Sensory overload doesn?t begin to describe Philadelphia?s Magic Gardens. A seemingly boundless compilation of colors, textures, and shapes, the labyrinthine mosaic creation spans 3,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The masterpiece originated in the brain of Isaiah Zagar, a Philadelphia native who grew up in New York. During his third year of art school, he stumbled upon Clarence Schmidt?s folk-art-inspired installations?assemblages of found objects and recycled materials?and the young artist?s view of the art world changed. ?I didn't know that I was looking at art,? Zagar reflects in his mission statement. Self-admittedly, Zagar has been somewhat ?copying? Schmidt?s dynamic, free-flowing style ever since.
The years after art school brought Zagar an onslaught of new opportunities. He spent time as an artist in China and India, joined the Peace Corps with his wife Julia, settled in Peru for three years, and even tried his hand at ceramics in Wisconsin. In the ?60s, he and Julia returned to his birthplace?specifically, the waning South Street neighborhood. Isaiah quickly leapt into action, renovating dilapidated buildings and often adding mosaics to formerly barren walls. Eventually, Isaiah?s imagination outgrew their projects, and in 1994 he began constructing a new piece in a vacant lot near his studio?the project would become Philadelphia?s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah spent 14 precious years, which he should have applied to Y2K preparations, scooping out tunnels, erecting multitiered walls, and splashing the entire space in colorful tile. The finished product stretches across half a block of South Street; the outside enclosure shimmering with vibrant tiles, the inside housing folk art, colored glass bottles, and countless sparkling mirrors. Now a nonprofit organization, Philadelphia?s Magic Gardens invites visitors to enjoy its visual candy with guided or self-guided tours.
A man lies tangled in a shower curtain, lifeless, with blood spattered everywhere; "kill your boyfriend" was the theme of this shoot, conducted by photographer Nikki Riley for one of her clients who'd recently parted ways with her latest beau. Nikki's willingness to transcend boundaries, paired with her creative flair, has sent her to New York City and Atlanta to shoot risqu? and editorial-style fashion spreads and helped her earn a nomination for PHL17's Philly's Hot List of Best Photographers 2011. Raised as a "John Lennon kid" by a photographer mother, her inherited desire to snap shots came to fruition soon after graduating college, when she traded her 9?5 desk job for a career in photography. Nikon D700 in tow, Nikki spends her days at the 1,700-square-foot studio she co-owns, The Hive 215, which features high ceilings, loft windows, vintage furnishings, and a beauty bar where specialists prep clients' hair and makeup.
Though Nikki's fashion and portrait shoots favor bold colors and clean, magazine-quality finishes, her intimate boudoir shoots explore both high and low angles and toy with exposure?in every sense of the word. Taken from the most flattering angles for each body type, shots of lingerie-clad legs and torsos sway from high-contrast black and white to elegantly washed-out color frames lit softly from behind like an angel auditioning for the cover of Maxim. Nikki caters these shoots to the desires and comfort level of each client, letting imaginations run wild with coy pinup poses or showcasing epidermises for keepsake shots of clients in any state of undress.
A subtle heat spreads throughout Fuel the Soul, distinct from the scorching air at hot-yoga studios that warm the room with thermostats. The muscle-melting energy seeps into muscles, coaxing tension away. This brand of heat comes from a system that emits infrared rays, capable of penetrating deeper into tissues and detoxifying patrons while they move through classic yoga poses. Co-owner Greg Fine explains to Patch.com, "Exercising … in an infrared heated sauna can help you burn calories much faster." The heat emanates from lamps that, according to Greg, are identical to those used by surgeons in neonatal hospital units and fast-food line-cooks in NASA space vessels. Customers can reap the heat's benefits, which include a faster metabolism and easier healing, whether they’re attending yoga classes or simply steeping in the far-infrared sauna.
Another offering as unusual as a cat and dog that only fight about who loves the other more is the Gyrotonic workout, "a unique method that uses movements found in swimming, yoga, and tai chi and helps improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination." Greg—who studied under Juliu Horvath, the Romanian dancer and exile who developed the exercise to recover after tearing his Achilles tendon and rupturing a few spinal disks—teaches the technique to students of all fitness levels and ages, whether they’re recovering from injuries or courting greater flexibility.
Armed with an army of innovative and certified shutterbugs, Olan Mills Portrait Studio provides families with high-quality portraits, continuing a mission that was established more than 75 years ago by founder Olan Mills Sr. Skilled in the art of capturing infants, children, families, and bunny-ears-giving ghost orbs on film, Olan Mills’s experienced smile snappers will take a series of poses amid a variety of backgrounds and lighting options. The studio is equipped with a selection of props—including numbers for birthdays, toys, and boxes—and patrons may bring their own photo-enlivening items from home. The resulting photos find their way to prints in natural color, black and white, or sepia tones; they can also be immortalized in the studio's signature Old Masters style, a canvas brushed with highlights to recreate look of an oil painting. Like the gentlemanly mariners of ages past with their full schedule of sea-battles, the photographers welcome appointments, but do not require them.
After working her way through college as a bartender, Denise Mitchell opened Bucks County School of Bartending in 1999. Her BA from Arcadia University led to a teaching certification, and she decided to mix all of her talents together with her bartending school. Eleven years later, the Casino Dealer School was added, and graduates from this multifaceted institution go on to place bets and mix drinks in casinos, bars, and warp zones around the state. Courses often include a strategy handout for tips on betting and bluffing, and Mitchell's instructors draw on their experiences in casinos across the globe to give true-to-life advice. Alternatively, the standard curriculum of her bartending seminars builds professional bartenders from the ground up with lessons in bar equipment, pouring, and how to listen to patrons' life confessions without screaming.
Dogs trot out of Spot's Spot and Spa stylishly well-groomed, well-rested, or well-fed, depending on their activities in the canine wellness haven. Trained groomers infuse coats with natural shampoos and conditioners before treating dogs to a facial scrub, a nail trim, and a breed-standard or custom cut, each precisely hand-scissored. Overnight stays keep canines in good company with cage-free accommodations, 24-hour supervision, and personal attention from playtime to medicine delivery. In the retail sections, owners peruse a vast array of dog food and treats, including freshly butchered meat (available only at Spot’s 2nd Spot) along with high-quality cat food from Science Diet and Acana. A full stock of doggy wellness aids ranges from vitamins and salves to padded e-collars that prevent dogs from noticing when their chums poke fun at their fashion choices.