Archives

The Uncommon Life

It’s Better to Give Because…

December 9, 2015

We’re proud to support our Better to Give partners and the positive impacts they’re making on the world all year long, but on December 1, 2015, we were able to step-up our giving game and donate more to help them do good.

The first day in December this year was Giving Tuesday, a “global day dedicated to giving back.” To celebrate, we asked our community to tell us why it’s better to give than to receive, and we received some pretty on-point answers.

Better to Give | UncommonGoodsFor every answer we received on  Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we donated $1 to our Better to Give partners. We also chose one answer from each platform and donated $500 to a non-profit organization of the person who shared that answer’s choice.

  • Twitter winner @EtheRealGrrl said “It’s #BettertoGive than receive because nothing is more fulfilling than contributing to another person’s happiness.” She chose our Better to Give partner RAINN to receive our donation in her name.
  • Our Instagram winner @zlauzia picked  The Next Door–an organization that isn’t currently one of our partners, but is definitely a worthy cause. She said, “It is always #bettertogive. There is no better joy than that of giving – regardless of what it is – a smile, your time, a shoulder, your love, a hug, money; let’s make every day #givingtuesday.”
  • On Facebook, Clara Waldhari told us, “Giving — of yourself and/or through a material item — is the best way to know you are alive and in tune with this wondrous universe. Giving from the heart is healing for the giver and the receiver. #BettertoGive and #GivingTuesday” She selected the international children’s rights organization Save the Children to receive $500.

In addition to the extra donations made through our social media campaign, we also doubled the donation for every shopper who selected a Better to Give Partner at checkout when purchasing on our website. (Did you know that every time you shop at UncommonGoods you have the opportunity to select a non-profit partner from our line-up and we’ll donate $1 to that organization at no cost to you? Learn more here.)

Better to Give | UncommonGoods

It's Better to Give | Learn More

Thanks to our social media followers who participated in the campaign and the shoppers who selected non-profit partners to receive our special $2 donation, we donated a total of $5,799 on Giving Tuesday.

Of course, it truly is better to give than to receive all year round, so don’t forget to check out Better to Give next time you place an order with us and we’ll donate $1 to the non-profit partner of your choice.

 

Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: From Laos with Love–Clearing Bombs, Crafting Beauty, Creating Hope

December 1, 2015

As a certified B Corporation, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green”–we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best-interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always eager to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.

Laos A village in Laos, Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Suda

While many of our makers rely on sustainable practices at one point or another in their process, we’re especially excited about those who place the wider world at the forefront of their craft–those who are making an uncommon impact.

In the case of Elizabeth Suda, founder of Article 22, making a positive impact is, in part, about helping to heal the negative impact the imposed on Laos  during the Vietnam War. The Peacebomb Jewelry designs produced by Article 22 aren’t just fashionable accessories, they’re also symbols of hope.

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Better to Give Gets Even Better on #GivingTuesday

November 22, 2015

Giving Tuesday

We’ve all heard the old phrase “It’s better to give than to receive,” and as a B Corp, we truly mean it. We even took the name for our Better to Give program from that sentiment, because we know that giving back to the community is an important part of becoming a better business.

Every time you shop at UncommonGoods, we donate $1 to the non-profit Better to Give partner of your choice, and over the past 12 years, that’s added up to over $1,000,000 in donations. On December 1, 2015, we want to give a little extra by participating in #GivingTuesday.

Help us give more by taking to social media to tell us why you believe that it’s better to give than to receive using the hashtags #BettertoGive and #GivingTuesday. We’ll donate $1 a share for the first 5,000 shares to our non-profit partners and we’ll pick three participants (one each from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to win $500 to donate to the non-profit organization of their choice.

Better to Give | UncommonGoods

While you don’t need to shop to share, we do plan to give our traditional Better to Give program a little extra love on #GivingTuesday as well. Place an order on December 1 and we’ll donate an extra dollar on your behalf to the organization you choose at checkout.

By participating in #GivingTuesday through social media or by selecting one of our partners when you shop, you can help us make a difference for a child learning to read, a woman survivor of war, a survivor of sexual abuse, or a natural habitat facing potential deforestation.

 

RAINNDonations to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, fund programs that prevent sexual violence. RAINN also operates National Sexual Assault Hotline and partners with rape crisis centers across the country. By providing resources for policymakers and the media and building community partnerships, RAINN promotes nationwide education and awareness about sexual violence. They also work to ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

 

American Forests

Donations to American Forests help them protect and restore forests damaged by human action and natural disasters around the world. American Forests, the oldest non-profit conservation organization in the United States, has planted more than 45 million trees since 1990.

 

Women for Women International

Donations to Women for Women International allow them to  help women survivors of war by bringing them together in safe spaces to learn life, business, and job skills. By giving women the tools and resources they need to overcome crisis and poverty, Women for Women International helps them become independent, while building stronger families and communities.

 

Reach Out and Read

Donations to Reach Out and Read help them continue their mission to put children on the path to success through the development of early reading skills and school readiness. The organization works with thousands of doctors and nurses across all 50 US states to integrate children’s books into well-child visits and encourage parents to read to their children.

We’re extremely proud of the positive impact we’ve helped our non-profit partners make in the world and we’re looking forward to helping these great organizations do more good as we celebrate #GivingTuesday.

FAQ

How do you choose artists to feature on your blog?

November 12, 2015

We’re always looking for artists with interesting stories to tell. We feature artists in several types of maker stories on the blog. Artists new to UncommonGoods are often profiled in our This Just In-spiration series, which is a quick Q&A to introduce our readers and customers to our latest products and the people who make them. We also love profiling artists that go above and beyond when it comes to sustainable business practices in our Uncommon Impact series. When we’re lucky enough to work with artists with studios near our location in Brooklyn (or in surrounding areas), we might stop by their workspace for a Studio Tour. Finally, since we know not every artist will fit into one of these categories, we’ll also feature maker stories outside of these series. If you’re an UncommonGoods maker who’d love to share your inspiration or creative process, who makes something out of unique materials, or who factors social and environmental responsibility into your business practices, we want to share your story. Email blog@uncommongoods.com to tell us more.

Gift Guides

Fantastic Finds for the Family

October 28, 2015

Fantastic Finds for the Family | UncommonGoods

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!)

 

Personalized Family MugsDad 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

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Nils Wessell

October 16, 2015

Nils Wessell | UncommonGoodsNils in his Brooklyn woodshop, photos by Rachel Orlow

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. 

Nils Wessell | UncommonGoods Studio Tour

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Stories in Steel: Eric Gross’ Bookends

September 19, 2015

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.

Eric Gross Bookends | UncommonGoods

 

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.

Eric Gross | UncommonGoods

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.

Giraffe Family Bookends | UncommonGoods

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.

See Eric's Collection | UncommonGoods

 

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Seth and Kali Keaveny

September 16, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.
What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Seth and Kali Keaveny, creators of the Wooden Gear Lamp and the Wooden Pendulum Clock.
Keaveny Family
Seth took a few minutes to tell us about working full-time in the “corporate” world while running his own business, spending time with his newborn son, and working to make his dreams a reality.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Just the other day, while organizing my basement, I came across an exercise that was dated “1980” (puts me in first grade) saying, “When I grow up I want to be an artist or a professional baseball player.” I would like to say that being an artist was a lifelong dream, but in truth… it was not something I took an interest in until my senior year at Tulane University. In fact, I selected to sing in an all-male choir in high school to avoid having to take art classes.
Perhaps my subconscious knew what my destiny might be, but throughout my youth I had strategically led my life no different than most. Go to college… get a degree… find a job… and do what you got to do. Fortunately, my heart overpowered my brain and took control forcing me to further educate myself in my passion/calling in life. At twenty two, I took a few continued education classes at SCAD in Savannah, GA only to find myself lucky enough to be invited to the Furniture Design program and receive my MFA. In short, I was a “late bloomer” when I discovered my passion to become an artist and have not looked back since.

Wooden Pendulum Clock | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Here is my day… day in and day out. I wake up no later than 2 a.m. (yes, 2 a.m.) and get to my corporate gig by 3 a.m., organize the work flow for my employees, and begin to complete the action items I have created for myself for that day. Currently, I manage the “Creative Design & Engineering Center” for North America with a great company that appreciates my creative and professional contributions while providing me the flexibility to efficiently achieve my daily obligations for them and my personal goals at [my own business,]Kkorner. I get home by 1 p.m. and head to the studio to work until about 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Next, I eat some dinner and hang with my amazing wife, Kali, and our incredible new born son, Tennyson. My head hits the pillow around 9 p.m. or so.
This lifestyle is not an easy one. It is not a lifestyle that is recommended to those who do not have a burning drive to become successful at something they love… something they MUST do… something that they truly believe they will eventually reap the rewards putting in long hours and willing to “pay their dues.”
Once all of the pieces fall into place, Kkorner will become a fulltime gig, but I have no intentions of slowing down! Sleep is overrated and the idea of sleeping one-third of this precious thing we call life is honestly disturbing to me. And if I could spend all twenty four hours of the day designing and creating, I would be a very happy man. Unfortunately, I need about five hours of rest to reboot and to maintain a clear and sound mind.

Seth and Kali Keaveny

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Being labeled as a “professional artist” can be a very personal achievement to obtain. In my current situation, I am not there… even though we have been very successful and have grown much faster than originally planned, until Kkorner is capable of providing me with enough income to comfortably support me and my family and has become a household brand name, I do not categorize myself as a professional artist. I define a “professional artist” as someone who can generate significant revenue doing what they love and are passionate about each and every day. We project that by the first quarter of 2017 this dream will manifest itself.
To answer the question directly, all I think about every second of the day is the desire to share my creations with the world. One might define this as being obsessed. In fact, I believe one must be obsessed to achieve a dream. Being conscious that I can touch people’s lives, in some small way, even with a lamp or valet, can bring tears to my eyes and chills to my bones. To inspire… to influence… to share… and, most importantly, to put a smile on someone’s face… THAT is what it is all about! THAT is the driving force behind my desire of becoming a successful professional artist.



Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Interesting question. The only items that I make sure I acknowledge on a daily bases are photos and paintings of my loved ones who have impacted my life in a positive way and who have since passed. This collection consists of family members and even my first dog of seventeen years, Taylor.

Imagine you showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Again… another great question. When the design and function allow, I try to have my pieces be “interactive.” That being said, I believe one of the first things that a kindergartner would ask is, “How do you do that?” That is when the door opens to not only educate this young and beautiful mind, but too inspire and direct them on how important it is to live a life of passion.

Wooden Gear Lamp

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I have two quotes that I have printed large enough to be pasted on my studio walls. The first quote is one that any artist will appreciate…
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

The second quote is very personal and inspirational to me. I believe this quote to be very profound and only those individuals who live their life with the same burning passion will appreciate and understand…

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Unknown

However, the quote pasted on wall has our brand name, Kkorner, in place of the word “entrepreneurship.”

What are you most essential tools?
Not being sarcastic nor disrespectful to the question, but my most essential tool is my “brain.”

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

Pin It on Pinterest