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Design

The Couch Bowl: Taking Comfort Food to the Next Level

February 15, 2017

*Editor’s Note: The Couch Bowl is coming soon to UncommonGoods’ assortment. Get it first by pre-ordering here.

A background in engineering helps product designer Thomas Both visualize forms in space and think critically when contemplating his prototypes. It also leads him to ask some important questions: What’s the geometry at work? How might I build this? What’s the negative of that shape? What would that connection look like?

Sure, those are things an engineer would definitely ask when building a complex machine, but how does that influence something as seemingly uncomplicated as snacking? Well, when you think about it, snacking isn’t always that simple. We’ve all been there: balancing an overflowing dish and squirming around trying to get the blanket just right, while simultaneously looking for a video to stream and hoping that you’re not about to start a cheese puff avalanche. (You know that if one puff rolls off Snack Mountain, many more are sure to follow.) In this case, figuring out how to simplify the process of holding a dish, getting comfortable, and delivering that oh-so-tasty food to your face is actually a design problem. A problem that Thomas solved with the Couch Bowl.

Thomas Both

“The point of view is that almost all dishware (particularly in Western society) is designed to be used sitting at a dining table, yet often we don’t eat at a dining table,” Thomas explained. “We stand at a cocktail party, or sit in the living room, or lean against the counter in the kitchen–but we are using the stuff made for table dining. So what if we could create dishware designed for eating without a table?”

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Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Donna and Randall Rollins

February 6, 2017

Randall and Donna Rollins in their Brentwood, NH studio, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

Most of us have had those days when we feel stuck in a rut. You know, when you’re sitting at your desk under harsh florescent lights, or walking extra slowly into your office building, or completing the same seemingly unimportant task for the 500th time. For most of us, this feeling creeps in and we start fantasizing about dropping everything and going confidently in the direction of our dreams. While the feeling usually passes, and many weekday warriors just keep fighting that battle against monotony, Donna and Randall Rollins figured that if they had to pour out their time and energy, it was going to be into something they love. 

The couple met while they were both working in corporate America. First they fell in love with each other, and then Donna fell in love with pottery. Then they learned about the healing properties often associated with gemstones from a friend with a PhD in metaphysics, and everything came together: Donna and Randall left the corporate world to start their own clay studio. They slowly grew their business to include family members and employ local artisans, they discovered new ways to incorporate stones and minerals into their designs, and, aside from acknowledging that their business backgrounds gave them the know-how to turn their passion into a career, they don’t do a lot of looking back. 

“We actively made the decision thinking, ‘If we tank, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll still have each other,'” Randall told me on my recent visit to the couple’s Brentwood, NH studio. “We took that risk and we were willing to lose it all.”  

As you’re about to see in the photos and interview below, Donna and Randall didn’t lose it all, and they’re still hard at work making beautiful pottery and sharing their passion for stones and clay whenever they can. In fact, when our Tabletop Buyer NéQuana and I arrived to the studio over two hours late, thanks to a flat tire, the Rollinses weren’t even fazed. Their team had left for the night, and evidence of a long workday (so many pieces, in all stages of completion!) was all around. Still, they welcomed us like old friends, offered us snacks, and almost immediately started showing us their collections of stones and telling us about the energy in the space.  

Healing Stone Mugs, before the stones are attached

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Gift Guides

Crush the Clichés: Our Least Mushy Valentine’s Day Gifts

January 27, 2017

UncommonGoods | Our Least Mushy Valentine's Day Gifts

For many, Valentine’s Day means Cupid’s arrows, red roses, and hearts on EVERYTHING. But for a lot of other folks, the thought of presenting someone with a giant teddy bear holding a plush heart that reads, “I Wuv U” seems a little silly. Sure, we appreciate the classic approach to V-Day gifting, but we’re all for celebrating the holiday without all that over-the-top, sentimental, gooey stuff, too. In honor of those lovebirds who are sweet (but not sappy) and romantic (but still realistic), we created this collection of lovable gifts, minus the mush.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Anne Johnson & Arra David

January 10, 2017

Anne Johnson and Arra David outside of the Sea Stones Studio in Windham, NH, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

Canopies of colorful leaves. Air so fresh it actually feels different when you breathe it in. Wide open spaces and dewy blades of grass. These are things I don’t get to enjoy all that often in Brooklyn, but New Hampshire is another story. I experienced the natural beauty of “The Granite State” firsthand last fall, when I also got a full tour of Arra David and Anne Johnson’s bustling studio.

The state’s nickname is certainly fitting, given the extensive quarries in New Hampshire. It’s also fitting that Anne and Arra make their designs there, considering that their one-of-a-kind creations are made with wood, natural stones, metal, and–you guessed it–granite.

Curious about just how the designers are able to turn solid rock into functional home designs, our Tabletop Buyer NéQuana and I made the five-hour road trip from Brooklyn to Windham, NH to get an inside look.

Anne and Arra welcomed us in, offered us some of the homemade hard cider mentioned below, walked us through the studio and workshop, and let us take some tools for a test drive. With Arra’s guidance, NéQuana even built her own Sea Stone Splash Sponge Holder!

Arra, an engineer, talked to us about designing special tools to tackle heavy-duty work. He also shared thoughts on taking hold of inspiration when it “ambushes,” advice on the importance of collaboration, and a perfectly pertinent Thoreau quote.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Look Back at Our 2016 Studio Tours

December 30, 2016

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been running our Studio Tours series for almost 5 years. Maybe that’s because every time I step into a another studio, I feel like I’m entering a whole new world. Over the years I’ve visited jewelry makers, potters, woodworkers, and even an industrial kitchen. And that’s just to name a few. Every time I leave an artist’s space, I feel creatively refreshed and ready to get making myself.

In 2016, I actually did get in some hands-on experience, when Jim Loewer gave our team a tour of his Philadelphia glass-working studio and let me use the torch to make own pendant. It was was definitely as much fun as you’d expect playing with fire and molten glass to be, and I now have a memento from the visit. Other adventures this year included checking out a sustainable studio made from reclaimed shipping containers, one contributor’s trip to London to meet world-renowned jewelry designer Alex Monroe, a look inside our own Product Development team’s creative space, and more. It wasn’t easy to pick just a few highlights from each Studio Tour to show you, but here are some moments that I hope spark your interest and maybe even put you in the mood to get creative too.

Laurel Begley

Laurel Begley | UncommonGoodsCreating the Faux Bois Vase | UncommonGoods

Laurel Begley’s Personalized Faux Bois Vase includes a symbol of lasting love, so it’s no surprise that she told us about some of the symbols of love an nurturing in her own life as she gave us a virtual tour of her Santa Rosa, CA studio. She also shared some great advice: “Don’t try to be anything you’re not. Do your best work, put it out there, and everything else will fall into place.” | Visit Laurel’s Studio

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Gift Guides

Gifts for Him: A Huge Gift Guide for Guys

December 17, 2016

What do the phrases, “Man, this is tough.”, “Oh, brother, where to start?”, and “Dude, seriously? What am I supposed to get?” have in common? Other than opening with a nod to some hypothetical male, you’ve also probably uttered them rhetorically when wondering what in the heck to buy for an actual man in your life. We know guys run the gamut from sports fans to geeks to foodies (and many are all of the above and more at once!), so we created this list of our favorite gift guides featuring stuff for hard-to-shop-for fellas.

 

He’s a modern man, but he still spends as much time as possible living in a cave. His man cave, that is. Help him turn his personal space into a truly impressive dude domain with this collection of cool guy gifts. | See more Man Cave Must-Haves>>

 

He already owns enough ties to open his own men’s fashion store. His kitchen is loaded with gadgets that could make a professional chef swoon. His book, record, and every other collection you can think of are so complete you don’t even know where to start when it comes to finding just what he needs. Saying he’s hard-to-shop-for is an understatement, but don’t worry. We have a whole list of things we bet he doesn’t already have. | See more Gifts for Someone Who Has Everything>>

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Gift Guides

Last Minute Gifts
That Don’t Feel Last Minute

December 8, 2016

We know we’re probably not supposed to say this, being an online store that sells really cool stuff and all, but holiday shopping isn’t always entirely fun. Sometimes it’s even stressful. Maybe you planned to get out there on Black Friday, but then spent the day recovering from too much stuffing and cranberry sauce instead. Or maybe you did get a head start on the shopping, but just realized that you still have a few people on your list, and of course they’re impossible to shop for. Now the Christmas clock is ticking. But that doesn’t mean those last minute gifts won’t be thoughtful. We’re here to help with this list of gifts so cool your giftees will wonder where you’ve been hiding them for months. (Don’t worry, the secret’s safe with us.)

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Gift Guides

Geeky Gifts for Proud Nerds

November 30, 2016

holiday2016-giftguide-title-nerds

The labels “geek” and “nerd” are insults no more. In fact, they’re badges of honor. These days, “You are such a nerd,” is a compliment to math lovers who spend hours on calculations and science fans who’d rather spend a night stargazing than doing almost anything else. As proud nerds ourselves, we are extra excited to present this round-up of great gift ideas for folks who aren’t afraid to let their geek flags fly.

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