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Your Graduation Gift Questions Answered

April 18, 2014

Graduation is a special time in one’s life, so I’m excited to answer a few questions finding the perfect gifts for students who are about to accomplish this important achievement.

What would you do paperweight

I’ve gained quite a bit of experience dealing with creatively designed gifts over the years—from my time as a strategy consultant overseeing a global internet retail research study (that’s when I met UncommonGoods founder Dave Bolotsky), to working in Customer Service (and reporting on company operations) for a holiday season at UncommonGoods in 2002, to joining the team full time (as opposed to consulting) as the head of Merchandising in 2006.

Somewhat out of necessity for creatively designed products that didn’t exist elsewhere, we began creating our own products in-house. As someone with a naturally questioning mind, an imagination for possibilities, a product instinct, and understanding of the creative design attributes that define an uncommon good, my responsibilities changed in the fall of 2011 when I become the Director of New Business and Product Development.

Many of the goods we develop here, as well as many of the items from the talented artists and designers we work with, make great gifts for graduation. Here’s my personal take on grad gifting and some suggestions for special gifts your grads are sure to love.

DIY Embroidery Cards | UncommonGoods

How is choosing a graduation gift different than picking out a gift for another occasion?
Unlike any other occasion, graduation, whether it is high school, college or a graduate degree, is a one-time event in any individual’s life—it is a specific accomplishment and also a milestone marking the end of one stage in a life and the beginning of the next.

What are some personal graduation gifts you’ve given in the past? What made them special?
I try to give gifts that have some meaning to the person—it may be something with an inspirational message, or a personal connection to the individual–and something I hope the person will want to keep.

My “go-to” item is often an inspirational paperweight—some of the ones that I’ve given more than once have been in our assortment for many years, like the What Would You Attempt Paperweight and the Be the Change Paperweight.

When my oldest nephew, a die-hard Yankee fan, graduated from college, he received a pair of Authentic Stadium Seat Cufflinks.

Yankee Stadium Seat Cufflinks | UncommonGoods

For the daughter of a close friend who graduated from high school I chose the Growth Necklace by Mary Steratore. It got a rave review!

Growth NecklaceNecklace Review



What could I give to my graduate’s good friends/classmates who are also graduating that is meaningful, but won’t break the bank? (From our Facebook friend Lora Frye Ross)

My suggestion is the 5: Life Playbook. Because it is a book, you have the option to inscribe a personal note on the inside. This is something that can be given for either high school or college graduation, with thought-provoking quotations and real-life examples that are both a spark and a road map for the next chapter.

5: Life Playbook
5: Life Playbook

Do you have a favorite new product (or products) that you think would make a great grad gift? What do you choose and why is it a great gift?
The Road to Success Paperweight is my favorite new paperweight we created–the combination of the road imagery as part of the design is inspiring and understanding of what life is about.

The Home Plate Paperweight is another great choice, for the same reasons, for someone who is also a baseball fan.

Paperweights | UncommonGoods

The most recent grad gift I’ve given was actually one of our newer products. I gave the She Believed She Could Bangle to the daughter of one of my best friends, who I’ve known all her life when she graduated from college. I felt that a bangle bracelet with this empowering quote was truly a keepsake for her.

She Believed She Could Bangle | UncommonGoods

For more inspiring goods to congratulate grads, visit our entire Graduation Gifts Collection.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Carolyn Topp

September 30, 2013
UncommonGoods Director of New Business and Product Development Carolyn Topp
Carolyn Topp, UncommonGoods Director of New Business and Product Development
My hometown is…
I grew up in Ardsley, NY, also home of the late great ice cream magnate Tom Carvel.

My favorite product we’ve developed at UncommonGoods is…
Always something new that will soon be in our assortment; this month it is “My Life Story – So Far.”

I’m inspired by…
Possibilities.

My guilty pleasure is…
I don’t believe in guilt.

An uncommon fact about me…
I was a cellist in Harry Alshin’s junior string orchestra (Westchester County, NY). We performed a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (in the early 1970s) and each member of the orchestra was listed in the Congressional Record.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is (was)…
Florent– it represents a time and a place in NYC that no longer exists.

My style is…
My personal style is urban practical and classic.
My decorating style is eclectic – a mix of old and new, colorful, and comfortable for people and pets.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
Something new each day.

Would you rather… Spend a day on the set of Mad Men OR get front row seats and backstage passes at a Bruce Springsteen concert?
“You cannot be serious” (to quote John McEnroe) with this question. Bruce.

The Uncommon Life

Mixtape Mixed Drinks: Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

September 11, 2013

The Manhattan is a classic New York cocktail, so of course it inspired a playlist of classic New York songs. The Manhattan’s a sophisticated drink that evokes images of the city it’s named after during the Mad Men era. (Don Draper typically drinks an old fashioned, but we could see him drinking this as well.)

The drink can be made with Bourbon or Rye–my Manhattan is made with Bourbon.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe | UncommonGoods

Sipping a Mahattan in a Mixtape Glass can put you in a New York state of mind, no matter your location.

The Drink:
2 parts bourbon to 1 part sweet vermouth
1-2 Dash bitters
Maraschino cherry (optional)

Place ice in a cocktail shaker and then add bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters. Shake and pour (strained) into a chilled glass or pour over ice. Top with a cherry (optional).

The Playlist:
1. Incident on 57th Street-Bruce Springsteen
2. Spanish Harlem-Ben E. King
3. Positively 4th Street-Bob Dylan
4. Take the A Train-Duke Ellington
5. New York State of Mind-Billy Joel
6. New York City Serenade-Bruce Springsteen

Gift Guides

Best New Gifts of 2011

November 23, 2011

When people ask me, “What makes something an uncommon good?” I typically explain that it’s a product with a unique, unexpected or additional element of creative design. It’s an item that is remarkable in that, “We haven’t seen anything quite like this before” or, “Who would have thought of that?” or “I’m sure I haven’t seen this anyplace else.” Or, another way to explain this, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart might say, “I know it when I see it.”

Here at UncommonGoods we also believe that gift giving is an art form in and of itself, and a singular way to express what you’re feeling in any relationship: love, friendship, happiness, hope, joy, gratitude, recognition or appreciation. That’s why we carry thousands of cool, hand-picked items from stunning jewelry and fun accessories to creative home decor and unique kitchen items. To help make your gift giving easier and more enjoyable, I’m happy to offer my personal uncommon picks for this holiday season. They’re all either new to our assortment this year or only available at UncommonGoods… and every one is sure to put a smile on your special someone’s face.

For Your Sister, Mom or Best Friend

The best way to express how truly special an important woman in your life is to give her something that is personal, unique and will become a treasured keepsake. Our handmade Birth Month Flower Necklace is the choice for the woman who loves jewelry; our handmade Sari Scarf, made from vintage saris is for the stylish woman who loves accessories.

For Him

When it comes to gift giving for guys, think about what is practical and functional– and then consider his interests, hobbies and habits. But if he is someone who already has everything, a little humor and a lot of creative design with one of these four gifts will easily solve that problem:
Man Coasters
Face Mug
7 Deadly Sins Glasses
F Bomb Paperweight

For Kids

What child doesn’t love candy or the amusement park? Try a Gummy Bear Light (ages 3+) or year long indoor fun with an Extreme Stunt Wall Coaster (ages 5+)

For Teens

The cool thing not to tell a teenager is that any adult will also love these five gifts:

Handmade Recycled Knit Arm Warmers
Dancing Lion Speaker
Travel Stub Diary
Fortune Keeper Key Chain
Handmade Glass Bacon and Egg Earrings

A Family Gift

Holidays are about families—which was also our inspiration for creating the Family Traditions Journal. And to help make your family gift shopping easier and this holiday especially memorable, you can start your own family tradition by giving one to each member of your family and all fill out together.

For Wine Lovers

When the Corksicle made its debut at the Atlanta Gift Show this past July, we immediately recognized that this simple and innovative design for keeping wine cool without creating dilution is a must have for any wine lover.

For Pet Lovers

According to the Humane Society, 39% of US households own at least 1 dog, and 33% own at least 1 cat. So chances are that someone on your gift list is either a dog or a cat owner. With more than 400 customer reviews, Bad Dog Tumblers are one of our top all-time best gifts for a dog lover. And, the cat companion is our Inconvenient Kitty Tumblers.

Green Gifts

We appreciate and value products created from materials that otherwise would be discarded and understand why this is important to many people. For over 12 years, we have been a leader in selling creatively designed products made from repurposed and recycled materials. Here are 5 of our most innovative and creative green products for this year:

With a set of Flip It! Wine Glasses you get 2 glasses in 1—both a wine and shot glass, made from repurposed old glass wine, beer and water bottles.
Moss Terrarium, a modern take on the terrarium, features an urbanized micro ecosystem housed within a recycled wine bottle.

“Potluck” Sweater Potholders feature a casing made from a bold, up-cycled sweater picked potluck-style from a charity store.

Recycled Cotton Animal Accessories are made in the USA from yarn spun from the leftover materials from apparel and upholstery factories that would have been discarded.
Upcycled Mail Sack Pouch & Tote are handmade from repurposed mail sacks.

For a Festive Holiday

Get in the spirit of the season this year with our Reclaimed Holiday Sweater Scarf a brand new twist on a seasonal icon. And wow your guests and spark some fun conversations when you entertain with a set of Wine Hourglasses and our Recycled Holiday Record Coasters.

A Gift That Gives Back

Throughout the year we hold a variety of different design challenges that reach a broad community of independent designers and support emerging talent. Graphic designer Michael White’s iconic design on this City Harvest Plate was chosen from over 90 entries from our Harvest Plate Design Challenge. $5 from the purchase of each plate directly benefits City Harvest, supporting food collection for New York’s hungry men, women and children.

At UncommonGoods, we believe in giving back. With our Better to Give Program, every time you order from UncommonGoods, you can choose to select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation from us.

About Carolyn
Carolyn grew up in Ardsley, NY, also home of the late great ice cream magnet Tom Carvel. She is a classically trained musician who loves sailing, Airedale terriers, Turner Classic Movies and Bruce Springsteen – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Shelter Island, New York and in Paulus Hook-downtown Jersey City’s historic district – with her husband Steve (a sailboat captain), Baxter (their Airedale terrier), and Marmaduke (their very large orange cat). Carolyn’s path to UncommonGoods was roundabout but understandable in a creative, business, retail sort of way. From Cornell University to Wall Street to high end fashion to starting her own business, Carolyn has always had a knack for spotting trends and knowing what people want to buy. For the past five years Carolyn has overseen the buying decisions and product selection for the UncommonGoods catalog and website. In October 2011 she took on a new role as the company’s Director of New Business and Product Development.

The Uncommon Life

Wheel Questions

May 27, 2010

The digital revolution continues to rapidly change the book publishing industry, but there was no shortage of books at the BEA Tradeshow that UG buyer Josh and I went to at the Javitz Center yesterday.

The most interesting exhibit that we saw was a display for the Wheel Questions outdoor community art project.

wheel questions

wheel questions

Check out some of the questions and answers people have asked and put forth on the Wheel Questions blog.

What would you ask?

Maker Stories

Trade Show Round-Up

May 21, 2010

One of the best things about being a buyer for UncommonGoods is shopping at trade shows. This past week, we were at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, located on the west side of NYC, to check out some of the newest things on the market.

ICFF
The first show we went to was the 22nd Annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). It showcases the latest in innovative and high design for home décor.  Grace Bonney over at Design Sponge does a great job of defining some of the current trends we saw there.

And here are some of the people behind UncommonGoods that we got to catch up with at the show –

Meet Klaus and Chris!

ICFF

They had a spectacular booth with wall sand art pieces, similar to the desktop sand art but in gigantic, custom-made sizes.

Sand art

sand art

We were pretty excited when they showed us something new that is a little more accessible than covering an entire wall with sand art—desktop sand art that tilts.

sand art

What is new and cool about it is that this allows you to recreate the sand art at different “speeds.” You can expect to find this in our assortment in July.

This is  Jamie Harris with his newest metallic glass creations.

jamie harris

He is an artist and designer of spectacular glass objects. His infusion sculptures were featured on our catalog cover in 2006.

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