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Art

Maker Stories

Donna Rollins’ Handmade Mugs with a Healing Touch

March 15, 2013

“I’ve had an attraction to collecting stones for what seems like eternity,” says Donna Rollins, the artist behind Healing Stone Mugs and Birth Stone Mugs. Her creative cups incorporate layers of minerals, non-toxic glazes, and, of course, the signature stones that make them truly uncommon.

Healing Touch Pottery, Photo by Stephanie Minion Photography

Donna started creating pottery about 5 years ago, but says that she’s always been attracted to the medium. The self-taught potter credits her youngest daughter with inspiring her to give clay a try. She purchased her first wheel and kiln so they could create pottery together. Now all three of her daughters work for the company she and her husband, Randall, run in New Hampshire–Healing Touch Pottery.

When she got the notion of marrying natural stones with handmade ceramics Donna knew she was ready to start her business. “The idea of placing the stone on the thumb rest of a mug came to me in a dear friend’s home. I was admiring her stone collection and thought, How can I incorporate the healing benefits of crystals and minerals with my love for pottery?

Donna and Randall Rollins, photo by Stephanie Minion Photography

Today Healing Touch Pottery has 9 staff members who create 700 to 1000 mugs each week. “Each artist has their own style and that style comes through in the creation, but collectively we create what becomes an individual’s new favorite mug,” says Donna.

Healing Touch Potter Liz Johnson

Healing Touch Staff: Mandi Ouellette, Samantha Mistich, and Liz Johnson

“Each of our signature mugs begin with a pound of clay in our hands,” Donna explains. “We shape the square clay into a ball, we then throw it into the center of a potter’s wheel, hence the term throwing pottery. From there, we pull, push and gently caress the clay forming the various shapes of the cylinder of a mug.”

But the potter’s wheel is just the beginning. “The potter’s assistant takes the cylinder off the potter’s wheel and places it on a board. Depending on the day of the week, there could be anywhere from 120 to 220 cylinders thrown that day,” says Donna.”After a day of sitting and drying to leather-hard, the cylinders are handled by our other talented artists. Once the mugs have dried enough to be wiped and signed, they are then placed in the kilns for their first firing to bisque. After the bisque firing, the mugs are transported to the glazing room where another group of artists dip each mug in our handcrafted glazes. From this point, the mugs are loaded into the glazing kilns for their final firing at 2200 degrees. Once the mugs are cool enough to unload they are transported to another room where the stones are attached and Reiki-charged.”

Reviewer submitted image by By SouthernMama from Sweet Home Alabama

While a great deal of time and work go into each mug, Donna and her team don’t mind putting in the hours, care, and attention to detail it takes to create each piece. “There is a common thought and goal for each of us who work here at Healing Touch Pottery and we believe that is why our pottery is enjoyed by so many,” she tells us. “Quartz is a conductor of energy and it is in our clay and glazes and most of the stones we use are quartz-based. We believe our energy permeates our products, so it’s crucial we be in positive space and thoughts so our wares are enjoyed not just for their beauty, but also for their energy.”

The alluring stones also provide comfort, giving the person who holds the mug a gently-raised place to rest their thumb, and since skin slides easily against the smooth surface of the rocks, these creations are the perfect “worry stones” to help your troubles melt away as you enjoy a calming cup of tea or morning coffee as you start a new day.

Design

Call for Entries: Art Contest

March 8, 2013

From now until the end of March, we are hosting a call for entries for our Art Contest. This is a call for all original, 2 dimensional art work that UncommonGoods will print, frame and sell on our site in a limited run. The grand prize winner will win $500 and 5% royalties from the sales of their piece.

To learn the official rules of the contest, meet our talented judges and submit your work, visit the Art Contest page.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Adrienne Vita

March 6, 2013

Artist Adrienne Vita | UncommonGoods

Through her exuberant illustrations, Adrienne Vita celebrates life, family, and friendship. “Coexisting” reminds us that, like giant polar bears and tiny birds, we all share the same planet, while the colorful family of cuddling wolves in “Close Knit” reminds us to hold on to those we love.

Feeling energized (and maybe a little mushy–in a good way) by Adrienne’s vibrant work, I couldn’t help but wonder where she brings her alluring animals to life. From across the country, the artist sent some positive vibes to Brooklyn in the form of her virtual studio tour. Although Adrienne mentioned that the sun was hidden behind clouds over Portland, Oregon when she held her photo shoot, this look inside her home-based workspace definitely brightened my day.

What are your most essential tools?
Brushes, pencils, pens, paper, an Exacto blade and music.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Well, my “space” includes a couple parts of my house. It started off as a logistical thing such as size of the rooms, hooking computers together with one router, etc. That became how and where I could set up my “spaces” to do my work. But I’ve grown to really like it this way over the years. Mainly, I share a computer “think tank” room with my husband (when he’s home) and have a drawing part in another small room. I like how when I draw; I don’t have the distraction of the computer or the business part of what I do because it’s in another room. Also, I use the basement for the really messy stuff, and sometimes move my work outside on the deck in the summer. It’s really nice to be able to switch it up.



Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Meditation time on my couch in the drawing part of my studio is a perfect way to recharge and get some moments of down time in between working.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I have a book where I write my goals but often refer to lots of colorful post-it notes and iCal for daily intricacies.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Lot’s of dance parties! Coconut ice cream and treats are always a nice way too.


What quote keeps you motivated?
What does that quote mean to you? I have never read this book but I always liked the title so much – “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”.

How do you recharge your creativity?
Traveling, visiting with nature, riding my bike, baking and of course dancing and singing! Basically, just doing things I enjoy that allow me to be creative and free in a different way.


What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?

Five years ago, I struck out on my own after working for various design companies for about 10 years. When I first started, I was worried about how I would make enough money and how I would stand out in a sea of talented artists. Basically losing sight of the big picture of the work I am here on this earth to do. Knowing what I know now, I would have told myself, “What you put out in the world is more than what you make or create. It’s about the connection with people, about the helping and healing that you give through your work that is important. That is why you make art. Do it in your own way and celebrate it.”

Design

Valentine’s Day Quotes

February 7, 2013

Love has a beautiful way of creeping up on us each February. Whether your first love is a significant other, a pet, a parent or your art, here are some quotes to keep the passion ignited!

The Uncommon Life

Midwinter Art Break

January 24, 2013

 

The holidays are over, and winter stretches ahead. Sometimes it’s stunningly beautiful. Sometimes it can be bleak. Sometimes, just boring.

Fortunately, painters, sculptors, carvers, collagists, craftspeople and photographers have created glorious art about all the faces of winter. Looking at their work can feel like a mini-staycation,  a meditation, or a moment of bliss. Isn’t that always true about good art?

I’ve been collecting winter-themed art on Pinterest since last autumn. Eventually, themes began to suggest themselves. Here are a few of them.

Winter: The Art Composes Itself

I named this theme in the spirit of, “The jokes write themselves.” Against a snowy white background, branches and bird footprints can look like ready-made drawings–although, of course, the pieces below were all carefully composed by very talented artists.

Life in  Wintertime

Clockwise: Todd Hido, #6093 (2009) © Todd Hido; Todd Hido, #4124 from the series House Hunting (2010) © Todd Hido; Vija Celmins, Heater, 1964 © Vija Celmins; Wolf Suschitzky, Frozen Shirts, Welwyn Garden City, 1941 © Wolf Suschitzy.

Ice and Snow Art

Andy Goldsworthy, “Ice Spiral (Treesoul),” Reconstructed icicles around a tree, 28 December, 1995.  Glen Marlin Falls, Dumphrieshire, Scottland. © Andy Goldsworthy; Andy Goldsworthy, “Icicle Star,” joined with saliva, 2004, © Andy Goldsworthy.

For a blizzard of winter art, look here: http://pinterest.com/marisa_/

 

 

Design

Call for Entries: Garden Decor Design Challenge

January 18, 2013

We couldn’t wait to get this year’s design challenge calendar underway and are excited to announce the call for entries for the Garden Decor Design Challenge from now until January 31. This call is a search for garden sculptures, planters, bird houses and other accessories for an outdoor space and the winning design will be featured in our Spring catalog.

“Our customers love handmade, creatively designed garden décor,” says our home accessories buyer Katie Giannone. “With spring and summer right around the corner, we are entering our strongest sales period for outdoor items. This design contest is an exciting opportunity to showcase your work, gain exposure and a potential partnership with our brand.”

To learn more about the challenge and to submit your designs, visit the Garden Decor Design Challenge page.

Design

A Year’s Worth of Winning Designs

January 4, 2013


Happy New Year! We’re excited to see what 2013 will bring, and we have big plans for the next 12 months. We’re planning more sneak peeks Inside the Artist’s Studio, interviews with designers from across the country, behind the scenes looks at what goes on here at UncommonGoods, great gift ideas, and of course, brand new design challenges! But, before we announce our first challenge of the year, we’re taking a look back on the great designs that came to us through our 2012 design challenges and the people who created them.

Last Spring we were already thinking Summer! Our first design challenge focused on sustainable picnic ware from Susty Party. We asked illustrators to send us their summer picnic-themed art, and we saw a big batch of submissions celebrating fun in the sun!

Denae Douglas’ Bicycle design was the judges’ favorite, earning her the grand prize. Her blue bike was stamped on eco-friendlier disposable bagasse plates and cups perfect for picnicking. (We know it’s still January, and it’s cold outside, but we do have a few sets left if you’re looking to stock up for Spring!)

All of the illustrations that came rolling in with the Summer Picnic Challenge had us in the mood for great art, so for our next call for entries we asked artists to send us their artwork for the Art Contest. We asked our online community to pick their favorites, then sent the top 5 designs to our judges for review. In the end, Mathew Amey’s “Jump Off” leaped into our lineup.

Matthew’s piece was limited edition, and didn’t take long to sell out, but art fans need not worry; our buyers loved his work so much, they’re adding more of his illustrations to our assortment.

After the Art Contest we switched it up just a bit, from art you hang to art you take on the go! Our iPhone Art Case Design Challenge was a huge success. We received a slew of votes and comments in the semi-final round and heard some wonderful feedback from the judges in the finals.

The judges loved the techie feel of Naomi Meller’s computer design and chose it to win the grand prize, but our buyers weren’t quite ready to let go of all of that other great artwork! Several design challenge submissions were selected for our iPhone Art Case Collection and became uncommon goods!

Speaking of art on the go, we couldn’t have a year of design challenges without including a call for wearable art–A.K.A. Jewelery–entries! The winner of our 2012 Jewelry Design Challenge was a little different. Not only do we love Kim Jakum’s excellent craftsmanship and fine attention to detail, we also couldn’t stop talking about the unique (and oh-so-sweet!) personalization element of the piece. Kim’s Personalized Children’s Signature Necklace gives the wearer a chance to capture their little ones’ own handwriting in sterling silver.

Then, last Fall, we switched gears again and asked our design community to think bicycles! Submissions to our Bicycle Lovers Design Challenge included helpful bike tools, custom pieces to deck your ride, cycling wear, and art made out of reclaimed bicycle parts, like Laura White’s winning Bicycle Cog Suncatchers.

Laura’s pieces aren’t only beautiful, they also celebrate the sport of cycling and are made from reclaimed materials, which is always a plus here. In fact, we love reclaiming, recycling, and reusing so much that we decided to build a design challenge around the idea. Our final design challenge of the year focused on upcycling, and we saw some seriously clever creations made from materials that would have otherwise been discarded.

The story behind winner Susan Harbourt’s Forget-Me-Not necklace is almost as compelling as the piece itself! The beautiful copper flowers and the wires keeping them in place actually started out as part of the original electrical wiring in her Edwardian era country home. When she and her husband renovated the house, Susan saved the copper and turned it into a winning design.

Susan’s story of creating something new out of something old is surely inspiring, as are the stories of many of our 2012 winners and semi-finalists. If you’re interested in learning even more about what it takes to be design challenge champ, check out our previous roundup for more success stories or check out these tips from a former design challenge winner.

We hope this stroll around the winner’s circle put you in the mood for creative new creations, whether you’re a designer yourself, or a just someone who loves uncommon design! We’re certainly looking forward to a new year full of new goods. If you’re interested in taking part in an uncommon design challenge, see what we have coming up in the next couple months and stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook to see when and how to submit.

January – Garden Decor Design Challenge
February – Woodworking Design Challenge
March – Art Contest 2013

Maker Stories

Natural Beauty: Nancy Nelson’s Forest-Inspired Jewelry

December 10, 2012

Take one look at Nancy Nelson’s jewelry and it’s obvious that she’s deeply inspired by nature. The organic shapes, earthy feel, and, in some cases, the actual natural elements used—such as the raw semi-precious stones in her Aquamarine Branch Ring –all celebrate Nancy’s love of the outdoors.

The ring, and her beautiful Blue Pinecone Necklace, were both featured in our community voting app, where they received some fantastic feedback from our online community. But before the designs made their way to our buying team, and even before the first pieces of brass and silver used were cast, these creations started as found objects in the forests near Nancy’s West Virginia home.

“I live in a small town 2.5 hours west of Washington DC,” Nancy told us. “It is an area filled with nature trails, state parks, and adventurous outdoor activities. Our family spends much of our time exploring the outdoors. It was during one of our adventures in the Appalachian Mountains that I spotted the twig for the Aquamarine Branch Ring.”

While the ring doesn’t actually contain this original twig, it does feature the exact likeness of it, because the sterling silver band is hand-cast by Nancy from a mold made of that very piece of wood.

Like that perfect twig, the pine cone that became the model for the Blue Pinecone Necklace was also selected on a family outing, while visiting the place Nancy’s children like to call the “Magic Forest,” Swallow Falls.

“We collected tiny pine cones from the forest floor as we hiked,” said Nancy. “With our pockets full, we took the pine cones back to my studio where we examined each one. I then selected the one I felt was the most beautiful in form, shape, and texture. When choosing the perfect pine cone, I took into consideration [its] size and weight. Since all my castings are solid, this is one of the most important aspects in choosing a good model. The pine cone had to be lightweight enough to hang comfortably from a necklace.”

Once cast, the brass incarnation of the pine cone is given a blue patina, which Nancy hand-paints. Nancy explained why she chose to add this hint of blue, “It stems from my love of lichen that grows on the trees, rocks, and fallen pine cones throughout the moist forest which is dominated by tall Hemlocks. I wanted to transform the pine cone and add color but I wanted it to be a little more controlled, which is why I decided to patina the edges.”


While these majestic hemlocks, fallen pine cones, and the other wonders of nature that surround her definitely influence Nancy’s work, she does have other muses. “Being a mom, I usually do not have to look far for inspiration,” she said. “My young children’s growing imagination and quest for exploration inspires me to think outside of the box and challenge myself to create something timeless yet interesting in form—something uncommon.”

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