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Art

Maker Stories

Allison’s “Babe” Takes the Win!

September 17, 2013

 

Allison and Canine Inspiration

If you follow us closely, most of you know that this summer we proudly launched our Ongoing Art Contest. This means instead of just awarding a winner once a year, we are crowning an independent artist winner and awarding $500 smack-a-roos and a chance to sign a vendor contract to join our UncommonGoods family every single month. The first winner from our Ongoing Art Contest was appointed to Caribbean resident, Allison Gray. We received amazing entries from through out the nation, yet it was Allison’s lovely “Babe” that caught our art judges’ attention. Allison’s eye for detail, use of mixed media, and sweet, creative design of her very own pup landed her into the winning spot.  In her interview, Allison mentions that “it wasn’t until I began expanding my media usage that I started veering away from strict realism and started redefining my limitations.” We’re more than ecstatic that Allison experimented out of her comfort zone, because as a result “Babe” was created and now will be officially a part of our artist gallery!

Meet Allison Gray, a fellow animal lover and our latest Art Contest winner.

Babe submit-a

Tell us an uncommon fact about yourself.

I have very vivid dreams.  They actually inspire a lot of my work.  I may not necessarily dream about a scene and then wake up and paint it, but the images and emotions that are remnants of my dreams can serve as the stepping stones or foundation of my craft.

I don’t know if the vividness of my dreams is a factor in my sleep pattern, but about 75% of the time, I start sleeping by violently waking up.  It’s called a myoclonic jerk  and of course everyone’s familiar with it—that sudden waking burst of panic preceded by a falling sensation.  What’s uncommon in this case is that it’s become routine.  I drift off, spasm awake and think, “Oh good, that’s done.  Now I can really get started on sleeping.”  And, without fail, I have these brilliant dreams, saturated with emotion and light.

(I hope I haven’t confused uncommon with odd.)

What different techniques do you use when creating your art?

I hate to pigeonhole myself when it comes to craft media.  For a long time, I only worked with oil paints and I only recreated realistic images.  With the difficulty of transporting necessary oils and thinners to continue my oil painting in Grenada, I opted to instead try a different medium.  So I began working with watercolors and from there, branched out further.  I began using charcoal, India ink, pen and pencil, and masking techniques.  I use bleach, salt and even coffee grounds for different textures and effects.

It wasn’t until I began expanding my media usage that I started veering away from strict realism and started redefining my limitations.  One of the first paintings I did in Grenada was of a local boy.  The painting was from a photograph I’d taken of him.  I already had the picture, so I knew I wanted something more than the photo could offer me.  So I filled my palette and painted him with every color that was missing from the photo.  When I finished, I knew I’d moved somewhere in my capacity as an artist.  And I’ve been moving in that same direction since.

In summary, I have and will continue to use whatever techniques I can to perpetually evolve my artwork and myself as an artist.

Colorful Boy Painting

Describe your daily life in Grenada.

Without an actual career, that varies from day to day.  I always try to allot myself a few hours a day to devote to a craft (painting, writing, knitting, photography, etc.).  The rest of the time is spread out over responsibilities and recreation.

Of course I’ve got domestic responsibilities.  With a medical student for a husband, all household chores sort of fall on me.  I’m not totally won over by the cleaning part of the duties, but I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat.  It’s hard to complain about having absolute control over the menu.

I run in the mornings.  Sometimes I go to the beach during the day and play Frisbee in the sea.  I might walk a couple miles to our favorite fruit stand and get our produce for the week from “Fireman,” our fruit vendor.  On Saturdays, we go on hashes.  (A hash is an all-terrain [mostly off-road] hike, followed by food and drinks and music, that draws hundreds of participants per week and takes place anywhere on the 132-square-mile island.)  Occasionally I’ll take a local bus into town and pick up fresh fish from the fish market.  I am an executive board member for St. George’s University Photography Club and perform duties as liaison for the organization.  On special occasions, we tour the island, go snorkeling, visit the forts or the cocoa plantation.  I spend a lot of time experimenting with my photography and looking for ways to intertwine it with my painting and other crafts.

Of course, sometimes, I just lounge around with my husband and watch movies with a little popcorn and wine.

Allison and Ivan beachside

It’s probably every artist’s dream to travel and live abroad, but does living in the Caribbean have its downfalls?

Absolutely it does, but most people don’t want to hear about it.  I live in the Caribbean; what business do I have complaining?  Even so, this life comes with its own set of difficulties and to reinforce that argument, I actually posted an essay on my blog about the pros and cons of being a married couple in the Caribbean, living on student loans, and following the twisted path to our goals.

In short, yes, life in the Caribbean has its downfalls, but the benefits—measured in memories and experiences—far outweigh the comparatively insignificant drawbacks.  (I’m writing this from the sandy shore of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: La Sagesse.)

Grenada is A-OK2

Where exactly do you go to catch inspiration? 

I love running.  I run almost every day.  I’m not remarkably good at it.  The only records I have or ever will break are my own.  But that’s not particularly discouraging to me because it’s the act itself that I enjoy and the reward that I get. Specifically, I like going for longer runs (one hour plus).  And while I’m running, I have no obligations to pay attention to anything other than my own wandering mind (except perhaps not tripping).  That’s a golden time for me to come up with all sorts of ideas for my art.  And the only distractions I have are my mind’s own erratic imaginings.

I could probably have a similar experience if I just sat quietly in my apartment, but then I’m usually surrounded by reminders of all my obligations and responsibilities.  When I’m running, I’m both metaphorically and literally getting away from “it all” and with that sense of freedom comes a euphoric rush of creativity.

Studio Desk w Light

 What’s your all-time favorite quote that keeps you going?

Not including about everything Dr. Seuss ever said (how many genius simple truths did he make catchy with a little rhyme?), I’m quite fond of William Faulkner’s “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”  Besides its apropos metaphor, Faulkner’s wisdom rings true in light of our ever-changing future.  Without the courage to leave everything behind, we never would have found ourselves living a surreal life in the Caribbean.

Faulkner Quote

When exactly did you discover your talent?

I can’t help but feel at least marginally narcissistic going on and on about my talent and my history leading up to the showcasing of my creations!  For a very long time, people have been commending me for my talent and while I can and have admitted (does that imply guilt?) that I have an artistic ability that not everyone has, it’s still humbling to come right out and say, “Well, hello, my name is Allison and I am a talented artist.”  No matter if I say that out loud or in my head, I always wind up finishing it in a snooty accent.

A popular quote by Pablo Picasso is “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  Children have this perishable fearlessness to create anything and then share it with everyone.  But at some point the fear of judgment and criticism makes an unwelcome and permanent guest of itself and we hide our creativity.

Maybe it was my peculiar creative courage that gave me the boldness to keep on drawing and painting and creating despite the crushing potential of failure.  Or maybe it was because I just didn’t like math class.  The truth is, I find solace in artistic expression and am bemusedly stunned every time someone comments on my apparent talent.  And when someone does, I think the most appropriate response is to give credit where credit is due.  (I never would have submitted my art to this contest if it weren’t for my friend, Cat.  I never would have thought to create a paper collage of my beloved dog if it weren’t for my friend, Patty.  I wouldn’t have had the heart to create this piece if Babe hadn’t had a foster home while we’re abroad, Lisa.

My direct response to this question—when exactly did you discover your talent: every time someone reminds me.

Grenada is A-OK3

Do you have any major projects you are working on now? 

I’m afraid I’m going to seem a little boring here, but no, I really don’t.  We live as minimalists for the most part and are living in a studio apartment.  Working within my means involves smaller projects that are inexpensive and can be tucked away at a moment’s notice.  I dream of someday when I can really plan larger-than-life projects.

Beas Submitx

Are there any particular artists you look up to?  What is it about their work that you like?

At the risk of sounding trite, I’m going to go ahead and say Bob Ross.  I know my work doesn’t exactly radiate the spirit of the amazingly gifted painter, but he did inspire me to pursue painting and to do so with an almost absurd amount of cheerfulness.  He’s part of the reason I began painting with oils and stuck with it for so long. It would be a blatant lie to suggest Bob Ross is the only artist who has inspired me and influenced my work.  Modern art, with its shifting genres and techniques, influences the decisions I make when searching for a new approach to a usual subject.  I don’t have a secret list of artists whose techniques I use as a paradigm when creating my own pieces, but draw from methods I’ve seen and admire.

What’s one thing you use/see every day that you couldn’t live without?

Well, if I’m being materialistic, it’d probably be a draw between the air conditioning or my morning coffee.  Probably the coffee, though. If I’m being crass, it would be sarcasm. If I’m being poetic, it would be love.  If I’m being optimistic, it would be humor. But if I’m being honest, it would be Supporter Extraordinaire and Husband, Ivan.  (Cue collective aw.)  There’s plenty I can go without, but I haven’t been without him for seventeen years and I don’t intend to start anytime soon.

Allison and Ivan climbing Grenada Mt.

What’s one piece of advice you could give to aspiring design challenge contestants, particularly our Art Contest?

Have the confidence in yourself that all of your supporting friends have.  Chances are, they’re right.

Babe the Pig Dog

Maker Stories

Meirav is Crowned the Art Contest Winner

September 12, 2013

 selfie

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

Design

Pinterest Art Contest: Exhibit It to Win $100

September 10, 2013

niOJ38

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 

 

Huebucket

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.

tools2
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.