Browsing Category

Maker Stories

Maker Stories

Makers Joining Forces:
A Brief History of WomenMadeLA

December 11, 2017

From left to right, Debbie, Sashee, and Lori

Three women, three companies, and three uncommon goods that represent the food we grew up loving, by Debbie Mullin

Two years ago, in the infancy of our businesses, the three of us—Sashee Chandran, Lori Sandoval, and me, Debbie Mullin—kept running into each other. We were handing out samples at the same market, renting time at the same commercial kitchen, and neighbors at the same gigantic trade shows. When the three of us finally sat down to chat about our LA-based companies, we realized they all faced the same exciting but daunting challenges with growth—expensive LA real estate, setting up distribution, finding good employees, etc.—all on top of being women and minority-owned businesses. Each of our companies needed so much to keep growing, but we didn’t know how to afford it all at once.

Enter: WomenMadeLA. The three of us joined together a year ago to form our collective and formally support one another through shared resources for our quickly growing small businesses. Since then, WomenMadeLA has moved to a large downtown office to accommodate growth, and has even added new companies. The collective now employs three full-time staff for all our photography/video, graphic design, and social media needs and to keep all WomenMadeLA products looking as good to their customers as they taste at home.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration:
Meet Debbie Mullin

November 30, 2017

If you’ve never tasted the glory that is Vietnamese coffee, we encourage you to locate your nearest bánh mì place and order one immediately. The delectable combo of Vietnamese-grown coffee and sweetened condensed milk may seem simple, but trust us: It’s genius, just like maker Debbie Mullin’s new-to-UG Vietnamese Coffee Portable Pour Overs, which allow you to indulge in the drink’s sweet, creamy, caffeinated goodness wherever you go, so long as “wherever” has hot water.

We first saw Debbie’s pour overs in the kitchen here at our Brooklyn office, and with one sip of her tasty, tasty coffee (and an extra indulgent lick of any sweetened condensed milk that didn’t make it all the way into the mug), we knew we had to get the inside scoop on her product—what it is, where it comes from, and how she decided to make it. Read on for more on the birth of Debbie’s business, complete with an account of her recent visit to Saigon and a brief summary of what it’s like to grow up in a Vietnamese-Chinese-Jewish-American household… food-wise, anyway.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Gayle Harte

November 15, 2017

Mmm… chocolate. Who can resist the stuff? We’ve known a few cacao-hating weirdos* in our time, but here at UG, most everyone jumps at the chance to sample nature’s most delectable treat. That’s why we got so excited when we first saw Gayle Harte’s Chocolate Truffle Champagne Bottle, now officially available for purchase at UncommonGoods. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a dark-and-white chocolate champagne bottle, neck enveloped in a pretty pink bow, that houses nine tasty champagne truffles. Need we say it again? Mmm… chocolate. And champagne!

 

A master of playfully shaped treats and an entrepreneur in her own right, we knew Gayle would be a perfect subject for our This Just In-spiration series—and she didn’t disappoint. Read on for Gayle’s insights on the benefits of chocolate for both body and soul, as well as a brief history of her Royal Oak, Michigan chocolaterie and espresso bar.

*We’re kidding, of course… it’s fine if you don’t like chocolate. Seriously… it’s… ugh. It’s fine.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Listen Up: A Chat with Spring Hofeldt

November 8, 2017

Back in 2015, we first spoke with artist Spring Hofeldt, who then remarked that she hoped her paintings would make others “chuckle, giggle, snort, laugh out loud, or smile on the inside.” Two years and one full collection later, the chortles keep on coming. This time, Spring is back with a series of suitably playful (and ever-so-slightly surreal) works riffing on four familiar phrases: “Listen Up,” “Take Your Time,” “Stay Sharp,” and “Remember Your Strengths,” each shown clockwise from top left below.

To honor the induction of this new group of works into our assortment here at UncommonGoods, we spoke with Spring a second time—about what inspires her, how she creates, and what she finds most rewarding about her career. Read on for more, complete with gorgeous views of the interior of her Brooklyn studio.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Holly Daniels Christensen

November 3, 2017

Photos by Christa Smith

There is something very nostalgic about Holly Daniels Christensen’s jewelry. Holly has collected sands from around the world, and her super talented team of artists sets them into jewelry, bottle stoppers, and snowflake ornaments, creating personalized keepsakes.

I was beyond excited to see Holly’s studio, meet her team, and see her sandbank in person. In the time we’ve been working together, her bank has grown from about 1,200 sands to over 3,000—and it’s still growing! I wanted take a peek at granules that hold a special place in my heart—Stone Harbor, New Jersey and Santorini, Greece were two that I especially was excited to see—and the sandbank definitely did not disappoint. A collection of samples from around the world, each with a distinct texture and color, her collection encompasses beach sand, sports sands (think golf courses and baseball infields), and crushed power stones.

Sharon & Mekah

Holly and her team work in a converted manufacturing building outside of Boston. The space is a designer’s dream—hardwood floors, sky high ceilings, and lots of light. Her team was warm and welcoming, and the studio buzzes with creative energy. Besides her sandbank, a highlight of the tour was seeing the very table Holly launched her business from—formerly her dining room table, now in use in her conference room.

After a tour of her space, I wanted to take a crack at creating my very own piece of jewelry. It was a tough choice deciding which sand to use, but I finally settled on Santorini, a gorgeously grainy volcanic sand with bits of white and terracotta. One of Holly’s sand artists, Mekah, led the way, showing me how to carefully place the sand within the pendant. It’s an exacting process which requires a fair bit of precision. Mekah was a super patient instructor, and within about an hour, I had made a piece of jewelry!

It was a magical day, and I’m so grateful to Holly and her entire team. Read on for a Q&A with Holly and a sneak peek into her sandbank and studio, complete with mentions of lunchtime excitement and dance parties.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

The World Through Orange-Colored Glasses: A Conversation with Stephen Kitras

October 31, 2017

Stephen Kitras in his Fergus, Ontario studio, photos by Jen Coleman

During the first week of October, I traveled to Toronto to attend the annual B Corporation Champions Retreat. (And to celebrate our 10th anniversary as a founding B Corp!) Less than a week before I was set to leave for my first-ever trip to the Great White North, I learned that Stephen Kitras, a long-time member of our maker family, owns and operates the largest hot glass blowing studio in Canada. I immediately contacted the Kitras Art Glass team with fingers crossed, hoping to squeeze in a last minute visit while on their side of the continent. A few days later, I found myself in Fergus, Ontario, thrown into the fire of glassblowing alongside artists who have traveled from all over the world to practice their craft at Stephen’s studio. Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Paola Delgado’s Handmade, Sustainable Tagua Jewelry

October 23, 2017

It’s a familiar story. Talented woman takes on Wall Street, only to leave four years down the line and discover her true calling: ethical jewelry design. Okay, it’s not that familiar. And besides, the tale of Paola Delgado, Peruvian banker-turned-creative, has a bit more to it, including a pilgrimage to her home country and, of course, a dash of uncommon impact.

Driven by a desire to connect with others and an ambition to find herself, Paola left her job at Goldman Sachs in 2011 in search of a more meaningful path. From New York City, where her business is now headquartered, she traveled to her native Peru, where she delved unexpectedly into a craft she’d enjoyed as a child. You guessed it: We mean jewelry-making. Following a bit of soul-searching, Paola decided to turn her hobby into her job, soliciting artisans in Ecuador and Peru to produce designs in her signature material, tagua seed. Harvested sustainably from pods that fall from local palms, tagua offers a cruelty-free alternative to ivory that minimizes damage to the environment and looks pretty darn good when carved by the artisans in Paola’s employ.

Paola, center, with two members of her all-female roster of artisans

When we first heard Paola’s story, we knew we had to talk to her one on one. Read on for more on Paola’s journey, from the difficulty associated with saying “tupananchiskama” to financial stability to the logic behind her recent choice to work with only women artists, and find out just what makes her creations so special.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Inside
Greyston Bakery

October 18, 2017

Even if you’ve never heard of Greyston Bakery, chances are good that you have, in fact, eaten their baked goods. Ever had a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, or spooned your way through a full pint of Half Baked? Congratulations! You’ve had a little bit of Greyston in your belly. And it’s no coincidence that both of those flavors made it to Ben & Jerry’s top 10 list last year—Greyston’s brownies, which you can now snag in four flavors at UncommonGoods, are mind-blowingly tasty.

That’s not all, though. Like UncommonGoods (and Ben & Jerry’s), Greyston Bakery is a proud B Corp, and it’s New York state’s first Benefit Corporation, too. Founded by Zen Buddhist Roshi Bernie Glassman in 1982 in Yonkers, New York, Greyston is best known for its unique hiring model, dubbed Open Hiring™. “Open Hiring is simple,” says Ariella Gastel, Greyston’s VP of Marketing and Business Development: “If you want a job, come to the bakery, sign your name on a list, and wait to be called. No questions asked. No resume or interview needed.” Designed to break down barriers for those seeking honest work, Greyston’s policy provides opportunities to Yonkers locals who might otherwise encounter difficulty obtaining a job, whether that means they’re single parents, have trouble speaking English, or once struggled with homelessness. “It is hard to imagine how many people want to work but can’t because of barriers,” says Ariella. “Our mission is [to] create thriving communities through the practice and promotion of Open Hiring.”

Though most of our real live visits are to artist’s studios, we couldn’t resist making the trip up to Yonkers to visit Greyston’s facility ourselves. The promise of brownies, of course, was a draw, but we were equally excited to see Greyston’s mission in action and to have the chance to meet Ariella and longtime team members Cece and Raymond. Armed with questions and juuust enough space in our tummies for a brownie or two, we set off for Yonkers from Grand Central Station, a mere half hour from our final destination.

Continue Reading…

Pin It on Pinterest