The Earth Mama is a special lady. She’s in touch with her surroundings. She’s down with nature–whether it’s the wind, grass, and trees encapsulating her country hideaway, or the energy of the bustling city streets and other people, all sharing the planet and working with one another. She’s been called a hippie, a new ager, a granola girl, and a bohemian. But she doesn’t mind, because she dances to the beat of her own music and knows that her tune is just one song on the universe’s eternal playlist. So what do you gift someone with such deep love for the sublunary world? One of the organic, handmade, responsibly-created goods on this list could be the perfect uncommon gift for an unconventional gal.
When they look at each other, they still get butterflies. And when you look at them, you know they’re in it for the long haul. You catch them holding hands and stealing kisses. They finish each other’s sentences. You couldn’t be happier for them, and you can’t imagine either of them with anyone else. So, how do you tell the perfect couple you’re happy they found one another? With the perfect gift. Here are a few that those love birds are sure to love.
Positivity is contagious. Sharing a kind word, a thank you note, or even a smile can start a chain reaction. With this in mind, Amy Humes created her Positive Message Graphics, reusable stickers that let you spread happiness, inspiration, peace, and the power within. We love Amy’s idea so much, we decided to take her message to the web. Feel free to pin, tweet, like, and share these encouraging buttons as reminders that optimism really can go viral.
These Reusable Positive Message Graphics are available as a set of 4 large canvas stickers, so you can place them anywhere where you or a loved one may look when in need of words of encouragement.
There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)
Our new Royal Panda and Polar Bear cases aren’t just cute and practical. Yes, they feature original art by Kelly Vivanco. Yes, they’re made of brushed stainless steel, so they help protect your “smart” credit card data. And, yes, they are the latest design from Karyn Cantor, head designer and owner of Classic Hardware. But, they’re also helping to support Born Free USA’s mission to keep wildlife in the wild.
As part of the Endangered Creatures Collection, a portion of the proceeds from the Panda and Polar Bear Cases goes to Born Free USA. According to Karyn, who founded Classic Hardware in 1995, the Born Free/Classic Hardware collaboration started with a connection through an artist.
Karyn explained: “They actually found us through one of the artists we work with, Caia Koopman. We have contributed to some of their auctions over the years and they are connected with the pop surrealist/lowbrow style art we love! I was talking with another artist about adding Endangered Creatures to the Classic Hardware collection; I knew I wanted to give a percentage of the profit to an organization that helps wildlife. I did some further research and decided they were the best match for our company on many levels. They have a great mission and they understand the modern art style and I think their donors will, too.”
Karyn then reached out to some of the artists she often collaborates with. The artist behind the Royal Panda and Polar Bear, Kelly Vivanco, was a natural choice.
“I wanted to leave it up to the artists what they wanted to draw, but I did send them all the Endangered Species official list, which is huge,” Karyn said. “With Kelly I was encouraging about adding the crowns. She often paints animals that have a lot of personality and sport cute hats, so this fell into place nicely.These animals are royal and regal and deserve a crown and caring!”
Caring for those animals that need it most is what Born Free USA is all about. “Our mission is to end the suffering of wild animals in captivity, rescue individual animals in need, protect wildlife — including highly endangered species — in their natural habitats, and encourage compassionate conservation globally,” said said Sharie Lesniak, Creative Director at Born Free USA. “We work to ‘Keep Wildlife in the Wild.'”
One way the organization helps animals is through the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. According to Sharie, the sanctuary is “home to more than 600 primates, many of whom were rescued from abusive situations in laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. We provide a life in as natural an environment as is possible, with minimal human interference, on almost 200 acres. ”
“This kind of partnership helps contribute to the funds we need to continue doing our work to save the lives of wild animals,” Sharie said. “It helps us reach people outside of our current circle of friends and engage new supporters beyond the initial purchase with information about our organization and what they can do to help wildlife. It also provides Born Free USA with an opportunity to give current members new and different ways to support the organization.”
Sharie also explained that the this collaboration helps the organization reach a new demographic, who might not be familiar with the cause. “With the Endangered Creatures Collection, we are also able to take the unique images of endangered animals out of the galleries and into the world,” she said.”So not just the people who buy the items can be inspired, but also people who see [the Wallet Case and Business Card Case]. They can be moved to ask about the species, the artist, and the two organizations behind it: Born Free USA and Classic Hardware.”
Since the cases are compact, stylish, and can be used for a variety of small personal items, it isn’t hard to imagine taking them on the go.
Karyn said she actually uses both the Wallet Case and the Business Card Case in often in her own life. “I have a large wallet in my bag, but when I go out at night or even out for a walk or bike ride, I will take my ID and some cash and a credit card and use the Card Case or Wallet Case as my wallet,” she said. “I also keep a Card Case in my bag that keeps my business cards nice and neat. I will also use it to hold other people’s business cards that I collect. There has been some concern about identity theft via new “smart” credit cards in your regular wallet. It has been advised to use a stainless steel wallet to protect against this. I’m glad that these cases are stainless steel and it’s a great to play it safe with all the new technology constantly changing, plus they look so cool and we are donating to a great cause!”
Once upon a time our buyers discovered a collection of whimsical children’s accessories from Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The short version is that we fell head over heels in love with these handmade upcycled fabric pieces and lived happily ever after. Of course, as in every fairy tale, there’s a little more to the story. So without further ado, the first chapter of our Storybook Collection, The Three Little Pigs.
But story time isn’t over just yet. The tale continues in chapter two: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Bethany Shorb may be the founder, CEO, and principal designer at Cyberoptix TieLab, the fashion-forward brand that’s sold ties to all 7 continents (yes, even Antartica!), but despite her role as the woman in charge, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Bethany still creates every single tie herself.
“To date, I’ve hand-screenprinted over 100,000 neckties, all by hand, with no automation, machines or even a press! I have to admit having quite a buff right arm to show for it,” she told us.
That’s an awful lot of ties since she launched her company in 2006, so how does she do it? She takes inspiration from everything around her, draws on her background in fine art, and has a little help from some, as she says, “studio bees,” who assist with shipping, customer service, website update, and keeping an ample supply of take out coming into the studio during busy times.
This busy studio, a buzzing center producing artistic fashions admired all over the world, isn’t located in New York, Paris, or Milan. After receiving a BFA in sculpture, with a concurrent concentration in photography from Boston University (in the city where she was born) Bethany made the Motor City, Detroit, her home.
“I’ve been based in Detroit for thirteen years now,” she said. “I chose to move here to go to graduate school [receiving a MFA in sculpture, also with a concurrent concentration in photography, from Cranbrook Academy of Art ] and also chose to stay immediately after finishing. I realized there was vast opportunity here that diverged from the traditional New York gallery or art educator path. With the low overhead that basing a studio practice in Detroit affords, it also in turn enables one to take financial and aesthetic risks that one would not be able to take were money tight, student loans looming, distractions abound and space cramped. With access to a large amount of space, I was fortunate to be able to ramp up my production scale as soon as there was demand and in turn grow my business very quickly.”
Bethany believes that customers are “tiring of disposable culture,” and finds that “increasingly people want to buy into a story, not just a product. They want to buy from real people making real things with real histories…” and Detroit doesn’t fall short when it comes to real people producing these memorable goods.
“Detroit’s makers provide that accessible story while also providing a product that fits the client’s needs,” Bethany explained. “Along with a great sense of community, Detroit is a wonderful home-base to make things.”
Perhaps Bethany’s love for Detroit will shine throughout her upcoming solo show at Metro-Detroit’s 323 East Gallery, which opens this October and uses reclaimed materials from the commodity that made Detroit famous. “Recently I’ve been exploring a series of screenprinted work on metal, paired with reclaimed automotive emblem text; and a series of sculptural pieces made from deployed airbag fabric,” she said.
Of course, the thriving art community in Bethany’s city isn’t her only source of inspiration. Her design ideas come from everything from current trends to the desire to reboot antiquated styles by giving them a modern flair.
She described a few places where she finds those sparks for new designs: “While I can still sometimes get caught up with the immediacy of pop culture (running an internet-business means I’m plugged in, non-stop), I like to look toward objects and ideas not made in the last five minutes, including natural history, medical ephemera, and Victorian botanical drawings and architectural renderings. Some of my favorite days are spent in dusty museum cabinets of curiosities or looking back at retro-future projections of what people thought it may look like in a hyper-stylized year 2000.”
Once Bethany has a firm image of the design in her head, she doesn’t spend a great deal of time “ruminating on other versions.” Always thinking about how the vertical shape of the tie influences each pattern, she begins manipulating photos from her own camera or digitally assembling the pieces that will eventually be the basis for a unique illustration.
“Once I think it’s about done, I’m pretty old-school about printing it out on tabloid-sized paper and just holding up the finished design over a few different necktie sizes on a lightbox and then burning it right to screen once it’s the correct size, ” she said. “I’m not a fan of rulers.”
Her aversion to rulers certainly hasn’t stunted the quality of her work, and we’re thrilled to offer several Bethany’s latest creations. When asked which of these designs is her personal favorite, she was a little indecisive, but answered with two options that happen to be on our favorites list as well.
“I’m definitely guilty of being seduced by the new, so probably my most recent design, [the Bike Chain Tie] is my current favorite,” said Bethany. “I’m also particularly drawn to the more pattern-based designs, ones that look like a traditional necktie motif, but have a little something extra hidden within the pattern that you might not realize is there until up close to the wearer. The Beer design is a near second – ties proclaiming one’s affinity for the tasty beverage are not always the most elegant, so I enjoy being able to put a different spin on the often less-than-classy beer tie.”
Finally, after giving us a look into her creative and technical process and providing a little prompt to those who aren’t quite sure which stylish tie to purchase first, Bethany also left us with a bit of advice on seeking an education in art and aspiring to build a business in art, design, or even another seemingly unrelated field.
“I like to think that my schooling in art taught me how to design and see in a holistic manner, rather than the simple mastery of a particular craft, technique or tool,” she said. “I firmly believe a quality art education can be applied to any discipline.” She went on to explain, “I’m completely self-taught in screen printing aside from one messy afternoon session on my friend’s kitchen table.” Evidence that learning the basics, and keeping an open mind when looking at the big picture, can go a long way.
Our friends at Green 3, Jim and Sandy Martin, have helped us add some fantastic uncommon goods to our assortment. From adorable babywear like the gnome babysuit and hat and matching blanket, to the perfect-for-a-breezy-spring-day reclaimed t-shirt scarves, to the summer-friendly update on the popular recycled sweater skirt, the recycled bridesmaid dress skirt, the Martins know eco-friendly fashion.
Jim works closely with our product development team to create unique clothing and accessories exclusive to UncommonGoods, like the bridesmaid dress skirt and the comfy, casual recycled dress shirt robe. We love that these products come from recycled materials, and many are even created with the help of organizations working with disabled adults.
“My wife Sandy started the company,” he told us. “She grew up on a farm in Michigan and saw firsthand the negative implications on the farmer’s health when they are exposed to chemical pesticides on a daily basis. She felt strongly that her company would focus on sustainable fibers that caused the least damage possible to the environment.”
Causing less damage to the environment means using organic cotton, like that in Green 3’s babysuits, and reusing materials when possible.
Sometimes those materials, like the sweaters used to make recycled sweater scarves, come from thrift stores. Others are leftovers from apparel manufacturers. “We actually look at what types of fabrics are available to us, and then design into the fabric,” Jim explained. “Certain fabrics lend themselves to specific applications and steer us into new product categories.”
Once the fabric is in hand each piece is inspected individually to insure it meets aesthetic and quality standards. Thrift store items are washed before being deconstructed and prepared for cutting and sewing, so even though the garment created may be made from secondhand materials, it’s as good as new.
The processes of selecting, inspecting, and preparing fabrics and creating the final products are all done in the United States. “Sandy and I had both been in the corporate apparel industry for over 20 years. During that time we watched a steady flow of jobs going overseas,” said Jim. “We just felt strongly that we could do it here and bring a few jobs back. What we’re finding is that we’re not the only ones that feel this way. More and more like minded companies are partnering, and quickly it is becoming more than just a few jobs. In our community alone we employ 20 people. But our network of partners employs thousands.”
One partner helping Green three create handmade upcycled products for uncommon goods is Aspiro, a non-profit organization offering job training and career options to cognitively disabled adults in Green Bay, Wisc. “We contacted Aspiro after learning of them through a news report,” Jim said. “Their facility has been doing cut and sew work for years and they have a highly skilled labor force. When we toured the facility and saw the pride and passion of the workers, and how this opportunity for independence positively impacted their lives, we knew wanted to support the initiative any way we could.”
By partnering with Green 3 and other apparel manufactures, the skilled sewers at Aspiro earn fair wages and are given opportunities for independent living.
Thanks to these dedicated workers, secondhand and leftover fabrics, and the imaginations of Jim, Sandy, and the talented designers at Green 3, we’re always seeing updated products and trendy upcycled fashions. Which Green 3 design do you love most?