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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Alex Ahrens

June 12, 2017

The work of self-described designer and craftsman Alex Ahrens is anything but typical. Armed with a degree in engineering and a background in packaging design, the Austin-based maker turned a budding interest in woodworking into a business handcrafting fun, yet functional wooden objects in the shapes of various animals. His sleek, inventive Elephant Wall Hook, Bear Keys & Glasses Holder, and Shark Business Card Holder are all newcomers to our assortment.

As always, we’re excited to welcome such dedicated, thoughtful makers as Alex to the UncommonGoods family, where the creativity exhibited in his clever goods is so often celebrated. Read on for Alex’s insights on the power of organization and what being an artist really means—as well as how he turned his side hustle into a full-time gig.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Changing Lives and Cooking Dinner with the Non-Electric Slow Cooker

June 8, 2017

Sarah Collins, inventor of the Non-Electric Slow Cooker

Picture this: You want to cook a meal. In the US, this is an easy enough proposition, if occasionally tiring. You take a trip to the grocery store, prep your ingredients, and leave them to cook, whether in an oven, on a stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Before too long, you sit down and eat. Simple, right?

In rural Africa, no such luck. For many women, making a meal is a long, costly process fraught with danger. Every day, women across the continent spend up to seven hours collecting firewood to use for cooking, walking between 3 and 6 miles, taking away time that could be spent working or bonding with family members, and risking sexual assault and attacks by animals along the way. Those who don’t collect firewood often cook with charcoal, a fuel that eats up a sizable chunk of a rural family’s income—think along the lines of one third. The actual cooking takes hours, and the use woodfuels combined with that of an open flame contributes to potentially deadly levels of indoor air pollution. In providing for their families, these women make sacrifices that are unimaginable to many, risking their health and livelihood for the sake of a single meal. A trip to a packed Trader Joe’s at 6 o’clock on a Tuesday pales in comparison.

For South African entrepreneur Sarah Collins, this was a key problem. Her lifelong mission to empower rural Africans has manifested in many types of work, from conservation to political action, but perhaps her most meaningful contribution has been the invention of the Non-Electric Slow Cooker, also known as the Wonderbag. Now available for purchase from UncommonGoods, Sarah’s slow cooker—made from patterned cotton fabric stuffed with repurposed foam—keeps food brought to a boil cooking for up to 12 hours simply by trapping heat. For every Non-Electric Slow Cooker purchased in the developed world, another is donated to the Wonderbag Foundation, an organization that distributes Sarah’s invention to communities in need throughout Africa. Because the Non-Electric Slow Cooker doesn’t require an open flame to keep food cooking, it reduces pollution and deforestation throughout Africa and keeps rural women and families safer and healthier, freeing up their time and money for work, play, and family bonding.

As a certified B Corp, UncommonGoods is committed to offering sustainable, socially responsible products. When we first heard about the Non-Electric Slow Cooker, we were intrigued—we’d never heard of a slow cooker made out of foam! Once we learned of its impressive effect in Africa, though, we knew we needed to hear more from its inventor. Read on for more of Sarah’s story—including advice on how to contribute to her mission, even from afar.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Marco Facciola and Stephen Washer

May 31, 2017

Ever looked at a pile of discarded wood and wondered at the stories hidden within? Cousins and lifelong tinkerers Marco Facciola and Stephen Washer sure have. Made in Montreal, Canada, their reclaimed wood and rope pieces—three of which have just been added to our assortment—give debris a second life, celebrating the unique colors, shapes, and tales told by pieces salvaged from household renovations and climbing gyms.

Here at UncommonGoods, we’re inspired by Marco and Stephen’s inventive, earth-friendly creations, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our family of artists. Read on for Marco’s answers to our questions about how the pair got their start, what excites kids about their work, and more.

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Gift Guides

Even Better than Dad Jokes: Funny Father’s Day Gifts

May 29, 2017

Hail, friends! We are living in a golden age of dad jokes, wherein corny puns and the frustrated groans of the nation’s teenagers reign supreme. What better way, then, to celebrate this Father’s Day than with a teensy bit of humor? Read on for a brief selection of goods hand-picked to give Dad a leg up when it’s time for him to practice stand-up. (Sorry. We’ll see ourselves out.)

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Gift Guides

20 Father’s Day Gifts for
Dad’s Man Cave

May 27, 2017

Between changing diapers and navigating the many moods of adolescence, fatherhood can be tough. Enter the man cave, a masculine oasis filled with goodies designed for the utmost in paternal relaxation, from special mixology tools to decorative objects tailored to his own individual tastes. Want to help Dad deck out his den this Father’s Day? We’ve got you covered. Read on for our selection of 20 gifts complete with the man cave seal of approval.

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Gift Guides

Father’s Day Gifts for the
Impossible-to-Shop-for Dad

May 24, 2017

If you’re already browsing our blog, chances are good that this ain’t your first Father’s Day rodeo. Give yourself some credit—you’re probably a seasoned gift-giver! At times, though, even the most dedicated among us can feel stumped by someone whose tastes elude us, and we all know Dad can be an enigma. Never fear—read on for a round-up of some of our most uncommon Father’s Day offerings, from grown-up fidget toys to beer-scented candles, filling voids you never knew existed.

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Gift Guides

20 New Gift Ideas for Father’s Day 2017

May 19, 2017

It’s that time of the year again! You’ve finally found the perfect gift for Mom, and now you can relax your gift-hunting muscles… for about five minutes, lest you leave Dad in the dust. No need to start your search for another tired tie this Father’s Day, though—you’re bound to find something perfect for Pa in this selection of 20 gifts ideal for even the most exacting of the paternal population, be they gardeners, at-home chefs, or even amateur historians. The best part? Everything’s new since last Father’s Day.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Do We Drink “On the Rocks”?

May 17, 2017

Despite the recent rise of the American craft cocktail movement, with its splashes, twists, and many muddled herbs, deep-cut bartending jargon still gives even the most dedicated drinkers pause. Did you know, for instance, that you can sip on a shrub or request a topless margarita? And what of the highly complex difference between the words “straight,” “straight up,” and “neat”? It can be enough to make your head spin, drink or no drink.

“On the rocks,” meanwhile, rings a crystal-clear bell for most of us—ice, please, and usually scotch—but where on earth did it come from? Legend has it that the phrase derives from a Scottish tradition of cooling one’s whiskey with rocks retrieved from a riverbed, though the truth is likely a bit more boring. With the first use of the phrase dated to the mid-1940s, when the ice cube tray as we know it was still a relatively new invention, the “rocks” in “on the rocks” most likely refer to ice cubes chipped from a larger block, which would appear jagged, like little stones. Need a visual? Think of that itty-bitty gravel you put in a fishbowl—and no, for once, we don’t mean the drink.

Whiskey Stones & Gift Set | $20–$58

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