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Elegant to Edgy: A Guide to Jewelry You’ll Love

July 30, 2015

See UncommonGoods' Jewelry Collection

As UncommonGoods’ Jewelry Buyer, I see a ton of the beautiful pieces that I bring into the assortment end up making fabulous gifts for stylish women. I love seeing my selections making people happy on birthdays and during the holidays, but I also enjoy thinking outside the gift box to find necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings that jewelry lovers will want to buy for themselves.

I hand-picked these pieces not only because they make me smile, but also because they span a variety of styles–classic, contemporary, elegant, edgy, and even eclectic.  Each design is special, unique, and totally unexpected, and I personally want them all for my own collection. (And I think you will too!)

3 Stone Sea Glass Necklace | Courtney Gillen | UncommonGoods

What is more nostalgic than sea glass? Courtney Gillen uses gorgeous real sea glass to make this necklace. It can be a wearable reminder of childhood days spent collecting rocks and shells at the beach or a tribute to a bygone seaside vacation. No matter why you wear it, it’s an easy way to keep the ocean close without going overboard with the nautical theme. | 3 Stone Sea Glass Necklace

Stalactite Slice Ring | Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoodsThis statement ring truly does make a statement. Artist Emilie Shapiro is known for her use of gorgeous raw stones, and in this case, she goes all out. The eye-catching gem is actually a stalactite, formed over millions of years. One word: WOW. | Stalactite Slice Ring

 

Sterling Silver Wings Bangle | UncommonGoodsIt can be hard to take a chance when you don’t know what the outcome will be. The artist behind this beautiful bangle, Christine Street, uses the messaging “she took the leap and built her wings on the way down” to say it’s OK to take a chance and pursue a dream. | Sterling Silver Wings Bangle 

Tibetan Bell Necklace | Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

Inspired by meditative Tibetan bells, this handcrafted necklace makes a soft, soothing sound. As if the gentle tone wasn’t enough to bring on a serene smile, artist Jen Pleasants  finishes each bell clapper with a personal touch, a hanging heart. | Tibetan Bell Necklace

 

Mixed Metal Earrings | UncommonGoods

 

Fernanda Sibilia creates a rustic feel by hand-hammering these mixed metal circles and letting oxidation add its own special touch, a unique patina. No two earrings are the same, but those intentional imperfections make each set a perfect pair. | Trio Mixed Metal Earrings

 

Personalized Birch Cuff | Nancy Nelson | UncommonGoods

 

Nancy Nelson gets her inspiration, and materials, from nature. The bark that created the cast for this brass cuff is the perfect backdrop for Nancy to carve your initials. The little heart cutout is an extra drop of  sweetness. | Personalized Love Birch Cuff

 

Sky Glimmer Necklace | UncommonGoods

The artist behind this piece, Eileen Baumeister McIntyre, captures the feel of the sky as dawn breaks by adding glossy glass enamel to fine silver. The finished “petal” has a subtle, shimmery ombre effect that’s simple and sophisticated. | Sky Glimmer Necklace 

Hydrangea Gold Dipped Lace Necklace | UncommonGoods
Inspired by pre-Columbian jewelry, Tulianna Garces, takes lovely pieces of vintage-inspired lace and transforms them into gilded necklaces. The lace is dipped in 24kt gold and then meticulously cleaned by hand so the detail comes through, creating a special piece that isn’t easily replicated. | Hydrangea Gold Dipped Lace Necklace

Precious Dipped Lace Heart Necklace | UncomonGoods

The floral motif isn’t the only style that shines in dipped lace. The delicate fabric is the perfect starting point for Tulianna’s heart-shaped creations as well. | Precious Dipped Lace Heart Necklace & Mini Gold Dipped Lace Heart Earrings.

Penny for Your Thoughts Necklace | Trudy James | UncommonGoods

This whimsical necklace features an adorable mini penny!  Trudy James creates a teeny-tiny replica of a penny with perfect detail and places it in each pendant, so you won’t have to offer your spare change to get folks to tell you they think of this charming piece. They’ll pay you compliments unprompted. | A Penny for Your Thoughts Necklace

 

Golden Slice Agate Necklace | UncommonGoodsThe raw look of this shimmering stone is earthy, yet glamorous.  The designer, Lucy Dalton, hand selects each agate and then accents the chain with little gold nuggets to create a perfectly pretty piece with just the right amount of edge. | Golden Slice Agate Necklace

Anatomical Heart Pendant | UncommonGoods

Whether you love edgy jewelry, want to show off your interested in biology or anatomy, or just want a necklace that stands out, this piece by Justine Brooks is a great way to show that you march to the beat of your own heart.   | Anatomical Heart Pendant

 

Jewelry for Every Style | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Margaret Dorfman

September 9, 2014

Margaret Dorfman | UncommonGoods

As the UncommonGoods Jewelry Buyer, I see amazing artistry from artists and designers using all sorts of materials. We are always delighted when we find an artist who uses uncommon materials in an unexpected way. Margaret Dorfman is one such artist. She transforms fruits and vegetables into parchments that she then uses to make gorgeous bowls, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.

Margaret’s relationship with UncommonGoods has been a long one, dating all the way back to 1999. Fifteen years later, she continues to delight us and our customers with her lovely organic creations. As a huge fan of Margaret’s work myself, I was super excited to meet her and learn about her process.

Margaret’s studio is tucked away on a lovely tree lined street in Oakland, California. I knew I had arrived at the right place as I walked down the path to her studio entrance. That morning, before my arrival, she had received a delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables and the walkway was lined with boxes and bags containing all imaginable varieties of fruits and veggies. I saw pears, oranges, papayas, cabbages, and bell peppers just to name a few!

Orange Earrings

Stepping into Margaret’s space was truly like stepping into a secret garden. Shelves were lined with finished pieces and the vivid jewel toned colors of her work popped against the crisp white walls. On the center table of her work space, she had oranges piled high and had pulled finished pieces made from oranges so I could see the “before and after.”

Margaret was lovely–so warm and welcoming–and she let me pepper her with questions about herself and her technique. I love hearing about the path our artists take to doing what they do. Margaret’s path was an uncommon one; she spent many years as a professional sign language interpreter, before leaving in 2001 to concentrate on her art. In seeing her work with such dexterity as she cut into fruits and vegetables, I could see the connection between her years as an interpreter and her current work as an artist.

Holding up her pressed vegetable parchment sheets to the light was magical – the pieces are translucent, and you notice every detail of the intricate structure of the vegetables and fruits. The colors in her pieces are vivid. I was struck by how the original colors were retained, even after being pressed.

As our visit came to a close, Margaret introduced me to her frequent studio-mate, her cockatoo Bindel, a sweet boy with a spirited personality! It was a such a delightful end to a great visit. Meet Margaret and learn more about her colorful world!

Veggie Parchment | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
My mandolin. It a special cutter that lets me calibrate the thickness of the veggies and fruit slices. I have four of these and around 40 blades that are sharpened weekly.

My other essential tools are my custom-made marine hydraulic presses. I have two hydraulic presses, both of which were designed and custom built for me. They are are quite large and heavy, exerting pressure of 175 plus and 125 tons, respectively. They are made of steel and were brought in pieces and welded into place in my studio. One is 7 feet tall and the smaller one is 6 feet tall with a pressing surface of a 3 1/2 ft squaremand 4 1/2 ft square, respectively.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Often just looking at the slices of vegetables or juxtaposition of the parchment sheets will give me new ideas.

I like to keep my studio as unadorned as possible–lots of bare white walls–so as not to have competing visual “noise.”

Cutting Veggies
Veggies

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I do usually work 7 days a week and more hours than I`d like to admit. I have a fairly strict schedule in my work day. I try to take a long walk in the morning before starting work.

My 16-year-old cockatoo, Bintel (his name means “a little bundle” in Yiddish), joins me in the studio most days and his antics and demands for attention certainly provides ongoing work breaks.

My husband and I make sure we have dinner together every night, and that is always a time to relax and recharge.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Not to over promise in quantity to be delivered or dates to be made–and never, ever skimp on quality. There is nothing that will ruin your reputation faster than either not delivering on time or delivering an item not up to standards.

Sometimes things do happen that are out of your control, and having a strong track record as someone who follows through on commitments will see you through these bumps in the road.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
There will always be new and exciting ideas to try. Always make sure that there is time and enough space put aside to experiment and answer those most interesting questions that start with the phrase “What would happen if I…”

trays

How do you set goals for yourself?
I make a variety of items from fruit and vegetables: vessels, kites, garlands, as well as several lines of jewelry. I work with galleries, museum shops, gift shops and of course UncommonGoods! Usually my goals are set for me via the orders I need to fill.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
A victory or unexpected success usually involves a dinner out with my husband. One that includes chocolate!

What quote keeps you motivated?
“Greatness exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked.”-Leonard Koren. Koren wrote the first book on the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, long before it became somewhat of a cliché.

This quote resonates with me because it speaks to a way of seeing and being in the world — and of finding beauty in overlooked and commonplace things- like fruit and vegetables.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m trying to refine my skills in what I do–stretching the limits and working on making more complex, multi-layered jewelry and larger, more sculptural pieces.

Veg_Parchment

How do you recharge your creativity?
I love going to Farmers Markets and seeing what is new and seasonal. I am lucky to live in an area where there are not only lots of Farmers markets, but also multicultural neighborhoods where ethnic produce markets are plentiful. Chinatown, Koreatown, and the Hispanic area are all places nearby where I can see unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables that spark my imagination.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I am a bit of a loner, and so I haven’t done much collaboration with other artists. I did do a line of handmade shoji screens (daikon with fish and seaweed parchment) with master Japanese craftsmen whose family have made shoji for 300 years. I would love to collaborate with a professional woodworker who would be interested in some projects! (Anyone?)

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ana Talukder

April 7, 2014

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsHere at UncommonGoods, we work with amazing vendors who constantly wow us with their creativity, artistry, and love of their craft. We don’t always get to meet the artists with whom we work; often relationships are forged through email and over the phone. Recently I was lucky enough to travel from our Brooklyn headquarters to Seattle to visit the studio of Ana Talukder , the super talented designer behind our beloved Latitude/Longitude jewelry collection.

Arriving at the studio, I was greeted with a big hug by Ana, and was immediately charmed by her bubbly and vivacious presence. I could not wait to see her studio and it was just as I imagined from hearing her description of it over the phone–a spacious and bright room with walls awash in her favorite color: purple. Her studio is a happy place, with touches of her personality everywhere–a purple peg board with small metal buckets to keep her organized, a board of inspirational quotes, and my personal favorite: an indoor window box of pansies (in purple of course!).

Ana and I looked at her new designs and talked about her process. I was wowed by how prolific she is, and how many new ideas she is constantly hatching. It was a great afternoon together and time flew by! Meet Ana and welcome to her colorful and inspirational world!

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsWhat are your most essential tools?
Get ready for the cheese alert: A positive attitude!!! Oh, and coffee, which helps with the positive attitude.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
People that you know and love are going to look at you like you sit around your kitchen table stringing beads all day. Until they see you in a magazine (or 10 all at once – that’ll shut them up real fast).

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsWhat advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Don’t ever, ever, ever underestimate yourself (and don’t whine).

How do you set goals for yourself?
I’m really goal-oriented. I like to make lists and to check stuff off lists and feel all accomplished by doing so.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
There are a lot of “happy dance-offs” in the studio. When we’ve met an impossible deadline, created a prototype that we’re in love with, or met a desired revenue goal… there is going to be a dance off. And we eat a lot of victory pho.

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated?
You always have to be looking to be better, you always have to be working at being better, and you always have to put all your heart in it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsWhat are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m working on a new collection that goes back to my first love: quotes. Jewelry with quotes on it has been done several different ways, so I’m working on coming up with some fresh ways to present text–which is requiring me to really move out of my comfort zone and explore new mediums and techniques. I learn best by doing and experimenting, so I’m just gathering materials, drawing a ton of sketches, and creating as much as possible.

How do you recharge your creativity?
I get the heck out of the studio. Far, far away from it. When I’m in a creative slump, I don’t go into the studio for a few days and after just a bit of time, I really, really need to get back in so I can create again.

Nyna, Ana's Production ManagerWhere does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I used to not collaborate, or even discuss my ideas with anyone. My very first employee, my production manager, Nyna, has been the GREATEST sounding board ever. It’s amazing how much more creative I can be with her added creative energy.

I also have two pretty amazing kids (11 & 8) who come into the studio with all sorts of opinions and suggestions–mostly opinions–and I’m married to an entrepreneur, as well, who always has great (and blunt) business advice and is probably my biggest cheerleader, so that helps a ton!

Katara the Studio CatKatara the Studio Cat

Ana Talukder Collection | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Sharon Hitchcock

April 30, 2013
Sharon Hitchcock, UncommonGoods  Buyer – Jewelry & Accessories

My hometown is…
Hmmm….well, let’s see, I was born in Manhattan so I guess I am a New Yorker, but I lived in Austin, Texas for 9 years (Hook ‘em Horns!), and have also resided in Seattle, Washington, DC, and London. Now I call Brooklyn home.

I’m on the lookout for… 
Jewelry and accessories that are beautifully made with thought and care. Pieces and collections that use materials in a distinctly different way, and have a strong point of view.

I’m inspired by…
People-watching in NYC.

My guilty pleasure is…
Can I have two guilty pleasures? ’80s music is a definite. And, flea markets! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a good flea market.

An uncommon fact about me…
Although I have never considered myself to be very musically inclined, I have taught myself to play the ukulele, which I think is the happiest of all instruments.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
For fancy-pants food I love Balthazar. I always feel French glam when I go there. To get my Mexican food fix, I head to La Esquina.

My style is…
Hard to define! After a phase of wearing all black every day, I now embrace colors and patterns. Anything with stripes has been a recent favorite. I also collect vintage jewelry and try to wear something from my collection each day.

Since working at UncommonGoods I’ve learned…
So much! I truly do learn something new each day. I love the collaborative environment here, and how supportive the team is of different ideas and points of view.

With a pile of stuff in front of me I would make…
(You’re given paperclips, yarn, cheesecloth, markers, and plastic beads.)

I would make a mini, colorful, and fabulous Eiffel Tower sculpture.