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Maker Stories

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Robert Hargrave

October 10, 2017

When you think “fine art,” your mind doesn’t usually jump to “plywood.” That is, in large part, why Robert Hargrave’s sculptures are so intriguing. Born in Ohio, raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and now based in Portland, Oregon, Robert handcrafts exquisite creations from layers of richly colored plywood. At first glance, you’d never guess the material—and, in a way, that’s the point. “In a homogeneous world of sameness, diversity is something to strive for,” Robert says. “My goal is to make products that are a joy to look at, a pleasure to touch, and an honor to own.”

After taking an up-close-and-personal look at Robert’s Layered Hardwood Magic Lamp Sculpture (albeit in the comfort of our Brooklyn office), we here at UncommonGoods knew we just had to find out a bit more about him, like how he manages to make two-by-fours look so darn fancy. Read on for more insight into Robert’s background and day-to-day as a creator, including a breakdown of what motivates him—and a tip o’ the hat to the sculpture that started it all.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with KaKyung Cho

October 4, 2017

Some 60 miles north of New York City, Newburgh, New York, sits quietly on the western bank of the Hudson River. To some, the name of the city is synonymous with a rough history. For others, it evokes vistas of riverside streets lined with 19th-century mansions, many mere blocks from abandoned homes. To a growing group, however, it’s become a refuge—a place that celebrates local creators, welcoming artists and entrepreneurs into a vibrant community of like-minded folks.

Enter KaKyung Cho, one of many makers who’s forging a home for her business in a newly renovated space in Newburgh. Like the duo behind design firm and longtime Brooklyn fixture Atlas Industries, KaKyung is a recent transplant, still transferring operations from her kitchen in Williamsburg, where she first began crafting soaps with the aid of a rather unlikely household tool—her slow cooker.

As we saw when we visited KaKyung back in July, she does everything herself, from selecting suitable loofahs for her three-piece soap sets to assembling the boxes she uses to package her equilateral soaps, and she does it all in a beautiful space a stone’s throw from Newburgh’s notable historic homes. In her workshop, antique furnishings mingle with massive ferns, delicate crystals, and piles of snacks just begging to be eaten. (Whether said snacks are always there or KaKyung just happens to be a great hostess, we’re not totally sure.) Buoyed by calming vibes and friendly conversation, we munched on burritos, watched KaKyung hand-cut and package her soaps, and asked her a select few questions about what life as a maker in Newburgh looks like. Read on for more.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Marylène Chauveau

September 26, 2017

Far, far away from UncommonGoods’ historic headquarters in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Marylène Chauveau manipulates glass in her home studio in Wotton, Québec. A native of the French-speaking Canadian province, Marylène lives where she works, tracing, cutting, sanding, and assembling striking pieces of finely colored glass into jewelry, mobiles, and suncatchers, all while tending to her two school-aged boys.

When we first saw Marylène’s Night Sky Mobile—a new addition to our assortment—in the flesh, we found ourselves struck by its delicate, masterful construction and by Marylène’s own background as a STEM worker-turned-glass artist. Intrigued, we set out to welcome her as we do all of our most exciting new makers: with her very own spot in our This Just In-spiration series. (As you can see, she accepted the offer. And we’re so glad.)

Read on for a glimpse into Marylène’s studio, complete with the rundown on her morning ritual and a suite of pretty pictures of her fine vitraux. (That’s French for “stained glass,” FYI. And the cat above? That’s un chat.)

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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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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet
Sarah Beth Elkins

September 18, 2017

When it comes to the creative realm, Sarah Beth Elkins has done a little bit of everything, from book-binding to teaching high schoolers graphic design, but her true passion lies in one thing: clay. Now a professional potter working from her home studio north of Houston, Texas, Sarah Beth molds mounds of the pliable stuff into playful mugs, bowls, and even earrings, not to mention the lovely, lighthearted Berry Colander that’s now available for purchase at UncommonGoods.

With one look at Sarah Beth’s adorable berry bowl, we here at UG fell quickly in love with her careful craftsmanship and whimsical touch, and we wanted to give her a proper welcome to the family with her very own post in our This Just In-spiration series. Read on for our Q&A with Sarah Beth, touching on her time as a teacher, her day-to-day life in the studio, and much, much more.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Sowing
Seeds of Good with Clarissa the
Curious Cat Planter

September 14, 2017

Khalil Ahmed, right, and a fellow metalworker crafting kitties just outside of Moradabad.

Moradabad, India, is a big city. Situated on the banks of the Ramganga River, it boasts a population of nearly 900,000 and an active handicrafts industry that accounts for a significant portion of the country’s artisan exports. Though it’s best known for its brass wares, local workers craft a wide variety of goods for international distribution, from handmade paper notebooks to mosaic vases made from discarded glass. And in the atelier of Khalil Ahmed, an ironworker stationed a mere 12 kilometers from Moradabad proper, Clarissa the Curious Cat Planter comes to life.

When you first lay eyes on Clarissa, you’re probably struck by the cuteness of her little iron nose, or the artful curve of her accompanying tail. What you likely don’t realize is that Clarissa’s cuddly (if metallic) exterior does a whole lot of good beyond the obvious act of putting a smile on your face. Her creator, Khalil, is part of a growing group of local artisans that benefit from the support of an organization known as Noah’s Ark, an international export house that’s been serving the area for nearly 30 years under the watchful eye of Moradabad native Samuel Masih.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Christine Schmidt

September 7, 2017

Christine Schmidt soaking up the San Francisco sun, photos by Emily Hodges

Colorful. That describes the running theme inside Christine Schmidt’s home, and also sums up the very core of the artist’s personality. (What type of artist you might ask? Oh, just a printmaker, jewelry designer, illustrator, author, painter, and home decor extraordinaire.)

I was invited into Christine’s home to go behind the scenes of her quirky and offbeat jewelry pieces, like the Color Wheel Pendant and the Taco and Hot Sauce Mismatched Earrings (my personal favorite for obvious and delicious reasons). I knew the visit would be a success the moment Christine uttered the words, “Alexa, play 2 Dope Queens.”  The studio tour quickly unfolded into us playing with paints like art school girls and exchanging love-hate stories about New York City. We drank tea from mugs (that Christine designed herself) while listening to Jessica and Phoebe chuckling in the background. In my head, I’d basically found my new best friend in San Francisco.

Christine’s illustrations definitely bring out the playfulness in me and fill the Lisa Frank void I never even knew existed. Yet, what I admire even more is that Christine herself is super relatable and isn’t afraid to be different — very much like her jewelry designs. As an unapologetic feminist who naturally marches to the beat of her own drum, it’s no surprise that her company, Yellow Owl Workshop, has been a success for almost a decade. She also recently published her third crafting book, Make It Yours. Discover how Christine entered the world of design, what she loves most about San Francisco, and why she thinks you should never apologize.

 

Christine Schmidt’s Color Wheel Pendant

 

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Maker Stories

Talking Purpose, Fun, and Sustainable Design with Fred Conlon

September 6, 2017

Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker/Park Record

Fun fact: Utahan Fred Conlon has been working with us here at UncommonGoods for over ten years, and in all that time, we’ve only mentioned him on the blog a teeny-tiny handful of times. But it’s 2017, and we’re saying, “No more.” It’s time to give Fred his due the best way we know how, and that’s with his very own maker story.

Raised in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Fred’s the son of two high school English teachers, which may at least help to explain how he wound up with a degree in Public Communication despite his ambition to open a pottery shop. After a brief tour as a ceramicist, Fred transformed his shop into the full-time metalworking studio where he now crafts punny paperweights and his signature Gnome-Be-Gones, both fixtures of our assortment here at UG for the better part of the past decade. Read on for a Q&A with Fred that touches on inspiration, sustainability, and what makes his job so special. (We also took a couple of moments to scour his Instagram, the evidence of which, too, lies below.)

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