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Maker Stories

Fernanda Sibilia: The Tango, Fileteado, and Freedom From Fashion

February 27, 2015

While some artists and designers have to go out of their way to find inspiration—venturing out to museums or into breathtaking natural settings to rekindle their creative spark—Argentinian jewelry maker Fernanda Sibilia says “inspiration is easy in Buenos Aires” where she has her studio. It’s in the Abasto district, named for the Mercado de Abasto, which was the main fruit and vegetable market for the city for nearly a century. Now a fashionable mall, it remains a focus of tradition and vibrant urban life for Buenos Aires.

Fernanda Sibilia | UncommonGoods

Fernanda observes that Buenos Aires offers many layers of inspiration—natural, architectural, and cultural. “The sky is blue almost every day, and the trees have a different color each season,” she says. “My favorite month is November, when our trees bloom…Jacaranda, Palo Borracho, and Tipas, one after the other.” This vivid natural palette is rivaled only by the colorfully decorated buildings of the fileteado porteño style, where entire facades are adorned with elaborate ribbons, fanciful dragons, and floral arabesques. The spirit of fileteado also finds its way into the patinated floral surfaces of some of Fernanda’s jewelry.

Embossed Patina Cuff Bracelets | UncommonGoods

Fileteado | Wikimedia

Buenos Aires, rue Jean Jaures 709 (Paseo del Filete) façade painted by Tulio Ovando, Wikimedia Commons

Fernanda’s Abasto neighborhood is also associated with the blossoming of the tango in Buenos Aires, a sensuous tradition of music and dance that can be glimpsed in some of her designs where the gestural twisting and layering of metals produces alluringly sinuous forms. She says that she “feels like an alchemist” when combining the qualities of different metals, and “love[s] mixing the green of patina, the red of copper, the yellowish brown of brass, and the iridescences of oxides.”

Cerro Statement Necklace | UncommonGoods

Whatever the influences on her work, Fernanda makes an intriguing distinction between modes of inspiration, saying, “I try to be near art rather than fashion. This makes me enjoy simple things without being aware of trends, so I’m aesthetically independent.” Essentially, she’s pursuing a timelessness in her designs, steering them away from the mercurial influence of fashion, avoiding the limited shelf life of ever-shifting trends.

Maker Stories

A First Look at Sarah Janece Garcia’s First Light

February 19, 2015

Sarah Janece Garcia's Studio Space | UncommonGoods
I’ve always loved nature-inspired art, and when I saw Sarah Janece Garcia’s Design Challenge entry, I knew I was looking at something special. Not only is Sarah inspired by nature, she’s also motivated by an unstoppable urge to create. That drive from within helps her start fresh pieces with enthusiasm, building with colors and abstract shapes until her work transforms into recognizable images of plants and animals.

Her winning piece, First Light, is a beautiful example of how Sarah draws from nature to combine realism and abstraction. Allowing what she describes as “the movements of wind and water” to guide her brush, the self-taught artist creates solid forms that seem to flow like liquid. Read on to meet the artist, learn more about her process, and see why she believes it’s important to follow your passion.

Sarah Garcia | UncommonGoods
How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I am very appreciative that my painting First Light got to be a part of the Art and Design Challenge. I was so honored that it received such positive feedback and so many votes from the public. When I received the call that UncommonGoods had awarded the painting as the winner, I was thrilled. As an artist, my wish is to create work that others are drawn to and thus connect with. So, to know this piece reached out to others in such a positive way was very encouraging.

My husband, who is certainly my number one fan and supporter, is in fact who told me about this challenge, so fittingly he was the first person I told and celebrated with. He was beyond happy for me, as were all the wonderful art supporters I have that offer me continuous inspiration. Being able to inform those that are a part of my artistic journey that First Light won really brought the happiness full circle.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
A moment that sticks out in my mind occurred in 5th grade where the class was asked to make an illustrated short story on what we wanted to be when we grew up. In that story, on the last page, I wrote, “When I grow up I will be an artist” and drew a picture of myself at an easel painting on a canvas. The reason this story has never faded from my memory is because I find it to be a constant reminder of the fact that I am getting to make my dream come true on a daily basis. I have gotten this wonderful opportunity to fulfill a wish I grew up believing I could do and every day that I get to paint is a day that I am accomplishing what I feel I was meant to do.

Paints and Brushes
Painting Materials


How did you teach yourself to paint and how are you continuing to develop those skills?

My upbringing was one in which creative expression was very much encouraged. I grew up with art and music being created all around me and I was always provided with the tools to express myself creatively. I can remember my mom telling me stories [when I was growing up] about artists that bravely traveled the world to create their beautiful paintings, and learning about artists that had come before me. I experimented in many different styles of art for many years, all of which I would delve into and learn as I went along. I was never shown how to draw or paint certain things, but the fact that I had all the encouragement and tools to try the out different mediums or styles were invaluable to me growing as an artist. Once I found my style of painting nature in the mediums of oil and watercolor, I saw real growth as an artist. I reached a point that I knew my artistic voice and style had arrived, which enabled me to guide the direction of my work and learn my craft in a better way.

I found that being self-taught was a wonderful first step for me. However, there is always more to learn in the world of art and countless possibilities to explore. I feel that instructional classes, art workshops, subject research, and a great deal of experimenting are all fantastic tools to advancing artistically. I am a true believer in working hard at what you feel passionate about, putting in the hours to develop your skills, and seeking out any knowledge that can be gained in bettering yourself as an artist. I find the endless possibilities in art to be so exciting.

Coco Chanel Quote

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
The short answer is nature. Like the human spirit, nature has this amazing ability to not only grow but flourish amongst such varying circumstances. As people, we rely on nature for life sustaining necessities as well as its provision of beauty that we get to enjoy. I find abundant inspiration from what grows from this earth and what takes flight above me in the sky. My abstractions are produced with stories of nature in mind, the movements of wind and water being the most predominant. For subject matter, my thoughts always go to flowers and flying creatures. The delicate mix of strength and gentleness that both flowers and small creatures possess really fascinates me. I become inspired to explore this balance in my work. I find the beauty of nature to be incredible powerful in my life. Nature’s beauty enriches my soul and continues to bring me comfort and happiness at the precise moment I need it. I feel very strongly that when I show love and respect nature, nature always returns the favor.

Inspiration for Sarah's Work
Greenery Around Sarah's Home

What’s your artistic process?
My artistic process always begins with an abstract creation. I use either oil or watercolor to create my initial abstraction. Often, my abstractions are inspired by the elements of wind and water. For the structure of my abstractions, I often look to the beauty and movement of glass art. I find glass art contains a fluid, interweaving movement, which allows me to lay abstractions down in a more effortless and clear manner. My color choices always come from what is inspiring the piece. For me, every painting has a story and that story dictates my color palette.

As I paint, my story builds and the colors in which I feel continues to better tell the story are what I place on the canvas or paper. In my artistic process, I never truly know where my abstraction will end up and that abandonment of control is what I feel gives my work the movement and freedom that I hope to capture in each piece. Once the abstraction is at a place where I feel confident with it, I place my subject matter. The subject matter I like to work with is the wonderful natural elements that surround us all. I always let the abstract direct what will be placed on it and I place the subject on when the abstraction is wet. I find this enables the subject to move with the abstraction while still remaining the focal point of the piece.

Once the elements are positioned, I am able to come in with the necessary details to define the subjects on the painting. From the beginning to the end of the painting I am able to explore nature in both a literal and abstract way. To me, this process fulfills my artistic need to express my vision while still being relatable to others that have a soulful love for nature.

Sarah's Oil Painting Space

Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
I work in a home studio and I find that being surrounded by the things I love in my home helps inspire me to paint beauty. My in-home studio is equipped with all the tools I need to either paint in oil or watercolor and I often will rotate the location I paint in depending on the medium.

I am a constant night owl, so painting in my home studio is the most agreeable route. I find the night time to be the most inspirational, due to the fact that while most of the world rests I am able to find my center and concentrate solely on my work. I keep my workspace minimally lit, because it enables me to better paint the light in my work. I often lean towards dark colors as a preference, so keeping my studio workspace a bit more dim allows me to elevate my saturation of color while painting brighter brights. Also, I find when new inspiration or a fresh perspective is needed a change in scenery is all it takes.

Due to painting natural elements in my work, I sometimes take my painting outside in the sunlight where nature surrounds me. When choosing our home, we made sure that it had beautiful established greenery everywhere. We have numerous crape myrtle and fruit trees along with big rose bushes and a variety of flowering plants. I keep bird baths and feeders available to make sure our lovely little hummingbirds abound and the beautiful birds are able to find a sanctuary along with us in our backyard. By surrounding myself with the things I love, both inside my studio and outside in the environment, I am able to continuously be motivated and better able to incorporate these much-loved elements in my work.

Generations |Sarah Janece Garcia

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
I believe maintaining an exuberant passion for creating is an imperative necessity for all artists. Sure working, learning, and growing in your craft is very important, but just as essential is a passion for your work. I find that a deep passion for the creative process continues to be the driving force behind my work. I once read that you should never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. If crafting art falls under this category in your life, then by all means never give up on that love of artistic expression. I find this love for art and painting continuously keeps me striving to develop my skills and encourages me to experiment in the creative process.

See Sarah's Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Building Knowledge: Tiffany Ard’s ‘Super Nerdy’ New Design

February 17, 2015

Tiffany Ard has been a long time favorite artist of UncommonGoods. We’ve featured a multitude of her fantastically scientific and geeky products. However, she had some ideas that she couldn’t execute herself, so she asked UncommonGoods to develop products with her. We knew this would be a huge opportunity for us and couldn’t wait to get on board.

Tiffany Ard | UncommonGoods

While she may be known as the Nerdy Baby Lady, she is a creative force to be reckoned with. From the very beginning of development, her enthusiasm was exciting. I couldn’t believe the depth of her knowledge for these higher level STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math, as she taught me) concepts. Every time she would forward a new set of art for our review, I would learn something new while fact checking. Who knows what a P-Orbital is? I do now.

This was our first product with the manufacturer, so Tiffany and I would go back and forth, refining her artwork until we got it right for production. After a grueling development cycle, we finally blew a sigh of relief when we got the final sets in hand. We collectively agreed that the aptly named Super Nerdy ABC Blocks would be a big hit in our collection. It is still one of my favorite projects during my time here at UncommonGoods. I can’t wait to get working on our next project with Tiffany, but before diving into our next brainstorming session, Tiffany agreed to take a pop quiz about her art, the blocks, and growing up geeky.

Super Nerdy ABC Blocks by Tiffany Ard | UncommonGoods

What was your favorite science project as a kid?
Oh, gosh just one? I loved science and read almost everything in the school library’s nonfiction section. I liked inventing stuff. When I was about nine I wanted to make a doorbell that our dog could ring by scratching on the door. The guy at Radio Shack showed me how to make a circuit with a switch. I set it up with a horrible sounding buzzer, and when it was done, my dad helped me attach this clunky, awful-looking contraption to the front door. Which thinking back is weird because we were renting and our landlord was sort of a grump! I hope they got their deposit back.

But the other constant was art. My earliest memories are of mixing paints. What an awesome experiment that can be for a kid, you know? Nothing blows up, nothing expensive to ruin, just seeing what happens when you mix this shade with that until you have a big gray sludgy mess—and then you rinse your brushes and start again.

Tiffany Painting

Watercolor Illustrations

When did you first come to the conclusion that you were a nerd?
Well, you know junior high is an age where kids are looking around to see where they fit in. I was too afraid of being hit by a ball to do sports, too shy to be a theater kid, too unpopular to be one of the popular kids. The kids I spent time with liked Douglas Adams and Carl Sagan. We liked writing stories and inventing languages and pretending to be time travelers. Hmm. Maybe “dorks” is a better word than “nerds!”

What are your favorite science facts that everyone should know?
I tell my kids that there are no scientific FACTS. Just answers that explain what we see happening around us, and new information can always change our understanding. But I’m being annoying, homeschooley, science mom.
My current favorite facts:
1. Evolution is real, y’all. It’s worth the effort to understand, because it is amazing.
2. That said, dinosaurs and humans DID co-exist. In fact we still do! My son has two of them as pets and they’re just as loud and messy and demanding as you would expect little, feathered dinosaurs to be.
3. Your body has more bacteria cells than human cells.

Why is it important to give kids gifts that are both fun and educational?
It isn’t! I mean, let’s be honest—you really do not need to cram kids’ brains with scientific terminology. The best gifts invite open ended play and make kids feel empowered to experiment fearlessly. If they happen to learn some fun science facts, all the better.

Turbellaria

Which illustration on the Super Nerdy ABC Blocks is your favorite and why?
Oh gosh. I love Io with its cute little active volcano. But my favorite might be the derpy-eyed flatworm. Those worms really look like that!

From Absolute Zero to Zoological Oddity, your ABCs cover some pretty interesting material. How did you decide what to put on the blocks?
This was a fun exercise in problem solving. There are 26 letter blocks, each block has six sides. My kids helped me brainstorm ideas. For some letters, there were too many options to choose from! Feynman, Friction, Fahrenheit, Force, Freefall, Fibonacci… For those it came down to deciding which would translate best into small, one-color illustrations.

Shelves in Tiffany's Studio

What are some fun ways to use Super Nerdy Blocks, aside from just stacking them up and knocking them over?
Spell your name. Look for patterns. Sort by type of interest—biology, chemistry, math. Make paths. Hide them all over the house and look for A-Z. Close your eyes and pick one block, and then challenge a friend to define the term.

Besides giving kids super-fun math and science toys, what else can grownups do to help encourage kids to embrace their nerdiness?
Model CURIOUSITY. Act excited when you don’t know something. Let kids see you trying and failing and trying again as you tackle learning something that’s hard for you. Let them experiment, let them play, and create a space where it’s always okay to make wrong guesses.

 

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Dave Marcoullier

February 10, 2015

Dave Marcoullier | UncommonGoods

Rocking red flannel, Dave Marcoullier, a San Francisco-based woodworking designer, was dressed like a true lumberjack when I showed up to take a tour of his studio. Passing gigantic Burning Man iron monuments that were displayed behind a fence outside, I was led into a warehouse that sheltered a world of more peculiar sculptures and organized chaos. I felt like I was in an abandoned carnival tucked away inside a hoarder’s ultimate dream maze. I was in a place that’s the second home for over 250 artists, blacksmiths, inventors, creative minds, and in Dave’s words, “mad scientists.” I didn’t spot anyone right away, but I heard banging, drilling, and faint shouting throughout the warehouse space. A dog brushed pass me, and Dave immediately told me how friendly she was.

Dave Marcoullier Wooden Routings | UncommonGoods

Stacks of random puzzle pieces of wood, metal, found items, car parts, and other bits and bobs were everywhere. I couldn’t decipher what objects they once were, but I had a feeling their future life would be interesting. I was officially Alice in a very, very different wonderland.

Dave was “the guy in the corner with the loud machines.” His space was positioned in the back – where his power tools and materials waited to be played with. My eyes couldn’t focus on just one thing because there was so much to look at. Wood pieces, big and small, tall and short, skinny and wide – were sprinkled along the walls and stored inside of trash cans. There was a huge cargo container placed in the corner, the inside was cleverly morphed into another mini workshop within his workspace, where more tools, gadgets, and machines were proudly displayed. I recognized his designs that were scattered under and on top of tables, all of them at different stages: just started, almost done, completed masterpiece.

From his Infill Fanicle Table to his City Skyline Wooden Routing, Dave’s intricate designs are truly uncommon and make a charming addition to any space. Read on to learn more about this maker and get a glimpse at his unforgettable creative space.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Glass Winner Heather Trimlett Melts Our Hearts With Her Vibrant Design

January 16, 2015

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

I remember the first time that I watched a glass artist use a torch. I was sitting in a glassblowing demonstration at an art fair, surrounded by a big crowd waiting to witness what would happen when molten glass meets high heat. The crowd’s silence gave way to an entrancing performance. Watching the artist manipulate red and orange glass was like getting hypnotized by a campfire. I couldn’t imagine the patience and precision required to work hand-in-hand with an alluring, deadly element.

One glance at Heather Trimlett’s Spiro Earrings instantly takes me back to that day. I can tell that Heather’s ability to twist glass into a freely flowing pattern requires an eye for enchantment. As I got to know Heather during this interview, it doesn’t surprise me that she found her niche in jewelry making. Her personality is just as warm, friendly, and colorful as her beautiful pieces. Her color palette is a perfect match for our assortment! Meet Glass Design Challenge Winner Heather Trimlett, and learn about the process behind her winning design, her first experiences at the torch, and how she views the world in multicolored glasses.

Spiro Earrings | Glass Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

 

How did you come up with the concept of your winning design?
For years I have played, practiced and experimented with carefully layering different colors of glass on top of each other and creating twists made of these different colors of glass. When I realized that adding a rod of clear glass to my twists would magnify the colors and allow them to appear to float freely in the clear glass, I had my magic. This combination of layering and precise twisting came together for the Spiro Earring design.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our Glass Design Challenge?
My first wave of euphoria came when I found out I had been accepted into the UncommonGoods Glass Challenge! I sent an email to all my clients, students and supporters, and asked them to please vote for my earrings! I was thrilled by their enthusiastic response.

Then I won, but couldn’t tell anyone! During the “period of secrecy,” I told a few close friends and toasted with a few glasses of wine. My insides were jumping up and down yelling “YEA!”

Once it was OK to tell, I sent an email to EVERYONE I knew to tell them I had won!

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. I’m an avid gardener. Propagating my Staghorn ferns then sharing the babies with friends ranks high on the list of fun things about the garden. Spending all day Sunday in the garden is the definition of a perfect day for me. My fingers are perpetually crossed that one day my Proteas will decide to bloom. My newest venture is growing things we can actually eat.

2. I have become a collector of Lego figures. Probably the influence of a 4-year-old grandson. Or is it all those bright colors?

3. While I sit at my torch making beads, I watch bees drinking at my fountain. It’s amazing; there are hundreds of bees every day in the summer! The bees at the fountain, conversations with my students who are beekeepers and my concern for the declining bee population have led me to start studying beekeeping and trying to work up the courage to keep my own hives.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Describe your workspace.
I have two workspaces with garden views. The studio is my space for glass work and includes torches, tools, and all things related to fire. Living in southern California has allowed me to comfortably work “outside” in my garage for 20+ years. I like to say I park my car in my studio. From my torch, I have a beautiful view of my front garden.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

My beautiful, bright new office is the second workspace. It’s done in my favorite color combo: lime and turquoise accented with black and white. A large glass door opens onto my garden at one end. I sort beads, make jewelry and take care of paperwork in this space.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Who or what are your design influences?
1. Color! This is the #1 driver for me. Sometimes I feel like a magpie chasing shiny things. I am constantly aware of the color around me, checking for combinations that might work well with my glass work. I love how bright colors can be in the California sunshine!

2. Order. I love orderly things, mechanical things, symmetry and repetition of line and shape. The fine mechanics and shine of a well-made tool truly inspires me.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Describe your first jewelry designing experience.
I was born to be a maker of things. I have always sewed, crocheted, built stained glass windows and many other things.

Playing with pop beads as a child was probably my first jewelry making experience. I still think they are a hoot and use them as design inspiration with my students.

Once I found flameworking (making beads at a torch), my career was set. I backed into jewelry making out of a need to do something with the plethora of beads I was making. My jewelry is simple and clean, as well as a nod to my love of symmetry and color. Clean, repetitive simple shapes are my favorite.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Can you walk us through the set by step process of creating the Spiro Earrings?
The first step in making my Lime Spiro earring is to make the twist that will be the spiral pattern within the earring. I start with one rod of clear glass and three rods of color. I heat the four rods and melt them together. The colors are placed around the clear like the stripes in toothpaste coming out of a tube. While the glass is molten, I carefully twist and stretch it out until it is about the diameter of a pencil and then let it cool. This is my twisted cane.

Next, I begin to create the bead itself. I heat a stainless steel mandrel and a rod of lime glass simultaneously. The size of the mandrel determines the size of the hole in my bead. I carefully wrap one layer of lime green glass around the mandrel as my base layer. Next, I heat the twisted cane gently and carefully, wrapping it around the lime green layer. Lastly, I apply a very thin layer of turquoise glass. I continue to head the bead gently to bring it to its final smooth shape.

I place each finished bead into the kiln to anneal (cool gradually) overnight. For me, the next morning is like Christmas when I open the kiln to see all that I accomplished the day before. I remove the beads from the mandrel, clean & polish them and then assemble them into the Lime Spiro earrings.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Are there any interesting future projects you would like to pursue?
When I am not on the road teaching or home making beads, my 10+ year goal is to learn battuto, an Italian glass engraving technique.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck.  How do you keep yourself inspired?
1. I am always charged up after teaching a class. My students give me energy, support and inspiration!  Their questions create new puzzles for me to solve all the time!

2. Glass Bead Yoga. Production work gets me back into the groove. The repetition it requires is calming, feels good and safe, like an old friend. My mind has the space to settle down and regroup, ready for the next design idea.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner