Gift Guides

From Beer to Booze: Gift Picks for the Home Bartender

October 24, 2016

Their fridge is fully-stocked with the perfect combination of craft brews and classic beers. Their wine rack is loaded with reds, whites, and maybe even a bit of the bubbly. And don’t even get them started on what it takes to mix the perfect cocktail–the glass, the garnish, whether it’s shaken or stirred–they have all of the details down. That’s right, we’re talking about the Home Bartender. Chances are, you know one of these masterful mixologists, so we’ve gathered a collection of gifts that will surely make any adult beverage connoisseur raise their glass.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Sending Light and Love with the SolarPuff

October 17, 2016

*Editor’s note: In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, we’re donating 20% of proceeds from SolarPuff™ orders placed between October 19-October 31 to support FAARM™, a non-profit comprised of designers and architects who are currently distributing SolarPuff Lights to hurricane victims in Haiti.

SolarPuffs lighting the way

All images and videos courtesy of Solight Designs ™

Some of us take light for granted. The sun goes down, we flip a switch, and our homes are flooded with an electric-energy-fueled sunshine substitute. But for the 1.6 billion people in the world without access to electricity, it’s not that easy.

In many areas around the globe, kerosene is used in place of electricity. Kerosene, like gasoline, is a fossil fuel made from petroleum. It’s expensive, it has to be burned to create energy, and burning it creates air pollution. Unfortunately, many families don’t have access to any other source of light. That makes cooking, studying, or even seeing the face of the loved one sitting right across the room impossible without the aid of kerosine lamps. Use of these lamps can be dangerous. They get hot, they send soot into the air, and in some cases, they even use open flames.

Aiming to bring a safe, clean alternative to kerosene to those living by lamplight, product designer, architect, and Professor of Design and Material Culture at Parsons the New School of Design, Alice Min Soo Chun developed the SolarPuff™— an inexpensive, collapsible light powered by the sun.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Danielle Kroll

October 7, 2016
Danielle Kroll | UncommonGoods

Danielle Kroll in her Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, photos by Rachel Orlow

One thing I’ve learned in my years of visiting artists’ studios is that they’re rarely what I expect. Danielle Kroll’s was no exception. Sure, I expected it to be full of beautiful art and hoped to see a plethora of paints and piles of paper, but I had no idea just how fun, colorful, and full of creativity-sparking treasures her space would be.

I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical when I arrived at what looked like a warehouse in a seemingly industrial part of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (But, in actuality, I shouldn’t have been. By now I should know that many interesting and inspiring places are hidden away in former factories and warehouse buildings.)

Artist Danielle Kroll's Studio | UncommonGoods

Danielle invited our small group–myself, a photographer, and our content intern–into the old building and we followed her up a steep staircase into a beautiful communal area used by several artists. While I was impressed by the art in the halls, the eclectic combination of furniture, and the relaxed feel of the whole space, Danielle’s own studio really blew me away. Flooded with natural light, decorated with her own art and art she’s collected, and filled with books, it was the kind of space where I felt right at home.

That welcomed feeling was only enhanced by the artist’s openness and enthusiasm. She not only showed us some of her paintings, but also opened her sketchbooks, showed off some of her favorite objects she’s collected as a self-proclaimed “pack rat,” and shared about a few of her creative projects.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Designers’ Studio
with UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team

September 16, 2016


UncommonGoods Product Development Team

UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team: Carolyn Topp (Director of New Business & Product Development), Elisha Janas (PD Assistant & Graphic Designer), Emily Reside (Senior Product Designer), Tiffany Jyang (Senior Product Developer), and Morgan Tanner (Senior Production Manager), photo by Emily Dryden

Each month, we have the privilege of bringing you a look inside an artist or designer’s creative space. Sometimes we hop on a train and head someplace nearby in Brooklyn, sometimes we hit the road to see friends a little farther from New York City, and every now and then a jet-setting contributor will helps us feel a little closer to a studio that seems worlds away. These adventures are always entertaining and inspiring, and they give us chances to get to know the people who make the goods we sell a little bit better. 

While planning some upcoming Studio Tours and reminiscing about the many great experiences I’ve personally had seeing where our products are made and meeting the people behind them, something occurred to me: We make products. Right here at UncommonGoods, a team of product designers, developers, and managers is at work coming up with brand new uncommon creations. 

I realized that despite all of the studios I’ve personally visited, the folders of photos from other folks’ tours I’ve sorted through, and the blog posts I’ve edited, I still haven’t given our readers a look at the place where we develop our very own designs. But that’s about to change. Welcome to this behind-the-scenes look at our Brooklyn office, where you’ll see works in progress, inspiration and advice from our Product Development team, and even a quote from The Boss (Springsteen, that is; not Dave Bolotsky.)

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Maker Stories

Christine Schmidt’s Mismatched Earrings & Peculiar Pet Pendants

August 22, 2016

Christine Schmidt in her San Francisco Studio | UncommonGoods

Christine Schmidt is a jewelry artist, printmaker, designer, illustrator, author, and fraternal twin. She says that maybe that last one influenced her decision to veer from convention and create her clever, quirky mismatched earrings: “I am myself different but a part of a unit. I’ll spare you the therapy–but I like to change it up.”

Here at UncommonGoods, we like to change it up too, and that’s why when we saw some of Christine’s mismatched designs, we couldn’t wait to work with her to create more canny combos.

We thought about a few of the interests our customers (and even many of the folks that work here) share, and worked with the artist on a new line celebrating books, space, and pets. Christine captured each of these concepts through her charming illustrations, turned them into brand new mismatched earrings, and even designed adorable cat and dog necklaces exclusively for UncommonGoods.

She took some time out from being a multi-talented super artist to tell us about her road to a creative career, her process, and working with our team.

Christine Schmidt's Mismatched Earrings | Exclusively at UncommonGoods

Books and Eyeglasses, Sun and Moon, and Cat and Dog Mismatched Earrings | Exclusively at UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio
with Hipatia Lopez

August 12, 2016
Hipatia Lopez with the Empanada Fork | UncommonGoods

Hipatia Lopez with the Empanada Fork in her New Jersey Kitchen

While preparing for a holiday feast, Hipatia Lopez found herself facing 100 empanadas that needed closing. She may have finished the project with sore hands, but it gave her the idea to invent the Empanada Fork, a tool that closes empanadas, turnovers, and pastries in no time.

While many of our Studio Tours give readers a look inside creative spaces of makers of handmade goods, Hipatia’s story is a little different–and must-read for anyone who’s ever thought-up a problem-solving product, but isn’t sure what to do next. Hipatia wasn’t trained as a product designer and didn’t have a line of inventions to her name, but she was motivated. She knew she was on to something, and decided to take the next step and turn her idea into the real deal.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to physically travel to Hipatia’s home in New Jersey to learn about her process, but through phone calls, emails, and snapshots, Hipatia helped me create a virtual tour of her creative space (and kitchen). 

Empanada Fork with Dough | UncommonGoods

The Empanada Fork in action

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Shirt Tales: Personal Shirt and Message Pillow Stories

August 1, 2016

Most of us have an old shirt in the back of a drawer that we just can’t bear to get rid of. Maybe it doesn’t fit quite right anymore, or maybe it just doesn’t work with your current wardrobe, but throwing it out or even donating it just doesn’t feel like an option. Maybe that shirt is from an unforgettable concert or a big game. Maybe it’s from a special day, like that tuxedo shirt from your wedding that means a lot, but will probably never be worn again. Or maybe it’s a shirt that was passed on to you by someone special. Just because you don’t wear it anymore doesn’t mean you can’t show it off. Turn it into a Personal Shirt and Message Pillow to give your old shirt a new use.

A few folks on our team had t-shirts with sentimental value, and now they have brand new pillows stuffed with memories (and synthetic, goose-friendly down).

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The Uncommon Life

Why it’s Better to Give with The International Rescue Committee

June 20, 2016

“The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities.                                                                                                     –The International Rescue Committee 

There’s a lot of information packed into that mission statement, and it’s difficult to actually sum up everything it means, because the organization behind it, The International Rescue Committee (IRC) does so much to help those in need. Humanitarian crises include war, natural disasters, famine, drought, and numerous other man-made and environmental tragedies. The IRC’s responses to those crises include education, vocational training, economic support, emergency medical care, and countless other programs to empower those impacted by situations they had no control over. While it’s hard to outline all of the fantastic work IRC does in a blog post, it’s less challenging to express the pride and honor we feel as we welcome them to our Better to Give program.

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