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Maker Stories

Written in the Flower Beds:
A Conversation with
Jo-Anne & Gerald Warren

September 19, 2017

When things align just right, we often wistfully say it was “written in the stars,” from the person we marry to what we choose as a profession. For Jo-Anne and Gerald Warren, you might say their lives were written in the flower beds. Growing up in Southeastern Canada, with its uninterrupted greenery and lush summers, the two fell in love with the earth first, and then each other.

“I was raised on an apple orchard in Hemingford,” says Jo-Anne. “We’ve both been spending time outdoors our whole lives.” Now the potter pair crafts one-of-a-kind works for your garden, like their mystical Butterfly Puddler, which attracts butterflies with evaporated minerals, and their Ladybug Castle, which features miniature passageways for polka-dotted friends. Jo-Anne and Gerald describe their backyard with detailed fondness, noting the many birds, bugs, and bees that inspire them each day.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Do Fruit Flies Get the Party Started?

September 6, 2017

As you choose the guest list for your last summer shebang, you might consider rethinking those pesky party crashers—no, not your cousins from Jersey. Fruit flies. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco conducted a study where they got the little winged insects two steps past tipsy. Their goal was to analyze gene mutations and how flies with DNA variations react to alcohol. It may sound like a perfectly clinical experiment, but what they found might make you put away your swatter. Fruit flies are party animals, or in this case, party bugs. In fact, they aren’t so different from a group of bar-crawlers on a Friday night. “They go through a phase of hyperactivity and they gradually become uncoordinated—they stop moving and they fall over—and eventually they are unable to right themselves,” says molecular biologist Ulrike Heberlein, who led the study.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How was the Airstream an In-Tents Solution to a Problem?

August 7, 2017

Tucked in the scenery of a 1950s film or seen rolling down the highway in all its vintage glory, the Airstream Trailer has been a staple of American road trips for almost ninety years. But what do you know about these silver campers besides their sausage shape and aluminum siding? Just in time for your summer vacation, we’re unpacking the unique history of this shiny set of wheels.
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Maker Stories

Where the Wild Things Grow:
Artist Catherine Murphy Turns Metal to Magic with Her Garden Decor

June 19, 2017

Catherine Murphy has always been an observer. From the rich architecture she saw shuffling around European cities as a child, to the awe-inspiring complexity she’s discovered in nature, Catherine’s brain is a mosaic of interwoven experiences. Today, she fuses these influences into stunning designs for your garden at the Haw Creek Forge. Nestled on the edge of the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina, you might find Catherine and her team of artisans collaborating on a new idea or welding shiny plates of copper into praying mantises and hummingbirds. We had the pleasure of learning more about Catherine’s process and her magnificent journey to becoming a metal artist.

Catherine’s garden fairy makes an enchanting addition to your yard.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: When Did the TV Mom Go from Pie Baker to Moneymaker?

May 3, 2017

Up until the late 1980s, TV moms were apron-wearing, laundry-folding ladies who never raised their voice too high (think: June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver). But eventually screenwriters, perhaps by taking note of their own multi-faceted mothers, changed the game with high-powered working moms like Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show) and Angela Bower (Who’s the Boss). One mom who really challenged the 1950s archetype was Roseanne Conner (Roseanne), the pull-no-punches leader who placed no worth in likability.

So why did it take until 1988 for primetime to depict women with more complexity than a pie baker? Television is about ten years behind on trends, kind of like your mom. In the 1960s and ’70s, women joined the labor force in swarms. Jobs were readily available, and women were given the opportunity to prove they could do it all. TV was late to the game and has continued to improve with characters like Selina Meyer (VEEP) and Cookie Lyon (Empire), but there’s still a long way to go. If we’re going to solve gender inequality for moms and daughters (looking at you, pay gap and paid family leave) let’s take advantage of where we have people’s attention: the small screen.

 

Smartphone Magnifier | $30

Maker Stories

Jewelry Making in the Age of Powerful Women: Meet Britta Ambauen

April 20, 2017

If you’ve never seen a Britta Ambauen design, they are elegant, standalone works with significant range. Think: hand-hammered gold bangles and jade gemstone peapod necklaces. But look closer and many of her pieces offer an inspiring quote, like her River Bangle bracelet, which is inscribed with the Rumi quote: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving through you, a joy.” It’s her hope that women can wear something beautiful, but more importantly be reminded of something special to them.

“Our thoughts are so powerful that when you revisit one over and over, it can help you manifest your goals,” she says. Currently, Britta is hooked on a necklace she made using a stone found in Arizona at her brother’s wedding last year. She laid a piece of silver behind it and etched, “This above all: To thine self be true,” a Shakespearean quote that she says reminds her to stick to her truths rather than listening to people’s judgments.

Britta’s Mama Bear Necklaces can be customized to feature all of your mama bear’s cubs

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Maker Stories

Spread the Word: A Conversation with Eliza Todd about Art, Language, and Life

February 20, 2017

For Eliza Todd, creating art is so much more than a career. “It’s a way of figuring out life,” the artist says. On a plot of conserved prairie, the Illinois maker creates her one-of-a-kind designs from calendars to dining ware. Most days, she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and works up to 14 hours, taking breaks for walks with her husband or to spend time with her two sons. “I’m still in the process of turning this into a life… For years I didn’t do art.” Twenty of them to be exact. She was in the computer industry, but when her younger son was born, Eliza stayed home and decided to go back to her artistic roots. “It’s a risk. Like anything when you try something new, putting myself out there was terrifying.” For her first project, she gathered blocks of wood and covered them with a thick resin that created a cool effect. Other people thought they were pretty cool, too, and so she took her works to some local Lake County shop owners who immediately fell for the designs as well. “It was scary,” she said, “but fortunately, worth it.”

Eliza Todd

The more Eliza practiced, the more her creativity wheels spun, and they’ve taken her from local painter to national glassware designer. It’s a love story that began, as many of them do, with words. “I started collecting these antiquated words,” she recalls. “Some of them are morbid or sick. Some are from the 1800s or 1600s. It was a dark time! But there’s a lot that are really interesting or funny or beautiful. I leaned toward the positive and collected them in a journal.” Then she thought, “I need to incorporate these into art!” The first word she really took to was efflorescence, a word she describes as “blooming, coming into your own.” Then came crapulous which, Eliza admits, still makes her giggle. The adjective means “tipsy,” which made her think, “This would be perfect on a glass.”

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