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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Judi Powers

December 11, 2014

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

When I received the smile-from-ear-to-ear news that I would be visiting Judi Powers’ workspace for a studio tour, I didn’t even try to hold back my excitment. As the go-to person who organized the design challenges from our Brooklyn headquarters, it wasn’t every day that I was able to schmooze with our talented design challenge winners in person. And being Judi’s number one fan girl, I knew this studio tour would be a special one.

I first met Judi at one of our How To Make It design events – not knowing that she was one of our contestants who submitted an entry into our Jewelry Design Challenge months before. I complimented the gorgeous necklace she was wearing, and that’s when she revealed to me that she actually tried to submit that same piece into one of our past Jewelry Design Challenges and didn’t make it into the semi-finalist round. I immediately knew which entry she was speaking of – a poorly lit photo that didn’t capture the beautiful craftsmanship I saw in person. I told her to submit again with better photos, and didn’t think I’d hear from her anytime soon. Less than a month later, Judi sent in another submission except this time – with much better photos. After passing through three rounds of judging and receiving samples of Judi’s work, it was apparent that the jewelry judges were in love with the handmade A Tree Grows Necklace and crowned her our next jewelry grand prize winner.

Since then, Judi has repeatedly told me that her jewelry career has blossomed. She’s added two more lovely designs into our assortment (including this eye-catching Ear Climber) and has become an irreplaceable member of the shared space studios of Brooklyn Metal Works tucked away in the streets of Brooklyn — where she creates more of her nature-inspired pieces. Meet Judi Powers, an artist and advocate for sustainable jewelry, positive thinking, and good ol’ second chances.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I have two separate workspaces: my drawing table at home and my studio. I intentionally keep them separate. For me, the design process can be a really slow one so once I get to the studio I’m eager to start fabricating in wax or metal. Brooklyn Metal Works is more of a place of motivation for me. I look around at all of the talent, tools, and equipment that surround me and I can’t help but feel inspired to sit at my bench and be productive. Whenever I go to the studio, I’m just happy and excited!

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
Files, my saw, a rawhide mallet, the blowtorch, and my flex shaft are the tools I can’t live without. I know I’ll read this later and think “how did I forget to include that tool!”.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Well, I’m a “new” designer but not a young designer. I had a 22-year career in publishing that really helped me on so many levels, mostly on those related to business. I suppose the toughest lesson I’ve learned (even though I already knew this) is that you hear dozens of nos before you hear one yes. Also, having a daily schedule is key! It’s amazing how quickly a day passes when there’s no structure in it and, at the end of that day, it’s frightening to see how much you “didn’t” accomplish.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your product?
I thought about the special pieces of jewelry I’d received throughout my life and the memories I have around them. I wanted to create a collection that had special meaning for my customers and me. Every time I create a new design I tell a story about a special moment or place (despite a career in publishing, I never aspired to be a writer, but I do have a desire to tell stories via my jewelry). There are pieces in my collection that are inspired by my childhood in the country, travels in Asia, and my daily life in Brooklyn.

My education at a Rudolf Steiner High School also relates to my product. It’s because of the lessons I learned there about caring for our environment and our neighbors that I decided to do everything I possible to run an environmentally and socially responsible business.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Oh, there’s so much advice I’d give! Hearing “no” is never easy: get comfortable with that discomfort. Build a network of people who are happy to help you via professional organizations and educational settings. Don’t expect to know everything in a day. Be patient and be persistent. Stay organized. Don’t judge yourself so harshly!

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you set goals for yourself?
This is an ever-evolving process that I’m still trying to perfect. I think about where I want to be in six months, a year, and five years from now and what I need to do get there. My goals always change but they never fail to be about the longevity of my business.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I know this will sound cliché but every day that I get to wake up and live my dream is a celebration. Being a professional jeweler is both my victory and my reward.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I recently put this quote by Amelia Earhart over my desk: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” It’s really scary to walk away from a stable career in order to pursue something you love but that’s completely untested and uncertain. This quote is my daily reminder to confront the paper tigers and to see the process of major change as a component of the joy that comes from having the job you never thought was possible.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Down time usually entails chatting with my studio mates about the projects we’re working on. I’m very lucky to work in a collaborative space with so many incredibly talented people. And, I make the occasional run to Ample Hills for an ice cream break. My father instilled a life-long love for ice cream in me and it’s both a reward and a pick me up when I’m working at the studio.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
If there were countless hours in the day—and if I were a better time manager—I’d take classes ALL THE TIME! I take classes where I learn new techniques, such as various forms of stone setting, and I’m always working to run a better business. Investing in learning both practical jewelry skills as well as business skills is really key to running a healthy business.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you recharge your creativity?
I recharge my creativity by going to Montauk. It’s a really special place for me and I get so much inspiration there. I can stare at the ocean for hours. I can spend a whole afternoon beach combing. And my dog loves to run and play on the beach, which is a real treat for me too.

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I’ve been very honored to have a number of custom orders and those are always collaborative. My clients come to me with an occasion or idea in mind, we discuss it, I make sketches, and then we work on the final design together. I love doing custom work because it is collaborative, because I get the honor of sharing in someone’s happy occasion, and because there’s always a story to it. And I admittedly love to tell stories!

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Judi Powers Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

Gifts For Women: 15 Eco-Chic Designs for Her

November 26, 2014

Eco-Chic Designs for Her | UncommonGoods

At UncommonGoods, we love searching for sustainable and handmade designs when it comes to the products we share with you, especially with our jewelry and accessories. You want your gift to be unique and a reflection of who she is, so whether the word “stylish” or “eco-concious” (or both) describes your special girl, we got you covered! Below are 15 eco-chic designs and handmade items that you can gift her this holiday season that will not only add to her fashionable wardrobe, but also her green impact on the world.
Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

1. We love our gorgeous lace jewelry collection. This Vintage Lace Heart Within A Heart Necklace is made out of timeless materials such as gold, silver, and lace – the perfect gift for any mother or daughter.

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

2. If the girl in your life is one to stand out and tends to go against the norm, this Waterfall Ring will quickly become one of her favorite treasures in her jewelry box!

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

3. This Wine Cork Sling Bag is made out of 100% sustainable cork! The wine lover in your life will appreciate this eye-catching tote and it’ll conveniently play a weekly reminder to pick up more wine!

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

4. Skip the plane ride and take your wanderlusting lady on a trip to Africa with this organic-designed clutch. It’s woven by artisans in Madagascar from sustainable raffia palm fiber. | Madagascar Handwoven Raffia Clutch

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

5. The Provence Scarf is a lovely combination of upcycled burgundy cotton jersey and elegant black lace, the perfect touch for any outfit throughout the seasons.

 

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

6. Let your lady know that your love for her only grows more and more everyday with this delicate A Tree Grows Necklace.

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

7. For the ultimate bohemian chic in your circle of friends, bring the essence of India to her wardrobe with this Upcycled Sari Kantha Klutch. (The production of these clutches provides Indian women with a beautiful opportunity to create a better standard of living for themselves, their children, and their communities!)

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

8.  This Emerald Mosaic Ring is made out of beautiful, rough-cut emeralds and is embedded in textured brass. A bold ring to represent the bold love you have for the boldest lady you know!

Tagua Gem Necklace

9. A stunning Tagua Gem Necklace  that helps curb illegal elephant poaching, prevents deforestation, and allows local artisans to make a living from the harvesting, carving, and dyeing of the seeds. #winning

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

10. Chronic tea drinkers and vintage fashion hunters will give you more than a spoonful of smiles when you gift them these Spoon Handle Drop Earrings. They’re casted from 19th century demitasse spoons and then designed into these chic jewelry pieces!

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

11. Gift a pair of nature-inspred earrings for the ultimate nature lover! | Fern Frond Hoops

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

12. For the girl who loves to accessorize, this handmade Bora Scarf can pose as a scarf, neck warmer, or chunky necklace!

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

13. Help keep her precious jewelry organized with a zen-ful touch by gifting her this beautiful handcrafted Hand of Buddha Jewelry Stand.

 

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

14. The intricate designs you see on this wallet is made out of discarded black plastic bags in Cambodia. | Upcycled Plastic Crocheted Wallet 

 

Eco-Chic Gifts For Her | UncommonGoods

15. These beautiful bracelets you see are actually upcycled water pipes made by the hands of Namibian artisans. They use intricate carving techniques to transform utilitarian material into stylish accessories! | Hand Carved Upcycled Pipe Cuffs Set
Green Gifts | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

14 Gifts for your BCF (Best Couple Friends)

November 21, 2014

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

After your parents, you have that one other couple in your life that you place on a pretty high pedestal. You don’t even know what  “third wheel” means when you’re hanging with your Best Couple Friends. They’re your Cory and Topanga, Marshall and Lily, Chandler and Monica. Guilt-free, you look forward to crashing their date nights and making it into your marathon Netflix all-nighters. You play Dr. Phil when you catch them in the midst of a disagreement and they play “mom and dad” when yours are out of reach. They’re your favorite people, and you can’t imagine one without the other.  Show your gratitude of those times you accidentally did interrupt their date night and gift them something they can share as couple or you three amigos can experience together with these 14 BCF gift ideas below!

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

1. Gift convienence with this Sunset Wine Tote for a perfect impromptu date night on their rooftop or at the neighborhood park!

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

2. From music fesitvals to amusement parks to travel plans, you plan the best times together. Encourage them to save ticket stubs to collect the memories you all shared together with this Ticket Stub Diary!

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

3. Gift a Portable Table Tennis Set for the couple who enjoys a bit of friendly competetion from time to time. (Winner receives bragging rights for the week!)

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

4. Fondue for Two. (We repeat, fondue for two! Let the love birds get their cheese on.)

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

5. For the artsy-fartsy couple, gift an Andy Warhol-esque art piece to honor both their last names, the year they met, and when they tied the knot! | Intersection of Love

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

6. You truly believe they’re each other’s perfect “other half.” Tea time can now symbolize that incredible bond they share with our Porcelain Tea For Two Set!

Soup and Sandwich Ceramic Tray Duo | UncommonGoods

 

7. Give thanks for all the free meals your BCF cooked for you over the years with this Soup and Sandwich Ceramic Tray Duo.

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

8. We love that we live in ths digital age – but there’s something nostalgic about flipping through an actual photo album. Gift your friends this modern-designed photo album with a few of your favorite snapshots placed inside! | Keepsake Photo Album

 

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

9. Bring back the “good ol’ days” and gift a Personalized Mixtape Doormat to your rock star friends.

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

10. Keep your bottle of wine perfectly chilled while chilling with your wine-o friends. | Corkcicle Air
Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

11. Speaking of wine, impress your modern-minded buddies with this beautiful set of  Wooden Wine Glasses. #Cheers!

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

12. Enrich their palettes with this sharp Imperial Tea Gift Set. It offers six rare teas from around the world along with a cast iron tea pot and two traditional sipping cups – a perfect package, just like your BCF!

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

13. This gorgeous Reclaimed Redwood Bluetooth Speaker makes the best gift for the music-lovin’ couple who retired their wild nights out for cozy nights in.

 

Gifts For Your BCF (Best Couple Friends!) | UncommonGoods

14. Help spice up your BCF’s love life with a Sexy Truth or Dare game. Just remember, you’re not quite invited to that party!

gift-guide-bcf-cta

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ronda J Smith

November 14, 2014

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Studio tours are one of my favorite things about being a part of the blog team here at UncommonGoods; it’s impossible for me to leave a creative space and not feel fascinated, energized, and most of all – inspired. (Okay, and maybe a wee bit jealous.) There’s always new designer lingo, unusual tools, or interesting processes I discover when stepping inside a vendor’s creative haven, and my social media-obsessed alter ego immediately wants to Instagram and tweet everything I see.

Ronda J Smith’s In The Seam studio is absolutely no exception. From her super-duper mega printers to real life Pinterest-like wall quotes and images to her beloved chair that’s showered with eye cut-outs, my curiosity ran wild – and then ran some more. Yet, as much as I adored her studio, it wasn’t exactly In The Seam’s home that got me pumped up for life and wanting to run out the door to simply make something, anything. It was Ronda. She led me to not only feel like I took two shots of espresso, but was ready to conquer the world. I was on a high. Ronda’s energy and enthusiasm towards her craft, projects, and space was overwhelmingly contagious and uplifting. It taught me that whatever I’m doing in life – I should always have that much passion for it, nothing less.

Meet spunky Ronda J Smith, maker of our Indulgent Foods, Elements of NYC, and Custom Pet Pillows. Step inside her studio and be prepared to feel your creative juices flow.

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your product?
The idea came while I was relaxing with my cat, Keywan, one afternoon and decided to take his picture. Inspired by my love of photography and sewing, I decided to print the image on fabric, cut it out and sew a pillow. That’s how In The Seam got started.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
The toughest lesson is learning to run the business.  I went to school for photography, not business or marketing.  I’ve learned so much and have enjoyed the challenge. I must thank Google and my family and friends – I’ve asked them all a lot of questions along the way!

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m working on extending my product line and brand! I want to use my photographs on other objects so I can produce more items in addition to pillows.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford. This quote means anything and everything you want it to mean.  Your thoughts and mindset are more powerful than you could ever imagine.

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I celebrate everything, every step, even the small stuff with a jump and high-five!

How do you set goals for yourself?
I write them down in sharpie on my calendar.  Once I write it there, it’s pretty much set in stone and I must follow through.

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
My most essential tool is my camera, which is obvious. Besides that, I couldn’t live without my strong sturdy silver spoon, I use the tip of the handle to inside-out the tiny corners and crevasses of each pillow.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Tucked in my tiny office surrounded by all my boxes and “stuff”.  I feel safe and secure.  It gives me the ability to concentrate and create.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
It doesn’t. I’m not even sure what down time means!

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I collaborate with someone each and every time a custom pillow is created.  Customers send me the image they envision me to cut and shape into a pillow.  I print, cut, and sew that pillow for them.  Custom Pet Pillows are a large part of my business, it keeps me on my toes. And with the cast of characters that come out of my printer, it keeps me smiling too!

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Learn to negotiate and don’t undersell your products.  You can’t let people take advantage of you, especially when you are crafting a handmade product.  Which is tough advice sometimes, because I always want to make everyone happy.

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you recharge your creativity?
I recharge by either taking a long walk around the city, or a long weekend away from the city. I always have my camera at hand, so the work is never far, but it gives me a chance to step away from my studio and get some fresh air.  If I’m close to a body of water and can take a swim that helps too.

Ronda J. Smith Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gifts For Babies: 15 “Awww-Worthy” Presents

November 12, 2014

gift-guide-baby-post (2)

We know that whether you’re a parent-to-be, a cool aunt, or a favorite grandma — you want your #1 baby to feel every ounce of love you have for them this holiday season. We created a list of 15 of our favorite baby gift items from UncommonGoods that are baby-safe, unique, and most certainly awww-worthy. Warning: After reading this gift guide you will feel a sudden need to squeeze the nearest baby.

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

1. Boo-boos be gone! Let your adventurous baby run free with these protective, adorable Crawling Knee Pads.

 

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

2. Gnome-one is as cute as your tiny tot. Gnome-one. |  Gnome Babysuit & Hat

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

3. From A to Z, let the world know which letters are your favorite. |  Personalized Baby Stroller Blanket

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

4. Gift this charming coat of arms to your little prince or princess. Caution: They may demand that you to hang it above their throne. | Coat of Arms – Personalized Birth Announcement

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

5. Eeeeek, watch out! These Baby Shark Slippers are on their way to pull on your heart strings!

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

6. A new year equals new memories. Get inspired and start saving those sweet, little moments with our 2015 Birth Year Box!

 

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

7. Silver spoons are a thing of the past. Introduce this fancy rattle for the fanciest baby you know! | Silver Baby Rattle

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

 

8. Yes, you’ll always certainly be their hero. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let them be their very own hero with this legendary storybook cover! | Personalized Storybook Art

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

9. Are you constantly guessing whether your family, friends, or restaurants will have a highchair available? With this harness, you can keep your bundle of joy snug as bug on any chair, any time! | Portachair Harness

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

10. Save those precious memories that make your baby, your baby, with this adorable Custom Petit Collage Baby Book!

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

11. All wrapped up, and no where to go. #NomNomNom | Tortilla Baby

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

12. Treasure those little items you know you’ll never want to let go inside this urban inspired Personalized Townhouse Baby Keepsake Box!

 

 

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

 

13. Because your baby deserves panda hugs when you’re not around. | Bear Hug Baby Set

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

 

14. Shake, rattle, and roll out the sweet fun! Introduce ice cream to your baby without the sticky mess (or unwanted cravings). | Ice Cream Rattles

Gifts for Babies: 15 "Awww" Worthy Gifts

15. Gift good fortune for every step your baby takes, literally. Take-out never looked so cute! | Baby Fortune Cookie Booties

gift-guide-baby-cta