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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Rachel Kroh

February 16, 2017

Rachel Kroh - UncommonGoods

If you’re not sure if you’re the kind of person who was actually born to be an artist (or if you’re the kind of person who should pursue it as a career, anyway) visiting the French countryside is a great way to go and figure it out. Printmaker Rachel Kroh did it, and ended up becoming a full-fledged working artist, with a studio and a business of her own.

Rachel’s prints, which come to life with woodblock printing and the use of an Indigo press, are unique, comforting, and undoubtedly special. We love to learn the stories of artists who are new to our assortment, and to share those stories with our readers. Check out our interview with Rachel to hear more about her journey to self-employment, how art meets religion in her craft, and the one quote from a college professor that reminds her to keep going.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Recycling Books & Spreading Literacy, One Pin at a Time

February 13, 2017

You can never have too many books, right? Well, actually, you kinda can. With hundreds of thousands of new books published each year, and with many library shelves so overwhelmed that librarians are often forced to throw books away, even those of us who feel sentimental about the written word and the pages that hold them have to admit: we’ve got a problem.

So what to do with all of those outdated encyclopedias and forgotten math textbooks? Aren’t there any other options aside from trashing them? Recycling, of course, comes to mind. But the bindings of many books, especially hardcovers, contain adhesives that can’t be recycled. So the inside pages can go, but then what happens to the rest?

Enter Laura Bruland Shields. A long-time book-lover herself and an artist at heart, she’s taken on this wasteful problem and is making beautiful solutions every day – in the form of one-of-a-kind, laser cut accessories made directly from books that would otherwise be thrown away. On top of that, she takes a portion of the proceeds from her business and donates them to benefit literacy and girls’ education around the world.

When we learned about Laura’s story, we knew we had to feature her in our Uncommon Impact series – her values as a maker and ours as a certified B-Corp company are a perfect match. We love that she thinks ethically in the way she makes her products and uses her to success to benefit a cause she’s passionate about.

Read on to hear from Laura directly about her creative process, some of her favorite book-titles-turned-accessories, and how her business is helping to spread a love of reading worldwide.

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Gift Guides

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts for Procrastinating Cupids

February 3, 2017

Consider this a friendly reminder: Valentine’s Day is coming soon! How does it manage to sneak up on us so quickly every year? Don’t fret – you do not (I repeat, DO NOT) need to resort to nondescript stuffed animals and chocolate samplers from the drugstore this time. Though the 14th is creeping closer on the calendar, it’s not too late to get something extra special for your special someone. Take a look through our handpicked selection of gifts here. We bet they’ll inspire you to quit your procrastinating and pick up something your valentine is sure to <3.

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Gift Guides

10 Valentine’s Day Gifts for the Gals You Love

January 31, 2017

10 Valentine's Day Gifts for the Gals You Love

Where would you be without the beautiful tropical fish, the poetic, noble land-mermaids, the spectacular clouds of brilliance better known as your “Galentines”?! If those stunning compliments are confusing to you, start watching Parks and Rec. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, though, now’s the time of year to celebrate a very special holiday that originated on it — Galentine’s Day. It’s technically the day before Valentine’s Day, and it’s a chance to show the women who keep you going just how much you love ’em. Give your best girls something unexpected this year with the help of our Galentine-specific guide.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Bryan Mitchiner & Justin Hoffman

January 26, 2017

If you’re someone who takes the time to really look at the labels on the food you’re buying, it’s likely you’ve had more than a few unsettling realizations about the industry as a whole. Justin Hoffman had a similar experience with a jar of mustard, which inspired him to take mustard-matters into his own hands and create his own–with “no added junk.” What was initially a healthy hobby based on Justin’s own curiosity and fondness for cooking turned into a business when he moved to Seattle and met Bryan.

Flavored Mustard Sampler - UncommonGoods

We love to see makers who take good (and good for you) ideas and run with them, and so we’re happy to welcome these two new entrepreneurs to our uncommon family. Read on to hear from Justin (and a little bit from Bryan) about how their whole operation got started, what keeps them going, and, of course, which recipes they recommend!

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Design, Maker Stories

Physics and Poetry Meet with the Beating Heart in a Bottle

January 17, 2017

Leave it to the French to make physics seem…romantic. Artist Philippe Bouveret truly marries science and poetry in our Beating Heart in a Bottle Sculpture: two halves of a heart joining together again and again in a rhythm much like the beating of our own hearts. Thanks to the power of capillary action, the piece is almost like a living work of art.

Never lacking in inventiveness and always eager to experiment, Philippe spent years (from the ages 13-18) building a real, 6m long boat. Eventually, after getting a technical degree, he traded his plans of becoming a naval architect for more artistic endeavors: assisting in the construction of Jean Tinguely’s Cyclops, an enormous moving sculpture tucked away deep in the forest, creating massive pendulums and fountains, and crafting “hidden tableaus that reveal unexpected objects simply by placing an aspirin tablet in a provided slot. Much of the work Philippe has created, either on his own or in collaboration with other artists, engages the viewer in a game of sorts. Now, you can find him continuing to follow his playful sensibilities, working in his “laboratory-studio,” as he calls it, “accidentally making little discoveries that arouse [his] curiosity.”

Acclaimed art collector and museum director Pontus Hultén describes Philippe’s work as containing “an intriguing element, like a happy secret, an awareness of something that leads on much further, towards infinity.” We’re pleased to share the happy secret of the Beating Heart in a Bottle with you–it’s one of our very first international products that’s exclusive in the USA to only our customers.

Another (not-so) happy secret? Few of us here speak French. And so communicating with Philippe necessitated a bit of extra je ne sais quoi. See? I don’t even think I used that right. Fortunately, Philippe’s son Grimaud stepped in to help with an interview and ensured that nothing got too lost in translation. (Merci beaucoup, Grimaud!) Read on to learn more about Philippe’s inspirations and obsessions, as well as what he hopes for everyone who receives a Beating Heart in a Bottle.

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Maker Stories

Melissa J. Gondek’s Family Sculptures: Celebratory Symbols of Love

January 9, 2017

Family photos have the power to evoke all kinds of complicated feelings: nostalgia, awkwardness, humor, love. They grace our holiday cards and fill up our (increasingly digital) photo albums. They capture small moments that can hold big meaning when we look back on them later on. These photos have their place in our family histories for sure–but what if we could display a representation of our love that’s more tangible, less fleeting? That gets at the essential feeling of being loved, rather than a specific moment in time?

That’s where sculptor Melissa J. Gondek comes in. She says of her work: “I’m sculpting love, and everyone needs more of that.” Our customers have already fallen for her sculptures that depict the bonds we have with our cats and dogs, and so we’re excited to have an exclusive “So Happy Together” family sculpture from Melissa–one that showcases the sweetness of the ties between parents and their children.

The customizable pieces communicate meaningful messages in a heartfelt, simple package. Parents sit with their kids (you choose one or two) cozied up on their laps in a sculpture that would be equally at home on an entryway table or a mantle, in a new baby’s nursery or close at hand on your desk. They aren’t exact replicas of your family, but instead represent its loving spirit–the essence of what keeps you all connected. The universality of the figures lets you decide what “So Happy Together” means to you–whether it’s warmth, or safety, or trust–or all of those good things wrapped up into one. 

We can’t wait to get these sentimental sculptures out to you and your families, but in the meantime, read on to hear from the artist herself about how she brings unique life to the ones we hold most dear through her work.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Ben & Christen Aroh

January 4, 2017

Ben & Christen Aroh - UncommonGoods

It’s about time we found a fun and functional solution for all of us chronic key-forgetters. Ben and Christen Aroh, the makers of our new Wooden States of America and USA Magnetic Key Holders, met in college and have become partners – both in their marriage and in their business. Together they’ve created these homey works of art that help us hold onto our keys. Ben does the woodworking, and Christen helps to keep the business side running smoothly while also working as an elementary school music teacher. 

We know you appreciate the inspiring, motivating stories behind our products just as much as we do, so settle in and read our interview with Ben about how he and Christen have made magnetic, key-saving magic in their Louisville, Kentucky woodshop.

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