photography and paintings, to video and interactive work.  Our mission is to guide new artists in the professional and business aspects of the arts, to host work that is accessible to ‘every day’ folks with ‘every day’ budgets, and to hopefully create a friendly atmosphere that allows the collecting bug to bite a new collector, whether they be the young or the young-at-heart.

Now that we have a blog, we’ll be having each month’s exhibiting artist guest author a post the day before their reception to give you a little background on what inspires and motivates them. October’s show is “POP GLYPHS” by Julio Cesar Rodarte. From the show’s postcard: “[Rodarte] brings aesthetic elements of modern experience into geometric and colorful formalist paintings. It is work that reflects our age of pictorial language, branding and logo design, and navigational signage. His intuitive command of the spectrum makes his canvases hum with a vibrant electricity; each composition is a visual sentence that describes a thread of 21st century zeitgeist.”

And here’s a bit of what Julio has to say about his work:

“What most inspires me is geometry and color. The combination of these two elements allows me to communicate emotions, feelings, desires, frustrations, disappointments, etc. I often cut panels into shaped, irregular pieces to satisfy my urge to create something unique and different; people should know that not all art has to be in rectangular/squared formats! Self-study brought me to that important moment in my artistic development when I discovered the art of Frank Stella, Elizabeth Murray, and Al Held. Just to look at all those colors, shapes, lines, etc., made me think that art should not be just in rectangles and squares but rather be unique. I wondered how these people created such beautiful things… so I bought an MDF panel (49×90 inches), drew the shapes, then cut it. “The Goddess of Fertility” was my first shaped piece and I was so excited when someone bought it.  I started working on these shaped panels but I have also never fully abandoned the rectangular format. I don’t want to divorce completely from it yet.

Mostly, I just paint what pops in my head; sometimes it is good, sometimes not, but it is painted from my heart. Sometimes, I am inspired by Vocal Trance music. It’s so much energy and speaks to my feelings so clearly. I even title some of my paintings  after songs or lyrics. For instance, the painting titled, “Never Cry Again,” was inspired by Dash Berlin’s song of the same title. The song says, “…when you come home, I will never cry again.” I represented this feeling using two circles to symbolize a separation, then, a rhombus as their only connection.

Whatever the original inspiration for my work, there begins the long process of sketching, cutting the pieces, assembling it, and then, finally, painting it. I have this inner desire to create something. I spend hours on just one painting. I think most people would find my process boring and exhausting. I find it to be freeing, relaxing, and fun. When I finish a piece, I’m not thinking about if it will sell or not. I just want to paint something that looks beautiful to me, and I want others to see it and experience it as well. My goal is just to paint as much as I can and to share my art with the world.”  — Julio Cesar Rodarte

To hear more about Julio and his work, to ask specific questions, and to SEE THE WORK IN PERSON!, please come to the reception tomorrow night, Friday, October 12th from 7-9pm.

Other great events this weekend?  There’s a “Raising Chickens in Your Backyard” lecture by Rachel Bess of the Valley Permaculture Alliance in our space at 9:30am on Saturday. (RSVP at www.valleypermaculturealliance.org). Also on Saturday, visit Practical Art artisan C.A.T. Cunningham at Barktoberfest in Gilbert and wind up the day at the SunnySlope Art Walk from 5pm-9pm! And, of course, we recommend dedicating all of Sunday to the Octoberfest at Tempe Town Lake (Fri thru Sat).




Photo Essay: A studio visit with Practical Art artisan Dan Basinski of Star Valley, Arizona

Anyone involved in the realm of handmade items & craft wares will tell you that one of the challenges of this market is encouraging folks to once again make associations with the source of the goods they choose to bring into their lives. Inventory, believe it or not, doesn’t just materialize on shelves (well, not until 3-d printing is ubiquitous anyway…but I digress). There’s a range of factors that contributes to each and every item that you purchase for everyday use: who is making it, what it’s made of, how long it’s made to last, where it’s created, who you buy it from, and what your dollars are then supporting (great stats on Local First Arizona‘s website (economic) and OpenSecrets (political)). You CAN put a lot of time and effort into figuring all of those factors out for EACH purchase you make, and I think the more conscientious we can be as consumers the better– but as a small, independent arts retailer, we also feel a responsibility to make that information accessible, thorough, and, well, fun!

We’re launching a series of photo essays that will be featured regularly on our blog to give you a sneak peek into the processes of our artists. It’s just a glimmer into the time spent, the concern towards quality, craftsmanship, and longevity, and, also, the creative joy that is involved in each artist’s studio practice. We’re starting with one of our long-time artisans, Dan Basinski, who’s been a Practical Art artisan since March of 2008. Wowza, how time flies!

Lisa ventured over to his studio to document the creation of a cherry wood flat spoon. Your visual journey begins….. now.

Read more about Dan on our website’s bio pages, here, and if you are interested in purchasing this spoon, come by the shop or click the image through to the webstore.


Holy Events, Batman! It’s FALL in Phoenix!

First and foremost, there were two very special birthdays in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday.


In this past year, they’ve performed the remarkable feat of hosting 707 artists in 364 shows! 57 of which SOLD OUT!  They’re right downtown, easily accessible by the light rail, near 2nd ave and Van Buren.  (The light rail is especially helpful if you have one too many Honey Badgers, one of their signature drinks containing something to the effect of honey and bourbon…..I really don’t remember.  Yeah….they’re that good.)  Food is available in-house at Cocina 10. It is simply served and incredibly fantastic,  which shouldn’t be surprising as the menu was orchestrated by local faves Chris Bianco (of Pizzeria Bianco) and Doug Robson (of Gallo Blanco at The Clarendon).  Lisa and I have both seen a slew of shows here (Glen Hansard, Medicine Tent, Michelle Blades, Tobie Milford, Treasure Mammal, The Head & The Heart, ETC ETC.) and we look forward to seeing many more! Good music, good food, good booze, what more could us gals want?!

Also! Lisa’s new hubby Brad also had a birthday! It’s probably not polite to announce how many candles he blew out, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t his first birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRAD!  Many more to you as well, and also, cheers to you both on the sparkly new nuptials!

Alright. Now, down to business.

How do you know it’s fall in Phoenix? Your weekend schedule gets bumpin’!  Here’s a quick run-down of where you might run into us this weekend (and heaven knows there’s a million other things to-do and to check out more, we recommend tuning into: Jackalope Ranch, Downtown Phoenix Journal, AZCentral, AZFamily, CenPho, The Downtown Devil, The State Press, Sonoran Living, JAVA Magazine, and, and, and…. well, I’m sure I’ll think of more later.).  — Also, we expect to have a fun, quasi-curated, linkable calendar coming soon.–

Starting with TONIGHT, Thursday, October 4:

The Phoenix Art Museum is hosting The INFOCUS Silent Auction featuring more than 50 signed limited-edition prints and books by acclaimed photographers from throughout Arizona and the US.  It’s TONIGHT from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and free & open to the public. There’s bidding and raffles!

Also! Our favorite Chicago-style black box theater in the downtown, Space 55, is launching, “Monsters, Mutants, and Other Tales of Love!” 8pm, $15.

Also! No Festival Required is screening, “Space, Land, and Time: Underground Adventures with Ant Farm” at 7:30pm for $7 at SMoCA.


Well, of course you’re going to start here!  Practical Art is featuring Julio Cesar Rodarte’s “POP GLYPHS” exhibition of paintings for the month of October,

and we’re celebrating the beginning of fall with live music by The Soap Sellers! 7pm-9pm, Free!

First Fridays can be a bit to navigate these days, but we’ve worked out a plan to take a lot of stress out of your evening.  Eat at one of North CenPho’s hoppin’ eateries (Postino Central, Windsor/Churn, Maizie’s Bistro, St. Frances, Los Dos Molinos, Hula’s Modern Tiki, Rosie McCaffrey’s, Short Leash Dogs, ETC), park in our back lot and visit with us, then take the light rail downtown and stroll about to catch some other art-scene offerings.  As soon as we close up here for the night, we’re heading down to Legend City Studio‘s “Chaos Theory XIII”– one of my favorite group shows every year. The line-up looks absolutely stellar.

Some of our other favorite First Friday spaces to put on the roster either for this Friday, or others: The Lodge, Oasis on Grand, Willo North, EyeLounge, and Five15. We’ll give you a rundown of others in another blog post…. but, well, I’m already crunched on time today. I keep watching the clock knowing that the first event I’ve mentioned here today starts in 20 minutes. Ha! We’ll get the hang of this eventually. Probably.


Holy Moly. Are you ready for this guys? It’s just going to be a list of links. Click through if the title or venue strikes your fancy– they’re all things I’d love to get to…. if I wasn’t working all weekend…. le sigh.

Arizona Science Center has the Best of Phoenix A’FARE!

Desert Botanical Gardens is exhibiting Carolina Escobar’s “Whispers of a New World”.

Tempe Town Lake is hosting Tour de Fat!

Herberger Theater is hosting it’s 3rd Annual Festival of the Arts!

And, what’ll help you process all of this new cultural knowledge you’ll have gained over this weekend (or maybe drank away at Tour de Fat?)….


Socrates Cafe Philosophical Discussion Group on SUNDAY at Practical Art, 2pm. I, personally, look forward to EVERY 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month for this great community, and the varied and thoughtful conversations.

Sheesh.  Well, that’s a rundown and a half, huh? Overloaded? I am.  Anywho, we hope to see you all out and about this weekend, and we’ll check back in on Monday to see how you fared.  I’ll get Lisa on lots of product photography, because there’s quite a bit of new work in, and you should know about it. Because, well, we can’t take it all home.


Well, I guess we’re going to break down and write a blog.

I mean, ahem, “YAY! We have a blog!”
We’ve been told we’re pretty enjoyable to ‘follow’ or ‘fan’ in the whole social media sphere: WE think we’re pretty hysterical, very informative, and great idea generators, and a few very smart, very attractive, and very flattery-susceptible folks have agreed with us.  To date, we have a web site and web store; we publish a newsletter, we do The Facebook, and The Twitter, and sometimes The Pinterest; but we were thinking that we can’t possibly be keeping up with the digital Jones’ if we don’t have a blog, so… ta da!Here we be.

Not an alcoholic.   Not my dog.

For the last 4 years we’ve been extremely localized: we’re locally-owned (yeah, by us), we host 100 local artists, we participate in the local fairs & festivals, we’re members of Local First Arizona, and, maybe most to the point, we shop locally ourselves. We’re so used to knowing our immediate Phoenix community because they come in to the brick & mortar and shop–but since we’ve launched our webstore, we’ve realized that our community of artists and art lovers just expanded to mega proportions, and a lot of you will only be able to get to know us through this vast expanse of cyberspace.  And why get to know us? Well, if you made it this far, I have a feeling we’re already fairly alike. We just may very well enjoy a lot of the same things, and we think a blog is a fantastic platform for sharing information and inspiration. So who are we and what should you expect?

‘We’ is Lisa Olson and Kara Roschi.  There’re a lot of these entries that will be a ‘combined’ voice, because Lisa and I are similar in a lot of ways, and many of those ways concern how we want our little pinpoint in the world, Practical Art, to be that pebble of heart, creativity, and earnestness that ripples out into the pond of the ‘every day’.  Our humble corner of the cybersphere will consist of store news, artist studio visits in a photo essay style, promotion and reviews for community happenings and shows, reclamation DIY projects, national art news, tips for emerging artists, and probably some BRILLIANT entries that we can’t even begin to anticipate.

And though that’s all kinds of ‘shop talk’, it will undoubtedly be smattered with our own personal loves and quirks. If we’re chatting about a current exhibition at The Phoenix Art Museum, we can’t help but mention about the great coffee across the street at Giant Coffee, or the amazing Drunken Noodles & Tofu at Thai Hut.  If we’re promoting one of our favorite group shows, Chaos Theory at Legend City Studios, we will probably also mention the charming patio at Cibo restaurant or the probability of a live music show at Crescent Ballroom down the road. (And we have bar pairings for EVERYTHING.)

Those’re elements you’ll see in our ‘joint’ voice—art, dining, and entertainment.  We both enjoy all of those wonderful hedonist pleasures.  However, like any decent Venn Diagram, there’re outlying subjects where there’s little to no crossover interest. Anytime you see a sports references, detect some wine connoisseurship, are enthralled by the visuals, or are questioning the grammar of the post—that’s going to be Lisa.  If the blog post is attempting humor, has a hippy feel (vegetarian and car-free lifestyle schmutz), or contains a fuzzy Instagram or cute animal photo—that’ll be me.
You’ll have to play the game of guessing who authored which blog posts.  And ten bonus points to the subscriber who makes it a drinking game. (ooooh, rules soon to follow…!)
If you come along on this ride with us, because with this blog you’re now being invited behind the scenes, you’ll find out much more about each of us, the shop, our artisans, and Phoenix, Arizona.

Ultimately, we plan on dissecting life in the valley, mostly through a frame planted firmly in the art world…. orrrrrrrr we may abandon all of that eventually and just post photos of cats in costumes. We’ll see how it goes. We’re obviously open to keeping a certain level of flux; what’s life without evolution?

Our bank likes to send mail to Mr. Art Practical.    We're working on cashing in on that.

(**We’re going to be celebrating this blog launch at Four Peaks Brewery tonight with their newly released PUMPKIN PORTER! Feel free to come by!**)