Everyone knows someone who seems to already have everything. You know, that person whose living room looks like a museum of beautiful objects. Whose kitchen is fit for a professional chef. Who is always toting the latest gadget or the most fashionable fashion accessory. Folks who already have it all can be difficult to shop for, but as purveyors of the uncommon, we’re here to to show you a few things that will leave them excitedly asking, “Where did you find this?!”
Finding a gift for the whole family can be tricky, especially when each member of the group has a very different personality from the next. You could go with the standard “Happy Holidays to All of You from All of Us” fruitcake, but we think that one of these unique gifts might suite each of their individual tastes a little better. (While promoting family bonding, togetherness, and all that sweet stuff. Now that takes the cake!)
Dad takes it black, mom likes a little milk and sugar, and the kiddos stick to hot chocolate. Now each member of the family can enjoy their favorite drink in their own special mug. | Personalized Family Mugs
Nils Wessell is the creator of our Tablet Holding Cutting Board , an innovative design that allows cooks to easily prep ingredients with their electronic tablets ready and enabled right in front of them. While heirloom cookbooks are becoming a thing of the past, Nils’ cutting boards are beautifully-crafted and sturdily-constructed, meaning they bring a dose of tactile beauty to cooking in the electronic age.
When I first read our This Just In-spiration interview with the Brooklyn-based designer and woodworker, I got the impression that he’s not only a talented craftsman, but also someone who is truly passionate, not only about his own craft, but also about art across a broad spectrum. When I learned that his woodshop is located in nearby Industry City, I knew I had to pay him a visit to learn more about his thoughts on the pursuit of creativity and the challenges (and rewards) that come with balancing art and business.
Once in Nils’ creative space, I saw work, experimentation, knowledge, and–at the risk of sounding a little cheesy here–the magic in the sawdust all around me. Nils’ studio is a mix of books, designs in the prototype phase, power tools, and exquisitely-crafted cutting boards in different stages of production. Read on to see some of these works in progress, hand tools and heavy machinery, and our interview with Nils.
*Editor’s note: This list might look a little familiar, since we brought you Man Cave Must-Haves last year. Don’t worry, we updated it with some of our latest picks, so you’ll be sure to uncover the perfect artifact for your favorite man cave dweller this year, too!
Many years from now, when archaeologists of the distant future excavate the sites of 21st century man caves, they’ll get a glimpse into the daily life of today’s modern man. We want them to take a look at the artifacts they find and be amazed. But before future archaeologists can be amazed by their findings, it’s up to us to make sure those man caves are fully loaded with all of the coolest things. It’s also up to us to make sure that our modern-day men are totally blown away by the holiday gifts they get this year. Help the man cave dweller in your life create a truly impressive domain with these must-have goods.
1. Does he retreat to his man cave when he’s gearing up for a big game or winding down from a long day? Either way, he’ll need a place to stash his keys.| Kinetic Gear Key Holder
2. The first thing visitors to any man cave notice (aside from how the bar’s stocked) is the decor. Keep it as classy as it is manly with this Single Malts of Scotland Tasting Map.
3. Ordering pizza is good, but a home-cooked meal is better. (Yes, nachos for dinner = totally acceptable when it comes to man cave dwelling!) | Stoneware Nacho Plate
4. The guy on your gift list is already cool, his beer should be too. | Chillsner
5. Some things just go together. Like beer and man cave or bottle opener and pint glass. | Beer Opening Glass
6. What’s more tranquil than a cave? Watching sand slowly fall into beautiful, unrepeatable patterns while relaxing in a man cave.| Deep Sea Sand Art
7. It might not be a mastodon tusk, but we’re pretty sure your man cave dweller will appreciate it anyway. | Das Horn
8. That mini-fridge can only hold so many six packs, but thanks to the BottleLoft, so many is a couple more than before.
9. The discovery of fire added the first light to the dark dude den. The Lune Light adds light, color, and extra cool.
10. Dudes need doormats too. This one is is full of rugged charm. | Reclaimed Fire Hose Mat
11. Traditionally, drinking games mean the winner gets bragging rights and the loser gets a hangover. This Mini Beer Pong set is complete with smaller cups, so game night means sampling a selection of brewskies without overdoing it. But the winner still gets bragging rights.
12. He might like to spend alone time dwelling in his cave, but he knows there’s a great big world beyond its walls. Help him celebrate his favorite places out there with City Skyline Wooden Routings.
We all know that every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Bookends on the other hand, are usually just what they sound like: two ends. Eric Gross’ collection is an exception. Eric’s bookends tell a story by starting with one form, letting the books they’re supporting serve as the climax, and then wrapping things up with the perfect happy ending.
It’s no coincidence that Eric’s designs seem to follow the structure of a story, since many of his pieces are actually inspired by the pages of books he’s read. “I like to let my imagination run wild on the themes I’ve just read about,” he told us in a quick Q&A about his work. Read on to find out more about Eric’s taste in literature, his passion for metalwork, and how his handmade silhouettes of animals and interesting objects become beautiful, sturdy bookends.
In your maker story on our website, you mentioned that you grew up watching you father and grandfather work on machinery. How did this influence your decision to go into design, and specifically, to work with metal?
At a young age I was amazed that metal is both tough and durable but is also workable. Metals can be hammered, bent, formed, welded and molded to make any object. Dad would sketch the pieces he made prior to creating them and I loved the design and creativity that went into his work. When it came time for me to choose a career I realized that I loved the creative aspect of design, and chose to specialize in metal design.
You also said that you studied mechanical engineering in college. What made you take the leap and decide to use those skills to start a business producing your bookends?
After many years of designing industrial equipment and goods I found myself drawn to making little creative pieces in the shop in my spare time. Some of my coworkers mentioned that I should sell my creations. Once I discovered the handmade maker movement online I was hooked.
How do you come up with ideas for your pieces?
Most of my ideas come from books that I’ve read. I like fantasy and fiction, so I let my imagination run wild on the themes I’ve just read about. I like the bookends to tell a story themselves, just like the books they hold. You can use anything to hold up books, why not use bookends that are creative and enhance the beauty of your collection? Books are beautiful. Most people don’t read the same book more than once but they keep the books as a reminder of the voyage their imagination took while reading it. It’s sort of like why we take vacation photos, they are reminders of the places we’ve been.
What steps do you take to make each bookend?
The bookends are cut from steel. Then the cut pieces are ground, formed, welded, sanded, and finished in hammered black.
Do any of the designs you sell at UncommonGoods have a special meaning to you? Is there a set of bookends that’s your favorite?
Although it is one of my simpler designs, I think the Giraffe Family is my favorite. Being a parent myself I realize that once you have children the concept of self changes. I spend most of my time thinking about my children. I worry more about what they want and need, rather than myself.