The Uncommon Life

Why it’s Better to Give
with 826 National

July 9, 2017

“Once upon a time there was a sheep named Oddy. He was a regular sheep in the grasslands with all the other sheep. Then, one day he fell in the Arctic sea, and he saw a big wave. It pushed him to shore towards a cyclops’s cave. Oddy took big steps towards the cave. The cyclops had a superpower that could turn anyone into a cyclops like him.”

Pretty intriguing first paragraph, right? It was written by Wahaaj, a young creative writing student who “likes pizza and french fries, and he loves to spell Mississippi.”

Wahaaj’s story is funny, imaginative, and might not exist without the help of our newest Better to Give partner, 826 National. Through their network of seven—soon to be eight—chapters across the US, 826 National has helped thousands of kids like Wahaaj let their imaginations run free, develop writing skills, and build confidence. The non-profit organization takes an uncommon, but extremely effective, approach to teaching writing to students age 6-18. They are passionate about their mission “to empower students with the skills to write their own paths forward, undefined by circumstance.” The 826 Network believes in the power of making learning fun, and the power that quality education can have in influencing children’s lives. All of this, along with their clever storefronts, dedicated staff and volunteers, free programs, and general ability to make every person who learns about them proclaim something along the lines of, “That is SO cool!” made us realize that we really, really wanted to join forces with them.

Now that 826 National is a part of our Better to Give program, you can select them to receive a $1 donation from us (at no cost to you) each time you shop at UncommonGoods. These donations will help 826 Network writing and tutoring centers across the country provide services to kids in under-resourced communities.

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Gift Guides

Our Guide to Second Anniversary Gifts: Cozy Up to Cotton

July 7, 2017

Congratulations—you’ve nearly ticked two years off since your wedding! Here you stand on the threshold of your second anniversary. What do you get your sweetheart? Well, tradition says year two’s the time to give cotton, which means that the obvious choices include bathrobes, nice sheets, and novelty T-shirts, if you’re feeling a little bit funny. But… what’s that? You’re looking for something a hint more… uncommon? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with second anniversary-friendly gifts that range from do-it-yourself painting kits to customizable wall art and comfy throws. Read on for ten of our best traditional recommendations, plus a little something for the modern among us.

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Maker Resources

Inside the Artist’s Studio with George Roumanas

July 7, 2017

George Roumanas working in his Athens, Greece studio, photos by Emily Hodges

Given that I “prepped” for this particular Studio Tour by watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding and listening to Mama Mias soundtrack on repeat, I knew that my visit to George Roumanas’ creative space was definitely going to be a fun one. George is a self-taught sculptor from a small village in Southern Greece and he’s the maker behind a collection of brass and wooden art pieces, including our much-adored Pop The Question Wall Sculpture. Being the avid wanderluster I am, I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to learn about the process behind George’s romantic designs in the ancient city of Athens, Greece. (Insert overly excited squeal and triple axel jump.)

My visit began with George’s upbeat business partner and wife — Stella Spanopoulou — personally picking me up at my AirBnb rental. I suggested I could easily catch a cab to the studio, but she insisted on giving me a ride. That should have been my first clue that Greek hospitality is genuine and is never to be mistaken for coyness. According to Stella, “When something is offered, just accept it. It’s the Greek way!” During our short drive to the studio, she apologized for three things: how “non-American” and messy their studio was, the fact that George only spoke Greek, and the economic state of Greece. I assured her that the messier the studio the better, that I’ve dealt with language barriers before, and despite Greece’s economic hiccups — everything I’d seen so far was absolutely beautiful.

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The Uncommon Life

Celebrate Our “B” Day for the Chance to Win a $100 Gift Card!

July 6, 2017

B the Change | B Corp B Day

This summer we celebrate 10 years as a B Corporation and joining a movement that uses business as a force for good. We’re glad we have been able to use the power of business to tackle tough social and environmental problems over the years, including issues related to conservation, paid family leave, and more.

It’s safe to say that none of this would be possible without you – our customers. So we’re going all out to celebrate our “B” Day!

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Gift Guides

Our Guide to First Anniversary Gifts: Looking Good on Paper

July 5, 2017

Although it may seem like a modern invention—much as Valentine’s Day is allegedly a racket concocted by greeting card companies to, well, sell more greeting cards—the custom of giving special gifts to commemorate one’s wedding anniversary has, in fact, been traced to years gone by. We’re talking long, long ago, way back to the era of the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands first began to bestow silver wreaths upon their wives in honor of their 25th year together, with golden wreaths reserved for their 50th.

So where’d we get the “traditional” year-by-year list of anniversary gifts? It’s a bit of a mystery. (And if you’d rather get a head start on your shopping than read about any more gift-giving history, click here.) Although the Victorians likely expanded a bit upon the practice, by 1937, only eight anniversaries were considered indispensable gift-giving occasions: the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th. We do know that that year, the American National Retail Jewelers’ Association released a new, more comprehensive list of anniversary gifts by year, now known as the “modern” list, identifying a unique material to confer upon your sweetheart for each year through the first 25 and for every fifth year after that, extending all the way through to the lofty milestone of the 90th anniversary.

While we’re hardly slaves to tradition—heck, “uncommon” is half of our brand name—we here at UncommonGoods thought it a worthy challenge to make our way through the traditional list of anniversary gifts by year and select some of our most uncommon offerings for each, all the way up to the big 5-0. First up: the first anniversary, customarily marked by the giving of gifts made of paper.

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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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Design

Designing a Force for Good: Behind the Scenes of Our Hope Shines Necklace

June 30, 2017

 

For 16 years, we here at UncommonGoods have demonstrated a commitment to supporting causes we care about through our Better to Give Program, an initiative that allows us to donate $1 from each purchase to a non-profit partner of your choice (and at no additional cost to you). Earlier this year, our Product Development team joined forces with one of our longest-standing Better to Give partners, RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to craft a unique item of jewelry to benefit their organization. The result—our Hope Shines Necklace—is an elegant emblem of what RAINN stands for, symbolizing hope, reflection, and triumph over darkness. But how did we arrive at this design?

 

 

The process was a long one—about four months—but our team began with a few ideas in mind. At first, they used text as a springboard, attempting to translate everything from statistics—like RAINN’s assertion that every 98 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted—to the number for the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline into wearable pieces of jewelry. Soon, however, they broadened their approach, exploring ways to highlight some of the more general themes associated with RAINN’s mission, like hope, forward motion, and the ongoing nature of one’s story.

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