The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Jackie Udden

March 22, 2013
Meet Jackie | UncommonGoods
Jackie Udden, UncommonGoods Associate Buyer-Jewelry & Accessories

My hometown is…
I was born in Montclair, NJ, but my heart is in NYC.My favorite product that I’ve brought into the assortment at UncommonGoods is…
Kaleidoscope Necklace. (Favorite thing I’ve bought…Himalayan Salt Tequila Shooters. Everyone seems to love receiving them, and I usually get to help break them in!)

I’m inspired by…
Selfless actions.

My guilty pleasure is…
I can’t say I have an ounce of guilt about any indulgence, but know that I am a savory person!

An uncommon fact about me…
I was “gluten-free” long before it became fashionable.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
With my husband: Next Door Nobu.
With my friends and family: Edwards.
By myself: Le Pain Quotidien takeout on park bench.

My style is…
Polished comfort.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
Something new every day.

Would you rather…have access to every book ever written (but never watch another film) OR have access to every movie ever made (but never read another book)?
Easy–books! (Watching movies on the beach, where I hope to spend the majority of the remainder of my life, would be weird… reading however, perfect.)

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: The Levitron Lamp’s Floating Fluorescence

March 20, 2013

Rocky tests the Levitron Lamp | Uncommongoods

The Levitron Lamp in action. Read on for Rocky’s Step-By-Step floating lamp tutorial.

Research
I remember it like yesterday..

About 6-7 weeks ago I’m sitting at my desk, headphones on, Spotify playlist blasting, putting in work on the current task at hand. I get to a point where I feel like a mini break is warranted and decide to relax a bit, sinking into my chair and mentally preparing myself to go full on into daydream mode. However, right before I get the chance to picture myself on a foreign beach, drinking margaritas out of umbrella decorated coconuts, something catches my eye…

Sitting on a shelf behind the neighboring desk to mine, there is a fairly large box with “Levitron Lamp” in bold print, accompanied by a photograph of a lamp underneath … I think. Why the uncertainty? Because according to the picture I’m now staring at, the lamp’s shade that sits on top, actually doesn’t “sit” at all, but FLOATS. Yes.. I’m sure now. There is definitely a minimum of 1-1.5 inch of space between the lamp’s shade and its base, with nothing connecting the two..

W. T. F. ?

See, working at UG for about a year and a half now, I’ve grown accustomed to expecting the unexpected when it comes to the products we carry. Time and time again, I find myself floored by the level of creativity and innovation applied. So much so, that I’ve made myself a permanent resident in the Merchants’ area of our office so I can scope out the samples of potential new products as they come in. (Marketing team, I promise I love you guys.. but yes, I have something on the side with the merchants.) Needless to say, this just became another time to add to that list of ‘time and time again’ I mentioned earlier.

*Pauses music. Snatches off headphones. “KATIE.. What.. is… that?!”. *

Katie (UncommonGoods Associate Buyer and my desk neighbor) informs me more about the newly received lamp and confirms that it purportedly does have floating pieces incorporated, although no one has yet to see it with their own eyes. Then after a brief pause, she adds…

Hypothesis
I have to assume that because someone out there took the time to mass manufacture, officially name, professionally package, and ship this product to our office, there is some truth about what it claims to do. However, I’m suspicious about how well it will work and for how long. My past experiences from life teach that often, things like these don’t stick around for very long, once out of the box and put to continuous use (and of course, that doesn’t fly at UG). That said, I’m predicting ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ for a short-lived amount of time before it becomes a has been.

Experiment
Setting up the lamp is fairly simple, just pay close attention to the directions, because between the different parts to the lamp and the various laws of science at play, there’s a chance of some confusion if you do not. Take it from me–I admit, at first I quickly threw the directions right to the side and had at it.

It took 1 minute and 20 seconds for me to pick them right back up again… which brings me to

STEP ONE Use the directions to identify all the pieces.

You see that first picture on the left up there? Take a real good look at it. It identifies all the pieces you will need to put the floating lamp into play and gives you the ABCs of what goes where, when, and why. You will see later that this is very key to this whole operation.

STEP TWO Read the directions thoroughly.

By now you get the point. Directions = good.

STEP THREE Find desired location for lamp and plug it in.
You will want to do this. Trust me. You will see why.. eh, I’ll just tell you now. Once setup is complete, you will not want to A. Unplug it (unless you want to practice setting it up all over again), because the way it floats is due to electromagnetism. That’s short for ‘no electricity, no magnetism.’ B. Even if you do not need to unplug your lamp, sliding or carrying it will require very slow movement. The lamp’s magnetic field is easily thrown off balance (causing the shade to fall off) when knocked too hard.

STEP FOUR This is where you get your David Blaine on and make some magic happen.

Grab the clear plastic disc and find the side that has a tiny peg poking out from the center of it. Then look at the top of the lamp’s base and find the little hole at the center of that. Once found, place the clear plastic disc, peg side facing down, on top of base’s center and slide it around until the peg falls into the little hole, securing the disc in place.

Now grab your black cylinder/tube/thingamajig. Notice one end will have a thick border and the other end will not. Place the end that doesn’t have the thick border into your clear plastic disc. (You will know you’ve done it correctly because it also will slide securely into place.) At this point, find your little hockey-puck-looking magnet, hold it over the top of the cylinder as if you’re going to drop it in and take a trip down memory lane to junior high science class. If you feel that the magnet is trying to run away from the cylinder’s opening, that means it is repelling and you need to flip the magnet over for the side we need to work with. If there is no repelling, then we’re good to continue.

Next, drop the magnet into the center of the cylinder. The directions say to start much higher for this to work, but I found that starting right over the cylinder is fine. When dropped into the cylinder correctly, it will float on its own directly in the center. If done incorrectly, it will still float, but also rest on the walls of the cylinder. That’s a no-no. You will have to redo it.

Once you have the magnet floating in the center, you can now take the cylinder off by pulling it straight up. After that, push the plastic disc off the side. Neither of these are needed anymore.

STEP FIVE Place your lamp shade on the magnet.

So after spending some time looking at how cool the magnet looks floating there (because you’re definitely going to), you’re now ready to place your lamp shade. There is a groove in the bottom of the shade that allows it to sit perfectly on top of the magnet. Using some finesse (so to not knock the magnet out of ‘orbit’), place the shade on top.

WALLAH! Floating Lamp Goodness complete.

Conclusion
I also want to highlight that besides the floating feature, the lamp itself is pretty nice. As you can see from the pictures, it has a modern, sleek/Jetsons futuristic hybrid look to it. The light comes from the top of the base and the bottom of the base, with two separate touchpad light switches controlling the different sides.

Wherever you find yourself setting up this lamp, it will be a conversation starter for sure. My desk has easily become the coolest desk at UG (I’m accepting any challengers, what up?!) and anyone who notices it while walking by stops to take a closer look.

WARNING: With great power comes great responsibility. Like I said, this lamp will draw people in to take a closer look. They also WILL play with it, and they will knock the shade off over.. and over.. and over again. So get use to setting it up. But after the first couple of times, it’s easy as pie–Scratch that. I don’t know how to make pie, bad example. It’s easy as buying pie–and you’ll come to enjoy watching people’s expressions when they do knock it off. (Everybody’s face always look like they just broke an irreplaceable ancient artifact and are about to get hauled off to serve hard time for it.. or at least have to buy me a new one.)

At the end of the day, simply said, this is one cool lamp. And today it’s still on my desk, working as great as the day it came out of the box.

Also, that ‘lil guy basking in the lamp’s light in the picture? That’s Blocky. He makes sure my pens don’t go missing while I’m away from my desk.

Design

Slate Cheese Board Styled 3 Ways

March 19, 2013

Any apartment dweller knows the plight of a lack of storage. I cringe at the though of single-use items that will take up space on a shelf or counter (oh, how I’m dying for a waffle iron!). Since moving to New York City a couple moons ago, I have started to give a lot more thought to my purchases and make sure everything that enters my tiny apartment will be used. Simply, I don’t buy things that won’t get used frequently!

I spied the Slate Cheese Board with Soapstone Chalk since it was launched on our site months ago but wasn’t sure how often it would get used. Yes, I love cheese – many, many kinds of cheese – but it’s rare that any lasts long enough in my posession to leave out for guests. But the board was too gorgeous in all it’s rustic glory to pass up. So I took it home and gave myself a weekend to see how many times it could get used, finding that there were more uses for this board than meets the eye.

Build your own omelet party After work on Friday I met some friends at the gym to get the weekend started. Afterwards we all came to my place for dinner and I had two main objectives: a) eat some protein to rebuild muscle tissue and b) clean out my fridge. So I threw a “build your own omelet” party and set out the ingredients. It was a self-serve experience so everyone could make their omelet to their liking. I’m glad I got to label their choices so no one picked up an ingredient they didn’t want. The idea was a success and I can’t wait to throw another “build your own” party (sundaes, cocktails, pizza, grilled cheese…).

Movies in Bed Nothing is more fun that lounging in bed on a cold Saturday with your laptop and Netflix, but I always struggle with keeping crumbs from falling out of a lopsided bowl of popcorn. Wondering how the cheese board would fare as a bed-tray, I stocked it with gummy candies, a Mexican Coke and a heaping bowl of lime coconut popcorn while getting under the covers to tackle my growing queue. It did the trick and kept my soda and popcorn level when I readjusted in bed. That night’s sleep was not a story of the Princess and the Popcorn Kernel, thankfully.

Sunday Brunch One of my favorite New York past times is hunkering down after a morning of yoga with the NY Times and a cup of tea. Just sitting all day, leafing through the massive pages that cover my dining table. Since my Sunday brunch is never quite a complete meal – some fruit, nuts, a bagel, maybe a pastry – it was nice to spread out an afternoon’s worth of things to munch on as I caught up on current affairs. I was so comfortable, I didn’t get up until the sun went down and it was time to make supper.

Maker Stories

Donna Rollins’ Handmade Mugs with a Healing Touch

March 15, 2013

“I’ve had an attraction to collecting stones for what seems like eternity,” says Donna Rollins, the artist behind Healing Stone Mugs and Birth Stone Mugs. Her creative cups incorporate layers of minerals, non-toxic glazes, and, of course, the signature stones that make them truly uncommon.

Healing Touch Pottery, Photo by Stephanie Minion Photography

Donna started creating pottery about 5 years ago, but says that she’s always been attracted to the medium. The self-taught potter credits her youngest daughter with inspiring her to give clay a try. She purchased her first wheel and kiln so they could create pottery together. Now all three of her daughters work for the company she and her husband, Randall, run in New Hampshire–Healing Touch Pottery.

When she got the notion of marrying natural stones with handmade ceramics Donna knew she was ready to start her business. “The idea of placing the stone on the thumb rest of a mug came to me in a dear friend’s home. I was admiring her stone collection and thought, How can I incorporate the healing benefits of crystals and minerals with my love for pottery?

Donna and Randall Rollins, photo by Stephanie Minion Photography

Today Healing Touch Pottery has 9 staff members who create 700 to 1000 mugs each week. “Each artist has their own style and that style comes through in the creation, but collectively we create what becomes an individual’s new favorite mug,” says Donna.

Healing Touch Potter Liz Johnson

Healing Touch Staff: Mandi Ouellette, Samantha Mistich, and Liz Johnson

“Each of our signature mugs begin with a pound of clay in our hands,” Donna explains. “We shape the square clay into a ball, we then throw it into the center of a potter’s wheel, hence the term throwing pottery. From there, we pull, push and gently caress the clay forming the various shapes of the cylinder of a mug.”

But the potter’s wheel is just the beginning. “The potter’s assistant takes the cylinder off the potter’s wheel and places it on a board. Depending on the day of the week, there could be anywhere from 120 to 220 cylinders thrown that day,” says Donna.”After a day of sitting and drying to leather-hard, the cylinders are handled by our other talented artists. Once the mugs have dried enough to be wiped and signed, they are then placed in the kilns for their first firing to bisque. After the bisque firing, the mugs are transported to the glazing room where another group of artists dip each mug in our handcrafted glazes. From this point, the mugs are loaded into the glazing kilns for their final firing at 2200 degrees. Once the mugs are cool enough to unload they are transported to another room where the stones are attached and Reiki-charged.”

Reviewer submitted image by By SouthernMama from Sweet Home Alabama

While a great deal of time and work go into each mug, Donna and her team don’t mind putting in the hours, care, and attention to detail it takes to create each piece. “There is a common thought and goal for each of us who work here at Healing Touch Pottery and we believe that is why our pottery is enjoyed by so many,” she tells us. “Quartz is a conductor of energy and it is in our clay and glazes and most of the stones we use are quartz-based. We believe our energy permeates our products, so it’s crucial we be in positive space and thoughts so our wares are enjoyed not just for their beauty, but also for their energy.”

The alluring stones also provide comfort, giving the person who holds the mug a gently-raised place to rest their thumb, and since skin slides easily against the smooth surface of the rocks, these creations are the perfect “worry stones” to help your troubles melt away as you enjoy a calming cup of tea or morning coffee as you start a new day.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Tiffany Jyang

March 13, 2013
Tiffany Jyang | UncommonGoods

Tiffany Jyang, UncommonGoods Senior Product Developer

 

My hometown is…
Alpharetta, GA – a suburban girl at heart!

My favorite product that I helped develop is…
The printable party kits on our free downloads page. My favorite is the outer space party kit, but the history buff kit is super fun too. I also love the sleekness and functionality of the Jewelry in a Bottle and the cleverness of the Pistachio Pedestal.

I’m inspired by…
Halloween, strangers, Elon Musk, outer space.

My guilty pleasure is…
Marathoning semi-educational TV shows. I’m a sucker for Alaska: The Last Frontier, and Cosmos.

An uncommon fact about me…
I was the runner-up in my elementary school spelling bee. Sadly, I misspelled the word “mystic” because I spoke too fast and accidentally skipped a letter!

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
Sugar Sweet Sunshine (for cupcakes and pudding), Kashkaval Garden (for everything), and Joe Coffee (for the coffee and steamed milk).

My style is…
1st grader-meets-comfortable grandmother-meets-construction worker chic.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
Developing uncommon products is easier said than done, but seeing a new item finally go live never gets old.

Would you rather… give up your sketchbook or your access to blogs?
Give up my sketchbook! I love my blogs and I’m addicted to the Internet. It’s my virtual playground, home to all my mood boards, design inspiration, etc.