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Maker Stories

Meirav is Crowned the Art Contest Winner

September 12, 2013


Our Art Contests are my favorite design challenges to orchestrate because they attract the biggest range of diverse talent. Art gives each individual artist a chance to not illustrate their personality or thoughts with words, but also with brush strokes, color combinations, and image creation. With Meirav Gebler’s “Human Landscape: A Disappearing People,” it was more than just strokes, color, and image that spoke out to me. I connected with “A Disappearing People” beyond the painting itself, a message that left me in a bittersweet state; it opened up wounds that I didn’t even think existed anymore.  Maybe it’s not exactly what Meirav intended her art to do, but I do believe artists create work based on their personal ideas and emotions, knowing that their audience might capture something a little bit differently.  

Meirav is a young, spiritual artist who is based in Brooklyn and who has recently graduated from art and design school. She’s traveled to India and Israel and quickly fell into inspiration through “the colors and patterns, the smells of the streets, the market places, the people, and the food.” Her creative use of watercolors and gunpowder are the core of her masterpieces. At first glance it’s playful with your eyes, but the  dripping silhouettes stand behind a stronger idea that Meirav not only wanted to explore on her own, but share with you.

Meet Meirav Gebler, our latest Art Contest Winner. 

Q1. travel- india

After you graduated from Art & Design school, you spent half a year traveling. Can you tell us about that experience and how it’s affected you as an artist? 

Traveling was a wonderful adventure. I was in India for five weeks with my best friend and then spent a couple of months in Israel. India is such an amazing place. Everyday was an insane, crazy experience! Everything is so vibrant and stimulating—the colors and patterns,  the smells of the streets, the market places, the people, and the food! I brought travel paints and a sketchbook with me but since we were constantly on the move I found myself snapping more photos than sketching.

After India, I went to Israel for a couple of months to farm and spend time with friends—a huge contrast from the hustle of India. I did a drawing a day, which is a big deal for me since I am awful about keeping a sketchbook. I realized during these months how necessary it was to take the time to breathe, reflect and understand where I wanted my life to go post the college bubble.

 You’re currently setting up a studio in Brooklyn. Can you describe it?

I move into the Brooklyn space next week, so I’m still in the process of packing up my old studio (a makeshift studio in a corner of my parents’ house). I’m super psyched to have my own space for art again. So, as of now, the new space looks like an empty box, but soon enough it will be filled with my paints and everything else I’ve collected along the way for potential projects. I always have to have breathable space. I feel blocked when things start to pile up and become cluttered so I need to maintain a sense of open space. And I always have one of those fancy dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s lying around.

Q2b old studio

What inspired your Human Landscape series?

The series started as an exploration into an idea I’ve been grappling with over the past couple of years: how do we as physical beings, existing in a physical world elevate ourselves to a level of spiritual beings. I felt that the idea of a human landscape illustrated both an intimate personal context of the individual’s search yet illustrates the need to connect within the context of a larger universe as well. I find that coming to terms with my spirituality in such a materialistic physical world is an ongoing struggle, so this series is simply the beginning of that exploration.

a dissappearing people 

What materials do you use daily?

Watercolors, gunpowder, and my pens for illustration works.  Depending on the painting, I switch off between painting with paintbrushes or eye-droppers like the Dr. Ph Martin watercolors. Dr. Ph Martin’s are awesome because they’re super saturated, and I love the way they react to the gunpowder.  I mix the gunpowder with water to make it into a liquid-ey substance for painting. When I’m lacking inspiration I’ll burn the gunpowder and fuse it onto paper. It’s like an instant pick-me-up and the results are beautiful. (But really don’t go trying that at home!)

Q3 materials

 What is one of your favorite inspirational quotes?

“You open your hands and satisfy the needs of all living beings.” Psalm 145:16.  This quote grounds me, reminding me that ultimately things always have a way of working out.

Q5 quote

 Which artist gives you that motivational push that you need whenever you look at their work?

Cai Guo-Qiang’s fire drawings make me pretty giddy. To stand in front of them is pretty awe-inspiring (his works are huge!). But it’s not every day you can do that, so I find motivation just by visiting galleries or even artists’ tables at flea markets because it reminds me that artists are out there working it and I want to be one too.

Q3 materials

You say that you “paint to breathe.” Can you go into detail of what that exactly means to you?

There was a point a few years ago that I hit a creativity dead zone; I felt everything I was making was just awful, like I forgot how to draw. It was pretty bad that I felt like I forgot how to breathe. I was blocked because I thought each artwork needed to be a precious masterpiece (which they were far from!) so my art became stiff.  Soon after, I started working with gunpowder and fire, which reminded me that art is messy and unpredictable and that’s what makes it alive. I realized that to make art I needed to just go for it. Make something, anything and learn from my explorations and sometimes you get something worth saving. So I paint to breathe because painting is a constant reminder for why I live. Art inspires me to wake up every morning ready for whatever future explorations await me.

more mountains

Being an artist means living in a constant roller coaster of ups and downs, can you describe a moment when you were on cloud nine and then the next day experiencing the lowest low? (Or vice versa?)

I have a pretty laid-back attitude so I’m generally not one to experience extreme highs and lows, but it’s been a pretty crazy year. I spent half of it across the world living out of a little red suitcase, then spent my summer bopping all over the states and now I’m finally moving to Brooklyn. I’d say last week was pretty close to cloud nine when I found out I won the contest, found an apartment and a studio and a job all in one week—yea that was pretty crazy! But of course I still have the uncertainty that follows in all of these new changes, like making it as an artist.

painting- mountains

 How do you deal with life’s discouragements or negative vibes?

I try and avoid them! But seriously, when discouraging things happen I think it comes down to making the decision if you want to wallow in the negativity or find a way out of it. It’s about surrounding yourself with positive energy and thankfully I have an amazing support system of friends and family who are always there for the extra push.

Are you pursuing any special projects or joining any events?

Right now I’m just focusing on getting back into my large scale paintings and experimenting with new works.

forest fire

What’s one piece of advice you have for artists who would like to have their designs make it through to UncommonGoods’ design challenge semi-finals?

Just go for it. Trust your art, and the support of your friends and family will follow because they want to see you succeed. It also doesn’t hurt to blast every social media outlet available either!

studio_ materials

Why would you say your work differs from all the rest?

Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. My experience making art is still so young and I wouldn’t want to claim some aesthetic skill or perspective that’s totally groundbreaking.   But I think as individuals we all come along with our own unique set of life experiences and context and perspectives.  As an artist, I’m able to channel that perspective into visual experiences that communicate some aspect of who I am and where I come from.  My art is different because each work is an attempt to be honest about some reflection or observation that is ultimately my own.

colorful souls


Pinterest Art Contest: Exhibit It to Win $100

September 10, 2013


Not to toot our own horn, but we know we carry a pretty great collection of art by a pool of talented artists. And we want to keep building our art collections and promote independent artists as much as possible. From watercolors to pencil sketches to oil paintings, we are always in the hunt for new, vibrant, and creative designs.

Help us discover our next artist to join the UncommonGoods family by simply pinning your favorite artwork into our Pinterest Art Contest. You could win $100 to UncommonGoods and be the very reason why our next artist discovery signs a vendor contract with us!

Here are some of our favorite pins so far.

Mango Seed


Christina Rowe | Pinned by Happy Go Licky


Dalton M. Ghetti

Dalton M. Ghetti | Pinned by Nicole Hague 

Julene Wert

Julene Ewert | Pinned by Julene Ewert

su blackwell (2)

Su Blackwell | Pinned by Nicole Hague 



Chalermphol Haranchakkham of Huebuket| Pinned by Pinned by Happy Go Licky

Rebecca Green

Rebecca Green | Pinned by Jess McDonough

Rebecca Seale


Rebekka Seale |  Pinned by Jess McDonough

Click here to start pinning your favorite art and a chance to win a $100 gift card!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Knight

September 3, 2013

UncommonGoods Artist Jeff Knight

The moment I saw Jeff Knight’s Nimbus Cloud Serving Board in our Woodworking Design Challenge I started rooting for it. I love the combination of sturdy, yet beautiful, hard maple and the whimsical cloud shape of the board–and the little raindrop serving trays are the perfect finishing touch to make this simultaneously playful and functional piece truly uncommon. When I found out that Jeff is from my hometown, I crossed my fingers a little harder, even though I was pretty confident our voting community would make sure the design made it to the final round. In the end, our community and our judges agreed with me that this wooden work of art was perfect for our assortment.

Since I happened to be planning a trip back home to Fargo, North Dakota, I HAD to jump on the opportunity to see where this winning design was born. Upon my arrival Jeff, in true Midwestern fashion, graciously welcomed me into his wood shop, offered up coffee, and gave me a tour of a beautifully sawdusty space called DIY Wood Studio, a shared woodworking environment filled will tools of all sizes, projects in the works, and a lot of inspiration.

Clamp | UncommonGoodsblade2What are your most essential tools?
A trued table saw, wood glue and pipe clamps…lots of pipe clamps!

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Inspiration strikes from the social atmosphere of the space. You never know when someone else has a suggestion or way of doing something that will inspire you to try another approach. By being around others in the studio, it adds an energy that isn’t there when you’re alone. While solitary time is sometimes necessary, I like being around others who are having fun and working through unique projects of their own.

DIY Studio | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
My down time is the time I spend at the studio. I work all day (and sometimes all night) as a graphic designer, so when I need to relax and collect my thoughts, I’ll head to the studio and work through a project that is more hands-on and visceral.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I make lists. I keep ongoing lists for short and long term goals that I usually have with me all the time. I always carry a Field Notes booklet to write things down or sketch out ideas.

DIY Wood StudiosmilesawWhere does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Collaboration is necessary to find better ways of doing something. With woodworking it seems there’s always numerous ways of accomplishing the same goal, but if you allow yourself to learn from others, you grow as a maker and find new ways to solve problems.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I definitely don’t celebrate them enough. I usually move from one project right into the next project with little time for celebrating the victories along the way. Usually they’re smaller victories that I’ll celebrate internally, like solving a problem I’ve worked on all day or getting the result just the way I see it in my head.

Nietzsche Quote | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated?
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star” – Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s been my experience that there’s always a bit of chaos that needs to happen before something really astounding happens. From chaos, comes something remarkable.

Jeff Knight WishbonesHow do you recharge your creativity?
I get recharged by allowing my mind to be open to new things and having my eyes and ears open to the world. I look to many things for inspiration; nature, comic books, toys, games, classic films, art, design, social events, friends, family, etc. I helped start a design group with friends, DSGNX, to get designers together and have the ability to be inspired and celebrate design. This group has definitely helped keep my creativity charged.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Be persistent–Just make, do, and be happy. Don’t succumb to the fear of failure, because really, there is no such thing.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emilie Shapiro

August 5, 2013

Jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoods


I would definitely consider it love at first sight. The moment I saw the ragged edges and claw-like setting of the Raw Gemstone Necklaces, I knew I wanted to meet the designer. (And get one for myself.) So I invited myself to her Long Island City office and studio for a meeting.

Whenever I meet one of our incredible artists, I try to find similarities between myself and these seemingly normal people making extraordinary things. Our artists can make us all feel so much from a necklace or a wine glass that it makes me wonder if there is some super-human element they possess. Finding a common ground might indicate some greatness within myself. So I always look for a connection.

With Emilie Shapiro, it’s the love of treasures -digging through her rock and shell collection, hunting for pieces in her grandmother’s jewelry box, rediscovering something others have overlooked and bringing it all back to her worktable to create something new – that keeps her ticking. I too share her love of found objects and breathing new life into them.

Meet Emilie, lover of found objects and handmade jewelry designer.

Emilie's essential tools | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
I absolutely could not live without my stone collection. It’s something I’ve been working on since I was about 3 and picked up my first seashell (my first business was selling painted seashells on the beach), and then moved on to rocks and crystals. I have stones, minerals, shells, bones and wood from all over the world!

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I have a lot of treasures in my studio that I’ve collected throughout my life. From simple things that I find on the street or beach, to beautiful pictures of my grandmother, mother and niece. I think you define what is precious in your own life – whether it’s a piece of coral you found washed up on the beach or a ring made of brass and rough gemstones. Someone designed it, but the beholder defines the meaning.

Emilie's studio | UncommonGoodsEmilie's studio | UncommonGoods

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
We take lunch really seriously around here! I love to cook so I like to bring food for my assistant, Chrissy, to spice up our work day. We’re both pretty excited about my CSA this summer. This week I made pesto with kale and garlic scapes – it was delicious!

What was the toughest lessons you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Trust your instincts, because they’re usually right.

You are your best advertisement – wear your work because you never know who you’ll meet!

Act professional, then you’ll be treated professional.

Always look people in the eyes when you speak.

Life is to short to work with unkind people. There are a lot of good people in the world, sometimes you have to take the time to find each other.

Emilie's rock collection | UncommonGoods

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
5 years ago I was entering my Senior year at Syracuse University feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders – who was I going to apprentice for? Would I work for a larger fashion company? Would I head back to Florence and continue my studies? Would life go on after college, etc? Looking back, I would tell myself to relax and that it would all work out the way it should. I would have experiences that would eventually lead me to where I am, and where I’m going.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I think the toughest and most important part of being your own boss is creating a schedule, and then sticking to it! My goal for my new collection is expanding my wedding & engagement line. Creating new designs is the fun part, sticking to my schedule is the hard part!

Emilie Shapiro's creative studio | UncommonGoods

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victories are so important, whether they’re small – like finding a great deal at a garage sale, or big – like getting into UncommonGoods! To celebrate any victory, big or small, I usually meet my best friends for drinks.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am trying to get more into traditional goldsmithing and recycling techniques. Starting with 24k gold and blending other metals to create custom alloys for beautiful hues of gold. I’m going to take a class at Liloveve Jewelry School in Williamsburg where I currently teach the wax carving classes and some other specialty techniques. It’s so beautiful there!

Emilie's favorite quote | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated?
The most amazing part about my job is creating every single day and doing what I love. Whether it’s designing a new piece, seeing my work in a new Gallery or boutique, or teaching someone to do something how to create something that didn’t exist before – I am creating something tangible that will be here way beyond me.

How do you recharge your creativity?
A great yoga class! It’s so important to keep a healthy body and mind, but to also make time for yourself when you run your own business. I find the most challenging part of being your own boss is making a schedule and sticking to it so you don’t end up pulling all nighters – I hope those days are behind me!

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I teach jewelry classes and am constantly learning so much from my students. I am always blown away by their talent and eagerness to learn, and always learn new things about myself when working so closely with my students.

Gift Guides

12 Pieces of Art for Special Ocassions

July 29, 2013

This summer has been FULL of joyous occasions. Weddings, baby showers, birthdays! So much fun and happiness. But the hard part about all these celebrations? The gifts! Finding the right present can be so stressful.

Over the years, I’ve found one foolproof gift: artwork. Artwork is always unique, thoughtful, and memorable no matter what the occasion. I mean, who wouldn’t want an awesome new print for their wall? Plus giving artwork will earn you some major cool points. Promise.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorite works from the Uncommon Artist Gallery organized by occasion…

Art for a baby shower | UncommonGoods01. Storks by Denise Fiedler

02. Building Blocks Personalized Art by Alexander Doll

03. Bubbles by Andrea Doss

Art for wedding gifts | UncommonGoods01. Love Carries All by Zlatka Paneva

02. Custom Cross Stitch Portrait by Elizabeth Dabczynski

03. Personalized Couple Tandem Bike by Patrica Carlin

Birthday art for her | UncommonGoods01. Beach by Yao Cheng

02. Going to See My Baby Blue by Allison Glancey and Craig Seder

03. Do What You Want by Jessica Swift

Art gift ideas for him | UncommonGoods01. All the Mountains in Colorado by James Gulliver Hancock

02. AIGA/NY 30th Anniversary Poster by Maira Kalman

03. Rocky Mountain Daybreak Bison by Dolan Geiman

Check out more gift-worthy artwork in the Uncommon Artist Gallery!