The Uncommon Life

The Road to Romance and a First Date on Ice: Our 2017 #UncommonDate Winners

February 14, 2017

Last Valentine’s Day, we asked you to tell us about your most uncommon date. We loved reading about all the disasters and happily ever afters so much we had to do it again. This time around, we received over 75 entries ranging from adorable to downright cringe-worthy.

After hours of deliberation, we managed to select two winners and three honorable mentions.

Grand prize winner number one, Eileen Field, shared a slightly illegal and very romantic blind date story with us via our blog:

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Recycling Books & Spreading Literacy, One Pin at a Time

February 13, 2017

You can never have too many books, right? Well, actually, you kinda can. With hundreds of thousands of new books published each year, and with many library shelves so overwhelmed that librarians are often forced to throw books away, even those of us who feel sentimental about the written word and the pages that hold them have to admit: we’ve got a problem.

So what to do with all of those outdated encyclopedias and forgotten math textbooks? Aren’t there any other options aside from trashing them? Recycling, of course, comes to mind. But the bindings of many books, especially hardcovers, contain adhesives that can’t be recycled. So the inside pages can go, but then what happens to the rest?

Enter Laura Bruland Shields. A long-time book-lover herself and an artist at heart, she’s taken on this wasteful problem and is making beautiful solutions every day – in the form of one-of-a-kind, laser cut accessories made directly from books that would otherwise be thrown away. On top of that, she takes a portion of the proceeds from her business and donates them to benefit literacy and girls’ education around the world.

When we learned about Laura’s story, we knew we had to feature her in our Uncommon Impact series – her values as a maker and ours as a certified B-Corp company are a perfect match. We love that she thinks ethically in the way she makes her products and uses her to success to benefit a cause she’s passionate about.

Read on to hear from Laura directly about her creative process, some of her favorite book-titles-turned-accessories, and how her business is helping to spread a love of reading worldwide.

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The Uncommon Life

A Force for Good: Why We’re Doubling Our Donation to the IRC

February 9, 2017

Jodi Hilton/IRC

As an independently owned business, we have the ability to support causes we believe in and to impact the world in a positive way–so each time you shop at UncommonGoods, we donate $1 to a non-profit partner of your choice through our Better to Give program. Although the donations are at no cost to you, your purchases have allowed us to donate more than $1 million to our partners since 2001.

Last summer, we were proud and honored to welcome the International Rescue Committee to the Better to Give program. Since June 2016, we’ve raised $57,000 (and counting!) for their mission to aid refugees and families afflicted by conflict around the globe. But there’s still work to do.

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The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Thomas Mascaro

February 9, 2017

Thomas Mascaro, Customer Service Supervisor

My hometown is…
Verona, PA (a suburb of Pittsburgh).

My favorite food of all time is…
Any kind of pasta, but it has to be made with my mother’s homemade sauce!

My favorite place to hang out in New York City is…
Fort Greene Park. It’s only a couple of blocks from my apartment and an amazing place to relax without a lot of noise or people. It’s also got a great view of Manhattan from the monument at the top of the park.

The best customer interaction I’ve had at UncommonGoods is…
A repeat customer from the past two holiday seasons. I helped pick out gifts for her grandchildren both times. This year she actually called back after Christmas to thank me and to let me know she’ll be calling for me again in November.

Since working at UncommonGoods I’ve learned…
What it’s like to be part of a team where everyone helps each other out no matter how busy it is.

I’m inspired by…
People who are willing to take risks and deal with the challenges they face in order to try and better themselves. I’m also inspired by people that help others and never expect anything in return.

An uncommon fact about me is…
That I played basketball for 2 weeks in 6th grade until my coach decided that even though I was really tall for my age I had no coordination. A fact that is embarrassingly still true today. I trip constantly walking down the sidewalk and up the stairs and am always walking into something.

Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Donna and Randall Rollins

February 6, 2017

Randall and Donna Rollins in their Brentwood, NH studio, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

Most of us have had those days when we feel stuck in a rut. You know, when you’re sitting at your desk under harsh florescent lights, or walking extra slowly into your office building, or completing the same seemingly unimportant task for the 500th time. For most of us, this feeling creeps in and we start fantasizing about dropping everything and going confidently in the direction of our dreams. While the feeling usually passes, and many weekday warriors just keep fighting that battle against monotony, Donna and Randall Rollins figured that if they had to pour out their time and energy, it was going to be into something they love. 

The couple met while they were both working in corporate America. First they fell in love with each other, and then Donna fell in love with pottery. Then they learned about the healing properties often associated with gemstones from a friend with a PhD in metaphysics, and everything came together: Donna and Randall left the corporate world to start their own clay studio. They slowly grew their business to include family members and employ local artisans, they discovered new ways to incorporate stones and minerals into their designs, and, aside from acknowledging that their business backgrounds gave them the know-how to turn their passion into a career, they don’t do a lot of looking back. 

“We actively made the decision thinking, ‘If we tank, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll still have each other,'” Randall told me on my recent visit to the couple’s Brentwood, NH studio. “We took that risk and we were willing to lose it all.”  

As you’re about to see in the photos and interview below, Donna and Randall didn’t lose it all, and they’re still hard at work making beautiful pottery and sharing their passion for stones and clay whenever they can. In fact, when our Tabletop Buyer NéQuana and I arrived to the studio over two hours late, thanks to a flat tire, the Rollinses weren’t even fazed. Their team had left for the night, and evidence of a long workday (so many pieces, in all stages of completion!) was all around. Still, they welcomed us like old friends, offered us snacks, and almost immediately started showing us their collections of stones and telling us about the energy in the space.  

Healing Stone Mugs, before the stones are attached

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The Uncommon Life

Valentine’s Day Contest: Share Your Most #UncommonDate!

February 6, 2017

#UncommonDate | Valentine's Day Contest | UncommonGoods

Last Valentine’s Day, we challenged you to share anecdotes from your most uncommon dates. We expected to hear about dinners that turned into happily every after, and bizarre blind dates that didn’t leave you in love at first sight, but we had no idea we would receive so many great entries! After choosing two winners, one experience that we wished we could replicate and one we’d rather not, we learned that every courtship has an interesting story.

Whether you’re swiping through the world of online dating, or you and your special someone are years past your “silver anniversary,” we want to hear your stories.

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Gift Guides

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts for Procrastinating Cupids

February 3, 2017

Consider this a friendly reminder: Valentine’s Day is coming soon! How does it manage to sneak up on us so quickly every year? Don’t fret – you do not (I repeat, DO NOT) need to resort to nondescript stuffed animals and chocolate samplers from the drugstore this time. Though the 14th is creeping closer on the calendar, it’s not too late to get something extra special for your special someone. Take a look through our handpicked selection of gifts here. We bet they’ll inspire you to quit your procrastinating and pick up something your valentine is sure to <3.

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The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Wen Huang

February 1, 2017

Wen Huang, UncommonGoods Systems Administrator 

My hometown is…
Brooklyn, NY— I moved here at the age of 4 and never looked back!

I’m inspired by…
Good food! I love to eat and food has inspired me not only to cook, but to travel. I plan trips based on the meals that I can have while away. One of my favorite experiences was traveling to Hong Kong, I was able to try so many different types of food.

An uncommon fact about me….
I’m a BBQ Pit Master in training— Well, it is more of a hobby right now, but I’m working toward perfecting my smoked ribs.

The word or phrase that best describes me…
Adventurous and hungry.

If I won the lottery, I’d…
Buy myself a little island.

Something that always calms me is…
Watching cartoons with my baby girl—Peppa Pig is my de facto favorite (I have no choice). Whatever she wants to watch, we’re watching.

If I could travel back in time, I’d…
Try to have a bigger impact on making the world a better place.

Would you rather… be a famous chef, or a famous sports star?
Definitely famous chef.

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