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Maker Stories

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Rich McCor

July 12, 2017

Londoner Rich McCor has quite a few followersan impressive 301k at the time of this writing, in fact. Known to many as @paperboyo, Rich first began to rise in the Instagram ranks in the fall of 2015, when the online arm of UK paper the Daily Mail ran an article highlighting some of his most remarkable snapshots. The angle? Armed only with craft knives and his imagination, Rich turns sheets of paper into intricate cut-outs that he then holds before time-honored landmarks, putting a new, improved, and fleeting twist on otherwise familiar scenes.

Somewhat surprisingly, Rich started out as a tourist in his own home, trolling the streets of London with a camera and snapping photos that looked like many others in the Instagram travel community. Soon, however, Rich realized that he wanted to do something different. He began by taking a knife to some thick black paper and creating a cut-out in the shape of a wristwatch, which he then held strategically in front of Big Ben. The rest, as they say, was history.

It’s been nearly two years since Rich began his creative journey, and now five of his best-known photographs are available as prints exclusively at UncommonGoods. Always eager to give new artists a proper welcome to our family, we took the opportunity to speak with Rich about his craft. Read on for a deeper dive into his process, plus thoughts on his studio (read: his bedroom) and an inside look at which cut-out was hardest to capture.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kristen and Ross Hunter

July 3, 2017

Photo by Neil Hanna

The death of a pet can be a source of sadness for many, but for Scottish husband and wife duo Ross and Kristen Hunter, it was also a source of inspiration. When their beloved lab Tess passed away, Kristen struggled to find a frame she liked in which to mount a photo of her as a gift to Ross. After much searching, Kristen purchased a low-quality beech wood frame, and the couple began to wonder: How could we make something better ourselves? One visit to a local salvage yard later and they had an idea in place. The pair began to experiment with a disused whisky barrel they purchased at the yard, eventually settling on a distinctly Scottish design for a frame—and so their business was born.

Kristen and Ross’s handcrafted frames, created in their workshop in the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland, are now for sale at UncommonGoods, where we treasure such ingenuity as theirs. Read on for word from Ross and Kristen on the importance of family, what a day looks like in their workshop, and more, including a Finding Nemo quote.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet
Mariana Folberg

June 27, 2017

Technology and the natural world don’t usually tend to go happily hand-in-hand, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at the work of San Francisco-based artist and industrial designer Mariana Folberg. Folberg’s Let it Glow Lamp—a new addition to our assortment—melds meticulous, handcrafted design inspired by the magic of plants with electric light, creating an exciting, inventive tribute to the outdoors that keeps away things that go bump in the night.

Here at UncommonGoods, we’re always excited to welcome new makers into the fold, and Mariana is no exception. Read on for tales of traveling X-Acto knives, her young son (otherwise known as her greatest critic), and more.

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Maker Stories

Where the Wild Things Grow:
Artist Catherine Murphy Turns Metal to Magic with Her Garden Decor

June 19, 2017

Catherine Murphy has always been an observer. From the rich architecture she saw shuffling around European cities as a child, to the awe-inspiring complexity she’s discovered in nature, Catherine’s brain is a mosaic of interwoven experiences. Today, she fuses these influences into stunning designs for your garden at the Haw Creek Forge. Nestled on the edge of the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina, you might find Catherine and her team of artisans collaborating on a new idea or welding shiny plates of copper into praying mantises and hummingbirds. We had the pleasure of learning more about Catherine’s process and her magnificent journey to becoming a metal artist.

Catherine’s garden fairy makes an enchanting addition to your yard.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Alex Ahrens

June 12, 2017

The work of self-described designer and craftsman Alex Ahrens is anything but typical. Armed with a degree in engineering and a background in packaging design, the Austin-based maker turned a budding interest in woodworking into a business handcrafting fun, yet functional wooden objects in the shapes of various animals. His sleek, inventive Elephant Wall Hook, Bear Keys & Glasses Holder, and Shark Business Card Holder are all newcomers to our assortment.

As always, we’re excited to welcome such dedicated, thoughtful makers as Alex to the UncommonGoods family, where the creativity exhibited in his clever goods is so often celebrated. Read on for Alex’s insights on the power of organization and what being an artist really means—as well as how he turned his side hustle into a full-time gig.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Changing Lives and Cooking Dinner with the Non-Electric Slow Cooker

June 8, 2017

Sarah Collins, inventor of the Non-Electric Slow Cooker

Picture this: You want to cook a meal. In the US, this is an easy enough proposition, if occasionally tiring. You take a trip to the grocery store, prep your ingredients, and leave them to cook, whether in an oven, on a stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Before too long, you sit down and eat. Simple, right?

In rural Africa, no such luck. For many women, making a meal is a long, costly process fraught with danger. Every day, women across the continent spend up to seven hours collecting firewood to use for cooking, walking between 3 and 6 miles, taking away time that could be spent working or bonding with family members, and risking sexual assault and attacks by animals along the way. Those who don’t collect firewood often cook with charcoal, a fuel that eats up a sizable chunk of a rural family’s income—think along the lines of one third. The actual cooking takes hours, and the use woodfuels combined with that of an open flame contributes to potentially deadly levels of indoor air pollution. In providing for their families, these women make sacrifices that are unimaginable to many, risking their health and livelihood for the sake of a single meal. A trip to a packed Trader Joe’s at 6 o’clock on a Tuesday pales in comparison.

For South African entrepreneur Sarah Collins, this was a key problem. Her lifelong mission to empower rural Africans has manifested in many types of work, from conservation to political action, but perhaps her most meaningful contribution has been the invention of the Non-Electric Slow Cooker, also known as the Wonderbag. Now available for purchase from UncommonGoods, Sarah’s slow cooker—made from patterned cotton fabric stuffed with repurposed foam—keeps food brought to a boil cooking for up to 12 hours simply by trapping heat. For every Non-Electric Slow Cooker purchased in the developed world, another is donated to the Wonderbag Foundation, an organization that distributes Sarah’s invention to communities in need throughout Africa. Because the Non-Electric Slow Cooker doesn’t require an open flame to keep food cooking, it reduces pollution and deforestation throughout Africa and keeps rural women and families safer and healthier, freeing up their time and money for work, play, and family bonding.

As a certified B Corp, UncommonGoods is committed to offering sustainable, socially responsible products. When we first heard about the Non-Electric Slow Cooker, we were intrigued—we’d never heard of a slow cooker made out of foam! Once we learned of its impressive effect in Africa, though, we knew we needed to hear more from its inventor. Read on for more of Sarah’s story—including advice on how to contribute to her mission, even from afar.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Kim Strassner and Mike Pararas

June 7, 2017

Kim Strassner and Mike Pararas (with dogs Freddie and Sammie) in their Baltimore, MD studio, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

When we first started doing Studio Tours back in 2012, we were pretty limited on where we could go to get our inspiration. That isn’t to say the inspiration was limited–we’ve visited a fantastic line-up of New York City artists close to home. But getting the sign-off to pack up and head to another state definitely wasn’t the goal from the start. Five years later, we’re still featuring monthly studio visits. Thanks to all of the love and support shown by our online community, makers, and the UG team for our tours, we’re able to keep growing the series. Now, we’re finding ways to stop by the studios of creators a little farther from home. Around 195 miles or so from home, in this case.

My latest trip started at Penn Station in Manhattan, eaaarly in the morning. A few hours later, I arrived at Penn Station in Baltimore, Maryland, where Kim Strassner was waiting for me and our Tabletop Buyer, NéQuana. Kim filled us in on some neighborhood history as she drove through B-more to the studio, woodshop, and office space where she and her husband, Mike Pararas, design and craft their personalized wooden cutting boards and lazy Susans. It didn’t take long before I realized how much work Kim, Mike, and their team put into each board they produce. The letters in the customized pieces are carved using tiny blades, precise hand movements, and great attention to detail.

In addition to walking me through how a slab of wood becomes a beautiful, handcrafted cutting board, the couple gave me a look at Kim’s first-ever board with words, answered a few questions about what keeps them going strong, and introduced me to their two adorable Havanese dogs. Keep reading to see inside this woodworking wonderland for yourself.

 

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Marco Facciola and Stephen Washer

May 31, 2017

Ever looked at a pile of discarded wood and wondered at the stories hidden within? Cousins and lifelong tinkerers Marco Facciola and Stephen Washer sure have. Made in Montreal, Canada, their reclaimed wood and rope pieces—three of which have just been added to our assortment—give debris a second life, celebrating the unique colors, shapes, and tales told by pieces salvaged from household renovations and climbing gyms.

Here at UncommonGoods, we’re inspired by Marco and Stephen’s inventive, earth-friendly creations, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our family of artists. Read on for Marco’s answers to our questions about how the pair got their start, what excites kids about their work, and more.

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