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Maker Stories

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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Maker Stories

Diagnosis: Talent. Dr. Martin Geller’s Pet Pedigree Poems

August 31, 2017
Dr. Martin Geller, acrostic poem king

Dr. Martin Geller, acrostic poem king

 

We’re proud of offering goods made by artists and makers from around the world. But we have a special, parental pride when a design’s DNA is 100% from the UncommonGoods “family”–like our Pet Pedigree Poem items. Unique from head to tail, these items, which are exclusive to UncommonGoods, feature an acrostic poem celebrating your breed’s special traits.

We have dog pillows, mugs, totes, and art for dogs and cats—including rescue cats.

The idea to mix paintings with acrostic poems came together serendipitously, and blended the skills and talents of the UncommonGoods Product Development team, led by Carolyn Topp (Director of New Business and Product Development), and Dr. Martin Geller, a retired psychiatric physician who is the father of UncommonGoods Senior Purchasing Planner (and not incidentally, organizer of our literary book club), Louise Geller.

Carolyn tells us how pets and poems came together in the creation of these unique items.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Leah Monaghan and Barb Stauffer

August 29, 2017

Names, like looks, can be deceiving. After all, there’s nothing “simple” about the syrups that UG newcomers Leah Monaghan and Barb Stauffer create together in Columbus, Ohio. Crafted using organic cane sugar and ingredients sourced from local farms, Leah and Barb’s concoctions are all-natural, made in small batches, and, quite frankly, delicious. But that’s not all. Despite being busy moms—that’s how they met, after all—Barb and Leah have grown their business with their own two—er, four—hands, waking at the crack of dawn to get cooking, crossing state lines in the name of distribution, and hand-packing their fair share of tasty mixers, all as part of their first ever joint entrepreneurial endeavor.

When we learned of Barb and Leah’s successes (and saw what tasty flavors they’ve thought up), we knew we had to give them a welcome the only way we know how—that is, with their very own interview. We sat down on a real live phone line and spoke with the duo all about how they got started and how much they’ve grown, touching on victories, troubles, and touching mementos. Read on for more.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Dottie Boscamp

August 21, 2017

Blowing glass is no small feat, but Colorado-based creator Dottie Boscamp makes it look easy. Using traditional glassblowing techniques, Dottie handcrafts elegant, colorful goods with a unique flair, among them her Speckled Glass Olive Oil Dispenser and Rainbow Candy Dish Bowl, both items new to our assortment. Between the need to blow, shape, color, and properly cool each piece, Dottie’s glassworks require true mastery—and yet they appear almost effortlessly delicate.

Here at UncommonGoods, we like to welcome our newest makers with a quick peek into their day-to-day lives and creative histories. Read on to learn a bit more about Dottie, including her exclusive POV on what music’s best to blow glass to.

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