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Maker Resources

Maker Resources

Inside the Artist’s Studio with George Roumanas

July 7, 2017

George Roumanas working in his Athens, Greece studio, photos by Emily Hodges

Given that I “prepped” for this particular Studio Tour by watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding and listening to Mama Mias soundtrack on repeat, I knew that my visit to George Roumanas’ creative space was definitely going to be a fun one. George is a self-taught sculptor from a small village in Southern Greece and he’s the maker behind a collection of brass and wooden art pieces, including our much-adored Pop The Question Wall Sculpture. Being the avid wanderluster I am, I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to learn about the process behind George’s romantic designs in the ancient city of Athens, Greece. (Insert overly excited squeal and triple axel jump.)

My visit began with George’s upbeat business partner and wife — Stella Spanopoulou — personally picking me up at my AirBnb rental. I suggested I could easily catch a cab to the studio, but she insisted on giving me a ride. That should have been my first clue that Greek hospitality is genuine and is never to be mistaken for coyness. According to Stella, “When something is offered, just accept it. It’s the Greek way!” During our short drive to the studio, she apologized for three things: how “non-American” and messy their studio was, the fact that George only spoke Greek, and the economic state of Greece. I assured her that the messier the studio the better, that I’ve dealt with language barriers before, and despite Greece’s economic hiccups — everything I’d seen so far was absolutely beautiful.

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Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Donna and Randall Rollins

February 6, 2017

Randall and Donna Rollins in their Brentwood, NH studio, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

Most of us have had those days when we feel stuck in a rut. You know, when you’re sitting at your desk under harsh florescent lights, or walking extra slowly into your office building, or completing the same seemingly unimportant task for the 500th time. For most of us, this feeling creeps in and we start fantasizing about dropping everything and going confidently in the direction of our dreams. While the feeling usually passes, and many weekday warriors just keep fighting that battle against monotony, Donna and Randall Rollins figured that if they had to pour out their time and energy, it was going to be into something they love. 

The couple met while they were both working in corporate America. First they fell in love with each other, and then Donna fell in love with pottery. Then they learned about the healing properties often associated with gemstones from a friend with a PhD in metaphysics, and everything came together: Donna and Randall left the corporate world to start their own clay studio. They slowly grew their business to include family members and employ local artisans, they discovered new ways to incorporate stones and minerals into their designs, and, aside from acknowledging that their business backgrounds gave them the know-how to turn their passion into a career, they don’t do a lot of looking back. 

“We actively made the decision thinking, ‘If we tank, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll still have each other,'” Randall told me on my recent visit to the couple’s Brentwood, NH studio. “We took that risk and we were willing to lose it all.”  

As you’re about to see in the photos and interview below, Donna and Randall didn’t lose it all, and they’re still hard at work making beautiful pottery and sharing their passion for stones and clay whenever they can. In fact, when our Tabletop Buyer NéQuana and I arrived to the studio over two hours late, thanks to a flat tire, the Rollinses weren’t even fazed. Their team had left for the night, and evidence of a long workday (so many pieces, in all stages of completion!) was all around. Still, they welcomed us like old friends, offered us snacks, and almost immediately started showing us their collections of stones and telling us about the energy in the space.  

Healing Stone Mugs, before the stones are attached

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Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Look Back at Our 2016 Studio Tours

December 30, 2016

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been running our Studio Tours series for almost 5 years. Maybe that’s because every time I step into a another studio, I feel like I’m entering a whole new world. Over the years I’ve visited jewelry makers, potters, woodworkers, and even an industrial kitchen. And that’s just to name a few. Every time I leave an artist’s space, I feel creatively refreshed and ready to get making myself.

In 2016, I actually did get in some hands-on experience, when Jim Loewer gave our team a tour of his Philadelphia glass-working studio and let me use the torch to make own pendant. It was was definitely as much fun as you’d expect playing with fire and molten glass to be, and I now have a memento from the visit. Other adventures this year included checking out a sustainable studio made from reclaimed shipping containers, one contributor’s trip to London to meet world-renowned jewelry designer Alex Monroe, a look inside our own Product Development team’s creative space, and more. It wasn’t easy to pick just a few highlights from each Studio Tour to show you, but here are some moments that I hope spark your interest and maybe even put you in the mood to get creative too.

Laurel Begley

Laurel Begley | UncommonGoodsCreating the Faux Bois Vase | UncommonGoods

Laurel Begley’s Personalized Faux Bois Vase includes a symbol of lasting love, so it’s no surprise that she told us about some of the symbols of love an nurturing in her own life as she gave us a virtual tour of her Santa Rosa, CA studio. She also shared some great advice: “Don’t try to be anything you’re not. Do your best work, put it out there, and everything else will fall into place.” | Visit Laurel’s Studio

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Maker Resources

Introducing the 2017 JCK Design Challenge

December 22, 2016

We’re always on the lookout for designs that stun us with their beauty, serve a purpose, solve a problem, or make us wonder why no one thought of it before. That’s why we’ve partnered with jewelry industry authority JCK on the 2017 design challenge for JCK Tucson, a curated destination for emerging artists and makers of finished jewelry and loose gemstones. JCK Tucson will be hosted from February 1-4, 2017 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ.

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Gift Guides, Maker Resources

Gift Guide: Wedding Anniversary Gifts by Year

June 23, 2016


Just as there aren’t official rules that fit every romantic partnership, the “appropriate” wedding anniversary gifts by year aren’t written in stone–nor iron, copper, bronze, tin, steel, gold, or diamond. The origins of the traditional anniversary gift list are shrouded by the mysterious, misty mists of time, anyway.

The “traditional” guide for anniversary gifts by year featured mostly practical items, to help couples set up their new homes. The modern list, created by the American National Retail Jewelers Association in 1937, is (surprise!) big on precious metals and gems. As much as we adore sparkly baubles, we don’t believe that jewelers have the authoritative last word on this subject.

However, an anniversary gift guide of what’s generally considered appropriate can be a lifesaver: without one, it’s easy to succumb to mental paralysis when you need to come up with anniversary gift ideas for friends or relatives celebrating X years of marriage.

With all this in mind, here is our own fresh guide of anniversary gifts by year: traditional, modern, and, of course, uncommon.
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Maker Resources

5 Things No One Tells You about Starting a Business

May 17, 2016

*Editor’s note: Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your small business for a while now, you’re probably no stranger to the unexpected challenges that tend to pop up from time to time. Designer, entrepreneur, and author of the book How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line, Emilie Shapiro, shares her advice for working through a few of the trickier things about running a creative business.

 

Business is the Keyword in Jewelry Business

A business without a goal is just a hobby. Owning a jewelry business is much more than making pretty things. The biggest difference between running a business and engaging in a hobby is the goal; you’re running a business to make money. More and more people are pursuing the life of entrepreneurship and becoming their own bosses. Being a designer and a creator is an amazing gift, but when you decide to become a business owner, your main goal is to make money.

There are a lot of difficult decisions and many hats that you have to wear every day, especially if you are a one woman shop. Accounting, sales, customer service, production management, shipping & handling – all things that are part of running a small business. Running a business is not for everyone. It requires a lot of persistence and ambition. As a craft business owner, you are focusing on efficiency over creativity. Making jewelry is just one small part of running a jewelry business.

As an artist, there is a tendency to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. As a successful businessperson, it is necessary to make decisions based on rational calculation. I like to strike a happy medium between the two.

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Maker Resources

4 Tips for Responsible Materials and Supplier Sourcing

May 10, 2016

How to Take the Leap from Maker To Business Owner

As the Senior Production Manager here at UncommonGoods, my job is to oversee the connection of design ideas with manufacturing resources to create new products.

Thomas Edison claimed that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. From my experience, product development warrants a formula of its own. To carry an idea through to a finished product you should start with a spark of inspiration, then add in equal parts diligence and thoughtfulness, especially when it comes to sourcing.

I’ve pulled together the following considerations for responsible material and supplier sourcing inspired by my experience partnering with our makers on new product development. I hope these thoughts will help other small business owners navigate the rough waters of sourcing.

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Maker Resources

5 Things You Need to Know Before Selling Your Designs Online

May 4, 2016

As a creator of original designs or handmade products you’ve tackled the most important part of your business, what to sell. Now you find yourself taking on new questions that may be harder to answer. You’re starting to ask, “Where can I sell my handmade items?” and inevitably “How do I sell my designs online?” We’re happy to answer your first question and encourage you to check out our submission page, but before you click that link, take some time to think about whether your product is ready for retail.

 

Designing the Milkyway Scarf

Ali Bennaim and Ximena Chouza working on their Cat’s Paw Nebula Lightweight Wool Scarf

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