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What Does Photography Mean to These 3 Photographers?

September 18, 2014

Photography Challenge | UncommonGoods

We’re excited to say that the eight semifinalists are chosen for our very first Photography Challenge! Cast in your votes and comment on the photos you think deserves to win $500 and should be added into our uncommon assortment! Keep in mind that you’re able to vote for more than one photo.  The four top voted photographs will be judged by our four wonderful guest judges, and they will decide on the grand prize winner!

Because this is a new type of contest for us, we wanted to get inside the heads of our guest judges and speak about the exciting world of photography. The guest judging panel are three professional photographers and our art buyer: Ashley Davis, Mark Weinberg, Emily Dryden, and Katy Loeb. We decided to throw a few questions at them and, and with no surprise, they threw some amazing responses right back! Check out the Q+A below and let us know what photography means to you in the comments section.

 

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

Ashley Davis | Photographer  

“I love that I can get behind my lens, take a photograph, and turn it into something magical for people to love and want to have for their own.”

If money was no object, what type of photography project would you like to organize?
I work with physically and mentally disabled children, so I would love to run a program where we’d be able to purchase a few cameras for these kids and teach them the beauty of photography. Although these children have faced a lot of adversity in their young lives, they mostly have such an incredible outlook on life and I know that would show through in their artwork.

Which website should every photographer know about?
CreativeMarket.com. It is run by creatives, for creatives. Whether you want to sell your stock images on the site for a little extra cash, or browse and purchase their immense photography resources such as overlays, presets, WordPress and website templates, and fonts – they have got what you need!

What do you love about photography?
I love that I can get behind my lens, take a photograph, and turn it into something magical for people to love and want to have for their own. What I love about photography in general is that there is the freedom to express oneself in so many different ways, and that there is such a broad definition of “photography” these days and the genres continue to expand. I am constantly finding new artists that I am falling in love with, and although the market is somewhat saturated, I don’t see that as a necessarily bad thing, but as a blessing that there is more talent to find and an occasion to rise to the challenge of standing out among the crowd of many as one of the greats.

 

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

Mark Weinberg | Photographer

What makes a powerful photo? “Light.”

Who is your all-time favorite photographer?
I don’t have one. Here are a few: Michael Kenna for his ability to capture ordinary environments in a surreal way, Edward Burtynsky for his ability to find patterns in both man-made as well as natural environments, Henri Cartier-Bresson for his ability to capture a moment on film.

 If money was no object, what type of photography project would you like to organize?
I would love to do a large scale documentation of the US Postal System. Both the buildings and the employees. The architecture in post offices ranges from some of the most beautiful structures every completed in the USA to some of the most utilitarian. I’d love to interview employees and photograph them as well. I’d love hear what everyday life is like as well as the craziest thing they have ever seen in the mail.

What makes a powerful photo?
Light.

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

 Emily Dryden | Photographer at UncommonGoods

   “[Images] should be able to draw the viewer into a different world or into a new story or emotion.”

What makes a powerful photo?
A powerful image is one that can keep you engaged the longest. The image should be able to draw the viewer into a different world or into a new story or emotion.

Which website should every photographer know about?
Aphotoeditor.com is a great website to discover new work and the learn about the business.

If you were able to take a photo of anything or anyone anywhere– what would you decide on?
I would like to shoot David Lynch have coffee in an old diner.

katy
Katy Loeb | Art Buyer for UncommonGoods

“[Photography] plays with memory, reality, and technology in a way that other mediums do not.”

What’s your favorite photograph?
This is a tough question! One of my very favorites would have to be Carrie Mae Weems’s series The Kitchen Table (1990), in which the artist records a fraction of the many activities, conversations, and emotions that make their way across her kitchen table.  Weems captures the complexity and nostalgia of such an ordinary space with reverence.

 What type of photographs are you hoping to add into your assortment?
My goal is to bring in a range of photography that will be both aesthetically pleasing in a home, but also evoke strong emotions from a viewer. I’m always attracted to works that could be conversation starters!

What does photography mean to you?
Photography, I believe, is perhaps the most nuanced form of visual art.  It plays with memory, reality, and technology in a way that other mediums do not. In that vein, photography for me has the power to evoke more powerful emotions and ideas than most other art forms.

Be sure to cast in your votes here for your favorite photographs that made it as semifinalists! The deadline for voting is at 11:59pm on September 23, 2014. The top 4 voted photos will move onto the next round and the guest judges will decide on one grand prize winner.  The winner will earn $500 and have a chance to be added into our assortment!

Photography Voting | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Over The Moon With Natasha’s Winning Design

September 17, 2014

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

I immediately knew Natasha’s design of the Crescent Necklace would be a semi-finalist for the Jewelry Design Challenge the moment I opened up her entry. The charming piece matched perfectly with the UncommonGoods brand – not only was it a beautiful ceramic piece, but it was handmade with a unique mosaic design. The only problem we ran into, since Natasha offered multiple hues for her designs, was deciding on which color to feature!  The judges were unanimous when deciding on the winner and I was happy to make that phone call to the very excited and humbled Natasha. We wanted to bring a necklace into our assortment that was a classy statement piece, a pendant that would be hard for anyone not to notice, but not overwhelming or too showy. The Crescent Necklace was a perfect match. And because we couldn’t resist ourselves, we also threw in her matching earrings. Meet Natasha Justice, our latest Jewelry Design Challenge winner, and learn about her step-by-step process of making her Crescent Necklaces.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your design for your Crescent Necklace?
I love to mix different shapes and textures.  I had some pieces from a broken necklace that sparked my curiosity.  I pushed each of the pieces into my rolled out slab of clay and really liked what I saw.  I was wanting  a bold piece, so I used my large oval to sort of frame the textured design I just created.  And the shape and design jumped out at me.  I made another cut to create the crescent shape and loved the completed piece.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our jewelry design challenge?
I immediately called my husband, I couldn’t believe it!  I was so excited!  And we went to dinner that night to celebrate.

How did you discover our jewelry design challenge?
I heard about it through another artist and looked into it on UncommonGoods. I always tell myself to just go for it, you never know, you could win.

Can you tell us 3 fun facts about yourself?
1. I am seriously addicted to crime shows and movies.  I love Criminal Minds and any type of crime thriller movie.

2. I started making jewelry when I was 10 and then [again] after getting laid off. When I found out I was pregnant with my first son (I have 3) I decided I needed a hobby to keep myself busy. So I started making more jewelry and my hobby became my business.

3. I can’t sew but I would absolutely love to learn how.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
I mostly use hand-building techniques to create my clay pieces.

What’s one piece of jewelry you own that you would never want to lose?
One of my very first ceramic pendants I made.  It reminds me why I started making ceramic pendants and my love for clay.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods
Natasha’s hometown, Cincinnati.

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating your necklace?
I take a clump of clay and roll it out flat with a rolling pin.  I then take the broken necklace pieces and stamp out the design.  I cut the design out with my large oval cutter and then I use a small circle to complete the crescent shape.  I smooth all of the edges, make the holes in the top and sign each ceramic piece on the back.  Then each piece has to dry out completely between two weighted pieces of wood to ensure the clay pieces do not curl.  Once they are dry I put them through the first firing, which is the bisque firing.  My kiln reaches 1,940 degrees.  I let the pieces cool and then they are ready to be glazed.  I hand-glaze each piece with a paint brush.  I load my kiln again and let the kiln reach 1,830 degrees.  After the pieces cool they are ready to be made into jewelry.  I buy my chain, jump rings, and lobster claw clasps in bulk so I have to measure each piece of chain to the appropriate length and hand cut each one.  I then assemble the necklace into a completed piece.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

Other than making and promoting your jewelry, what other hobbies are you into?
I love watching movies and I recently got back into working out consistently. [These hobbies] seem to help me wind down.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

Do you think jewelry pieces should be fashionable or timeless?
I think a girl needs a little bit of both.  I love timeless pieces, but I always have to have some fashionable ones as well.  The fashionable ones are my go-to when I go on dates with my husband or out with the girls. I also love to mix them both with layering.

Necklace up close

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio With Deborah Stotzky and Erwin List Sanchez

August 15, 2014

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Erwin List Sanchez and Deborah Stotzky are exactly who you would imagine when you think of partners who design Yoga Jewel Pendants for a living : peaceful, positive, and calm. After only five minutes of chatting with the couple and exploring their home, they were no longer just the “Yoga Jewels” designers in my mind, but simply Erwin and Deborah.

I knew the moment I walked down their quiet East Village street that I was about to be welcomed into one of the most charming home studios I’ve ever seen. Their street is the kind of street I wished to move to when I first thought about moving to New York City ten years ago based on all of the NYC-based movies I watched. (Just to name a few: Manhattan, You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally.) And by no surprise, my assumption was proven correct when I stepped into their apartment and found myself gawking around as if it were a quaint museum that I just so happened to run into on a Sunday stroll.

I immediately could tell everything that they hung on their walls or displayed on their shelves carried a personal story. “We brought that back from Mexico,” “Erwin designed this, actually,” “We took that photo,” and “We found those on the ground. Can you believe it?” were some of the comments Deborah would say when I inquired on an interesting piece. I loved that their studio had a memory tucked behind every corner– with their work table stationed in the middle of their home —  inspiration was always just at an arm’s length.

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: ACTIVE FUN

August 14, 2014

ActiveFun_SquareThe next Instagram Challenge theme is ACTIVE FUN.  These days, it may take a bit of convincing to get offline, step out, and jump around — but I think most of us can agree once we’re moving, it can often be the highlight of our day.  Not only does it implement long term health, but positive vibes tend to shadow us while experiencing a form of exercise that we enjoy. Some of us need that heavy adrenaline rush, while others need to find the serenity in their daily yoga class.  Whether it’s taking a stroll around your neighborhood block or skydiving in an exotic country, show us how you move!  When sharing your photos, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card! Visit here to see all of the energetic entries we’ve received so far. #WhatKeepsYouMoving? 

 

Congrats to @toyker for winning our WANDERLUST Instagram Challenge with this beautiful Georgetown, Malaysia shot!

Instagram Challenge Winner | Wanderlust

 

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: DIY

August 5, 2014

Instagram Challenge | DIY | #UGInstaFun | UncommonGoods

The current Instagram Challenge theme is DIY! Here at UncommonGoods, we’re a huge fan of handmade items and things yous can make yourself! Join in on the Instagram fun and let us take a peek at your recent DIY projects.  When sharing your photos, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card! Visit here to see all of the creative entries we’ve received so far.

Congrats to @ialannamurphy for winning our Active Fun Instagram Challenge with this uplifting snapshot!

Instagram Challenge Winner | Active Fun | #UGInstaFun | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: WANDERLUST

July 31, 2014

Instagram Challenge | #UGInstaFun | Wanderlust | UncommonGoods

The next Instagram Challenge theme is WANDERLUST. We believe we all have a free spirit living inside of us somewhere. Whether you’re an avid jet setter, saving your pennies for that Round-The-World ticket, or have been longing for an outdoor camping trip just an hour away from home– wanderlust is a powerful thing, and the only way to get rid of it is to GO. Summers are usually the time when we hop on a plane (or boat, or bike, or train!) and travel off  to a place to discover, experience, and explore.  When sharing your photos, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card! Visit here to see all of the travel entries we’ve received so far!

 

Congrats to @bunsk1 for winning our NEIGHBORHOOD #UGInstaFun challenge!

Instagram Challenge Winner | NEIGHBORHOOD | UncommonGoods

 

 

The Uncommon Life

Gift Lab: Boombox Touch Speaker

July 2, 2014

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Product: Boombox Touch Speaker, a portable speaker that’s cord free and will blast out your tunes by simply setting a smartphone on top of it.

Research: 
I love to jam out (preferably to Motown, MJ, or the Rent soundtrack ) while taking my morning showers, prepping dinner, or cleaning my apartment. And although I could play music out loud with my iPhone, it’s never quite loud enough. As a temporary solution, I used to walk around with my iPhone in my back pocket and wear headphones in my apartment, but that quickly became a nuisance. So I decided to search for a convenient speaker that I could use with my iPhone. I wanted something that I could easily bring from room to room without a hassle of setting up or constant plugging and unplugging.

Then I discovered the Boombox Touch Speaker while browsing UncommonGoods at work. I have to admit when I heard that this speaker could play music if I just simply placed my iPhone on top of it, I was definitely skeptical. Trust me, I’m usually a glass-half-full type of gal, but I felt like this little tech discovery was too good to be true. The description claimed that there was no need to set up Bluetooth® and no cords were needed. For such a great price, what exactly is the catch? Poor sound quality? Needing to download a $3 smartphone app? Will it break easily?

Skeptical and hopeful at the same time, I’ve decided to test it out on my own to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Hypothesis: 
I was sure that the product would work, but definitely with a couple of setbacks. I was expecting to hear a bit of static or that the music wouldn’t be as loud as I would want it to be. (And super loud Billie Jean is always better than I-could-kinda-hear-you Billie Jean.)

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Experiment: 
I planned to test out the Boombox Touch Speaker at my neighborhood park for a nice little lazy Sunday. Nothing at the time sounded better than flipping through fashion magazines, snacking on guacamole and chips, and chit chatting with my good friend, Christina, while listening to a few Motown favorites in the background.

When I got the speaker I was immediately surprised by three things: the size, the weight, and the feel. I expected it to be bigger because in my mind “big sound equals big speakers.” But I guess we’re not living in the ‘80s anymore and this doesn’t necessarily need to happen anymore. It was nice to know that I could pop it into my tote bag and still have room for other gadgets and gizmos.

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

The weight was lighter than I expected as well, even after seeing its small size – I thought it would still be a bit heavier than it was. That was a relief because it would have been a hassle if I had a heavy speaker weighing down on my shoulder during my commute or if I had to complete errands. I hate being slowed down!

The last thing I noticed was the feel of the entire speaker. It’s surprisingly soft, smooth, and easy to hold and carry around. I could place it on my nightstand, fireplace mantel, kitchen counters, or on the shelf in my bathroom. I love that it’s so versatile and doesn’t necessarily need a specific spot to live in my home. So far, I was definitely impressed. (But still skeptical!) I was ready to test the speaker! Off to the park we go.

IMG_1110

IMG_1125

The next step was simply to just turn on the speaker. I turned it on from the switch in the back, and a blue light popped up. I was happy I didn’t need to charge it or place batteries in.  I was like a kid opening up her birthday gifts. I wanted the toy to work – no time for other nonsense!

In the photo below I was so excited that the speaker weighed less than the bag of tortilla chips I was holding!

IMG_1121

Now, for the moment I’ve been waiting for! Without reading directions, I placed my iPhone on top of the speaker… and….I didn’t hear one sound come out of the speaker. I knew it! Too good to be true! I turned the switch back on and then off. Tried again. And again. And again. Nothing.

But right when I turned the phone around, I heard good ol’ Marvin Gaye crooning loud and clear, literally. The sound quality was amazing. Success! It was a lot louder than I expected it to be and I actually had to turn down the music through the volume control on my iPhone. (Although, I’m sure others at the park wouldn’t have had any objections to Marvin being a part of their Sunday!)

Boombox Touch Speaker | UncommonGoods

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Conclusion: 
I’m glad I was very skeptical of the Boombox Touch Speaker because I feel if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been as eager to test it out. I’m 100% happy with it, and would recommend it to any music lover. (AKA: everyone!) My only tip is to make sure that your phone is facing the right way. For the iPhone, make sure the top of the phone sits closest to the speaker, its screen facing up. (Seen in the photo above.)

Now I am able to listen to loud music at home in any room (headphone free!). Also, it’s always a fun to bring out  and show off to my friends on any of our rooftop parties or afternoon picnics. I honestly had three people ask me in absolute awe “How is that even possible?” And just as the description advises to do here, I shrugged and said, “It’s magic.”

Watch me test out the speaker and bust a couple of moves in the video below. Happy grooving!

Maker Stories

Dreaming Big: Anne Lehman Wins Graphic Design Challenge!

June 20, 2014

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

We love our annual Graphic Design Challenges because we receive such unique and diverse entries from talented emerging graphic designers from all over the nation! On our last Graphic Design Challenge, we decided to give designers a bit more direction. We not only provided them the phrase we wanted the contestants to include in their design,”Dream Big, Start Small”, but also let them know what product their design could potentially be placed on if they were to win, a babysuit™!  

When Anne Lehman’s charming entry rolled in, we knew immediately that she would be one of our semi-finalists. The colors, images, technique, and overall appeal of her Mouse and Moon design was something we felt walked straight out of a children’s storybook. The judging panel believed that Anne’s vision was the strongest and that she, without a doubt, committed to the inspirational theme. Meet our latest Graphic Design Challenge winner, Anne Lehman. See how she came up with the concept of her Mouse and Moon design, what she did when she heard the great news that she won, and what her one secret vice is as a graphic designer.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your hometown? 
I am from the town of Reading, Massachusetts, which is about 15 miles from Boston, home of our country’s first public park and subway system. An uncommon fact about me—I am left-handed and have red hair—this combination of traits is in less than 1% of the population.

How did you come up with the concept of your design for our Graphic Design Challenge?
When I read “Dream Big, Start Small,” I pictured a mouse immediately with a small piece of cheese. The concept of the moon came to me when I started to sketch the mouse and cheese. Since the deadline was just three days away, I tried not to over think my design and turned my first sketch into my final piece that I submitted. I am learning that sometimes your first ideas are the best ones!

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Tell us about your journey into becoming a graphic designer.
My journey started when I was a small child—making art and creating things is all I’ve ever wanted to do—ever since the first time I held a crayon. My professional journey started about 15 years ago. My first job after college was a customer service rep at a printing company that specialized in invitations and stationery. I had a degree in fine arts, but was struggling to apply my art skills to the real world. Seeing how the designs were created and being around the printing process motivated me to go back to school and learn the technical side of graphic design. I needed to make things and create!

I loved learning how to take my fine art skills and apply them to the computer to create logo designs and layouts. For years I worked as a professional graphic designer in the corporate environment. During this time, I discovered that I needed an additional creative outlet, so I would work on my own pieces and often create handmade artwork for family and friends. I found my true passion is creating artwork by hand and the creative freedom and imagination that goes into it. This lead to opening my Etsy shop, Sunny Spot Studio, in 2010. Since then I’ve been making steps towards my dream of having my own freelance business full time where I can create and sell my art, illustrations, and graphic design creations.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Baby Suit Graphic Design winner?
I was so excited when I heard that I won! I called my fiance, Matt, immediately to share the good news. He is my biggest champion and encouraged me to enter the contest so it really felt like we were in it together. We had a nice dinner to celebrate and then I think I spent the rest of the night on the phone with my greatest support system—my parents, sister, and a couple of close friends.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods -matt

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
I am always evolving my process, but I don’t think I could live without my pencils, black pen, paints, and watercolors. I always start with traditional materials and have never been able to just jump right in and design on the computer. I will usually scan my artwork and then do some touch up and add typography with design software. I received the most amazing gift recently—a Cintiq Wacom tablet, which allows you to draw and paint right on the screen—this is changing my technique and opening new doors for me. I am now experimenting more with adding color and texture in Illustrator and Photoshop, after I scan my pen and ink drawings.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
I always have many ideas in the pipeline for new pieces to offer in my Etsy shop. I plan to add more wedding related items, including invitation artwork soon. I am currently enrolled in an e-course: Make Art That Sells: Assignment Bootcamp from Lilla Rogers, who is one of the world’s top illustration agents and a wonderful teacher. The course runs over six months, with monthly themed assignments geared toward different markets in the industry. It has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to learn and grow my portfolio with her expertise, and also to connect with talented artists all over the world. Our current assignment is to create nautical themed wall art.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
I learned that it takes self-confidence to be an artist. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Art is very personal and it can be intimidating to put your work out to the public. Not everyone will admire your work, but if you can stay true to your self and who you are as an artist, it will help you to grow in your career and find your style.

Where do you picture yourself 5 years from now?
In 5 years, I picture myself as an independent artist/designer and business owner, supporting myself full time. I hope to be making lots of art pieces and working on creative projects in the freedom of my studio. These projects would include children’s book illustration, pet art and portraits, nursery art, personalized prints, and designing and illustrating pieces for art licensing. I plan to be very busy!

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any particular graphic designers or bloggers you look up to when it comes to your area of design?
Recently I have discovered the art and career of Kelly Rae Roberts. I enjoy following her on social media and on her blog, where she shares so much about her artwork and life. Her journey to becoming a successful artist and entrepreneur is an inspiration to me.

3_studio-Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
If I have the time, a nice drive to my favorite nearby town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire helps to clear my mind. I love to walk around the quaint historic town, visit the art galleries and shops, and to spend some time by the waterfront. Otherwise, a quick yoga class or a bit of time browsing Pinterest always helps me to recharge.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Do you have any secret vices that causes procrastination? 
I wouldn’t call it a vice, but I can be my toughest critic, which can sometimes cause me to over think my work and stall my finished product. When I am selling an art print or piece, I want it to be the best it can be for my customer. When I realize I am over thinking or reworking my project, I try to step away to separate myself from it. Then I can come back later with a fresh mind to complete the work.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you? 
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

I keep this quote hanging up in my studio to remind me that I am now on the right path with my art and design career. I’ve learned that if you pay attention to your intuition and follow your dreams, your life will change and you will become much happier. For me, I wasn’t creating enough during my professional career, which left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. When I started to make more of my own art and take steps towards having my own design studio, doors opened up and positive things started to happen for me. And now a few years later, I am about to leave the security of a day job, finally having the courage to branch out on my own and work towards supporting myself solely through my art and design.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our next Graphic Design Challenge?
Don’t be afraid of submitting your work, just go for it. It is a great opportunity to gain exposure and share your work with the public and a team of professionals.  You will be amazed at the support that will come your way.

We’re pleased to announce that the Dream Big, Start Small Babysuit with Anne’s design is now available for purchase from UncommonGoods!

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