The Ultimate Shabby-Chic Bash

September 2, 2014 |

Unbeknownst to the majority of locals, Tucson has in its midst one of the world’s foremost experts in recycled art. Though you won’t find his work hanging in the Louvre just yet, Mykl Wells makes his living as a working artist by creating incredible surrealist works out of paint and cardboard — his website proudly lauds the fact that he gets most of the stuff he uses for his work “out of dumpsters.” He even hand-makes the frames for his custom pieces out of recycled cardboard, effectively taking the castoffs from your Costco trips and turning them into colorful character studies that tantalize and delight. In fact, in 2012 Wells was one of only six artists selected to create an installation at Cartasia — a prestigious biennial cardboard art show held in the medieval Tuscan city of Lucca, Italy.

The idea of traveling to Italy to make a gigantic cardboard sculpture had natural appeal for this local artist (as I imagine it might for any warm-blooded human being) but the prospect did present a bit of a challenge — that is, continuing to pay his bills while working for free overseas. It was this predicament three years ago that gave rise to Tucson’s first ever Cardboard Ball. The event attracted about 150 people, Wells says, and got him where he was trying to go — Wells even ended up winning first prize in the exhibition for his 18-foot sculpture entitled “Snowdrop,” which was essentially a giant upside-down head with a flower growing from its neck.

Cardboard Ballers shaking their grove thing. Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

Cardboard Ballers shaking their grove thing.
Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

Once Cartasia was in the rear-view, though, Wells was reluctant to let the success of the first Cardboard Ball disappear for good. So they did it again, and last year’s iteration raised about $3,000 for the All Souls Procession Workshop Series, a series for which our local cardboard guru is also responsible. This year Wells hopes to raise about $5,000 for his workshops, which he says will be taking to the streets in a new mobile format. “We’re looking to the east side of Tucson, and also to Vail, Tubac and Oro Valley as well. We’re trying to reach out to the larger community that maybe doesn’t get by the All Souls Procession Workshops because they aren’t downtown,” says Wells. His hope is that in spreading the word about the event even further within our own community he might be able to raise enough money to bring on a guest artist for the workshops in upcoming years — an effort, he says, which could help spread the word about Tucson’s eclectic art scene to players in other artistic communities nationwide, and even worldwide.

The Cardboard Ball is now poised to become a favorite annual freak-fest amongst both local art enthusiasts and general party-people, and Wells says this year’s event will feature a few upgrades. Not only will there be a runway on which party-goers can show off their flashy-yet-frugal paper-based duds, Wells is also making tubes available for cardboard jousting and sponsoring a dance party with live music from Scott Kerr, Mik Garrison, and The Carnivaleros, as well as two live DJ sets to keep you jumping. There will be at least one keg of Borderlands Brewing Company’s “Las Almas Ale” on hand — which was crafted specifically with All Souls in mind — with beer, wine and food available from the Maker House Cafe. Artists are encouraged to submit pieces for the event. To participate, simply drop your cardboard masterpiece off at Maker House the day before the Ball any time between noon and 8 p.m.

Not sure what to wear to such an extravaganza? Just pop by Maker House at any point during the art drop off and Wells promises to be onsite with the materials and the know-how necessary to make sure you’re absolutely Cardboard Ballin’ for the big event. Paper cuts be damned — this is gonna be good.

The Cardboard Ball goes down on Saturday, Sept. 27 at Maker House, 283 N. Stone Ave., at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at Maker House, Yikes Toy Store, 2930 E. Broadway Blvd., and Pop-Cycle, 422 N. 4th Ave., in advance for $10 or pay $15 at the door. More info on, search Cardboard Ball, or try

The Cardboard Ball embraces creative shenanigans.  Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

The Cardboard Ball embraces creative shenanigans.
Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

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