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Ben McGinty, Underground Arts Society Gallery owner, tilemaker and mountain man, Altadena Shannon LaBaw-OSullivan, tattoo artist-owner of Shangri-la, with daughter Rose & son Mars, Altadena
BEN: Part of the idea for the backyard comes from watching the Little Rascals my favorite show growing up and having things in little areas, rooms almost. You cant go in a straight line. You see more as youre walking around everything. And theres the centerpiece, a red trumpet vine native of Mexico which was probably planted when this space was built in 1950.
SHANNON: This beautiful plant totally encircles the property its almost as if it hugs us, protects us. My shop name developed partially because of the garden out back. Shangri-La is a mythical city that is invisible unless you are led to it. The shop is basic looking, and then when you lead someone back here, they have a Shangri-La freakout reaction seeing this shiny place of magic and wonder.
BEN: I have a sign over the back door of the gallery that says Surprise Room. Shannon, whos the plant fiend, works her magic on the north side and I work mine on the south but parts of each of us are on both sides. Actually, its time to spin things around. Im anxious to do some pushing and shoving and rearranging. Its good to make change, open things up and then put them together again.
SHANNON: Ben loves to move things around. He has changed the positioning of every single thing here a dozen times. And hes constructed these makeshift walls out of old doors its like a clubhouse. So little of our money has been laid out furnishing the yard we pull tons of stuff out of the trash, thrift stores. Except for the few annual flowers I get from the local nursery, most of my plants are rescued from the trash.
BEN: We both prefer being outside more than inside. I dont want to be cooped up between four walls, and you dont open your windows because youre afraid someone is going to look in. This gives us seclusion, and we can experiment with things when you build with baling wire and drywall screws you can change things around really fast and easy its not permanent.
SHANNON: I walk all around this town, and I dont hear people in their backyards and I dont see people in their front yards. Were getting to be a culture of inside people inside our cars, inside the house, inside the mall, in in in. Breathe fresh air, use backyards!
Recommend: Estate sales (not garage sales) and flea markets.