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Maker Stories

Scott’s Flower Power Wins the Art Contest

March 14, 2014

ScottSilvey_portraitScott Silvey literally understands the power of flowers. Scott’s nature-inspired art pieces resonates from living on an Indiana farm and caring for a garden when he was a child. Various plants and flowers have always carried a bit of a magical spirit to him. In his winning art piece, Aphrodisiac Bath, he illustrates a vibrant botanical scene that celebrates not only the beauty, but medicinal properties of flowers and herbs. The backdrop of where the plants sit are scrolling scripts, detailing the ingredients for a stimulating bath. Many of Scott’s work celebrate the healing power that nature possesses. “I create paintings and other art that investigates the manifold ways in which plants can positively effect human life. In a world that is becoming increasingly artificial, my work is a reminder of the healing potential that lies in the roots, stems and leaves growing all around us.” Scott has also been inspired through living, studying, and working abroad in Japan, South Korea, England, and now back to the United States. Meet Scott Silvey, our latest Art Contest Winner, and our ultimate Flower Power King.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsHow did you come up with the concept of Aphrodisiac Bath?
All of the pieces in my Invocations series are in effect portraits of various herbal remedies. The plants in each painting could be combined in reality to make traditional medicine to treat various afflictions. While working on this series my best friend gave me the news that he would be getting married. I wanted to do a painting as a wedding gift for my friend Sam and his wife Jackie, but creating an image of medicine just didn’t seem appropriate. So when I ran across this recipe for a stimulating bath I got really excited. What could possibly be a better image for newlyweds than one which increases their desire for each other?

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsTell us about the moment when you realized “I want to be an artist.”
In undergraduate school I studied psychology. During my final year of undergrad at Earlham College I decided to take a photography class just to fill a requirement. It was that decision that changed my life’s direction. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I began by just shooting what was around me but my image making soon turned to creating almost allegorical sets to pose myself and others in. I actually didn’t get such a good grade in the class though because my interests often diverged from the assignments.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat different techniques do you use when creating your art?
With the painting I use primarily water-based paints and a carbon transfer process that I’ve developed through the years. Much of the primary imagery comes from the internet and then I just assemble and compose the individual pieces into finished work. When I make sculptures or installation the techniques depend on what is required for the concept. I weld, do woodworking, casting, forging, sewing or whatever is needed for the piece. In the next few years I hope to expand my technical repertoire. I want to do some performance and film work in addition to what I currently do.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsYou once lived in Japan. What exactly led you there?
When I was a child my father always collected National Geographic magazine. The images of beautifully attired geishas, exotic temples, and snow monkeys found from time to time in its pages always fascinated me. Then, when I was in university I spent a lot of time looking at ukio-e and other Japanese image making and design. I liked all of the seeming dissonance in the work. The density of imagery in the kimono design versus the remaining abundant negative space in a print. Or the intense violence of a battle scene juxtaposed with someone arranging flowers in a quiet room in the corner of the painting. I never really thought I’d have an opportunity to live in Japan but when the opportunity to move to Tokyo arose, I jumped at it.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsCan you describe how living in Japan influenced your art work?
I think the biggest influence Japan had on me while living there was on my composition sense. In the last place that I lived before moving back to the States, my local train station had a small display area for ikebana (flower arrangements). Every day as I walked to or from the train I was treated with a constantly shifting array of mini sculptures. That moment of stillness among the bustle of commuters always made me pause and take note.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsAre there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
Yes, I have five notebooks full of ideas for installation and large-scale painting projects I’m eager to put into the world. As you might imagine, there were certain spatial constraints in Japan that limited the kind of work I could do. Now that I’m back in the U.S. I really want to work big again. My first solo exhibition in America will involve three large installations, 365 live plants, about 4 tons of raw soil sculpted into the form of an Ohio River Valley culture ceremonial mound and some glowing neon among other things.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhich artist(s) do you look up to?
There are many artists that I admire. As Newton said, we stand on the shoulders of giants and to not be aware of your predecessors or acknowledge their contributions to your work/ field is just ignorant and delusional. Generally I love the work of outsiders, folk artists, the mentally ill and children. The themes, material usage and compositional sense of those who haven’t been ‘educated’ is just fantastic. Probably Henry Darger is one of the names many people may recognize in that category. In addition I love the drawings of Hans Bellmer, work by Morris Louis, Edward Hopper, Albert Bierstadt, Jessica Stockholder, Marc Quinn, Petah Coyne, Tom Sachs, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Shana Robbins and my wife Mio Silvey among many others.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
It takes a lot of persistence and faith in yourself and your ideas to have any success in the ‘art world.’

 What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Try to get more sleep because raising a child and making art is going to make you very tired.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated? 
Last year, at the announcement of his retirement from an illustrious career in animation, Hayao Miyazaki was quoted as saying, “Never stop trying to achieve more universal and profound expressions of humanity.” I think those words best express my drive as an artist. There are as many ways to live a human life as there are, have been or will be humans in existence. There is beauty in the fact however that on the most fundamental level we are all the same. The deepest personal expressions can also be the most universal. The more that I can come to understand who I am, the closer I can get to comprehending what it means to be human. My work is an attempt to find those factors which unite us all.

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Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
I usually try to pick up a new book, watch a documentary or just go for a walk alone.

Do you have any secret vices?
It’s always easier to not work than work. For me the most interesting part of the art-making process is coming up with the ideas and doing the research. I don’t have any particular vices that prevent me from doing work, I just have to stay focused on making the actual artifact and not just swim in the ideas.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Art Contests?
Do your work, follow the leads that life gives you and always try to do your best. Push yourself to find a different angle on what you know and you may find an entrance into a whole new thematic world. Then, gather up your friends, fill out the application form and send it in. A seat at the table is waiting for you!

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

Click here if you want to add Scott’s beautiful artwork into your home or gift it to someone who would appreciate his masterpieces!

 

Maker Stories

Teresa Kahres on Jewelry and the Business Behind It

March 12, 2014

Teresa Kahres grew up in Long Island, NY and began showing her artistic leanings early in life. She went on to study jewelry design and enameling at SUNY New Paltz, the Cecelia Bauer Studio in New York City and in Siena, Italy. Some friends invited her to join them in a Brooklyn studio in 2005, where, the following year, she founded t. kahres jewelry, her line of sustainable, nature-inspired, handmade, recycled metal jewelry.

Teresa Kahres | UncommonGoods
Her deep love for the shapes and colors found in nature shows in the organic forms of her metalwork–often hand-cast from actual leaves, shells, etc.–and the stunning colors of her enameling. The end result is intricate jewelry art, exquisitely crafted like small sculptures.

We’re in love with her creations, and jumped at the chance to ask her some questions about herself and her work.

Enameled Silver Leaf Jewelry | UncommonGoods

Were you artistic as a child or teenager? If so, what kinds of things did you create?
I was very artistic as a child. I always drew pictures and took projects for class to the next level, whether it be a science project, an art project, history, etc.

I remember one project when I was in 4th grade. We had to make a homemade usable tool/object. I made a fishing pole out of a long branch and twine, and tied a rock to the middle of the twine so it would drop down in the water to catch fish. I carried it all the way to school. I taught an art drawing class on the computer in the 4th grade as well.

I was always more interested in art class and did very well in those classes. My mind understood that process. For the other classes I really didn’t have much interest, and it always took more time for me to grasp what was going on. It was kind of boring to me.

What were your major inspirations growing up? Any role models?
My grandfather and dad were major inspirations. They are/were very handy people. They would make things, if they could, before buying them.

My grandfather was always into funky gadgets. I remember he bought a huge (by huge I mean probably a foot wide) rear view mirror for the car so he never had to look back. He was all about the design, too. He was always drawing and was an exceptional drawer.

He and my dad owned a bookstore, and they built all the shelves and many of the things they had in the shop by hand. They wallpapered my whole house and made picture frames, step stools, tables, wall units, you name it. They weren’t woodworkers, they just knew how to create things the way they wanted it.

So I was around a lot of crafty, handy people growing up.

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Are there any great jewelry artists or sculptors of the past who you worship?
One of my inspirational jewelers is Art Smith. His jewelry is very sculptural, and he used a lot of found metals and materials to create his jewelry. His pieces are a true work of art to me.

When I started enameling, I was first influenced by Georgia O’Keeffe. I love her flowers and the colors she uses. Louise Bourgeois and her large metal spiders are amazing in real life. Her sculptures and what she expresses within them is a real influence.

When did you become especially interested in making jewelry?
I became interested in making jewelry when I made gifts for everyone out of whatever I could find. I would make jewelry out of beads, leather, vinyl, studs, safety pins, string, etc. I took a metalsmithing class in college and became hooked instantly! So I delved into metals and started loving what I was creating.

What are the most challenging aspects of creating your jewelry?
The most challenging part of jewelry making is the steps you take to get it to what you want it to become. Drawing it and fabricating it out of base metal, paper or wax to see scale and design before you actually make it in the metal you want. Making a model out of precious metals can get expensive if you are in the very beginning stages, so it’s always better to try and make it first from something less precious.

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What are the greatest design challenges in creating jewelry?
The greatest design challenge is trying to make something unique and eye-catching and yet something that an everyday person can respond to. I understand that not everyone will like my work, but I want the work to be wearable and sellable.

Do you work alone, or with a team? If the latter, how does that work?
I currently work with an assistant, and it has made everything so much better and easier. It relieves some stress of pressing orders. She helps me make decisions and keep things organized. She is great!

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How long does it take to create each piece of leaf jewelry?
When I am doing production I do a bunch at a time, but I’d say each leaf earring set takes about a full hour to complete from start to finish.

How do know when you’ve spotted something you want to make into jewelry, like a leaf, etc.?
I know when I want to make something into a piece of jewelry if it speaks to me instantly. I am always on the lookout for new things to create and colors to use so when I am feeling something I usually try to create it out of metal.

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With your nature-inspired jewelry, does the change of the seasons inspire you to change what you’re making?
Most of my jewelry is beach-related, which is where I find the most peace for myself. I somewhat dislike winter. Although I did do a new collection not so long ago and based some shapes on ice, so I guess I am influenced by all seasons. I just tend to get more inspiration from the warmer ones.

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When did you start becoming a “real” business woman?
I started to become a real business women when I realized that I wanted this to not be a hobby. A few friends of mine were getting studio space many years ago and asked me to join in with them. At that point it started becoming more and more like a business. I did have another job during my first years into business so that I could fund materials and such.

I was approached to do the Grand Central Holiday Fair a few years ago (at that time I was working three jobs, jewelry included). I decided to take the leap of faith and do the fair and quick my other jobs. The fair was going to be 42 days–and very long ones–so I wouldn’t be able to work all three. I was very pleased with my decision to let go and go for the business in full force. The fact that I can run my own thing now is the best. I was scared, but happy I finally got over it.

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What are the biggest business lessons you’ve learned?
Big business lessons I learned are:

  • It’s pretty difficult being your own boss; the structure, and keeping everything organized and on time.
  • Not being scared to not be good enough and trying to get what you want is a big challenge in such a competitive field. Going for it and not standing back was a challenge. But as my business grows and I am a bit older, I am trying not to let anything stand in the way.
  • Having the freedom is great, but you have to be structured in order to have a successful business. Sure, you can take off whenever you want but then things get left behind.
  • Hiring someone is scary because now you have to manage someone else besides yourself. But if you get sick and need to take off and you have no one that works for you, business stops.

Those are my biggest thus far. I am sure as I grow, others will arise.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist Studio with Stacey Lee Webber

March 5, 2014

Stacey Lee Webber Studio Tour | UncommonGoodsPhiladephia jewelry designer, Stacey Lee Webber, creates her pieces from pennies and small coins—making art from what could easily be overlooked and discarded. The same can be said for her incredible studio and living space. Situated within the former Globe Dye Works factory–a space she calls home, work, and the location of her wedding–her space is one of the most uncommon I’ve ever visited. Aside from having been saved from scrapping and recycled, the factory is home to many other designers and just oozes creativity. Stacey’s studio also serves as storage for her creative friends’ projects that won’t fit anywhere else.

After I was done drooling over the space, I got to know one of our artists in a deeper way. Behind the beautiful necklaces and cufflinks on our site is a process of sawing, filing, and tiny metal splinters, creating the kind of dichotomy that makes handmade pieces like hers so special. When I see a coin, I see an opportunity for a Tootsie Pop. When Stacey sees a coin, she sees art–just another reason why it’s so fun to try to get inside the mind of our designers.

Take a stroll around Stacey’s creative space and get to know this Uncommon Artist.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Sean and Armelle’s Glass Design Wins Upcycling Challenge

February 7, 2014

It can be said that with every creative couple, the ultimate dream is to one day collaborate and use their talents and ideas together to create something pretty special. Sean O’Neill and Armelle Bouchet O’Neill did exactly that with their genuine love of glass making. The O’Neills proudly run Studio Manufact and push themselves to the limits to perfect their craft and to supply well-designed glass products to their community. We received dozens of unique and clever entries for our annual Upcycling Design Challenge, yet it was Sean and Armelle’s Upcycling Glass Tumblers design that caught our eyes. The tumblers are sleek and simple, it’s a product that can be used everyday while still appreciating the actual design itself by not just looking at it, but holding it. Starting to design a new glass collection, the couple decided to scavenge glass bottles from around their neighborhood venues. Sean says, “It is really refreshing to create something unique out of something as ubiquitous as a beer bottle. We have been so encouraged by the positive response from our community that we are really excited to share our design with the wider world.” Meet The O’Neills, our Upcycled Design Challenge Winners.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your hometown?

Sean: I went to four different high schools in three different states.

Armelle: I grew up on a farm in the south of France. An uncommon fact about our neighborhood park is that it was designed by the Olmsted brothers, sons of the designer of Central Park. Seattle is covered in parks, over 10% of the city is either a park or open space.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

Your Upcycled Glass Tumblers are an elegant and beautiful design, how did the idea of recycling bottles and to make them into a product come about?

Sean: I have been making a line of glasses I call “crinkle cups” for years, that design lent itself seamlessly to use recycled bottles as the starting point. We are planning to move into a new studio and bring our production capabilities in-house rather than continually handing over large sums of money to rent a studio for the hot glass component of our production. By designing objects that we can create using existing glass we can cut out the glass melting part of the equation. With the reclaimed bottles, we have a consistent supply of materials that would, otherwise, be destined for the waste stream. So it was a progression that came as a result of wanting to make affordable, unique designs that we could produce consistently and be able to offer them to a wider audience.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

How long have you been working with glass?

Sean: I got into glass making in high school in 1997, I moved around quite a bit over the years, but I have found a way to work with glass everywhere I’ve lived since then.

Armelle: I started while I was a student in Art School in 2001 and fell in love with the material. A few years later, I went to school at the Danish Design School to specialize in glass and moved to Seattle in 2009.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

Where do you find inspiration within your work space?

Armelle: We collect many objects for their texture, form and color that as inspiration for our fine art work and our business, Manufact. Working with materials and and refining processes also inspires us, so the more we work in the studio the more ideas we get. We are also really fortunate to share a space with over a dozen other makers. So being in that proximity to so many other creative people is very inspiring.

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Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?

Sean: Between making artwork, starting a new business and having a young family I can’t honestly say that downtime is a daily occurrence. But now that we have the wheels turning on so many facets of our life that we are passionate about, the next step is to organize them in such a way that downtime takes some priority.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

How do you recharge your creativity?

Sean: If I feel like I need to recharge I make sure that I disconnect from the internet and look through my photos and sketchbooks where I inevitably find lots of ideas to revisit and explore.

Armelle: Ideally, by going on excursions, observing, and taking pictures. But lately it has been difficult to find the time to go on field trips.

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Other than working with glass, what else do you do?

Sean: As for me, in the midst of pursuing a career as a glassmaker, I started a business designing and building self-watering garden beds, mainly the byproduct of building six of them on the roof of our studio. I am also a technician in the School of Art at the University of Washington.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

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Armelle: We have a two year old little girl, spending time with her after working with glass is our favorite occupation. We also teach, ride our bikes, and garden!

Do you have any special projects or events that are in the works?

Armelle: I’m preparing for two group shows with my artwork, one in Seattle and one in Chicago.

Sean: I’m designing the layout and new equipment in preparation for our move into a new studio!

What are your most essential tools that you must have on your side while you design?

Sean: A camera is an essential tool for me to document and translate a lot of what I see in the world around me.

Armelle: My coffee cup, living in Seattle has made me addicted to coffee!

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What was the toughest lesson you learned working with glass?

Armelle: That you can’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched, meaning that you can’t get attached to material things that has to endure such extreme and exacting processes because there are so many opportunities for something to go wrong.

Sean: The realization of the occupation that I have chosen as my path in life, working with glass takes a long time to master and it’s very energy intensive. This is one reason why the Upcycled Glass Tumblers are so exciting, with them we have found a way to offer a product that is unique and efficient by using recycled materials.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What advice would you offer the Sean and Armelle of 5 years ago?

Sean: To trust that if you pursue your passion your efforts will be acknowledged and rewarded. The most important thing is to be true to yourself and if you do that, the rest will begin to fall into place. It seems really easy to focus on the byproducts of success and attempt to attain those rather than aiming for the essence of what makes something work well and creating that for yourself.

Armelle: Do it right the first time! This advice can be applied in so many circumstances and it most often holds true. You must really take care to do things well so as not to waste time fixing them later, that way you have the freedom to move forward.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

Are there any particular artists or similar businesses you look up to?

Armelle: I got my start working in a studio called Glassmedjen Denmark. They have been a model business for me ever since. In addition, there is a Finnish artsit, Anu Penttinen, who I have always looked up to as an example of what is possible if you stay true to an aesthetic and continue growing and pushing forward with your designs. Here in the states I would say I look up to Joe Cariati. He is a talented artist who has also created a successful business making really refined handmade objects.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Upcycling Design Challenge?

Sean: We got pretty giddy and congratulated each other but to be honest, we’re still waiting to celebrate…

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you? 

Armelle: “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” -Confucius

Sean:  “Everybody does better when everybody does better.” I feel a little silly because I saw this quote on a bumper sticker and I’m not sure who actually said it but it really resonates with me. I think that when you thrive, those around you thrive and vice versa. It is also a reminder that you can’t wait around for other people’s success to rub off on you, you have to go out and create it for yourself.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?

Sean: I am trying hard to hone the business side of the equation these days, by spreading the word about our business and getting people excited about it and meanwhile trying to be diligent in our record keeping and the less glamorous side of working for yourself.

Armelle: I am excited about utilizing technology to compliment my handmade process, so I am learning various design programs to translate my ideas and images into the objects I create.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What are the pros and cons of being business partners and married at the same time?

Sean: We really complement each other by offering a different perspective to one another. It always helps to see something with a fresh set of eyes and that is sort of built in when you work with a partner. We both excel in different areas so we are able to cover a lot more bases than we would working alone. The cons come with the territory of sharing everything… home, business, and studio. Work is always part of our life, it is hard to stop and not think about it once we leave the studio.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work to the next Upcycling Design Challenge?

Sean: Love it! Share it! Offer something you believe in and inspire other people to get behind it.

We are pleased to announce that the Upcycled Glass Tumblers are now available at UncommonGoods.com!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Cassidy Schulz Brush

February 2, 2014

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No matter how much I prepare before a Studio Tour, I never know exactly what to expect when I step into a creative workspace. On the way to my most recent artist encounter I traveled up New York Avenue by bus, out of my own Brooklyn neighborhood and into a close by, but unfamiliar, area somewhere between Bed-Stuy and Williamsburg, I wondered what I’d see when I arrived at Cassidy Schulz Brush’s studio, Urban Chandy. After getting off at my stop, I wandered down a street that seemed to be a mix of industrial and urbane. I walked past warehouses and large trucks making deliveries, but also passed several people who looked like they could be on their way to art shows or coming from trendy coffee shops.

When I entered Cassidy’s studio, I found that same juxtaposition of city chic and industry. Of course, it’s what I should have been expecting all along, considering that Cassidy and her team so beautifully combine mechanical elements (like wires, sockets, and bulbs) and gorgeous reclaimed materials (like barn wood or vintage ceiling tiles) to create her chandeliers–or chandies, as she calls them.

The space is lit by a combination of sunshine pouring in large windows and the exposed bulbs hanging from its many chandies. Stacks of wood, various tools, and spools of wire line most of the walls there, and the remaining wall is covered in chalkboard paint and filled with chalky lists and numbers. Surrounded by so many details, I felt like I could explore the studio all day examining the many combinations of old and new. Here’s a closer look inside Urban Chandy, and some great advice from Cassidy Schulz Brush.

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Maker Stories

Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace Shines Bright

January 15, 2014

Natha Perkins

Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace design is obviously beautiful, but I would have to say the message behind it shines a little brighter, just giving me more incentive to add the charming pendant into my very own jewelry box. The message that stands behind the design is all about finding clarity, direction, and seeking one’s path. When wearing it, it should remind you to trust your internal guidance, reassure yourself that you know your own answers and that you, indeed, know exactly where you want to go. As someone who has been bitten pretty hard by the travel bug and tends to live life a bit off the beaten path, I’m in love with the fact that the eight pointed star symbol was the first known compass in the history of humanity. Natha’s necklace is the first winning jewelry design I’ve come across with a resonating message that touches on both my personal hopes and fears. I hope to stay on the (very loopy and sometimes off-the-cliff) path that I’m currently still paving out for myself. I fear losing sight of that direction and hopping onto someone else’s already-made yellow brick road. The Eight Pointed Star Necklace is a pretty reminder to keep going and to never doubt oneself. Meet Natha Perkins, someone who definitely knew how to pave her way into becoming our latest Jewelry Design Challenge Winner.

Natha Perkins

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your jewelry?
I don’t  journal much, or keep a diary, but I have 30 rings that I’ve made through the years for myself.  Each ring has a specific story behind it and each design is totally relevant to something that was happening in my life when I made the ring.  (I’ve been metalsmithing for 13 years, so for those of you counting that’s approx. 2.3 rings a year)

I love that your necklace has a lot of meaning behind it, do you mind explaining it?
I love the symbolism behind this piece!  I wrote a blog post about it here, but in a nutshell, the Eight Pointed Star is an ancient and universal symbol, as well as the first compass in the history of humanity. It guides your way to a new life, giving you clarity of vision to see the future through a lens of hope, healing and beauty. It also bestows nurturing energies. A symbol of optimism, an eight pointed star assures you that unexpected help is coming and serves to help bring about a renewal of good fortune in the material world. Like with any of our pieces, wearing  this piece will help bring you clarity simply by providing you with a reminder that you are indeed supported.

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Jewelry Design Challenge?
We did a lot of jumping up and down and screaming!

Where do you find inspiration within your work space?
The studio itself is full of tools and stones and lots of different working areas but we have the most beautiful garden just outside with grape vines and a gurgling rock fountain and roses.  We’re also basically at the foot of a great big gorgeous mountain (Boulder is surrounded to the West entirely by mountains) so when we walk out of the studio, we’re surrounded by all of this natural beauty.  We can walk 2 blocks and hit a hiking trail that weaves its way up to an amazing vista of the cities of Boulder and Denver.  It really is heavenly and I feel very lucky. studio gardensWhere do you go/ what do you do to find inspiration when you find yourself in a creative rut?
This might sound strange, but when I’m not feeling creative, I go to see my acupuncturist.  In Chinese medicine, blocked creativity means some sort of imbalance in the qi and yin department.  If I’m feeling blah or feeling uninspired, I figure I need a body tune up.  (Did I mention I live in Boulder?  We’re kind of alternative here.)

If you have a great idea for a design and want to pursue it, what’s your first step?
When I was in art school, our professor required us to have 40 sketches of a single design before we could finalize our idea and start on a piece.  Thank God I’m not designing my pieces in art school any more!  I honestly just dive in.  I have an idea, I gather the metal, the tracing paper, some saw blades and I get going.  This has led to many an end result that was really different from the original idea but like any medium, the materials co-create with the artist and it’s fun to see what comes through. Natha PerkinsOther than being an artist, what else do you do?
I’m a mama, I’m a life and entrepreneurial business coach, I teach art and jewelry classes.  I went and got certified to coach because I wanted to teach people how to make intentional art.  Art is such a beautiful way to get in touch with who you are on a deep level.  Talk therapy is great but its heady.  We all have our old stories that we tell over and over and it’s hard to see past them to the truth.  Art and intentional making incorporates head, heart and hand and opens you up to new types of insights and understanding about yourself and your process.  I feel really called to help guide people to this place.

When (and how) did you realize you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
When I was 20, I searched high and low for  a juicy red, heart shaped ring and I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere.  I don’t know why, but I felt such a  longing for this red heart shaped ring.  I dreamed about it.  Fast forward 2 years and I took a small class in a strange warehouse next to a strip club (which isn’t relevant to the story at all but it’s an interesting fact nonetheless).  The teacher was this eccentric man who  taught me the basics of metalsmithing.  I was hooked in the first class because I realized that I could actually make my heart ring.  It  took me 5 years to get good enough to make my ring but I still treasure it because it was the inspiration that started my jewelry career before I even understood it to be that. Natha PerkinsDo you have any special projects or events that are in the works or that are floating around in your brain right now?
I’m actually knee deep in a handful of  projects right now that I’m really excited about.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been coaching and working on some art classes that involve intentional making.  Myself and two other women; a life coach and a photographer, are formulating a curriculum that we’re planning to take into local high schools.  The idea involves working with young women and teaching them empowerment tools through a combination of intentional making, student led photo documentation and teaching of emotional skills.  I’m also working to develop some cool art classes to offer to the participants of  The Boulder Tattoo Project, a large scale community art project involving a”love poem” to the city of Boulder and 200+ residents (including me) who got bits and pieces of the poem tattooed on their bodies.  My friend Chelsea (who spearheaded BTP) and I are collaborating on the classes and they will include making art that centers around the actual words that each person chose to get inked with.   Everyone involved chose words that were particularly meaningful to them in some way and we want to offer a venue for them to explore that on a deeper level. teachingWhat are your most essential tools that you must have by your side while you design? 
I do most of my designing in my head, usually when I’m walking in nature, alone.  I come up with a word or a line from a poem or song and the piece takes shape around that.  I also love to design using stones and stone colors.  I will go through my 15 or so boxes of stones just pulling out shapes and colors, just to see how the colors play against each other.  I’m fascinated with color play and color theory and it shows up often in  my pieces.

Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?
Funny you should use that word productive.  It’s  been on my mind a lot lately because I realized that I have this uncomfortable tendency to feel unproductive if I’m just relaxing.  So to answer your question:  I practice yoga 4 times a week, I walk the dogs, I read lots of articles and books, I cook food for my kids.  All of which sound suspiciously productive, don’t they? Natha PerkinsWhat was the toughest lesson you learned as a freelance jewelry artist?
I hired a press company that cost an absolute fortune.  They promised me more than they were actually able to deliver and they kept about $5,000 in samples too (that were supposed to be be returned).  But I had my part in it as well;  I wasn’t prepared for the experience.   I didn’t have  the fundamentals in place, like line sheets and tight production collections.  Knowing what I know now about editorial coverage, media, wholesale, retail and business in general, I see clearly that my approach was doomed to failure.  I was trying to build a mansion on a slippery foundation.  It was a disaster but I learned so much, I would never make those same mistakes again!  Today in fact, I’m a much stronger and more savvy business woman which is a very different skill set than ‘artist’ but a necessity when you’re trying to sell art. piles of SpellBound RingsWhat advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
You create your own reality.  If you can’t learn to relax, the world will meet you with un-relaxing situations.  If you don’t appreciate the things you do and create, the people around you won’t be able to either.  If you’re constantly trying to control the world, you will will exhaust yourself trying to make the impossible possible.  Everything is perfect.  You are loved.  You are amazing and strong and more powerful than you will ever know. (Okay, I’m getting teary now, but it’s all true.  Again, the old stories that we tell ourselves about not being good enough, smart enough, not being enough…such lies.  But I’m getting it now, I’m seeing the truth.)
Natha Perkins
Which artists do you look up to?
I’ll say this: I look up to anyone who has the courage to make their art, to express themselves in that way and to put themselves out there.  Our art, our creations; no matter the medium, comes from the depths of our individual souls and anyone who has the courage to show up like that, to lay themselves open to the appraisal and opinions of others has my respect. Natha Perkins

What does it mean to you being a design challenge winner?
I’m thrilled to be the winner of this challenge!  My studio assistant Whitney and I had so much fun working on our newest collection Divine ~ Align.  We put so much thought into the symbolism and meaning of each piece. So to be recognized in such a prestigious way for one of the pieces in the collection is a huge honor.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“You set the standard for how you are treated.  People will treat you the same way that you treat yourself.”  It’s lovely and it’s true.  I’m not sure where I found this quote but I came across it during my certification program with The Secret to Life Coaching Company  (with whom I got certified) and I’ve learned to see the world through a new lens.  We really are responsible for everything in our lives, we create everything, which is actually a really empowering notion. quoteWhat are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Management tools!  I adore metalsmithing and my business Luscious Metals.   I love to create art but I’m transitioning my business into something that’s bigger than just me and my personal skills.  My amazing studio assistant, Whitney, is ready and willing to take on more responsibility and wants to help me grow the business and this is just the beginning. I know that in order for this to work out, I need to transition from artist and designer to manager and  leader.  I’m ready and excited to see where we go next! Natha PerkinsWhat advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Jewelry Design Challenge?
Some of the best business advice I’ve ever gotten was from a book called The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles (great book!). “Act now.  There is never any time but now and there will never be any time but now.  If you are ever to begin to make ready for the reception of what you want, you must begin now.”  In other words, make sure your ducks are in a row (good product, great pictures etc.) and then GO FOR IT!  You can’t win if you don’t enter right?

Find Natha and her business Luscious Metals on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jim Loewer

January 3, 2014

Jim Loewer Studio Tour | UncommonGoods
In stepping in and out of so many artists’ studios in the last two years, I realize that spaces can be categorized in two ways – those that provide inspiration and those that are all about the process. While some studios straddle the two, Jim Loewer’s studio, situated within a complex for various artists in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, was designed for his process. With little choices for a comfortable seat, Jim’s studio is built (and melted) around his tools, supplies, and storage of his finished product. He is a veritable one-man glass-blowing factory.

Don’t let that description lead you to believe his space was boring. Not in the slightest. Between the rock music and the pyrotechnics, I though I might have actually been at a Who concert, and the showmanship was just as exciting. He prepared the supplies for his two most popular UncommonGoods pieces – the Bullseye Suncatcher and Heart Bowl – so I could see them being completed, truly experiencing his process. He even gave me the opportunity to get in on the glass blowing experience.

Every time I step into a new studio, it is more unique than the last and my visit with Jim will definitely stand out in my mind as one of the most special.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Meghan Ellie Smith

December 13, 2013

Meghan Ellie Smith

Clutter Castle is what Meghan calls her eccentric home studio, tucked away in the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn. When I saw the odd, yet beautiful, string installation hanging from the ceiling, a collection of wooden instruments displayed on the wall, and a creepy plastic hand sitting on its own mini mantel, I fully understood how the Clutter Castle earned the honor of its name. But it’s funny, although I was like a kid in a candy shop in her vintage oasis — oohing and ahhing at every corner, I didn’t find it overwhelmingly chaotic. I felt as if the odds and ends of all the clutter were actually masterfully organized to push the use of imagination and a creative atmosphere. Which made perfect sense, because those were my exact thoughts about Meghan’s winning art piece, Chaos Mountain. The bright and earthy colors bleed into one another with no particular pattern, yet the shaped splices are meticulously placed. I love it. Perhaps the juxtaposition between the crashing watercolors and structured mountain reminds me a little of myself: a bit messy, a bit random, a bit chaotic, but in the end of the day, I know what I want to do and exactly where I want to go. “Not all who wander are lost,” a favorite quote by many free spirited individuals, resonates within the illustration of Chaos Mountain. Meghan Ellie Smith,a true free spirit herself, is not only the Queen of Clutter Castle, but officially wears the crown of our latest Art Contest. 

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