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Maker Stories

Maker Stories

Bending Stereotypes:
Dan Abramson’s Yoga Joes

November 11, 2016

Dan Abramson | Yoga Joes | UncommonGoods

When Dan Abramson was brainstorming with a friend in a coffee shop back in 2014, he hadn’t intended to start a movement. The art director, who had founded the tongue-in-cheek “manly” yoga accessories company Brogamats two years prior, was “trying to come up with a funny way to get more men to do yoga,” he recalled. “We were wondering, What can we do to make yoga more macho?” He considered a series of videos of men at construction sites or at football games striking the poses. Then, said Dan, “I thought, What if we had classic green army men doing yoga?

Yoga Joes - Green Army Men Practicing Traditional Yoga Poses

The San Francisco resident, who’d started doing yoga himself to heal a back injury, thought he had simply come up with a good video joke: “I thought we could do it on Reddit [with existing figures] and it would be funny for a day.” But after a great deal of research into plastics, he realized he could actually make the figures, posing them the way he wanted. So Dan worked to create a set of classic, plastic army figures arranged in postures such as Downward Dog and Warrior One and put his concept on Kickstarter. “It ended up blowing it out of the water!” he shared. “It raised way more money than I anticipated and had a huge audience.”

Something else happened that Dan hadn’t expected: A large number of those who donated were associated with the military—veterans, active service members, and loved ones of military members. “I started getting really heartfelt messages,” he said. “I didn’t have any idea that there was such a huge community of people doing yoga in the military.” Emails poured in from workers in veterans’ affairs, vets adjusting to life after service and loved ones of veterans. Some emails recalled happy stories, others tragic memories. But most of the messages shared a common thread: Yoga could save service members’ lives if only the practice could spread across the military community. “It was incredibly humbling,” said Dan. “I knew then I had a responsibility to do this well and do it right.”

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Emilie Shapiro

November 7, 2016
Emilie Shapiro Portrait

Emilie Shapiro in her Long Island City studio, Photos by Rachel Orlow

Since I’ve started working at UG, Emilie Shapiro is a name I’ve heard often. (And here’s a fun fact: she used to be a regular Emily like me, but rebelled against our all-too-common name and switched to the “ie” ending at age 13). We carry many of her stunning, raw gemstone jewelry pieces, and everyone at the office sort of fan-girls about her work. So when I heard that Emilie was up for a studio tour, I was psyched to be on the invite list.

I set off expecting the drive from my home in suburban Long Island to Long Island City, Queens to be less than pleasant, and unfortunately I was right. After a hectic morning crawling down Queens Boulevard and searching for a parking spot for what felt like hours, arriving at Emilie’s sunny studio was a welcome respite.

shapiro-display

From the moment we cracked open the door, the vibe at the studio was easy and welcoming. We were sort of a big crew–our blog editor, our jewelry buyer, our photographer, our SEO specialist/jewelry-lover, and myself–but Emilie and another maker who she works with, Erica, were totally accommodating. They offered us apples and coffee and turned on some classic rock. They let us drool over the gorgeous pieces they had on display. Emilie urged us to try on whatever we wanted, which was basically everything.

Our blog team has visited Emilie before, but not since she moved to her new studio space. And this time, we were lucky enough to watch her in action – she did a demo for us on how she sets the striking Waterfall Ring. Following our lesson, we got to chat with her about how she’s grown as an artist and business owner, teaching others the craft, and even a bit about her family. Turns out, her grandfather once had a toy factory in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, UG’s home! We must be kindred spirits.

spapiro-stonesandpieces-2

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Lara and Kevin Caldwell

November 3, 2016

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Lara Caldwell, who along with her husband Kevin, is the creator of the Ginkgo Jewelry Tree.

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Maker Stories

P is for Personalization – and Patricia Carlin, and Product Development!

October 31, 2016

We’ve long been fans of artist Patricia Carlin. We feature many of her beloved products in our assortment, and they’ve delighted so many people with their whimsy and personal feel. We (and our customers) just couldn’t get enough of Patricia, so our product development team worked with her to create this extra special Personalized My Alphabet Book.

Personalized My Alphabet Book

The book is tailor-made from start to finish. The cover features your child’s name and a charming illustration of an animal that starts with the same letter (Liam gets a lion, Wyatt a wallaby, Everett an elephant, etc). Inside, they’ll find a little note from the same animal pal explaining why they love their shared first letter — “L is also for lollipops! And library! And leapfrog!”

A is for Alligator, B is for Bear

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Sending Light and Love with the SolarPuff

October 17, 2016
SolarPuffs lighting the way

All images and videos courtesy of Solight Designs ™

Some of us take light for granted. The sun goes down, we flip a switch, and our homes are flooded with an electric-energy-fueled sunshine substitute. But for the 1.6 billion people in the world without access to electricity, it’s not that easy.

In many areas around the globe, kerosene is used in place of electricity. Kerosene, like gasoline, is a fossil fuel made from petroleum. It’s expensive, it has to be burned to create energy, and burning it creates air pollution. Unfortunately, many families don’t have access to any other source of light. That makes cooking, studying, or even seeing the face of the loved one sitting right across the room impossible without the aid of kerosine lamps. Use of these lamps can be dangerous. They get hot, they send soot into the air, and in some cases, they even use open flames.

Aiming to bring a safe, clean alternative to kerosene to those living by lamplight, product designer, architect, and Professor of Design and Material Culture at Parsons the New School of Design, Alice Min Soo Chun developed the SolarPuff™— an inexpensive, collapsible light powered by the sun.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Danielle Kroll

October 7, 2016
Danielle Kroll | UncommonGoods

Danielle Kroll in her Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, photos by Rachel Orlow

One thing I’ve learned in my years of visiting artists’ studios is that they’re rarely what I expect. Danielle Kroll’s was no exception. Sure, I expected it to be full of beautiful art and hoped to see a plethora of paints and piles of paper, but I had no idea just how fun, colorful, and full of creativity-sparking treasures her space would be.

I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical when I arrived at what looked like a warehouse in a seemingly industrial part of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (But, in actuality, I shouldn’t have been. By now I should know that many interesting and inspiring places are hidden away in former factories and warehouse buildings.)

Artist Danielle Kroll's Studio | UncommonGoods

Danielle invited our small group–myself, a photographer, and our content intern–into the old building and we followed her up a steep staircase into a beautiful communal area used by several artists. While I was impressed by the art in the halls, the eclectic combination of furniture, and the relaxed feel of the whole space, Danielle’s own studio really blew me away. Flooded with natural light, decorated with her own art and art she’s collected, and filled with books, it was the kind of space where I felt right at home.

That welcomed feeling was only enhanced by the artist’s openness and enthusiasm. She not only showed us some of her paintings, but also opened her sketchbooks, showed off some of her favorite objects she’s collected as a self-proclaimed “pack rat,” and shared about a few of her creative projects.

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Maker Stories

Crushing It: Vawn & Mike Gray’s Recycled Glass Nightlights

September 30, 2016

 

vawn-mike

Vawn & Mike

From lazy pandas to wide-eyed unicorns, Vawn and Mike Gray make recycled glass nightlights with endearing details and handcrafted charm. In their Cape Coral, Florida studio, they use recycled glass and an energy-efficient kiln to create colorful pieces they characterize as “a little light for the darkness.” Here, Vawn talks with us about smashing glass, finding inspiration in viral videos, and the eloquent life lessons of John Lennon. Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Rachna and Ruchika Kumar

September 26, 2016

Rachna and Ruchika Kumar

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

Rachna & Ruchika's Handmade Scarves

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Rachna and Ruchika Kumar, creators of our new Patta Leaf Whisper Weave Block Print Scarf, Tree Allusion Reversible Block Print Scarf, and Slanted Chevron Reversible Block Print Scarf.

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