"From the first time I worked extensively with clay, I felt a connection to it, and a passion for it that has never waned," asserts Michelle Katz, owner of Desert Dragon Pottery. A ceramics artist for more than a quarter century, Katz harnesses her fine arts degree and aesthetic aptitude to teach students of all levels how to exercise their imaginations. Through a roster of classes, pupils explore the shapes of vases and plates, before leaving their finished works for Michelle to fire in her self-made, gas-fired car kiln. When not teaching, Katz often exhibits her work with pottery guild Arizona Clay Association, a collection of regional artists who share with the community their insights, masterpieces, and tips for creating life-like body doubles.
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Ben Chen has experienced his share of success in his nearly 30-year photography career—his work has been published in such publications as Cosmopolitan, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN Magazine, and he has lent his expertise to some of the nation's largest corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The American Red Cross. In 2006, the photographer began to notice that more and more novices were purchasing complex DSLR cameras, and that gave him an idea. Chen decided to share his wealth of knowledge with aspiring photographers by creating the 4-Hour Newbie Photography Boot Camp, which teaches students how to shoot manually with their DSLRs and create artistic, professional-quality photos. Since then, more than 5,000 students in 20 cities throughout the country have benefitted from these classes. In 2013, he acquiesced to student demand and created Part II of the class, which goes beyond photography basics by diving into post-production techniques. Nowadays, students can take both Part I and Part II in the same day, helping them go from student to master in less time than most action-movie montages.
By their estimate, Kelly and Steve Fischer have taught thousands of people how to scuba-dive. As the course director and IDC staff instructor, respectively, at Phoenix Scuba, they draw from more than a decade of expertise to lead a team of master dive instructors, certified open-water instructors, and assistant scuba instructors. These coaches all follow the PADI curriculum to teach students basic through advanced diving skills, such as navigating underwater or bartering with dolphins. Open-water and advanced open-water certification courses lead the way with hands-on lake dives, and can open the door to specialized courses such as rescue diver or NITROX enriched air certifications.
Phoenix Scuba's instructors don't just limit their instruction to local waters: the school has also led extended trips to dive sites in the waters of Belize, Grand Cayman, and Fiji, among others.
Wilson Camera Digital Lab & Portrait Studio opened in 1954, back when most photos were still developed on papyrus scrolls. Nowadays, digital gear fills the store’s two locations, but photographer Rudolph Henninger still brings old-school photography knowledge to his work in the shop, drawing on more than 37 years of experience behind the camera. He and his staff offer photography services for weddings and family portraits, teach photography classes, and work in their photo lab to digitally restore old photos.
John Flanders and Jeff Varner founded the Academy of Scuba to bring the magic of diving to the arid lands of the Southwest. They employ a team of PADI-certified instructors, who lead courses ranging from beginner and advanced open-water certification to more in-depth programs such as master diver, deep diver, underwater video and photography specialists, and professional shark imitator. Once certified, divers can stretch their new sea legs on diving excursions to exotic locales such as Belize, Mexico, and Bonaire through the academy’s partner and affiliate companies. Both of the Academy's locations rent, repair, and sell high-quality gear from reputable brands such as Sea Dive, Amphibious Outfitters, and H2Odyssey.
Academy of Nail Technology's instructors import at least five years of field experience into classrooms where they equip apprentice nail techs with the latest techniques. The Academy’s hands-on learning atmosphere is similar to a traditional salon, one stocked with contemporary tools and polishes, including Shellac and Gelish. Budding beautifiers focus on executing flawless services, and therefore sometimes take longer than professionals to perform mani-pedis and nail art.