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Maker Stories

Pre-Columbian Craft Shines in Dipped Lace Jewelry Designs

August 7, 2014

We’re always on the hunt for stunning, handmade jewelry pieces to add to our assortment. We look for quality designs with uncommon looks, pieces made from unexpected materials, and collections that fill us with awe. Tulianna Garcés and Alejandra Noguera-Garcés’s Dipped Lace Jewelry more than meets those criteria, and we’re thrilled to welcome this line of carefully crafted necklaces, earrings, and bracelets into our assortment.

Dipped Lace Jewelry

While gold-plated textiles certainly aren’t the norm in modern jewelry, Tulianna and Alejandra’s designs are actually based on a traditional technique thousands of years old.

The mother-daughter team is inspired by pre-Columbian jewelry pieces, such as those that are now on permanent exhibit at the Gold Museum, in Bogotá, Colombia. They work closely with skilled artisans to create new designs that celebrate an age-old tradition, but incorporate a contemporary twist.

Lace Jewelry Designs |UncommonGoods

Tulianna and Alejandra emigrated from Colombia to the United States in 1985, but the Vermont-based design duo travel several times a year to train and collaborate with Colombian artisans who have been affected by the civil war that has plagued the region for more than fifty years.

“A large part of [our] mission is to encourage these artisans to maintain their cultural traditions while also being able to support their families,” says Tulianna. More than 85% of these artisans are women heading households in low-income and displaced communities. Tulianna explains, “We not only share a language, our cooperation is [also] fueled by the mutual desire for a better, more peaceful Colombia.”

lace1

Crafting the luminous, detailed pieces is very time consuming. Each piece takes several days from start to finish, and every single piece is made entirely by hand. First, the heart of the jewelry—vintage-inspired lace—is sewn into shape. Next, the lace creation is coated in wax to harden the fabric and seal the shape. This beautiful bit of sculptural art is then ready for the next stage, where it’s dipped in recycled metals.

Creating Lace Bracelets | UncommonGoods

Copper provides a firm base-coat before each piece is covered in either 24 karat gold or sterling silver. The pieces are dipped over and over, until they’re completely finished with radiant, recycled precious metals. In an update to the traditional pre-Columbian process for creating gilded wares, the metal is secured through electroplating.

Electroplating

During electroplating the pieces are submerged in salt water, and then given a blast of electricity, which helps prevent the metal from losing its golden (or silvery) glow over time. Once dry, the jewelry is brushed by hand to make sure every hole is free of excess metal buildup and that every delicate detail is perfect. Finally, a protective lacquer is hand-painted onto every piece.

Dipped Lace Jewelry Collection | UncommonGoods

This precision and attention to detail comes through in each design, from the welcoming shape of the Dipped Lace Heart Necklace, to the Precious Lace Bangle’s classic eyelets, to the show-stopping beauty of the Ruffled Gold Dipped Lace Statement Necklace. Visit this exciting new collection to see all of Tulianna and Alejandra’s handcrafted dipped lace jewelry designs!

Buy Lace Jewelry Now | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Eric’s Hallucinogenic Design Wins Art Contest!

July 18, 2014

Eric Tonzola | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

It’s no secret that Eric Tonzola, our latest Art Contest winner, creates some prettytrippy designs. While observing his futuristic artwork, I feel like I’m jumping into a fantasy world where unicorns probably exist, the world wide web (fortunately) does not, and the sweet moments that we usually don’t notice are slowed down and captured. Here at UncommonGoods we want to add artwork into our assortment that will not only sit pretty in your new renovated bathroom, but will help paint a specific atmosphere that tinkers with your creative imagination. In this case, the atmosphere that Eric exudes is euphoria and reverie — a theme I wouldn’t mind welcoming into my home. Meet Eric Tonzola and find out about his “hallucinogenic” techniques, where he finds inspiration when it’s lost, and what his biggest vice is when it comes to focusing on his artwork.
Hallucinogenic Landscape | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat’s an Uncommon fact about your hometown?
I live in Lancaster City, PA and although it is a small town and small city it is chockfull of incredible artist and musicians. Lancaster is such a beautiful place and there is always some new small business opening up and new artists popping up all the time. The music scene has been blowing up and has really been putting its self on the creative map. Our fresh produce, indoor market has been rated one of 10 in the world. It’s a very amazing town and uncommon in its own way.

How did you come up with your Hallucinogenic Landscape design for our Art Contest?
Whenever I start working on one of my digital pieces I usually start off by thinking of a out of worldly landscape. An ocean on a moon of a far off world or a thick foggy forest from another dimension. Something along those lines but for the piece I entered for the contest my concept was based on a serene mountain pass that looks almost heavenly. A futuristic landscape with radiant colors that takes you to a place that you could only dream of.

Tell us about your journey into becoming an artist.
Ever since I was young I always loved to draw. I would get into trouble a lot in school and church when I was young because I would sit and draw on everything. So I guess it was just natural that I would start to create more and more as I grew up. After high school I went to college to become a graphic artist. While in college I fell in love with illustrating and designing. Ever since then I have been fine tuning my different styles and techniques.

Eric Tonzola | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

Other than being an artist, is there anything else that you do?
Oh, Yes, Totally. I do love music… a lot. I play guitar (not the best) but it is something I really enjoy. The best is when I can get together with friends and jam. My younger brother is a really great drummer and I think him and I may start playing more together which is exciting. I also do have a full time job as a graphic designer. Working for a home décor company never seemed like something I would enjoy, considering the style of my personal work, but I have grown to love it. I create stuff your mom or aunt might have in hanging on her wall.

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
Over the years my different styles have really developed right down the middle. Creating designs digitally and illustrating things by hand. When creating illustrations or paintings I use mostly inks. I love using ink. It has such a richness to it and I feel like its very versatile. At times I also  like to use acrylics and honestly when painting, depending on the mood, I will use any material at my disposal. So I guess that half is mix media. My digital work I use mostly Photoshop and it is a combinations of over layering and blending a multitude of different images together to create the final design.

Eric Tonzola | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now?
I honestly don’t have a lot of projects going on right now. Some ideas I have are brewing but nothing has solidified yet, but keep your eyes peeled.

What was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
Not to beat yourself up too much when you have a block.  Being an artist is exciting but its also almost a privilege, I feel. I have come into this world with abilities and talents that not everyone has and although exciting it can also be stressful. Whenever I am in a block I try to just enjoy everything else in life. If I try to force new ideas or new work it usually ends up worse and more frustrating. When I step away and just enjoy every moment of life, the next thing you know I find myself six hours into an illustration, a whole new concept for a project, and planning on shows and what to do. It comes naturally.

Where do you picture yourself 5 years from now?
5 years older. Haha. No, I’m not too sure. I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do with my art but the skys the limit so I just need to pursue everything that comes my way and hopefully in 5 years I will just be that much more successfully and develop my work even further.

Hallucinogenic Waterfall | UncommonGoodsAre there any particular graphic designers or bloggers you look up to when it comes to your area of design?
Recently there is no one person I specifically look too. I see a lot of amazing work out there and pull a little from everything I see that grabs me. One blog site I love to check out is butdoesitfloat.com. Very cool, eclectic work comes through there.

Eric Tonzola | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods
Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
I like to go hiking and just be outside. I will sometimes walk to the park and just lay in the grass on a hill and look up at the sky and try to clear my mind. Maybe go see a movie but, like I had said earlier, when I am uninspired I try to just enjoy life and it comes to me naturally.

Do you have any secret vices that causes immense procrastination? How do you monitor this vice?
Well, honestly just laziness, sometimes. Well, maybe not laziness, but when you work all day as a designer (which I do love and I design everyday) it gets hard to get yourself to sit down and keep working. Some of my work can take hours and I don’t always have the time. So I guess its more or less just keeping organized and focused on my work that can be difficult. I also spend a lot of time just hanging out with my friends. Love them to death, but they can be a distraction. Although, I wouldn’t change that for anything..

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our next design challenge?
Just have confidence in your work. Never hurts to try, and try, and try again.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with JoAnn Stratakos

July 14, 2014

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods
At UncommonGoods, we’re always excited when we launch a product that in time reveals itself to be a complete game-changer; an overwhelmingly popular product that sheds new light on what makes something a runaway sensation. But every once in a blue moon, we meet a new product that we know will win hearts as soon as it is placed in This Just In. Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn was the latter. From his goofy blue eyes to his chubby little feet, we were smitten and didn’t have any questions as to whether everyone else would share our love for him.

So we decided to take a trip to Pennsylvania to meet Elwood’s creator. By “we” I mean Senior Buyer Candace, Purchasing Planner Maham, and myself, and by “trip” I mean a car ride outside of cell phone service to a place where the streets had no name. Literally, we had to call when we were close so the artist could give us directions that Google couldn’t help us with. We were warmly greeted by ceramicist JoAnn and her spirited team of Mudworks helpers who were eager to show us how our most beloved new product is born. It was easy to fall in love with people as it was to fall in love with their creations so we are excited to share our visit with you.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods
What are your most essential tools?
My hands.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My inspiration comes from working the clay, and inside my head… that’s where the designs come from.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Down time??? I am supposed to have down time??? Elwood disagrees! (Though we do have company outings, and frequent lunches where we attempt to take turns making various foods for all to enjoy.)

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I was never a “young” designer. I started learning to make pottery when I was 40+ years old. The best lesson I learned was the harder you worked, the luckier you got!

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsWhat advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Advice to the me of five years ago…learn bookkeeping.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I set goals HIGH… then stretch to reach them.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated?
I don’t have only one quote… there are several: “If you argue for your limitations, then all you get is to keep them.” “Well-behaved women never make history.” “Never teach a pig to sing… it’s a waste of your time and it only annoys the pig.” “Behind every successful woman is a man who’s surprised.” I guess what they all mean to me is that you have to keep going, keep motivated and put your energy where it will do the most good.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
New skills? Every day is an opportunity to learn something, but I am not attending workshops or classes personally.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsHow do you recharge your creativity?
Vodka, definitely vodka.

Where does collaboration come into play with you craft?
Pottery is one on one, me and the clay. However, when I come up with a new design, I do run it past my crew to see if it will be viable. As an artist, though, I tend to make things I like, things I’d like to have around me.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods

Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Opposites Attract: Michael Stromberg’s Magnetic Art

July 9, 2014

Designer Michael Stromberg | UncommonGoodsOpposites attract as designer Michael Stromberg brings new concepts to life. “I realized that there was an entirely unexplored artistic outlet waiting to be defined,” says Michael of his eye-catching magnetic sculptures and games. “I also enjoy pondering the invisible forces that make these so unique.”

A magnet simply isn’t a magnet without forces that attract and forces that repel. Michael uses this principle in different ways, depending on his ultimate design. For games, he uses strictly repulsive powers as an added hurdle for skill. His art and sculpture, however, utilizes the power of attraction.

Michael began his journey into magnetic art after planning a tournament for a magnetic shuffleboard set he’d designed in the early 2000s. It seemed appropriate to have a magnetically-suspended trophy as the grand prize. After finding nothing on the market that fit the bill, he decided to create his own. “As soon as I began to work on the award, a fairly simple geometric design, my mind began exploring where I could go with this.”

25337_zoom1His sculptures always begin by establishing a focal point for the new piece. Once this has been decided, the frame and ancillary parts are designed as a complement. Everything eventually works together so that touching just one piece of the sculpture causes the other parts to come to life as if by magic.

Fascinated by how the magnetic attraction creates a fluid work of art, Michael says that his designs blend left-brained precision with right-brained imagination. Working with magnetics typically takes hours of re-balancing in order to ensure that the parts move the way he envisions. “Many artists use only gravity and wind to manipulate their work, both of which are predictable, natural forces. Adding magnetism causes new and fresh interactions.”

While his primary medium is wood, chosen for its unique grains and aesthetics, Michael has begun working with clay, fabric, and polymer resins—an exciting turn for his inspired takes on environmental sculpture. “As far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed making things,” says Michael, “from acoustic and electric guitars to snowshoes, I’ve enjoyed creative endeavors my entire life.” And with his beautiful kinetic pieces, his creative evolution continues.

Michael Stromberg's Designs

Maker Stories

Dreaming Big: Anne Lehman Wins Graphic Design Challenge!

June 20, 2014

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

We love our annual Graphic Design Challenges because we receive such unique and diverse entries from talented emerging graphic designers from all over the nation! On our last Graphic Design Challenge, we decided to give designers a bit more direction. We not only provided them the phrase we wanted the contestants to include in their design,”Dream Big, Start Small”, but also let them know what product their design could potentially be placed on if they were to win, a babysuit™!  

When Anne Lehman’s charming entry rolled in, we knew immediately that she would be one of our semi-finalists. The colors, images, technique, and overall appeal of her Mouse and Moon design was something we felt walked straight out of a children’s storybook. The judging panel believed that Anne’s vision was the strongest and that she, without a doubt, committed to the inspirational theme. Meet our latest Graphic Design Challenge winner, Anne Lehman. See how she came up with the concept of her Mouse and Moon design, what she did when she heard the great news that she won, and what her one secret vice is as a graphic designer.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your hometown? 
I am from the town of Reading, Massachusetts, which is about 15 miles from Boston, home of our country’s first public park and subway system. An uncommon fact about me—I am left-handed and have red hair—this combination of traits is in less than 1% of the population.

How did you come up with the concept of your design for our Graphic Design Challenge?
When I read “Dream Big, Start Small,” I pictured a mouse immediately with a small piece of cheese. The concept of the moon came to me when I started to sketch the mouse and cheese. Since the deadline was just three days away, I tried not to over think my design and turned my first sketch into my final piece that I submitted. I am learning that sometimes your first ideas are the best ones!

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Tell us about your journey into becoming a graphic designer.
My journey started when I was a small child—making art and creating things is all I’ve ever wanted to do—ever since the first time I held a crayon. My professional journey started about 15 years ago. My first job after college was a customer service rep at a printing company that specialized in invitations and stationery. I had a degree in fine arts, but was struggling to apply my art skills to the real world. Seeing how the designs were created and being around the printing process motivated me to go back to school and learn the technical side of graphic design. I needed to make things and create!

I loved learning how to take my fine art skills and apply them to the computer to create logo designs and layouts. For years I worked as a professional graphic designer in the corporate environment. During this time, I discovered that I needed an additional creative outlet, so I would work on my own pieces and often create handmade artwork for family and friends. I found my true passion is creating artwork by hand and the creative freedom and imagination that goes into it. This lead to opening my Etsy shop, Sunny Spot Studio, in 2010. Since then I’ve been making steps towards my dream of having my own freelance business full time where I can create and sell my art, illustrations, and graphic design creations.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Baby Suit Graphic Design winner?
I was so excited when I heard that I won! I called my fiance, Matt, immediately to share the good news. He is my biggest champion and encouraged me to enter the contest so it really felt like we were in it together. We had a nice dinner to celebrate and then I think I spent the rest of the night on the phone with my greatest support system—my parents, sister, and a couple of close friends.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods -matt

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
I am always evolving my process, but I don’t think I could live without my pencils, black pen, paints, and watercolors. I always start with traditional materials and have never been able to just jump right in and design on the computer. I will usually scan my artwork and then do some touch up and add typography with design software. I received the most amazing gift recently—a Cintiq Wacom tablet, which allows you to draw and paint right on the screen—this is changing my technique and opening new doors for me. I am now experimenting more with adding color and texture in Illustrator and Photoshop, after I scan my pen and ink drawings.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
I always have many ideas in the pipeline for new pieces to offer in my Etsy shop. I plan to add more wedding related items, including invitation artwork soon. I am currently enrolled in an e-course: Make Art That Sells: Assignment Bootcamp from Lilla Rogers, who is one of the world’s top illustration agents and a wonderful teacher. The course runs over six months, with monthly themed assignments geared toward different markets in the industry. It has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to learn and grow my portfolio with her expertise, and also to connect with talented artists all over the world. Our current assignment is to create nautical themed wall art.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
I learned that it takes self-confidence to be an artist. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Art is very personal and it can be intimidating to put your work out to the public. Not everyone will admire your work, but if you can stay true to your self and who you are as an artist, it will help you to grow in your career and find your style.

Where do you picture yourself 5 years from now?
In 5 years, I picture myself as an independent artist/designer and business owner, supporting myself full time. I hope to be making lots of art pieces and working on creative projects in the freedom of my studio. These projects would include children’s book illustration, pet art and portraits, nursery art, personalized prints, and designing and illustrating pieces for art licensing. I plan to be very busy!

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any particular graphic designers or bloggers you look up to when it comes to your area of design?
Recently I have discovered the art and career of Kelly Rae Roberts. I enjoy following her on social media and on her blog, where she shares so much about her artwork and life. Her journey to becoming a successful artist and entrepreneur is an inspiration to me.

3_studio-Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
If I have the time, a nice drive to my favorite nearby town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire helps to clear my mind. I love to walk around the quaint historic town, visit the art galleries and shops, and to spend some time by the waterfront. Otherwise, a quick yoga class or a bit of time browsing Pinterest always helps me to recharge.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Do you have any secret vices that causes procrastination? 
I wouldn’t call it a vice, but I can be my toughest critic, which can sometimes cause me to over think my work and stall my finished product. When I am selling an art print or piece, I want it to be the best it can be for my customer. When I realize I am over thinking or reworking my project, I try to step away to separate myself from it. Then I can come back later with a fresh mind to complete the work.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you? 
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

I keep this quote hanging up in my studio to remind me that I am now on the right path with my art and design career. I’ve learned that if you pay attention to your intuition and follow your dreams, your life will change and you will become much happier. For me, I wasn’t creating enough during my professional career, which left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. When I started to make more of my own art and take steps towards having my own design studio, doors opened up and positive things started to happen for me. And now a few years later, I am about to leave the security of a day job, finally having the courage to branch out on my own and work towards supporting myself solely through my art and design.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our next Graphic Design Challenge?
Don’t be afraid of submitting your work, just go for it. It is a great opportunity to gain exposure and share your work with the public and a team of professionals.  You will be amazed at the support that will come your way.

We’re pleased to announce that the Dream Big, Start Small Babysuit with Anne’s design is now available for purchase from UncommonGoods!