Colton Brock: Artist and Photographer

Colton Brock, photographed on top of Shaw Butte in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Colton Brock, artist and photographer, photographed on top of Shaw Butte in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Colton Brock
www.coltonbrock.com

Colton Brock has made his mark on the Valley’s art scene in a big way, as the creator of several murals throughout the downtown Phoenix area and beyond. The 33-year-old Phoenix resident creates landscape art in a variety of mediums, including photography, and presents his work at a solo exhibition at The Hive in Phoenix, called Location³. The exhibition debuts with a music and refreshment-filled reception Friday, October 16 from 6-10 p.m. and runs through mid-November.

Brock has had several commissions with the City of Phoenix and City of Tempe and has shown at The Lost Leaf and Phoenix Public Library, as well as in Minneapolis. You can currently see his murals at Tempe Farmers Market, at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and around Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix, and he created a public installation at the light rail stop at Mill Avenue and 3rd Street in Tempe.

Brock shared his artist inspiration, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in and grew up in Phoenix and went to Arizona State University, where I got my bachelor degree in art and design, with a minor in religious studies.

My grandfathers were both born in Arizona. My whole family is from here, back to four generations ago, and before then, I don’t even really know where they came from. Continue reading

Stacey Gordon: Founder of Puppet Pie, Puppeteer with Die Puppet Die

Stacey Gordon, founder of Puppet Pie and puppeteer, photographed at her Puppet Pie studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Gordon, founder of Puppet Pie and puppeteer with Die Puppet Die, photographed at her Puppet Pie studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Gordon
www.puppetpie.com

Stacey Gordon believes people should never grow up, and that they should always strive to inject imagination, creativity and fun in their lives. What better way to do that than by using puppets? As founder of Puppet Pie in 2006, Gordon creates one-of-a-kind puppet creatures she sells and uses in theater performance, as co-founder of the puppet theater and puppet improv troupe Die Puppet Die. The 37-year-old Phoenix resident has had a love for puppets since a young age and now travels to conventions and festivals around the country spreading her passion for the art form.

You can catch her performing as Claire the sheep in the Settlers of Catan-based web series The Bob & Angus Show, sponsored by the board game company Mayfair Games. The new series starts this Thursday, October 1, and you can view episodes at www.thebobandangusshow.com.

Watch Gordon’s puppets live in action this Friday, October 2, and Saturday, October 3, at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater at 8 p.m. She performs with Die Puppet Die there every first Friday and Saturday of the month, other than summer months.

Kids can take a mask-making workshop with Gordon on Saturday, November 14, in conjunction with the Grand Avenue Festival and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts — check out www.puppetpie.com for more details.

Gordon, who has made thousands of puppets, has a presence at local arts festivals, and can puppet-ize anything from mirrors to chalkboards, talked about why she has made puppetry her career. You can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

My husband got a job down here right after we got married, and we moved here in 2001 from Littleton, Colorado.

I grew up in northern California in a really small town called Ripon. I met my future husband while visiting a friend in Colorado and moved there after high school to go to community college and was going to study education. I ended up going on the Disney College Program in Florida, shadowed the puppetry department there, and decided to skip having student loans and dive straight into puppetry and theater. Continue reading

Danielle Victoria: Founder of Danielle Victoria Music Foundation

Danielle Victoria, founder of the Danielle Victoria Music Foundation, photographed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Danielle Victoria, founder of the Danielle Victoria Music Foundation, photographed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Danielle Victoria
www.dvmusicfoundation.com

Danielle Victoria knows the power of music, having played piano since she was only 5 years old and having a strong passion for the art form. The 17-year-old Scottsdale resident founded the Danielle Victoria Music Foundation in March 2015 to help provide music education to Arizona’s underprivileged students, by working with local arts and educational organizations to offer needs-based scholarships for music education.

Victoria talked about why she felt helping kids through music education in Arizona is important, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

After living in New York, my parents decided to relocate to Arizona in 2007.

I was born in Malaysia and switched between London, Hong Kong, and Malaysia for my first seven years due to my parents’ work. My family then moved to New York and lived there for two years before moving here to Arizona. This is our eighth year here, and I currently attend Desert Mountain High School as a senior and International Baccalaureate student. Continue reading

Stacey Grondahl: Owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa

Stacey Grondhal, owner of We Do Men -- A Male Concept Spa, photographed at her spa in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Grondahl, owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa, photographed at her spa in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Grondahl
www.wedomen.com

Stacey Grondahl is the self-proclaimed “Boss Lady,” as owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa in Old Town Scottsdale since 2012. The 29-year-old Phoenix resident and her staff “manhandle” clients, beautifying and relaxing them through massage, facial and brow services. Guys instantly feel comfortable in the unique spa environment, which features local art and music by classic artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Patrons may take advantage of the spa’s Sake Bomb special during September, which features Pumpkin Sake Bomb and Sake Bomb peels for $50 and $70 each, saving clients up to $21 per treatment. In November, the spa celebrates its three-year anniversary with a party November 12, which includes educational aspects about products and specials throughout the spa. In December, catch Grondahl at the Jackalope Art Fair in Phoenix.

Year-round, the spa offers male-centric eco-friendly beauty and relaxation products in its shop. Grondahl shared her beauty philosophies, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

It was a disability that brought me out here in 2011 to go to the National Laser Institute. I came out here to restart my career and grow as a spa professional. In California, you can’t be a laser tech without being a doctor or a nurse, which is interesting because they have no skincare background. I came out here and have never looked back.

I was born in Williston, North Dakota, and I grew up in Bakersfield, California. Continue reading

Cristin Davis: Stand-Up Comedian

Cristin Davis, stand-up comedian, photographed at The Duce in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Cristin Davis, stand-up comedian, photographed at The Duce in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Cristin Davis
www.monkeypantscomedy.com

Cristin Davis is hosting a very unique comedy contest for local comedians this fall, one where the winner will get a bigger prize than is almost ever offered in Valley contests: a car. Sure, it only cost a little more than $400 at an auction and is broken in many ways, but it runs.

The 40-year-old Tempe resident is a stand-up comedian himself and hosts an open mic every Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. at Monkey Pants in Tempe, called Up in Them Guts Comedy. The contest is the same day and time as the open mic for nine weeks starting Thursday, September 17, and up to 50 comics can enter through Sunday, September 13 for $16.43 — find more information here.

Davis shared why he’s passionate about stand-up comedy and gave his advice for new comics. See him watch his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here. I’ve been here my entire life and have never lived anywhere else for any extended period of time.

I went to Greenway High School and junior college, before getting some record deals and music opportunities. I toured around the world and made a living at it for a few years before starting my professional career at 30.

The first band I got a record deal with was called Big Shot All Star. We got a record deal with Mammoth Records, which was owned by Disney. Disney shut them down, so we lost our deal.

After our record deal fell flat, I got hired in a band called Trick Turner. I was in Trick Turner for a year, and we were on RCA Records. After touring for a year, RCA got a new president and cleaned house. Even though we sold over 350,000 records and had the number seven alternative hit of 2002, they dropped us from the label.

I got into marketing and am a marketing automation software consultant now for a company called Digital Pi. I consult businesses on their business process practices and do digital marketing based on online behaviors. Continue reading

Leslie Barton: Stand-Up Comedian

Leslie Barton, Phoenix stand-up comedian, photographed at Giant Coffee in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Leslie Barton, Phoenix stand-up comedian, photographed at Giant Coffee in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Leslie Barton
www.facebook.com/lesliebarton87

After less than a decade performing stand-up comedy in the Valley, Leslie Barton has become one of the scene’s most prominent players. The 50-year-old Phoenix resident produces the Hashtag Comedy Corner weekly comedy show on Tuesday nights at Grand Avenue Pizza Company and performs improv every Monday at The Rock in Phoenix in the Workin’ It Out show. She’ll be making people laugh during the Big Pine Comedy Festival in Flagstaff, October 8 to 10, and you can catch her performing at Crescent Ballroom this Wednesday, September 2, as part of The Switch comedy show.

When she’s not performing stand-up, Barton manages Bragg’s Factory Diner in Phoenix. She also is a visual artist who has shown her artwork at the First Friday artwalk in downtown Phoenix, and you can see her video work in an installation in one of the bathrooms in AZ/88.

Barton shares her journey as a stand-up comedian and has tips for aspiring stand-up comedians, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents. We moved here from Colorado because my mother had a job here, and I’ve lived here since seventh grade. I graduated from Thunderbird High School and went to Phoenix College, then went to school at Al Collins Graphic Design School and got my degree in art and design.

I was born in Fort Lee, Virginia, and my family moved around a lot because my parents were in the Army. I’ve also lived in Illinois and northern California in San Francisco. Continue reading

Dave Ference: Owner of Ference Photography

Dave Ference, owner of Ference Photography, photographed at Gilbert High School, by Nicki EScudero

Dave Ference, owner of Ference Photography, photographed at Gilbert High School, by Nicki Escudero

Dave Ference
www.ferencephotography.com

Dave Ference is passionate about capturing the best shot for his clients, whether he’s working on family portraits, model photos for a portfolio or corporate photography. As owner of Ference Photography, Ference works with individuals and businesses around the Valley and strives to create a relaxed environment that brings out the best in those he photographs.

The 45-year-old Gilbert resident, who is also a baseball coach at Gilbert High School, talked about his best photography techniques and gave advice to everyday photographers. You can also hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here. I went to Gerard Catholic High School and got my degree in graphic design from Northern Arizona University. Continue reading

Tim Yokley: Drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine

Tim Yokley, drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool, photographed at his home in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tim Yokley, drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool, photographed at his home in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tim Yokley
www.timyokley.com

Tim Yokley is a pro behind a drum set, playing for thousands of music fans across the country and in town as drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool. Yokley is also a tour manager and recently completed a summer tour with big names including Katastro, Dirty Heads, Pepper, and Aer. He heads back out with Katastro, Ballyhoo!, and Pepper this fall for a U.S. tour — find dates here.

The 30-year-old Phoenix resident had a career in real estate for 10 years before leaving to pursue music full-time a couple years ago, and he also plays with cover bands throughout the Valley. Yokley talks about what it’s like to be a professional musician and why he’s so passionate about the industry, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in Phoenix and went to Camelback High School. I went to school for Microsoft networking and A+ certification and went to Glendale Community College for business. Just one of the reasons why I love living here and have stayed is because I’m a huge bass fisherman, and Arizona has some great lakes and tournaments. Continue reading

Michelle Penington: Painter

Michelle Penington
www.michellepenington.com

Michelle Penington‘s paintings are whimsical works full of narratives, often with bright colors bursting through her landscapes and figure pieces. The self-taught artist, a 41-year-old Cave Creek resident, transports viewers around the world in the locales she depicts, and her art often evokes positive feelings with evident passion shining through.

The artist recently had a six-month exhibition at the ASU downtown Phoenix campus library, and she’s exhibiting her work at Desert Broom Library in Cave Creek beginning this September. Those who are interested in her art may visit her studio by appointment (head here for more information), and Penington is available for commissions. Learn more about her inspiration, and hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’ve lived here almost 20 years. My family moved here from New Mexico because of my husband’s job, and his brother lived out here, so we thought we’d try it. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Dana Point, California. Continue reading

Scott Neff: Co-Owner of As You Wish Pottery

Scott Neff, co-owner of As You Wish Pottery, photographed at the Tempe Marketplace location in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Scott Neff, co-owner of As You Wish Pottery, photographed at the Tempe Marketplace location in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Scott Neff
www.asyouwishpottery.com

Scott Neff is thrilled to have left the corporate world to have a more personal touch in his business, as he has co-owned As You Wish pottery painting studios with his wife, Lori, for the past eight years. As You Wish has seven locations throughout the Valley, where patrons may choose items such as mugs and vases, paint them, and have them fired and glazed for home use.

Neff, a 50-year-old Chandler resident, is excited for the business to celebrate its 20th anniversary this September, with various specials leading up to the anniversary weekend September 18 to 20, when the studios offer $2 studio fees (usually $6-$8) and gift card raffles. Learn more about the special deals throughout the month on the As You Wish Facebook page here. In August, visitors to As You Wish can get half-off all glass fusing projects, including bowls, vases, nightlights and jewelry that are fired in the studio kilns.

Neff shared his advice for aspiring business owners and why he’s passionate about As You Wish, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here. I grew up in the Arcadia area and was part of the last graduating class of Scottsdale High School in 1983.

Growing up, I was involved with all old-school Valley of the Sun things. When I was a Cub Scout, I went to The Wallace and Ladmo Show and won a Ladmo bag. When I was a teenager, I worked in the ice cream parlor at Legend City, and I sold T-shirts at Compton Terrace. Continue reading