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Artist Story

Maker Stories

Building a Totem Necklace with Ana Sheldon

April 9, 2012


Ana Sheldon is the artist behind the Custom Totem Necklace, a collection of stones that is intended to be a play on physical and spiritual balance. Each necklace is unique with a set of hand-picked stones that represent different qualities. Creating a Totem Necklace for yourself or a loved one is a special and personal process so I asked Ana to share her inspiration behind the piece and how she would create a Totem Necklace for the women in her life.

How did the Totem Necklace come about?

Totem was one of my first designs. Really Totem is just about using different shapes and colors stacked up together to create a visually pleasing composition. I wanted to create a cool way to wear a “stack” of beads that I liked to look at together.

Erin, the UncommonGoods head jewelry buyer, saw Totem on a website and approached me with the idea of doing custom pieces with meanings. I chose some stones that I work with often and did the research on what they mean. I hope when people wear a Totem that they have created or someone has created for them that they remember what it represents. To have something that reminds someone of their strengths or that a friend believes in them is a powerful thing.

What stones would you choose when building a Totem Necklace for the women in your life?

If I were to create a Totem Necklace for my sister Rene, I would choose Amethyst for clarity and Blue Lace Agate for calming. She has a lot going on in her life-hectic career, active family, and many people who depend on her-so clarity for her in her day to day and a sense of calm at the end of the day. Rene has a great way of accepting an unavoidable obstacle and being proactive in creating a solution without wallowing in it so I would add Apatite for acceptance and Onyx for strength. Rene is also an artist so I would choose Picture Jasper for creativity.


Ana and Rene in center

For my mom I would choose Moonstone for emotional balance. She is always striving for balance in all aspects of her life and I admire that. Rose Quartz is for love and my mom shows me unconditional love always. I would add Amazonite for hope because she has a positive outlook on what could come to be in every situation. Garnet is for devotion. I appreciate how devoted she is to me and my husband and kids. She would do anything for us and it is apparent. Last I would add Green Adventurine for confidence. I would hope it would bring my mom the knowledge of all the great qualities that I listed above!

Anna and her mom

Lastly, for myself I would choose Picture Jasper for creativity, Yellow Jade for inner peace and Green Adventurine for confidence. Being a wife, mom, artist and small business owner I can use all the focus in the world so White Jade would be useful. That being said, I am living a life that I love so I would add Ocean Jasper for appreciation.

Maker Stories

Old Instrument, New Tune: Jamie Cornett’s Instrumental Lighting

January 17, 2012

According to artist Jamie Cornett, there’s an ongoing joke among musicians; when they get frustrated with practicing or tired of music in general, they say they’re going to turn their instrument into a lamp. Jamie wasn’t frustrated or fed up with music, but he was intrigued by the lamp idea.

“I realized that there are so many instruments, beyond their playing years, that sit in closets and attics,” he says. “They didn’t even get to become lamps! It’s my goal to find them and turn them into displayable pieces of functional art.”

Although he calls his first attempt at lamp-making “a horrible disaster,” he still uses his first lamp in his home today. “I had no idea what I was doing. I created it using the wrong tools, and too much glue! But I love it because it reminds me of the original idea and allows me to reflect on how that idea has become something that I’m really proud of,” he says.

Jamie’s lamps are definitely something to be proud of. He has improved his technique, refined his skill, and perfected his tools since. Now, his creations are not only working lamps, but also beautiful works of art.

Of course, Jamie doesn’t always have an attic full of instruments. In fact, he works from his New York City apartment. So, he scours estate sales, pawn shops, and online auction sites for trumpets, clarinets, and flutes that have played their last notes. “I’m not ashamed to admit that at least one [instrument] has come from the streets of NYC on trash day,” he tells us.

While these woodwind wonders and brass beauties won’t be making melodies in the future, they are making people smile. “These lamps are the perfect gift because you can’t look at one without reacting in some unexpected way,” Jamie explains. “They remind people of their favorite jazz piece or hours spent in a practice room preparing for an audition. Each one has the ability to make you feel like it was made with just you in mind.”

Maker Stories

Five Art Pieces That Will Fool You

December 23, 2011

Artist Melanie Mckenney creates earthenware bowls that bear a stunning resemblance to fruit and vegetables. Her bowls are designed to look like the ingredients in a fresh salsa with realistic colors and the textures and details on her newer Grapefruit and Canteloupe bowls will fool the eye into thinking they are the real thing.

The life-like outcome of her work is not a coincidence. “By translating nature’s designs into clay I am able to invoke a new appreciation for everyday objects. Fruits and vegetables have such a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. By casting directly from the actual fruit or vegetable, I am able to replicate these designs in each bowl.”

(Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso. source Wikipedia)

For centuries artists have been attempting to fool the eye with life-like painting and sculptures. In ancient Greece contests were held between artists to see whose paintings were more realistic. One famous contest featured a painted curtain so convincing, a rival artist attempted to draw them back.
The Renaissance brought a better understanding of perspective drawing and a term for art that fools its viewers- trompe l’oeil, which means “deceives the eye” in French. Subjects walked out of paintings and houseflies rested on canvas art. On a larger scale, frescos were painted on the ceilings of buildings giving the illusion of staring up to the sky through a window: an art form named di sotto in su, translating into “from below, upwards” in Italian.

(Trompe L’oeil, genevieveromier)

More recently a modern and reversed version of di sotto in su has emerged in urban environments that are making passers-by look down. Artists are creating 3D images on the sidewalk in chalk and paint to deceive city dwellers into the thinking the ground beneath them has opened up.

(on the very edge of a 3D illusion, calliope_Muse)

Perhaps the most popular examples of trompe l’oeil in our society are wax figures of our favorite entertainers. Commissioned during the French Revolution to recreate the forms of famous leaders, Marie Tussaud’s death masks of the French royal family were paraded as flags after their executions. In 1802, she moved to London with her family where she opened a public exhibition space. Today, Madame Tussaud’s wax museums are huge tourist destinations in big cities internationally.

(Madame Tussaud’s figure at Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, Loren Javier)

Throughout time artists have created such realistic works to display their understanding of forms and perspective or to trick their audience. Why does Melanie try to fool you? Melanie says that in creating life-like pottery, she “aims to promote local farming, healthy eating, as well as an appreciation for handmade functional housewares”.

Maker Stories

Sterling Silver Birds of a Feather

July 23, 2011

Next month, we’re hosting an Uncommon Jewelry Challenge, with an open call for jewelry from designers across the US. This month we’re highlighting our favorite jewelry makers. Find out more about our design challenges and learn how you can become UncommonGoods’ next favorite jewelry or accessory designer.


Artist Rhonda Wyman has always had a “do it yourself” attitude when it comes to jewelry design. The same year she graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, she married her husband, Elijah (who she calls an indie-folk singer-songwriting superhero) and they started selling Rhonda’s pieces through the independent craft scene. Although the popularity of Rhonda’s work continues to grow over the years– her Nestling Bird Necklaces being some of UncommonGoods best selling jewelry items– she still makes each piece by hand and is always finding inspiration for bold new designs.


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