The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: SUMMER

June 12, 2014

Instagram Challenge | Summer | UncommonGoods Last year, we reluctantly said goodbye to summer when autumn fell upon us, braved (okay, maybe mostly hibernated) through winter’s cold, and have been tolerating spring’s fickle behavior — but now summer is approaching again and it’s time to ditch the sweaters and bask ourselves under the sun! Don’t get me wrong, I have a special love for all seasons, but I think we all have to admit that summer definitely carries its weight in the fun department! The current Instagram Challenge theme is SUMMER. From icecream sundaes to beach bonfires to rooftop films, share with us your summer snapshots for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Visit here to see all of the sunny entries we’ve received so far.

Congrats to Becca for winning our STREET ART Instagram Challenge! Instagram Challenge Winner | STREET ART | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

Brooklyn Flag Project

June 1, 2014

Brooklyn Flag Project | UncommonGoods

The Brooklyn Flag Project is a call for entries for flag designs that represent the Brooklyn neighborhood that you know and love! We will print and produce the winning flags in Brooklyn and sell them on our site. We want you to imagine these flags hanging loud and proud in your neighbor’s apartment, your local coffee shop, outside the window of your favorite restaurant, and inside your home office. This project is all about celebrating our wonderful borough, the diversity of its many neighborhoods, and the creative people that live in it.

Our guest judges include Marty Markowitz – former Brooklyn Borough President, Tina Roth Einsenbrg – founder and voice of Swissmiss, Annaliese Griffin – editor-in-chief for Brooklyn Based, and our very own David Bolotsky- founder of UncommonGoods. For more details on the judging panel, click here!

After you submit your artwork below, wait patiently to hear back from our Design Challenge team. In mid September, the judging panel will meet to pick their favorites, our finalists. The finalists will be presented to our online community on the voting tool where the public will be the ultimate deciders – using their votes to determine the winner. The design with the most votes at the end of the voting period will be the grand prize winner, and our buying team will be deciding on the runners up.

All of them! Whether you live in a well-established neighborhood like Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope or Brighton Beach, or you identify with a newer hood like ProCro or Greenwood Heights, all neighborhoods are welcome.

Yes please! This won’t only help us understand the design better, but will make it easier for the judges and online voting community to make their decision.

The flags will be a 36 inch by 46 inch rectangle (landscape or portrait is up to you) and will be made of cotton. There is a water based coating on the surface of the cotton for print adhesion. The designs will be printed with GREENGUARD certified ink, so it’s environmentally friendly. Designed for indoor use, the flags will be made with brass grommets suitable for hanging on a wall. Oh, and they’re going to be MADE IN BROOKLYN. Down the road, we’ll also look to feature the designs on other products.

The final design will be a 36 inch by 46 inch flag. But in order for your submission to get through our server you must submit a file at 72dpi in the form of a JPG or PNG. And it must be less than 2mb. Make sure to keep you submission to the ratio of 9 by 11.5 – you can decide if your design will be situated landscape or portrait.

If you win, you will need to have a vector of the file, or an image at 2592 by 3312 pixels.

The designs will be digitally printed so there are no limits to color.

Submit your artwork using our form on the very bottom of this page. You will need a JPG or PNG of your work to enter, as well as a vector file if you win. The artwork must be original, meaning free of logos, trademarks and obvious influence from another artist – We know there are amazing coffee shops, chocolate factories, and basketball teams that represent your neighborhood. If these logos are part of your design, please understand that we will require the trademark owner’s permission to use it.

If you are our grand prize winner – and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you be? – you’ll receive $1000 cash (OK, it’s a check, but you get the idea) and a contract with UncommonGoods that will grant you royalties after a sales threshold is reached. Technically we will be buying the design from you and giving you 5% of the retail price every time it is sold, and the prize money $1000 is an advance on the royalties you will be receiving. The same holds true of each of the other prize levels. You’ll work with our Product Development team to perfect the design and have it printed on flags. Your design will be shown on, in our marketing emails, and possibly in our catalog. You also reserve the right for a judgment-free victory dance, literally letting your freak flag fly.

This question usually bums us out, so we are offering prizes to more than just our grand prize winner. One second place winner will receive $750, one third place winner will receive $500, and a number of other runners up will receive $250. Keep in mind that we can potentially have more than one runner up winner and that we’re hoping to add dozens of great flag designs into our assortment! The cash prize is an advance toward future sales, so there is the opportunity to make more as your designs are sold over time. There will be lots of victory dances in this design challenge!

Drop us a line at


Brooklyn Flag Project | UncommonGoods


Ceramics Design Challenge Winner Announced!

May 29, 2014

In the past, the judging of our design challenges have occurred behind closed doors, either discussed through a conference call or in a room with our buyers and guest judges. Last night, we decided to take quite a different spin with our judging: to make it live for the public and contestants to watch via Google Hangout! (Yes, even including the critiques!) We’re a company that values transparency and we want all of our finalists to benefit from our judging as much as possible. Sure, we can jot down a few notes, and send the comments in an email the next day — but I think we all can agree that nothing beats hearing what the judges have to say in real time.

Below is our very first Google Hangout judging session for the Ceramics Design Challenge. The judges we invited to spill their expertise onto the table about each individual piece were Joanna Hawley, a designer and the voice behind the blog Jojotastic, and our Assistant Buyer, Hannah Weber. (Gaby and I joined in on the fun by moderating the conversation and putting in our two cents when we felt it was needed.)  Be sure to watch and see who our Ceramics Design Challenge winner is!























Congrats, Ronald and Jeni! Your ceramic piece is beautiful!

Maker Stories

A Tale of Two Studios in London

May 12, 2014

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods_7115

If you knew me well, you would know that my absolutely favorite thing to do in life is to travel. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my beloved Brooklyn. But anytime vacation time rolls around, I’m the first one to hail a taxi straight to JFK –wide eyed, bushy tailed, and passport in hand. There’s nothing better than experiencing a new city,  a new language, new food, and a new culture.  My most recent destination of choice was London. (Okay, I wouldn’t exactly be experiencing a new language in London, but beautiful British accents have to count for something, right?) As I was planning out my itinerary — London Bridge. Get lost in the tube. Brick Lane thrift shopping. Enjoy a cuppa. Big Ben. Borough Market. Run into Kate and William. — I realized I still had a couple of free days to burn. I was traveling alone, so why not take advantage of the situation? I decided to do my second favorite thing ever: meet creative people.

A Tale of Two Studios in London

I sent out an email to our buying team asking if we worked with any interesting artists living in London in hopes of setting up a studio tour. When I received responses, I couldn’t ignore the fact that we worked with two different graphic designers who place their designs on tea towels and lived in London. The blog team brainstormed the idea that I should meet with both versus just meeting with one. One seven hour plane ride, two near-death experiences because I didn’t know which way to look while crossing the street, three “you’re on the wrong bus” moments, and one tightly squeezed tube ride later — I was finally sitting in a cafe with the two designers: Stuart Gardiner of Stuart Gardiner Design and Lahla Smart of The Food Guide.

This was the first time they met each other, and given the fact that they produce similar products, I do have to admit I was a bit nervous about how awkwardly this coffee rendezvous could have unfolded. Yet, with our lovely stroll near Walthamstow Central Station and chatting in-between our sips of coffee inside a quaint cafe, I would have to say it was such a success that I was this close in creating the hashtag #BritishTeaTowelDesignersUnite! A bit after our coffee and chat,  I visited Stuart’s studio first, and then ended my afternoon at Lahla’s. Lucky for me, their studios weren’t too far apart from each other — I promise I only had to ask for directions once.

Read what each artist believes sets their graphic designs apart from the next, their takes on switching roles from a graphic designer to a product developer, and their thoughts about living and running a business in London.  

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

#UGInstaWinner: FOODIE

May 2, 2014

Congrats to Ilena for winning our FOODIE Instagram Challenge with this delicious snapshot. This is a vanilla cupcake with fresh cream topping, almond chips, and blueberries in a tea cup mold. Yum! It’s never too late to join in on the #UGInstaFun for a chance to win a $50 gift card. The current theme is SPRING, you can view some of the entries here.

Instagram Challege FOODIE Winner | UncommonGoods


The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: PARENTS

May 1, 2014

The current Instagram Challenge theme is now PARENTS. Be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstaFun for your chance to win a $100 gift card. Also, check out who won our SPRING Instagram Challenge!Parents. Now, that’s a hefty word, isn’t it? This can describe your own lovely folks or perhaps you’re a parent yourself… or maybe that word makes you think of your mom, dad, and the little ones running around (or getting ready to graduate college!). With Mother’s Day just ending and Father’s Day around the corner, we want to pay homage to parents — whatever that word means to you. If you haven’t guessed yet, the current Instagram Challenge theme is now PARENTS. Be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstaFun for your chance to win a $100 gift card. Bring out the old photo albums or snap a few Instagrams of parenting your rebellious toddler. Visit here to see all of the  entries we’ve received so far of beautiful families!  

The last Instagram Challenge theme was SPRING. Below is the winner! Congrats @_susandrea_!

UncommonGoods | Instagram Challenge | #UGInstaFun | Winner

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: STREET ART

May 1, 2014

Instagram Challenge | Street Art | UncommonGoods

 Galleries and museums are the usual ways to jump into the art scene and scratch that creative itch we all get from time to time, but we also live in a world where all art doesn’t necessarily fit inside a pretty picture frame. From Bansky inspired graphics to children’s sidewalk chalk, street art has become as an art form in itself and over the years has been welcomed in artsy neighborhoods and different parts of the city. Whenever I run into an awesome piece of street art — whether it illustrates another person’s creativity, humor, activism, or all of the above –it’s always a breath of fresh air. (Especially when it pops up in the most unexpected spots!) The current Instagram Challenge theme is STREET ART. Share with us your favorite art that we won’t necessarily find in the Louvre or Guggenheim, but still shares a message of inspiration or creativity none the less. Remember to hashtag #UGInstaFun for your chance to win a $50 gift card. Visit here to see all of the great entries we’ve received so far.

Congrats to Shelby for winning our PARENTS Instagram Challenge!

Instagram Challenge Winner | PARENTS | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

A Zymbol is Worth a Thousand Words

April 25, 2014

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we couldn’t have picked a better time to feature mother and son duo, Sally and Dane Short, the makers of the inspiring Zymbol Necklace. The actual design of the necklace is intriguing, yet the story behind what the Zymbol represents is what really grabbed our full attention. Depending on who the wearer is, the Zymbol design can mean a million different things–from phrases, to places, to people. “Given that Zymbol contains every letter of the alphabet and every number, it can represent any and all messages; from private anecdotes to everyday affirmations.” Read about how the Short family made an accidental discovery of the Zymbol design and how they are paying it forward with children’s hospitals across America through their one-for-one program.  Meet Sally and Dane Short: mother and son, business partners, and our latest Jewelry Design Challenge winners!

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

What’s an uncommon fact about you and your hometown?
Dane: Hmmmm, most of my peers seem to think it’s uncommon that I don’t like Apple products.  Wait, are people going to get mad at me for saying that? My hometown, Durango, CO has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco!

Sally: Most people don’t know that I was a belly dancer in my 20s and performed the Arabian Dance part in the Nutcracker Suite. Los Angeles, my hometown, moves approximately one-quarter of an inch to the east every year!

How did you come up with the concept of the Zymbol Necklace?
D: A few years ago something amazing happened to our family. One night my lovely mother, Sally Short, was doodling and she wrote down the phrase ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’ stacking each letter on top of the next with a peace sign.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoodsShe loved the design and message so much that she decided to send it off to be cast as a pendant. A few months later my sister and I randomly saw the pendant sitting on its side and we noticed a ‘K’ popping out. Since there’s no ‘K’ in the phrase ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’, it got us curious and motivated us to look for other letters. That night, we ended up sitting down as a family and uncovering the entire alphabet and every number hidden within the doodle!! We decided to create a line of inspirational jewelry based on the design. We named it Zymbol as it is one symbol representing all letters A-Z.

Given that Zymbol contains every letter of the alphabet and every number, it can represent any and all messages; from private anecdotes to everyday affirmations. I personally wear mine representing daily goals and intentions.The amazing concept about the Zymbol Necklace is that it can represent so many different things to different people.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoodsZymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods
What’s the most creative story you’ve heard from someone who owns one?
D: That’s a tough question! People from all walks of life wear Zymbol containing their personal message of inspiration – from breast cancer survivors to members of the military. Of all the testimonials we’ve received, I think the following is my favorite:

“I wanted to tell you a story of how your ‘family project’ became a part of my ‘family project’. As a mother of four daughters ranging from 18-30 and a 10-year-old granddaughter I am all about family. As it happens my daughters’ birthdays are all in the spring, so this year I was looking for a gift that would mean something to all of us, a legacy of sorts. But in these financial times I needed something that didn’t cost and arm and a leg. I happened upon Zymbol at a networking event and I couldn’t get the design out of my head. I knew I found the perfect gift for a group of very distinct young women.

I took the group out to eat and talked to them about the idea of creating a ‘family crest’, one that would have a ‘secret’ meaning only to us. They liked the idea and as a group we came up with what that meaning was. (The actual meaning for us isn’t important to explain as the beauty of the symbol is that each family can give it their own special meaning.) What is important is that when we wear it, we have a connection to each other. I know personally when I’m having a bad day (or a difficult client) or just need centering, I will reach up and hold Zymbol in my hand and I find it comforting as for me it represents not only my daughters and granddaughter, but also my mom, my brothers and sisters…my family.

With my daughter’s approval to the concept of the design, I bought six pendants that each received on their birthdays.

My oldest daughter liked the idea so much that she had a tattoo of our ‘family crest’ put on the inside of her wrist. She wanted something that would be not only served as a constant reminder of family, but as a reminder of other things, like being a better mother, or better person. She says if she needs encouragement or centering or maybe even patience at any given moment, she can look at the symbol and be reminded of what is important and what she needs at that given moment.”

How cool is that! She sent me a picture of her daughter’s tattoo which I then posted on Facebook. The idea of tattooing Zymbol caught on and we now know of 22 people who have tattooed Zymbol on their bodies!

tattooS: My favorite stories come from children in the hospital. We’ve always thought of Zymbol as a gift to our family. Two years into the business we decided to pay it forward by implementing our own version of the TOMS Shoes one-for-one program. For every Zymbol sold, we gift an acrylic pendant to a child in the hospital. With the pendant, each child receives an activity sheet full of blank Zymbols.  This allows them to trace and spell out their personal message of inspiration and encouragement. That message can change and evolve each day, or remain consistent. We’ve had kids trace messages like HOPE, LOVE, NEVER GIVE UP and YOU ARE A WARRIOR.  The following video shows a recent ‘drop’ we did in Austin, TX.

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our next Jewelry Design Challenge winner?
D: We were ECSTATIC!!! Our mission statement is to ‘spread love and empowerment, one Zymbol at a time’. We knew winning the Jewelry Design Challenge would help us in fulfilling our mission.

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
D: Our current mission is to visit children’s hospitals all over the country in the next two years. This will be a direct result of our one-for-one program. In the next two months we’ll be visiting Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Denver and Texas Children’s in Houston.

S: I’m most excited at the opportunity to become a vendor with UncommonGoods! This has always been a goal of ours.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? 
D:  My favorite quote is ‘We become what we think about’ by Earl Nightingale. I am a believer in positive thinking and the law of attraction. I’ve found that by controlling my thoughts, I’m able to control my reality.

S: Mine is more of a phrase than a quote. LOVE IS ALL U NEED. What does it mean to me?  Everything! This phrase has evolved into a business that allows me to work with my family and inspire people around the world.

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our design challenge?
D: Don’t be afraid to relentlessly reach out to your network. You are an artist. Be proud of your work. You might be surprised at the amount of support you’ll receive.

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