PHOENIX OBSIDIAN DESIGNS is a small company dedicated to the production of tools which will assist archaeologists and other educators in teaching about prehistory. It provides a wide line of these educational tools as well as museum quality replicas of archaeological artifacts for use in the classroom or museum. Another aspect of this teaching is the line of primitive technology supplies that assists archaeological students in their pursuit of experimental archaeology projects.
The primary artist, Dr. Susan "Arizona" Gleason, has been flintknapping (the art of making stone tools) since 1996. As a Doctoral student in Archaeology, she started flintknapping in order to gain insight relative to the lithic (stone) items found within archaeological sites. After learning the basic techniques, she practiced intensively to master these and develop her own style. Dr. "Arizona" works primarily with natural glass (obsidian), as well as occasionally with various forms of microcrystalline silicates (chert, chalcedony, jasper, flint, etc.). She makes it a point not to work from cut shaped slabs of these materials. Instead she utilizes traditional hammerstone percussion reduction techniques to obtain the pieces (flakes) to be shaped. This avoidance of "short-cutting" techniques makes her work much more valuable and collectible. Furthermore, no material is wasted as she works with flakes as small as one inch to make her trademark small earring points and uses the remaining flakes for either teaching kits or decoration. [For more information about flintknapping and the various techniques involved, please visit our Flintknapping Information pages.] Dr. "Arizona" also works for fun with manufactured glass, like the bottoms of beer bottles and the infamous "john" stone.
The various products of this flintknapping activity is worked into the jewelry, knives, decorated bears, and other original artwork pieces offered for sale through this website. She also sells individual or collections of projectile points, these often commissioned as reproductions of actual archaeological specimens. Several of her replications can be found on display in museums across the country. However, as mentioned above, the core philosophy of Phoenix Obsidian Designs is the production of educational materials. From her own experience in the classroom and laboratory, Dr. Arizona has come up with unique flintknapping study sets and comparative collections for the archaeologist. Wishing to reach to all levels of the educational system, Dr. Arizona has collaborated with her sister (an elementary school teacher) to develop teaching tools for lower grade levels as well as all types of History Teaching Materials.
In combination with her developing skill as a flintknapper, Dr. "Arizona" is aspiring to acquire a wide range of knowledge concerning Primitive Technology and Ethnobotany. This is a direct outgrowth of the studies which led to her receiving her Ph.D. in Archaeology in 2001 from the University of California, Riverside. The results of this knowledge acquisition can be seen by the growing number of items currently available on this website.