Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Suzie Thomas

March 6, 2017

Suzie Thomas in her Santa Cruz, CA studio, photos by Emily Hodges

My favorite studio visits are the ones when I walk in and immediately feel at home–and that’s exactly how I felt when sea glass jewelry artist Suzie Thomas opened her doors and welcomed me into her Santa Cruz, CA studio.

Her oasis is, no doubt, ocean-inspired: air plants dangling from inside sea urchin shells that mimic the shape of jellyfish, bright blue abstract art work–painted by Suzie herself–on display, and whales peeking from the corners of her desk and swimming along her walls. Suzie features local artists’ work within her studio, including her son’s “Mom” rainbow, a charming masterpiece.

With Santa Cruz’s gorgeous sea coast and redwoods as Suzie’s backyard playground, it’s no surprise her home and studio space are very much aligned with nature. But it was a surprise for Suzie when she realized she could turn sea glass into jewelry and eventually grow jewelry creation into a full-time business. “At first it was just something I did alongside my full-time marketing job,” said Suzie. “But then the orders continued to grow substantially. I crunched the numbers one day and decided to take the plunge, quit my job, and launch my business full time. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Read Suzie’s interview below to find out how she initially discovered the concept for her sea glass jewelry line, what happened when she got swept up by a wave while hunting for sea glass, and why Albert Einstein keeps her motivated every day.


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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Meredith Gordon

March 3, 2017

Meredith Gordon Artist - UncommonGoods

Flowers and wine–what a dreamy combination. Meredith Gordon, a new maker to our assortment, has brought the two together in the form of her floral glassware, and we couldn’t be more excited. Growing up as a navy dependent, Meredith has seen all kinds of buds and blooms from different corners of the world, and she uses her natural talent for painting to give them new life through her stemless (well, sort of) glasses.

Floral Glasses - Set of 4 - UncommonGoods

Each of the products we offer has a story behind it, and we value those stories. We’re always eager to introduce you to our inspiring, independent makers as we welcome them to our uncommon family. Read on to meet Meredith and learn how being called “Arty” in school as a kid turned into a lifelong proclivity for creative pursuits.  

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Gift Guides

Sale into Spring with Our Favorite Wallet-Friendly Designs

February 28, 2017

Sale into Spring

The word on the street (and on our sale page) is that we currently have more than a hundred uncommon goods available for less than their original prices. Each of these items is unique and was brought into our assortment for being extra-special, but we’ve decided it’s time to play favorites. Why? Because with so much great stuff on sale, the choices can be a bit overwhelming. So, to help narrow down the selection, the blog team picked a pile of our most-loved goods from the sale list.

Under $10

Bull Terrier Socks - UncommonGoods

These super-cute socks are super worth five bucks. (And your “dogs” will look darling in them.)| Bull Terrier Socks | $4.99

Mini Stegosaurus 3D Model Kit - UncommonGoods

Stegosaurus went extinct about 145 million years ago, but its cardboard counterpart is still roaming our assortment…for now. | Mini Stegosaurus 3D Model Kit | $6.99

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The Uncommon Life

Dad Jokes & Dancing Spiders: An Uncommon Knowledge Roundup

February 22, 2017

Uncommon Knowledge Roundup

Common knowledge. You know, the sort of stuff you’re supposed to learn in the school of life—like don’t put your tongue on the flagpole in December. Uncommon knowledge, on the other hand, is a more elusive matter. It’s the kind of facts that might make you lose a little sleep wondering why, how, or even what the heck? Our designs often inspire such tantalizing trivia and these Uncommon Knowledge highlights illustrate those quirky connections. And to keep things extra-uncommon, we’ve added a fresh batch of bonus facts. With this uncommon knowledge in mind, any of these goods are conversation-starters.

 

How Romantic is the Animal Kingdom?

Snoozing sea otters holding hands, penguins proposing with pebbles, and puppies that believe in chivalry—the animal kingdom is full of aww-worthy stories. For humans, romantic inspiration can be as simple as a walk through snowy woods. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: Male peacock spiders really know how to bust a move in their efforts to woo females. Their courtship dances include fancy footwork, rapid vibrations, and a rainbow abdomen flap that they raise like a flag.

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Maker Stories

Spread the Word: A Conversation with Eliza Todd about Art, Language, and Life

February 20, 2017

For Eliza Todd, creating art is so much more than a career. “It’s a way of figuring out life,” the artist says. On a plot of conserved prairie, the Illinois maker creates her one-of-a-kind designs from calendars to dining ware. Most days, she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and works up to 14 hours, taking breaks for walks with her husband or to spend time with her two sons. “I’m still in the process of turning this into a life… For years I didn’t do art.” Twenty of them to be exact. She was in the computer industry, but when her younger son was born, Eliza stayed home and decided to go back to her artistic roots. “It’s a risk. Like anything when you try something new, putting myself out there was terrifying.” For her first project, she gathered blocks of wood and covered them with a thick resin that created a cool effect. Other people thought they were pretty cool, too, and so she took her works to some local Lake County shop owners who immediately fell for the designs as well. “It was scary,” she said, “but fortunately, worth it.”

Eliza Todd

The more Eliza practiced, the more her creativity wheels spun, and they’ve taken her from local painter to national glassware designer. It’s a love story that began, as many of them do, with words. “I started collecting these antiquated words,” she recalls. “Some of them are morbid or sick. Some are from the 1800s or 1600s. It was a dark time! But there’s a lot that are really interesting or funny or beautiful. I leaned toward the positive and collected them in a journal.” Then she thought, “I need to incorporate these into art!” The first word she really took to was efflorescence, a word she describes as “blooming, coming into your own.” Then came crapulous which, Eliza admits, still makes her giggle. The adjective means “tipsy,” which made her think, “This would be perfect on a glass.”

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The Uncommon Life

Supporting Survivors and Spreading Hope through RAINN

February 17, 2017

At UncommonGoods we strive to use our business as a force for good. One of the ways we do so is by giving to non-profit organizations that we care about through our Better to Give Program–which lets you chose a non-profit partner to receive a $1 donation (at no cost to you) each time you shop.

As the leader of our Sustainability Steering Committee, I am proud that our relationships with our Better to Give partners go beyond the monetary donations we make, by having elements that include volunteer outings, speaker sessions, and attending off-site special events hosted by our selected non-profits. While all of these areas are partially what makes it an absolute blast to work for UncommonGoods, what is most inspiring is hearing about when our team members take it upon themselves to support our Better to Give partners outside of our organization.

Tanya Castin, UncommonGoods Merchant Assistant and RAINN volunteer

Since October, our Merchant Assistant, Tanya Castin, has been devoting her nights and weekends to becoming a volunteer working with one of our Better to Give partners, RAINN.  Last month, Tanya completed her training and is officially an online hotline staffer for RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline. After her first night, Tanya and I caught a Nets game and stopped in at a local brewery to catch up on what made her decide to do this and what the experience is like.

A speaker session with RAINN’s Development Director Chelsea Bowers that we hosted back in August prompted Tanya to get involved. “Just hearing stories about our team members’ experiences with sexual assault and being aware of the statistics [related to sexual abuse] pushed me into taking action,” she explained. “Being an online hotline staffer was something that I didn’t know was an option, but when I found out about it through our guest speaker, I looked it up online and found that they had one slot open in a New York City-based training over a weekend, so I signed up.” Signing up was the first step toward a large undertaking. To be a hotline staff, RAINN’s requirements included an in person weekend training session (16 hours split between a Saturday and Sunday), followed by a robust online training program.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Rachel Kroh

February 16, 2017

Rachel Kroh - UncommonGoods

If you’re not sure if you’re the kind of person who was actually born to be an artist (or if you’re the kind of person who should pursue it as a career, anyway) visiting the French countryside is a great way to go and figure it out. Printmaker Rachel Kroh did it, and ended up becoming a full-fledged working artist, with a studio and a business of her own.

Rachel’s prints, which come to life with woodblock printing and the use of an Indigo press, are unique, comforting, and undoubtedly special. We love to learn the stories of artists who are new to our assortment, and to share those stories with our readers. Check out our interview with Rachel to hear more about her journey to self-employment, how art meets religion in her craft, and the one quote from a college professor that reminds her to keep going.

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Design

The Couch Bowl: Taking Comfort Food to the Next Level

February 15, 2017

A background in engineering helps product designer Thomas Both visualize forms in space and think critically when contemplating his prototypes. It also leads him to ask some important questions: What’s the geometry at work? How might I build this? What’s the negative of that shape? What would that connection look like?

Sure, those are things an engineer would definitely ask when building a complex machine, but how does that influence something as seemingly uncomplicated as snacking? Well, when you think about it, snacking isn’t always that simple. We’ve all been there: balancing an overflowing dish and squirming around trying to get the blanket just right, while simultaneously looking for a video to stream and hoping that you’re not about to start a cheese puff avalanche. (You know that if one puff rolls off Snack Mountain, many more are sure to follow.) In this case, figuring out how to simplify the process of holding a dish, getting comfortable, and delivering that oh-so-tasty food to your face is actually a design problem. A problem that Thomas solved with the Couch Bowl.

Thomas Both

“The point of view is that almost all dishware (particularly in Western society) is designed to be used sitting at a dining table, yet often we don’t eat at a dining table,” Thomas explained. “We stand at a cocktail party, or sit in the living room, or lean against the counter in the kitchen–but we are using the stuff made for table dining. So what if we could create dishware designed for eating without a table?”

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