December’s Featured Non-Profit: St. Vincent De Paul’s Urban Farm


What if there were a way to simultaneously activate the vacant dirt lots downtown, provide empowerment opportunities within a thriving community space, and, most importantly, create access to affordable, nutrient-rich foods for the homeless and low-income?

Welcome to the Urban Farm at St. Vincent De Paul.

St. Vincent de Paul has tapped two master gardeners, Tony Kasowski and Jim Dennis, to turn an acre-and-a-half empty lot adjacent to their downtown Phoenix dining hall into a thriving garden.

And it’s working. Even better– it’s growing. The pair work at least two days a week at the garden, tending it and teaching other volunteers valuable skills to grow food naturally and without pesticides in the desert. Creative gardening methods include incorporating juice pulp donated by Kaleidoscope Juice to create nutrient-rich soil. Since starting the garden in November last year, they have already harvested over 100 pounds of rainbow chard, which was incorporated into meals served at five SVdP dining rooms. They also grow tomatoes, citrus, kale, lettuce, chard, beets and radishes. (Yum!)


The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is dedicated to feeding, clothing, housing and healing individuals and families in our community who have nowhere else to turn for help. As important, SVdP provides meaningful opportunities for volunteers to serve their neighbors in need with love and compassion. And we’re thrilled to be fundraising for their expanding Urban Farm initiative this Friday night! (Yes, that’s the day after Christmas!)

A Share of the Pie: Charity Pie Night!
Fourth Friday, December 26th, 2014 from 7pm-9pm

A $5 donation gets you any slice of a Vonceil’s Pies creation! A $10 donation or $25 purchase at the shop gets you as many in-house tastings as you’d like! The delectables (made by our favorite sister/helper Karen Olson) have previously included such treats as Banana Peanut Butter Cream and Strawberry Jalapeno. Bring your own plate or pick up a handmade one on the spot to keep things eco-conscious!

 All donations, and 10% of all sales during the event, will be donated to: St. Vincent de Paul


PHOTO ESSAY: A studio visit with Practical Art artisan Jillian Schimmel of Phoenix, AZ



What is Practical Art artisan Jillian Schimmel up to on that clay wheel of hers? Looks pretty normal, pretty innocent, right….? Maybe she’s making a bowl, throwing a mug….Oh, but wait! What’s she doing with that scalpel?!?  ::sharp inhale::

Take a tour through Lisa’s photographs (worth 1,000 words each!) to see Schimmel hard at work in her studio and to get a glimpse of her process.

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At what point did you get that it was a juicer? Oh man, and did you ever expect it to be a JUICER-PITCHER?! Ridiculously inventive– no more perilous transport of those hard-earned and sweet, sweet nectars: juicing and collecting happens in one fell swoop with Schimmel’s juicer-pitcher combo. Rediscover farm-to-table brunch with hand-to-home ceramics.


Practical Art’s HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE (Vol.2): Foodie Goodies!

Our first Holiday Gift Guide of the season wished everyone a Nerd-tastic Noel with gifts for sci-fi, ‘toon, and gizmo enthusiasts. Volume 2 ventures away from Klingons and Kryptonite and into the KITCHEN.

If you know and love a chef (amateur or professional), you know that food is an EVENT. There’s the ingredients, the tools, the plating, the serving, and everything in between, before, and after. Foodie gifts are a good way to validate culinary intensity (and if you’re like us, you like validating that delicious, delicious intensity). So, here’re just a small smattering of local artisan offerings that any chef’d be delighted to own:


Ceramic Oil Pour by Nancy Kuefler


Wood Carved Utensil Set by Dan Basinski

Sandwich Blade by Lee Zierten

Ceramic Nesting Bowl Set by Jillian Schimmel

Caffeine Molecule Coffee Rack by Joshua Martin

And truly, we have a pantry-load of other kitchen wares as well: salt cellars, rolling pins, garlic keeps, mortar & pestles, shaker sets, batter bowls, apple bakes…. you name it, we got it. Don’t believe me? Come on by and see for yourself!

Natural Habitats: Ella Mae’s Recipe

“Ella rolling out the pita dough with the new turned-wood rolling pin.” – Chris Miller, from Facebook

She may only be 5-years old, but young Miss Ella Mae can roll out a mean pita. With her on the pin and papa on the skillet, this dynamic duo can crank out dozens of fluffy, hummus-handles. And, of course, they have a little help from the featured craft item: the turned Mesquite rolling pin by Practical Art artisan Paul Porter.

Compelled to try yourself? (‘Cause if a 5-year old can do it…) You’ll just need 1) the rolling pin and 2) the recipe!

Do you have Practical Art in your home?! Let us feature it in a “Natural Habitats” blog! Artful wares look beautiful in the shop, but we think they look so much better in use, being loved! Just hashtag your Instagram photos with #practicalart or tag us as @practicalartphx! If you’re a little more low tech, email your snapshots to!

Tip #77 from Karen, Pie Maker Extraordinaire: The Season is the Reason”

My reason for living? Pie Night.

Alright, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration, but Practical Art’s Charity Pie Night is certainly somewhere high in my ‘Top Ten Reasons to Keep On Keepin’ On”. And the gal behind the Strawberry Jalapeno Pie? Behind the Pear Cardamom with the Gouda Cheese Crust? Behind the Whiskey Pecan Pie? Behind all that wondiferous, fantamagical, delectability? The lovely Miss Karen Olson of Vonceil’s Pies. Each month, to precede pie night, she shares a little insight into the world of artisan-pie crafting. Today, she’s letting the cool veneer of anti-favoritism slip and sharing some personal preferences:

“What is your favorite pie to make?”

This is probably the most frequent question I am asked about pie-making. To be fair, I can’t know this for sure as I have not been keeping a running count of questions I have been asked, but if I had, I am going to say this is the winner.

It isn’t an easy question to answer. In truth, my favorite part is the crust, plain and simple. But from the pie eater perspective, this answer doesn’t quite satisfy.

Fact is, I have a giant sweet tooth (probably all my teeth). I could eat any type of pie and be pretty happy with the sugar rush to follow. If I HAD to choose one pie to make and eat for the rest of my life, I will cop out and say fresh seasonal fruit pie. If forced, I could narrow down to one fruit, but since this is my blog post, I am not going to today. My answer might change tomorrow anyway!

The point here: Fresh is Best. If it’s blueberry time, blueberry is my favorite pie to make. If it’s the season for Strawberries, guess what? Strawberry pie is my jam. When fruit is in season, it hardly needs anything but a shell to be put in, and an oven to bake in, to taste delicious.

Plus, getting into the seasons allows for you to get involved with your local community. Farmer’s markets are a great way to shop local agriculture. Also, checking out farms – like Schnepf Farms –leads to a day of fun, along with amazing spoils – fresh peaches – that can last much longer! In fact, the peach season is almost upon us, so be sure to check out the festivities online – – and get to picking fruit for your pies yourself!


Need to see it… errrr, taste it…. to believe it?

A Share of the Pie: Charity Pie Night!
Friday, April 25th, 2014 from 7pm-9pm
Featured charity: Free Arts of Arizona

A $5 donation gets you any slice of a Vonceil’s Pies creation! A $10 donation or $25 purchase at the shop gets you as many in-house tastings as you’d like! The delectables (made by our favorite sister/helper Karen Olson of Vonceil’s Pies have previously included Hipster Apple, Banana Peanut Butter Cream, and Strawberry Jalapeno. Bring your own plate or pick up a handmade one on the spot to keep things eco-conscious!
All donations, and 10% of all sales during the event, will be donated to this month’s charity: Free Arts of Arizona!

12 Days of Christmas – Gift 7!

We’ve reached the point where y’all have been following along and I can skip the spiel, right?  IF, by some chance, you’re a new reader, make sure to check out the last SIX blogs for other top gift picks selected by some local-loving Phoenicians as part of our 12 Days of Christmas Blog series. We love ’em, you’ll love ’em, and we hope you discover a Christmas treasure among the bunch for your own gifting endeavors! And now on to the SEVENTH selection! Happy Holidays everyone!

Day 7 

Phoenician: Yvette Roeder

Item: Ceramic Salt and Pepper Shaker  by Practical Art artisan Jennifer Gross


Yvette Roeder, PR professional and cofounder of Buzzcation, chose ceramic salt and pepper shakers for her gift item. She recently fell in love with, and purchased, a Dia de los Muertos-themed set from Practical Art to add a touch of art to her dining room. Dia de los Muertos may not quite say “Merry Christmas,” but luckily there are other unique sets, all hand crafted by artisan Jennifer Gross. 

About Yvette: Yvette Roeder is a bureaucrat by day and social butterfly by night. She is a PR professional who works for the city of Phoenix and is a co-founder of the popular networking group, Buzzcation. To learn more about Buzzcation, visit

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.