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Art

Design, Maker Stories

Physics and Poetry Meet with the Beating Heart in a Bottle

January 17, 2017

Leave it to the French to make physics seem…romantic. Artist Philippe Bouveret truly marries science and poetry in our Beating Heart in a Bottle Sculpture: two halves of a heart joining together again and again in a rhythm much like the beating of our own hearts. Thanks to the power of capillary action, the piece is almost like a living work of art.

Never lacking in inventiveness and always eager to experiment, Philippe spent years (from the ages 13-18) building a real, 6m long boat. Eventually, after getting a technical degree, he traded his plans of becoming a naval architect for more artistic endeavors: assisting in the construction of Jean Tinguely’s Cyclops, an enormous moving sculpture tucked away deep in the forest, creating massive pendulums and fountains, and crafting “hidden tableaus that reveal unexpected objects simply by placing an aspirin tablet in a provided slot. Much of the work Philippe has created, either on his own or in collaboration with other artists, engages the viewer in a game of sorts. Now, you can find him continuing to follow his playful sensibilities, working in his “laboratory-studio,” as he calls it, “accidentally making little discoveries that arouse [his] curiosity.”

Acclaimed art collector and museum director Pontus Hultén describes Philippe’s work as containing “an intriguing element, like a happy secret, an awareness of something that leads on much further, towards infinity.” We’re pleased to share the happy secret of the Beating Heart in a Bottle with you–it’s one of our very first international products that’s exclusive in the USA to only our customers.

Another (not-so) happy secret? Few of us here speak French. And so communicating with Philippe necessitated a bit of extra je ne sais quoi. See? I don’t even think I used that right. Fortunately, Philippe’s son Grimaud stepped in to help with an interview and ensured that nothing got too lost in translation. (Merci beaucoup, Grimaud!) Read on to learn more about Philippe’s inspirations and obsessions, as well as what he hopes for everyone who receives a Beating Heart in a Bottle.

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Design

Melissa J. Gondek’s Family Sculptures: Celebratory Symbols of Love

January 9, 2017

Family photos have the power to evoke all kinds of complicated feelings: nostalgia, awkwardness, humor, love. They grace our holiday cards and fill up our (increasingly digital) photo albums. They capture small moments that can hold big meaning when we look back on them later on. These photos have their place in our family histories for sure–but what if we could display a representation of our love that’s more tangible, less fleeting? That gets at the essential feeling of being loved, rather than a specific moment in time?

That’s where sculptor Melissa J. Gondek comes in. She says of her work: “I’m sculpting love, and everyone needs more of that.” Our customers have already fallen for her sculptures that depict the bonds we have with our cats and dogs, and so we’re excited to have an exclusive “So Happy Together” family sculpture from Melissa–one that showcases the sweetness of the ties between parents and their children.

The customizable pieces communicate meaningful messages in a heartfelt, simple package. Parents sit with their kids (you choose one or two) cozied up on their laps in a sculpture that would be equally at home on an entryway table or a mantle, in a new baby’s nursery or close at hand on your desk. They aren’t exact replicas of your family, but instead represent its loving spirit–the essence of what keeps you all connected. The universality of the figures lets you decide what “So Happy Together” means to you–whether it’s warmth, or safety, or trust–or all of those good things wrapped up into one. 

We can’t wait to get these sentimental sculptures out to you and your families, but in the meantime, read on to hear from the artist herself about how she brings unique life to the ones we hold most dear through her work.

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Maker Stories

Tony Holman’s Problem-Solving Pottery

June 9, 2016
Tony Holman | UncommonGoods

Tony Holman working in his Plano, TX studio, photos by NéQuana Rollings

 

“Being a full time artist is never easy, but it’s certainly worth the hard work (and gray hairs),” says Tony Holman, a potter who makes practicality and purpose look good.

Tony began honing his pottery skills almost 40 years ago at Indiana University, fine tuned them soon after at Bloomington Pottery, and now runs his own studio in Plano, Texas. It’s here where he creates his line of handcrafted helpers that play a vital part in the well-appointed kitchen.

Statues in the Holman's yard

Tony created these statues in grad school. They now stand in the Holmans’ garden

His kitchen creations—an all-in-one fondue warmer and platter setself-draining utensil caddy, and omelet maker that turns out fluffy eggs in 45 seconds flat, to name a few—are an irresistible blend of form and function.

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

 

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Year of Creativity

January 8, 2016

Inside the Artists' Studios | UncommonGoods

One of the most exciting things about serving as Editor of The Goods is that there’s always a Maker Story right around the corner. I am honored to get opportunities to meet talented artists, to see what they make and how they make it, and– when I’m extra lucky– to actually step inside their creative spaces. Over the past year, I had the pleasure of visiting several artists and seeing them in action, as did a few of our blog contributors, photographers, and buyers.  

From woodworking to weaving to jewelry making and beyond, we saw so much creativity last year that we couldn’t help but give our 2015 Studio Tours one more chance to shine before heading out with cameras and notepads to capture more inspirational moments in the year to come. Here are a few hand-picked highlights from those Studio Tours, complete with a few inspirational quotes, photos that made me want to drop everything and start a new creative project on the spot, and plenty of great advice. 

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Can’t I Shoot My Favorite Painting?

December 6, 2015

Smartphone Spy Lens | UncommonGoods

Before the age of smartphones, most museums had a no-photo, not-even-without-flash, don’t-even-think-about-it policy. There were multiple reasons for shutting down shutterbugs: first, concern over copyright of artwork and nefarious reproduction; second, good security practice meant museums didn’t want would-be crooks conducting “research;” third, flashes degrade painting pigments and delicate works on paper over time; fourth—and maybe most surprising—looking through a viewfinder makes people clumsy. In other words, you’re more likely to back into a rare sculpture or fall into a priceless painting. Now that everyone has a sophisticated camera in their pocket, it’s a whole new ballgame, and museums are challenged to adapt. Many have embraced the crowd-sourcing potential of social media, letting people Instagram-away as a means of engagement and creative looking. Improved security systems have made casing the joint with a camera less of an issue, but distracted, selfie-stick wielding visitors remain a threat to collections. So, next time you say “cheese” in front of a Van Gogh or O’Keefe, just check the museum’s photo policy and take care. When you shoot artwork, don’t shoot to kill.

Smartphone Spy Lens | $20

Maker Stories

Poster Precursors: A Look at Tim Sanders’ Sketchbooks

October 26, 2015

Artist’s sketchbooks, notebooks, drawing pads–whatever term you prefer–have been objects of study, fascination, and even obsession for museum curators, art appreciators, collectors, and the like. Sketchbooks contain the process people often struggle and crave to understand about art: how an artist germinates ideas, eliminates the unattractive ones, and gradually evolves those ideas to their final form. The creative process is allusive and captivating, and I like to think of the sketchbook as treasure map to understanding that process.

 A Grand Treasury of Shakespearean Insults | UncommonGoods

Tim Sanders, who created A Grand Treasury of Shakespearean Insults and 1980s Slang Chart with his wife Aurelia, was kind enough to share some of his sketchbook pages with me on a recent visit to his studio in Seattle, WA. His sketchbooks were large, maybe 11×14, and made of that delightfully thick, creamy artist’s drawing paper. Tim’s sketchbooks were among the most organized I’ve ever laid eyes on. Instead of the John Cage-like scribbles and quickly jotted phrases that seem like a secret code only the creator would understand, many of the pages I peeked contained a grids of small squares. These squares represent poster ideas–hundreds of them.

Tim and Aurelia Sanders | UncommonGoods

One of my favorites appears prominently at the top left corner of the page and reads “Practice Bravery.” Cleverly, Tim has drawn out Bravery in a script of small hash marks, confined by guiding lines. This brings to mind memories of staring at the the poster guides for learning cursive that hung in my fourth-grade classroom, a memory made more poignant by the fact that we rarely use script in this digital age. Some of Tim’s ideas are a bit more sarcastic, especially when speaking to the workplace.

Tim's Sketches of Future Art Posters

Another favorite of mine reads “NOTICE: Work meetings crush the soul.” This warning resonates with most of us who work in an office, and putting it on a poster means that when we see it, we can all nod our collective heads in agreement that meetings can, in fact, crush the soul! As an art director and former playwright, Tim certainly has a knack for using his art to reflect the times and engage his viewers.

Tim Sanders' Sketchbook

To develop and push his ideation, Tim has a system for selecting the most worthy of his poster candidates to continue to the next level of development. Across the pages are clues of a cryptic system of black check marks, green hearts, and green dots, some of which are circled with blue pencil. Instead of asking Tim to hand over the key to his editing notations, I prefer they remain part of the mystical creative process. Tim’s sketches and notations are less like accurate GPS directions, and more like a treasure map illuminating milestones along his creative path from idea to final piece. Undoubtedly, there will be unexpected twists and turns to reach the poster.

Inside Tim's Studio

See the Collection - Tim and Aurelia Sanders | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Teri Stratford

October 19, 2015

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 Teri Stratford, the artist behind our vibrant new botanical prints, A Visual Poem, Twilight, and Firefly Festival Fireworks.

Teri Stratford

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I always knew I was an artist so there never was a “when.”

What’s been the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

The sheer joy of doing something that just makes me giggle with delight on a regular basis. Seeing people’s delightful reaction to my work and what miracle happens next!

IMG_2562

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I might research photos online for reference of animals such as horses, turtles, geese, cats, fish in different positions; underwater or mountain landscapes.  Go over orders to fill.  Do some printing to replenish my inventory.  Or, much more fun….go collect leaves in my yard or go for a walk with a backpack to fill up.  Or pull interesting leaves from my stash and play with arrangements on my illustration board and see what happens.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

I have a puja in my studio, a place for meditation.  The room vibrates with spiritual energy, the source of joy and creativity.  I am happy in this room!

IMG_2589

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

“Wow…. Mom!  Look at this?  Can I take this home?  This is really cool… ” (I actually had this happen with a 7 year old boy!)

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“I am the vibrational energy that creates WORLDS!!!  My creativity is endless….”

Firefly Festival Fireworks by Teri Stratford | UncommonGoods

See Teri's Collection | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

12 More Quotes that Keep Makers Motivated

August 14, 2015

A while back, we rounded up a series of inspirational quotes that we gathered along our adventures through artists’ studios. Those 8 Quotes that Keep Makers Motivated are enough to give most creative types a little get-up-and-go, but why stop there? We’ve since visited more studios, interviewed a ton of talented artists, and collected even more quotes that help keep our makers going strong.  Here are a few that we hope you’ll enjoy!

CassidyBrush

Considering that Cassidy Schulz Brush deals with lighting all day, it’s no surprise that she’s a fan of Edison. “There are a few quotes by Thomas Edison that I find inspirational,” she told us when we visited her Brooklyn studio. She wrote this quote out on her chalkboard wall and snapped a shot for us.

 

AnnaTalukder

We’re proud to feature a wide assortment of Ana Talukder’s Jewelry and our Jewelry Buyer, Sharon, was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out Ana’s studio in Seattle. Ana wrote out this mantra that reminds her, “You always have to be looking to be better, you always have to be working at being better, and you always have to put all your heart in it. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

BarryRosenthal

Photographer Barry Rosenthal happens to have a creative space in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the same building that UncommonGoods calls home! Of course, we couldn’t wait to work with him to develop new products, but we also couldn’t wait to check out his studio. Barry explained that this Burroughs quote makes him think about his own creative process: “I don’t know what I will find in the field, and I may not know what I will do with what I find, but somehow fully formed themes are sparked just by the simple act of ‘seeing’ what is out there.”

DaveMarcoullier

Dave Marcoullier’s San Francisco woodworking studio is in a building that’s also home to the studios of more than 250 other creators, or “mad scientists,” as Dave likes to say. His quote from architect Daniel H. Burnham reminds him that he got where he is today by thinking big. “It’s good to get riled up and make bold plans,” he said.

JenPleasants

Jewelry Designer Jen Pleasants not only imprints “She believed she could, so she did” on some of her designs, she also truly believes in the power of those words. She even has them proudly displayed in her Portola Valley, CA studio.

JoAnnStratakos

Our Tabletop Buyer, NéQuana, traveled to rural Pennsylvania to meet JoAnn Stratakos, the maker of everyone’s favorite rainbow unicorn, Elwood. One of JoAnn’s favorite quotes, which was inspired by a quote from Richard Bach, is a reminder to keep the good things that could be in mind, instead of thinking about what might be holding you back.

LahlaSmart

We were lucky to get a look inside Lahla Smart’s London studio when our contributor, Emily, visited England. Lahla said that this Walt Disney quote reminds her of her early days of a designer. She took a leap, created her Food Guide Towel, and the rest is history.

StuartGardiner

On the same trip, Emily had a chance to check out Stuart Gardiner’s studio. Stuart shared a quote by Saul Bass, not only because Bass is one of his favorite designers, but also because: “it’s quite a broad and vague statement which is similar to the way I go about my work. I have a very organic unstructured approach to design: the opposite of methodical.”

MatthewHoffman

Matthew Hoffman’s work is full of inspiring quotes and words of wisdom, so it was hard to pick just one statement from our recent interview with the Chicago-based artist. We figured that “Anything is possible” pretty much says it all.

PhilThompson

Also based in Chicago, Phil Thompson creates art inspired by architecture. He keeps this Winston Churchill quote on the bulletin board in front of his drawing board to keep him motivated.

SarahGarcia

Design Challenge Winner Sarah Janece Garcia sent us a painting of her favorite quote from Coco Chanel when we interviewed her about her winning painting, First Light

RondaJSmith

We carry quite a few of Ronda J Smith’s photographic pillows, so we loved seeing her favorite quote printed and plush! “This quote means anything and everything you want it to mean,” she said when we visited her Brooklyn studio. “Your thoughts and mindset are more powerful than you could ever imagine.”

We love getting these looks inside our artists’ creative processes, and can’t wait to share more interviews and Studio Tours with through our Maker Stories. Share your favorite quotes in the comments below to get in on the conversation. 

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