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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl

August 2, 2017

Sam and Derek outside the industrial brick building that’s home to the Nordeast Maker Space and their studio. Photos by Marisa Bowe (unless otherwise noted)

Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl, friends since they were in their teens, make original games in Nordeast Minneapolis, one of my favorite neighborhoods in my hometown city.

Last time I was there, I took a bus on a warm, sunny day to the brick factory building-turned-maker-space they share with other interesting firms and artists. “It’s a maze,” they warned me, “so call us when you get here.” But a friendly co-tenant told me how to find the underground, windowless space.

Given the nature of their games, all of which (so far) involve beer drinking, I expected boisterous frat types (they did meet in a frat while attending the University of Minnesota). What I found, though, was a couple of low-key, thoughtful guys.

As they talked about their history as friends and business partners, I realized what courage it took for them to quit good jobs and throw themselves into being entrepreneurs. Neither of them had any prior business experience, so their road has been full of learning experiences. A few of those— early game prototypes—are on display in their studio.

They demo’d a couple of fancy machines for me: a huge CNC (“Computer Numerical Control”) router, which precision-mills their specially-shaped game boards; and a laser cutter, which emits a little red dot—just like the one my cat likes to chase—except it can cut and engrave wood. The Nordeast Maker Space makes these otherwise-unaffordable specialized machines available to small, independent makers like them. 

It was exciting to hear how the duo are able to realize their ideas, forge their own path, and have some fun along the way. Read on to learn (and see) more.

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The Uncommon Life

Paid Family Leave: Why it Matters

May 12, 2017

You may have seen the Paid Family Leave page in our Mother’s and Father’s Day print catalogs. What “Paid Family Leave” means is this: family members can go on leave from work to take care of a newborn or seriously ill family member for a period of time, while continuing to receive some or all of their usual pay and benefits. The United States doesn’t have a paid family leave policy–we’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t, and the only developed country–and we are for changing that. We decided we wanted to advocate for it in our catalog.

 

Source: United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

We’ve always been a socially conscious company, working to use business as a force for good. But this is the first time we’ve communicated to our customers directly about a specific issue. We’re excited about it and a little nervous. We know not everyone will agree. We’re not trying to tell people what to think. What we’re hoping to do is raise awareness and build resources to take action.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Homemade Kombucha For Beginners

May 5, 2017

Product


Kombucha Jar & Brew Kit

 

Research
Like everyone else, I’ve been aware that kombucha is a Thing. I vaguely knew it was fermented tea, and that much like kefir, which I’ve made, it’s fermented by a SCOBY: a live, Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. “Symbiotic” because they rely on each other: the yeast eats the sugar and puts out carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol; then the bacteria eats the alcohol and puts out amino acids and trace vitamins and minerals. And because of all those beneficial bacteria, it’s probiotic. I wanted to try making it, and as it happens, UncommonGoods sells this handy kit, which includes everything you need to make kombucha except for tea, sugar, and water.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: First-Time Fermentation

December 26, 2016


Research
Years ago, I came across Wild Fermentation, a book by Sandor Ellix Katz that turned me and millions of others onto the idea of home fermentation. I don’t remember how I came across it, or why I bought it. But I read the first few chapters and became enthralled with the IDEA of fermenting.


The book, published in 2003, made Katz a fermentation rockstar. (I’m not kidding, he really is) As for myself, as I read, I was all ready to leave Brooklyn and move to the author’s organic farm commune in Tennesee to begin my new, fermention-centric lifestyle. Because I liked the IDEA.

I successfully made delicious yogurt a few times. And I’ve made a lot of bread, though not sourdough bread.

But despite feeling totally gung-ho, fermentationally speaking, that’s as far as I went. Katz made a passionate, informed case for probiotics (and this was back in 2003, before it was a thing). Almost all store-bought sauerkraut, he said, is pasteurized, which kills the probiotics.

I wanted to make my own sauerkraut and achieve Total Gut Health. But I looked into buying a stoneware crock with a weight (to weigh the cabbage down), and for a beginner, they seemed rather pricey and heavy. I didn’t feel it was wise to commit to something like that without knowing I’d use it more than once.*

And I got stuck there. For years. Until I saw our DIY Fermentation Crock.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Roll Out Ravioli Like a Pro

September 1, 2016

Marisa | UncommonGoods

Product

Ravioli Rolling Pin

Ravioli Rolling Pin | UncommonGoods

 

Dumpling statue

Me, next to a statue honoring the dumplings of the world, in the Fine Arts Center at the Minnesota State Fair

I’m a known dumpling lover. I’ve always wanted to make ravioli, because 1) it’s a form of dumplings, 1a) dumplings are the best, 2) it’s delicious, and 3) pre-made ravioli seems too expensive for what it is, and 4) the one time I did I buy store-bought ravioli, it was suuuuper suboptimally subpar. As my mom says, “The dough gets leather-y.”

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Maker Stories

This Just Inspiration: Meet Mariel Nader

August 29, 2016

Mariel Nader | UncommonGoods

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

Birthstone Mineral Soaps | UncommonGoods

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Mariel Nader, creator of our new Birthstone Mineral Soaps.

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