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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Anne Johnson and Arra David

January 10, 2017

Anne Johnson and Arra David outside of the Sea Stones Studio in Windham, NH, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

Canopies of colorful leaves. Air so fresh it actually feels different when you breathe it in. Wide open spaces and dewy blades of grass. These are things I don’t get to enjoy all that often in Brooklyn, but New Hampshire is another story. I experienced the natural beauty of “The Granite State” firsthand last fall, when I also got a full tour of Arra David and Anne Johnson’s bustling studio.

The state’s nickname is certainly fitting, given the extensive quarries in New Hampshire. It’s also fitting that Anne and Arra make their designs there, considering that their one-of-a-kind creations are made with wood, natural stones, metal, and–you guessed it–granite.

Curious about just how the designers are able to turn solid rock into functional home designs, our Tabletop Buyer NéQuana and I made the five-hour road trip from Brooklyn to Windham, NH to get an inside look.

Anne and Arra welcomed us in, offered us some of the homemade hard cider mentioned below, walked us through the studio and workshop, and let us take some tools for a test drive. With Arra’s guidance, NéQuana even built her own Sea Stone Splash Sponge Holder!

Arra, an engineer, talked to us about designing special tools to tackle heavy-duty work. He also shared thoughts on taking hold of inspiration when it “ambushes,” advice on the importance of collaboration, and a perfectly pertinent Thoreau quote.

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Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Look Back at Our 2016 Studio Tours

December 30, 2016

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been running our Studio Tours series for almost 5 years. Maybe that’s because every time I step into a another studio, I feel like I’m entering a whole new world. Over the years I’ve visited jewelry makers, potters, woodworkers, and even an industrial kitchen. And that’s just to name a few. Every time I leave an artist’s space, I feel creatively refreshed and ready to get making myself.

In 2016, I actually did get in some hands-on experience, when Jim Loewer gave our team a tour of his Philadelphia glass-working studio and let me use the torch to make own pendant. It was was definitely as much fun as you’d expect playing with fire and molten glass to be, and I now have a memento from the visit. Other adventures this year included checking out a sustainable studio made from reclaimed shipping containers, one contributor’s trip to London to meet world-renowned jewelry designer Alex Monroe, a look inside our own Product Development team’s creative space, and more. It wasn’t easy to pick just a few highlights from each Studio Tour to show you, but here are some moments that I hope spark your interest and maybe even put you in the mood to get creative too.

Laurel Begley

Laurel Begley | UncommonGoodsCreating the Faux Bois Vase | UncommonGoods

Laurel Begley’s Personalized Faux Bois Vase includes a symbol of lasting love, so it’s no surprise that she told us about some of the symbols of love an nurturing in her own life as she gave us a virtual tour of her Santa Rosa, CA studio. She also shared some great advice: “Don’t try to be anything you’re not. Do your best work, put it out there, and everything else will fall into place.” | Visit Laurel’s Studio

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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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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Do You Draw Inspiration?

August 29, 2016

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For decades, a light bulb floating over someone’s head has been cartoon shorthand for “eureka!” Often accompanied by a wide-eyed expression and a raised index finger, the avatar of sudden inspiration is an incandescent bulb, lit by the power of a new idea. The light bulb-as-brilliant thought has made its way into countless logos for innovative and educational products and organizations, solidifying the symbol in cultural iconography. But why a light bulb? Why not a flower to represent a blossoming idea or a graduate’s cap to show a spark of intelligence? The general symbol of a light over one’s head may have distant roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions of depicting enlightened figures like angels and saints with brilliant haloes around their heads. For that matter, the dual meaning of “brilliant” points to a natural association between “light-emitting” and “smart.” Historically, images of iconic inventor Thomas Edison (though he perfected the electric light bulb rather than inventing it) holding a light bulb may have encouraged the association between ingenuity and illumination. But the true originator of the “light bulb moment” may be silent-era cartoon star Felix the Cat. Because Felix couldn’t speak (and what cat can?), he often expressed himself with various punctuation and symbols appearing in thought bubbles over his head to supplement his gestures and expressions. Felix’s animators used a light bulb to indicate that the wily feline felt a spark of inspiration.

Nightbulb | $59

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Indoor Grilling Made Easy with the Flipside Stovetop Grill

June 28, 2016

Louise Gift Lab

 

Product:

Flipside Stovetop Grill

Research:

As the Inventory Planner for our Tabletop category, I am usually one of the first to get a sneak peek at the new items being added to our assortment of kitchen and cooking tools. When NéQuana, our tabletop buyer, showed me the Flipside Stovetop Grill, she thankfully noticed when my eyes lit up and offered to let me take it for a spin.
I’m a lifelong New Yorker, which means not only do I not currently have my own outdoor space, I have never had my own outdoor space. I dream of one day having a space to grill outside, but given that that time is still in the future (and that even when it happens, there will still be winters), a grill pan has been on my kitchen wish list for a while. I was particularly drawn to the Flipside Stovetop Grill because it is wide enough to cover two burners, and being able to cook in larger batches is always appealing to me – doing multiple rounds in the same pan is a pain, messy, and the first batch gets cold while subsequent batches are being cooked. When it was pointed out to me that the “Flipside” of the grill pan acts as a griddle, I was sold. It came home with me that very night.

Hypothesis:

MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

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Maker Stories

Andrea Panico: 3D Printing and Reinventing the I.D. Necklace

June 24, 2016

Puppy wheelchairs, prosthetics, and pizza in space. What do these things have in common? They’ve all been 3D printed. Once the stuff of science fiction (think the replicators of Star Trek’s Enterprise), 3D printing is rapidly becoming familiar technology for artists, inventors, and industrial designers. Although 3D printing is associated with creating a wide variety of things, it’s not necessarily associated with making beautiful things. One artist who’s working on changing that is Andrea Panico, maker of our Common Edge 3D Printed Initial Necklace.

Panico Common Edge 2

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Maker Stories

Inside the Maker’s Studio with Splyt Light designer Jason Krugman

May 13, 2016
Splyt Light Designer Jason Krugman

Splyt Light Designer Jason Krugman in his Brooklyn studio, photos by Rachel Orlow

There’s an exciting energy that runs through Jason Krugman’s workspace in the New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The open, industrial space fosters cross-pollination of ideas in an environment where science, technology, invention, and art meet. Nearby, an experimental collaborative of architects works on design and material concepts that seem drawn from science fiction—from mushroom bricks to human shelters made from cricket colonies. In the midst of this fantastic innovation, Jason and his partner, Scott Leinweber, created the Splyt Light, an innovative new lighting design that lets consumers build their own unique fixture from a kit of modular parts. We visited Jason’s light-filled space for a look at where Splyt was born, and a conversation about his work sculpting with light and finding ways to share that exhilarating experience with others. Continue Reading…

Maker Resources

4 Tips for Responsible Materials and Supplier Sourcing

May 10, 2016

How to Take the Leap from Maker To Business Owner

As the Senior Production Manager here at UncommonGoods, my job is to oversee the connection of design ideas with manufacturing resources to create new products.

Thomas Edison claimed that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. From my experience, product development warrants a formula of its own. To carry an idea through to a finished product you should start with a spark of inspiration, then add in equal parts diligence and thoughtfulness, especially when it comes to sourcing.

I’ve pulled together the following considerations for responsible material and supplier sourcing inspired by my experience partnering with our makers on new product development. I hope these thoughts will help other small business owners navigate the rough waters of sourcing.

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