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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Emilie Shapiro

November 7, 2016
Emilie Shapiro Portrait

Emilie Shapiro in her Long Island City studio, Photos by Rachel Orlow

Since I’ve started working at UG, Emilie Shapiro is a name I’ve heard often. (And here’s a fun fact: she used to be a regular Emily like me, but rebelled against our all-too-common name and switched to the “ie” ending at age 13). We carry many of her stunning, raw gemstone jewelry pieces, and everyone at the office sort of fan-girls about her work. So when I heard that Emilie was up for a studio tour, I was psyched to be on the invite list.

I set off expecting the drive from my home in suburban Long Island to Long Island City, Queens to be less than pleasant, and unfortunately I was right. After a hectic morning crawling down Queens Boulevard and searching for a parking spot for what felt like hours, arriving at Emilie’s sunny studio was a welcome respite.

shapiro-display

From the moment we cracked open the door, the vibe at the studio was easy and welcoming. We were sort of a big crew–our blog editor, our jewelry buyer, our photographer, our SEO specialist/jewelry-lover, and myself–but Emilie and another maker who she works with, Erica, were totally accommodating. They offered us apples and coffee and turned on some classic rock. They let us drool over the gorgeous pieces they had on display. Emilie urged us to try on whatever we wanted, which was basically everything.

Our blog team has visited Emilie before, but not since she moved to her new studio space. And this time, we were lucky enough to watch her in action – she did a demo for us on how she sets the striking Waterfall Ring. Following our lesson, we got to chat with her about how she’s grown as an artist and business owner, teaching others the craft, and even a bit about her family. Turns out, her grandfather once had a toy factory in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, UG’s home! We must be kindred spirits.

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Gift Guides

Creative Gifts for Clever Kids

October 28, 2016

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That phrase “childlike curiosity” is around for a reason. (If you’ve ever been on the answering end of an ongoing series of “Why?-s” you know what we’re talking about.) So much in the world is new and exciting for kids. They’re learning new things every day, their imaginations are limitless, and their creativity never ceases to amaze us grown-up types. With this in mind, we selected an assortment of fun gift ideas that are sure to keep kids interested, excited, and entertained while those little brains grow big and strong.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Sending Light and Love with the SolarPuff

October 17, 2016
SolarPuffs lighting the way

All images and videos courtesy of Solight Designs ™

Some of us take light for granted. The sun goes down, we flip a switch, and our homes are flooded with an electric-energy-fueled sunshine substitute. But for the 1.6 billion people in the world without access to electricity, it’s not that easy.

In many areas around the globe, kerosene is used in place of electricity. Kerosene, like gasoline, is a fossil fuel made from petroleum. It’s expensive, it has to be burned to create energy, and burning it creates air pollution. Unfortunately, many families don’t have access to any other source of light. That makes cooking, studying, or even seeing the face of the loved one sitting right across the room impossible without the aid of kerosine lamps. Use of these lamps can be dangerous. They get hot, they send soot into the air, and in some cases, they even use open flames.

Aiming to bring a safe, clean alternative to kerosene to those living by lamplight, product designer, architect, and Professor of Design and Material Culture at Parsons the New School of Design, Alice Min Soo Chun developed the SolarPuff™— an inexpensive, collapsible light powered by the sun.

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Design, The Uncommon Life

Home Run Beer Pong:
A Design Double Header

October 10, 2016

Home Run Beer Pong

 

Ah, two of America’s greatest pastimes: playing baseball and crushin’ brewskis. Our ever-innovative product development team had the genius idea to combine them in our latest original product: Home Run Beer Pong. When our team is working on something new for our assortment, they typically need some guinea pigs to test it out – and lucky for us on the blog squad, people to document the process! I’ll admit, I’m no sports expert. But since I have played a fair amount of beer pong in my day, I figured I was qualified enough to tackle the reporting of this product-testing event while Cassie, our blog editor, handled the photos.

Allow me to set the scene for you. It all went down in Conference Room A-2 – the table free of it’s usual keyboards and mouse pads, instead replaced with a mini paper baseball diamond (the real game has a board, not just a sheet of paper – remember we were product testing). Our single can of Canada Dry was cracked and ready, and our two opposing teams were eager to show off their baseball playing, soda slugging skills. Another disclaimer: the real game is meant to be played with beer, obviously, but we were playing at 11 AM on a Thursday and we only had the conference room booked for an hour, so we kept it low-key. But, you’re free to chug ginger ale instead if that’s what you’re into.

From left: Team Ken (Red Team), Team Craig and Jackie (Blue Team)

Let’s meet the players. We had many statistical minds on the field/conference table, including two whole Kens! Ken “The Elder” is our Data Scientist, and Ken “The Younger” (also known as “Yung Ken” in some underground rap circles) is our Jr. Data Scientist. They obviously formed a team. Team Ken. AKA the Red Team. Next up is Craig, our Data Analyst, and Jackie, our PR Intern who did double duty slugging it out and documenting the process on the UGoods Insta. Craig and Jackie don’t have the same name (bummer) but still made a fine Blue Team.

After a brief review of the rules from the brains behind it all, Senior Product Developer Tiffany, the game commenced.

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The Uncommon Life

10 Easy to Grow Succulents for Every Home [Infographic]

October 6, 2016

Indoor Succulent Advice | UncommonGoods

With fall in full swing it’s time to spruce up your indoor gardening game. If you’re hoping for an easy and beautiful indoor garden sanctuary try succulents. Succulent plants come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, suitable to all kinds of interior spaces. Easily identified by their juicy leaves and stems, these plants aren’t just pretty—they’re designed to hold water during droughts. Good news for the forgetful gardener: succulents are resilient, hardy, and versatile.

But with thousands of varieties to choose from, it’s hard to know which types of succulents are right for your indoor space. Low levels of natural light and cooler temperatures mean you’ll need to adjust how much water and fertilizer you use. Some adapt to hanging planters and terrariums better than others and some indoor succulents can even be toxic to your pets. When you get right down to it, there is a lot to know about succulent care! That’s why we’ve researched and compiled a list of 10 favorite indoor succulents to brighten up your home this fall.

The 10 Best Indoor Succulents | Indoor Plant Tips | UncommonGoods

Thanksgiving Catcus | UncommonGoods Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Christine Schmidt’s Mismatched Earrings & Peculiar Pet Pendants

August 22, 2016

Christine Schmidt in her San Francisco Studio | UncommonGoods

Christine Schmidt is a jewelry artist, printmaker, designer, illustrator, author, and fraternal twin. She says that maybe that last one influenced her decision to veer from convention and create her clever, quirky mismatched earrings: “I am myself different but a part of a unit. I’ll spare you the therapy–but I like to change it up.”

Here at UncommonGoods, we like to change it up too, and that’s why when we saw some of Christine’s mismatched designs, we couldn’t wait to work with her to create more canny combos.

We thought about a few of the interests our customers (and even many of the folks that work here) share, and worked with the artist on a new line celebrating books, space, and pets. Christine captured each of these concepts through her charming illustrations, turned them into brand new mismatched earrings, and even designed adorable cat and dog necklaces exclusively for UncommonGoods.

She took some time out from being a multi-talented super artist to tell us about her road to a creative career, her process, and working with our team.

Christine Schmidt's Mismatched Earrings | Exclusively at UncommonGoods

Books and Eyeglasses, Sun and Moon, and Cat and Dog Mismatched Earrings | Exclusively at UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Nancy Nelson’s Bee Love Jewelry: Honeycomb, Heart, and Hive Help

August 19, 2016

Many jewelry makers would describe their collections as “playful yet sophisticated and timeless.” Nancy Nelson happens to be one of them, but she isn’t referring to a new line of fall fashion must-haves; in her world, it’s the inspiration for her work: the honeycomb. Each of her bee-based designs is a sweet but serious tribute to the awe-inspiring insects that build their own hexagonal homes, produce healthy honey, and pollinate the crops we depend on every day. Her Bee Love Necklace and Earrings were shaped by the geometry of a heart-shaped piece of honeycomb given to her by her beekeeping friend Katie, but also by the vital environmental role played by bees and the alarming threat of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

BEE LOVE NECKLACE NANCY NELSON JEWELRY

There are many theories about what causes CCD, including fungicides, viruses, mites, and the commercial beekeeping process itself, in which colonies are stressed by being trucked all over the country to seasonally pollinate crops. But entomologists, apiary advocates, and artists alike are working hard to diagnose and respond to the crisis. “After learning about the epidemic of the bees vanishing from their hives and knowing that they pollinate a third of our diets, I realized I needed to do my part to help save the bees,” said Nancy. In response, she donates a portion of sales from her honeycomb jewelry collection to Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit organization addressing the decline of the honeybee population in the United States.

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Recently, we asked Nancy to reflect on the connections between bees’ industrious design work, their role in a healthy ecosystem, and her own tribute to their creations. Continue Reading…

Design

The Uncommon Collection:
Beautiful Designs, a Blueprint for Responsible Business

July 19, 2016

Roughly a year ago, we proudly launched The Uncommon Collection. While all of our goods are “uncommon,” the Collection is special because it’s a culmination of efforts to create an assortment of well-designed items made responsibly by businesses who embrace thoughtful and sustainable business practices. The Collection presents opportunities for our manufacturing partners to share the spotlight with their products, telling the stories behind those products and connecting our customer with the people who made them. We have grown a lot since introducing the Collection last year, both in terms of number of items and makers contributing to the Collection and in our understanding of the challenges and opportunities such an initiative presents.

The Uncommon Collection | UncommonGoods

What we’ve learned:

Companies come in all shapes and sizes

We approached the development of Collection criteria based on values we as a company hold ourselves and devised for manufacturers in a general sense. At UncommonGoods we work with companies both large and small, in widely varying industries employing teams all across the skill-level spectrum. It was important to us that this not be an initiative with criteria that artificially closed us off to certain industries or company sizes, but rather was as potentially broad-reaching as possible to raise the bar for as many companies as possible.

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