Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration:
Meet Richard Glass

December 20, 2017

We sell loads of glass here at UncommonGoods, and I often joke with my friends that it’s not quite my thing—that I appreciate the artistry of it, but it just doesn’t speak to me the way, say, a piece of jewelry does. (As a former art history student who doesn’t much dig Impressionism, I’m pretty practiced at delivering that type of spiel.) To be totally honest, though, I’ve come to see glass in a new light since speaking with so many of our wonderful makers. They give their work a personality and meaning that I, a relative philistine, at least as far as glass goes, hadn’t really considered before. And Richard Glass is no exception… though he is, we concede, exceptionally well-named.

We were first introduced to Richard’s handiwork—his Saturn Glass Sculptural Bowl in particular—in a meeting room in our office in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and we soon reached out to him in search of answers to questions like: “Why glass?” and “What inspires you?” What we received were some seriously delightful insights into his past and passions, complete with anecdotes that made us chuckle and wise words that made us go hmm at our desks. Read on for our Q&A with Richard, complete with a sneak peek into his dazzling workspace in Devon, England.

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The Uncommon Life

How to Help Change the World with What’s in Your Wallet

December 19, 2017

*Editor’s note: On November 26, 2017, UncommonGoods participated in Shop for Good Sunday. Following Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, Shop for Good Sunday celebrates businesses that make a positive impact on the world. The newest addition to themed post-Thanksgiving shopping days, Shop for Good Sunday was founded by the team at DoneGood, a social enterprise working to put people in touch with brands that share their values. DoneGood’s Cullen Schwarz took a moment to tell us about his company’s mission and why “consumerism” doesn’t have to be a dirty word in this guest post.

Cullen Schwarz, DoneGood co-founder and Chief of Good Thoughts

The most powerful tool you have to change the world is in your pocket right now

There’s a revolution happening across the country and around the world. UncommonGoods is a part of it. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a part of it already too.

The world

Our world is filled with tremendous love and beauty. It also has some problems—inequality, environmental degradation, exploitation to name a few.

We believe that the world’s most powerful force for addressing those problems is already in your pocket—it’s the dollars you spend. We quit our careers to start DoneGood because we wanted to help people more effectively wield that power.

Together we all spend trillions of dollars buying stuff every year—if even a fraction of that money can automatically help alleviate poverty, fight climate change, and otherwise make the world better, the impact is huge!

The dollars we spend help solve problems when we shift our shopping to mission-driven social impact brands—companies that are paying good wages, empowering people, investing in communities, offering paid family leave, and using sustainable production practices.

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Gift Guides

Really, Really Last-Minute Gifts

December 18, 2017

How did the holiday shopping season slip by so quickly? Just the other day you were baking pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and now the proverbial Christmas clock is tick, tick, ticking in your ear. Don’t let those last few giftees hang over your head another day. Check out our list of “I didn’t buy this at the gas station on the way over” gifts. The no-fail, last-minute designs feel personal, fun, and not rushed at all (we promise we won’t tell!). Read on for more.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Will Our Dairy Free Cheesemaking Kit Impress this Curd Connoisseur?

December 15, 2017

Beloved Marketing Analyst Morgan warms up to vegan cheese… or so it seems.

Product

Dairy Free Cheddar, Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit

Research

As a self-proclaimed cheese connoisseur, I knew the moment I saw the Dairy Free Cheddar, Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit that it had to be mine. Melty mozzarella, creamy ricotta, tangy cheddar: say no more, you had me at melty. (Editor’s note: Morgan loves the Fondoodler, so her predilection for meltiness comes as no surprise to us.) I’ve dabbled in the realm of vegan cheese before, but as a non-vegan, I’m much more familiar with the dairy varieties of my favorite delicious treat. I decided to go to my local grocery store and sample their vegan wares and I was a little disappointed. The consistency and flavor just didn’t meet my exceptionally high cheese standards. Alas.

This is when I decided I was up for the challenge of creating a vegan cheese even the most dairy-loving person could enjoy.

Hypothesis

As a former research scientist, I hypothesized that my laboratory skills could help me concoct this vegan cheese masterpiece. I knew there were challenges, based on my prior vegan cheese sampling and dislike for its odd texture, but the images on the box of this kit looked delightful and I decided to judge a book by its cover.

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The Uncommon Life

From Puppies to Pistols: Six of History’s Most Uncommon Gifts

December 14, 2017

Today, few things say “holiday season” so well as Christmas trees, carols, and gifts. So what if we told you that none of those traditions have actually been around for very long? Christmas trees didn’t catch on in the US until the turn of the 20th century, and caroling—at least as we know it—was a distinctly Victorian invention. As for Christmas gift-giving, that’s a new tradition, too, popularized by wealthy 19th century New Yorkers.

Image our surprise, then, when we set out to assemble a collection of history’s strangest Christmas gifts and came up with—get this—absolutely nil. Lucky for us, diplomatic gift-giving is a time-honored custom, and one that’s sprouted plenty of oddball stories… just the thing to will all that pre-holiday shopping stress away.

And so, to celebrate the coming of the holiday season and all the good-natured gift-giving that goes with it, we present—with, um, minimal comment—six of history’s most uncommon gifts.

No. 1: A Live Puppy

You can’t archive a dog! Featured good: Pedigree Poem Pillow, $90

In theory, a puppy isn’t all that odd a gift, but bureaucracy can make anything weird. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush received five gifts from Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov. Among them? A black-and-white Bulgarian shepherd puppy dubbed “Balkan of Gorannadraganov,” or “Balkan” for short. Valued at $430, Balkan was one of many thousands of presents Bush received throughout his tenure as president, most of which were sent to the National Archives to await the opening of his presidential library. For goods worth $305 or more, that’s standard procedure, and in order to hang onto anything above that threshold—a risky move, as costly gifts may sway foreign policy decisions—presidents and their spouses are required to purchase the gifts back from the US government.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Will Our Homemade Tortilla Kit Smash the Competition?

December 12, 2017

Hadley, UncommonGoods’ Junior Content Creator, thinks about tortillas. (Note the glint in her eye.)

Product

Homemade Tortilla Kit

Research

I’m an avid cook, and so is my boyfriend, Royce. We often make dinner together, and eight-ish times out of ten, we make one tasty thing: tacos. (Curry’s a common winter dish, too, but I digress.) I’d been talking Royce’s ear off for months about how we should try making our own tortillas, but we never got around to it. It follows, then, that I got pretty pumped when I saw our new Homemade Tortilla Kit for sale. It felt like I’d finally found my chance to force us into making our own tortillas, a project that would otherwise have continued to elude us for, you know, more months.

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Maker Stories

Makers Joining Forces:
A Brief History of WomenMadeLA

December 11, 2017

From left to right, Debbie, Sashee, and Lori

Three women, three companies, and three uncommon goods that represent the food we grew up loving, by Debbie Mullin

Two years ago, in the infancy of our businesses, the three of us—Sashee Chandran, Lori Sandoval, and me, Debbie Mullin—kept running into each other. We were handing out samples at the same market, renting time at the same commercial kitchen, and neighbors at the same gigantic trade shows. When the three of us finally sat down to chat about our LA-based companies, we realized they all faced the same exciting but daunting challenges with growth—expensive LA real estate, setting up distribution, finding good employees, etc.—all on top of being women and minority-owned businesses. Each of our companies needed so much to keep growing, but we didn’t know how to afford it all at once.

Enter: WomenMadeLA. The three of us joined together a year ago to form our collective and formally support one another through shared resources for our quickly growing small businesses. Since then, WomenMadeLA has moved to a large downtown office to accommodate growth, and has even added new companies. The collective now employs three full-time staff for all our photography/video, graphic design, and social media needs and to keep all WomenMadeLA products looking as good to their customers as they taste at home.

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Gift Guides

Last-Minute Gifts
that Don’t Feel Last-Minute

December 8, 2017

In the whirl and swirl of holiday cheer, sometimes picking out just the right gift can fall by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean you love them any less! This year, we’ve got just the trick to making it seem like you picked out their gift far ahead of time. Focus on their interests, and it’ll make any last-minute pick feel of-the-moment. So skip the grocery store fruit cake, and click your way to the perfect personalized present with this handy guide.

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