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Artists

Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Look Back at Our 2016 Studio Tours

December 30, 2016

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been running our Studio Tours series for almost 5 years. Maybe that’s because every time I step into a another studio, I feel like I’m entering a whole new world. Over the years I’ve visited jewelry makers, potters, woodworkers, and even an industrial kitchen. And that’s just to name a few. Every time I leave an artist’s space, I feel creatively refreshed and ready to get making myself.

In 2016, I actually did get in some hands-on experience, when Jim Loewer gave our team a tour of his Philadelphia glass-working studio and let me use the torch to make own pendant. It was was definitely as much fun as you’d expect playing with fire and molten glass to be, and I now have a memento from the visit. Other adventures this year included checking out a sustainable studio made from reclaimed shipping containers, one contributor’s trip to London to meet world-renowned jewelry designer Alex Monroe, a look inside our own Product Development team’s creative space, and more. It wasn’t easy to pick just a few highlights from each Studio Tour to show you, but here are some moments that I hope spark your interest and maybe even put you in the mood to get creative too.

Laurel Begley

Laurel Begley | UncommonGoodsCreating the Faux Bois Vase | UncommonGoods

Laurel Begley’s Personalized Faux Bois Vase includes a symbol of lasting love, so it’s no surprise that she told us about some of the symbols of love an nurturing in her own life as she gave us a virtual tour of her Santa Rosa, CA studio. She also shared some great advice: “Don’t try to be anything you’re not. Do your best work, put it out there, and everything else will fall into place.” | Visit Laurel’s Studio

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Maker Stories

High Society: Elegant Roach Clip Jewelry Designs

April 17, 2015

More than any other word, “roaring” is used to describe the 1920s. But despite the word being synonymous with “boisterous” and “rowdy,” mention of the decade usually conjures images of sophisticated parties, Art Deco, and beautiful women in stylish clothing dancing the Charleston. Sure, the parties may have been fueled by bootlegged booze and a crazy new style of music, but tales of the Jazz Age often leave today’s daydreamers feeling nostalgia for the class and culture of a decade gone by.

Erin Rose Gardner in her studio light | UncommonGoods

Intrigued by the melding of sophistication and excess that made the ‘20s such an interesting time, Erin Rose Gardner created a line of Art Deco jewelry “inspired by the significant changes in lifestyle & culture” of the period. This is a good place to mention that each piece in this collection of elegant designs also serves as a fully functional roach clip.


Mary Jane's Necklace by Erin Rose Gardner | UncommonGoods

One of these significant changes was the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which ushered in prohibition. During the 1920s it was illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport alcohol. Of course, prohibition eventually came to an end when the 21st amendment repealed its predecessor, and now adults across the nation are free to drink gin that didn’t get its kick in a bathtub.

Today the temperance movement against alcoholic beverage seems like the distant past, considering the prevalence of bars and nightclubs across the country, pop culture references to imbibing, and even some evidence that drinking in moderation can actually be good for you.

Erin’s work speaks to a sort of modern prohibition that’s happening now, the war on pot. “The modern prohibition movement is part of the current conversation,” said Erin. “It seems like we may be at the beginning of the end with individual states voting for legalization. I find it interesting to think about how political policies shift social norms.”

Erin working in her studio.
Studying metalsmithing and jewelry at the University of Oregon gave Erin training not only in the technical aspect of her craft, but also foundations in conceptualization and research. “With my work, I am constantly looking for connections and meaning,” she explained. “As a producer of maker-made objects, I want to create things that people find beautiful and well-crafted, but also interesting.”

The layered story of Erin’s Mary Jane’s Necklace and Earrings may seem to start with the style of the ‘20s and a commentary on modern prohibition, but the “connections and meaning” she spoke of go even deeper. In fact, according to Erin, the designs were born from a personal narrative:

It started over ten years ago, I stole my mother’s roach clip. She had not used it in years, but kept it poked into a houseplant as it held sentimental value. As a child I thought this thing was a toy or special pair of medical tweezers. Although I wasn’t sure what it was, I did know this metal thing was special because it was a gift from her sister when they were teenagers. When my parents separated, my mom forgot her roach clip in the plant, so I took it. I lost it within four hours and never told her. (She now knows because my baby sister is a tattletale!)

An online image search lead to a vintage clip that looked like Erin’s mother’s made by a company called Squirkenworks run by furniture artist Garry Knox Bennett. Erin became interested in how the artist questioned the “preciousness” of craft and explored non-traditional materials. Squirkenworks sold electroplated roach clips across the country and still operates today as Gold Seal Plating. “The passive income provided by this business has allowed Bennett the freedom make furniture that pushes boundaries and is not constrained by market expectations,” Erin explained.

Each of Erin’s own clips is completely handmade and features a unique sliding mechanism inspired by the one Garry Knox Bennett invented in the 1960s. (She actually had the opportunity to meet Bennett, discuss her project, and take a look at this collection of clips and other works when she visited him in Oakland, CA last summer.)

Erin's Anvil

Using a hammer and anvil, Erin shapes simple brass rods into elegant contours. “I strive for perfect symmetry and function as I make each individual pendant or earring,” she said. “Each piece features a unique sliding mechanism. Simply pull the slide back and the clip springs open. Then to clip, move the slider forward and the device is tightly secured. The tips are serrated which gives optimal grip.” The brass is transformed again during the final step in the artist’s process, when she polishes each piece and electroplates it with 24k gold.

Erin's Materials
Erin commented that, like “every metalsmith,” she fell in love with the material. It’s easy to see this love, and her dedication to the process, when you look at the detail in each handcrafted piece. The collection appeals not only to those with 1920s fashion sense or fond memories of the roach clips that became popular in the ‘60s. The designs are fully functional for the enjoyment of those in legal territory, statement pieces for marijuana legalization supporters, and—as Erin put it herself—“well crafted, but also interesting” adornments for those looking for high quality, uncommon jewelry.



Erin Rose Gardner | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

2014: A Last Look at a First-Class Year!

December 31, 2014

In 1999, UncommonGoods was founded as an alternative retailer driven by an emerging market for unique, handmade and environmentally friendly designs, as well as a conviction that business could be a force for good in the world. And over the past fifteen years, the people behind our efforts—our Brooklyn team, not-for-profit partners, and an array of independent artists and independently minded customers—have been the inspiration and can-do catalysts of our growing business. So, as we look back at 2014, we thought the best way to characterize the year is by profiling a few of the people and partners that made it one to celebrate.

Reach Out and Read: a Better to Give Success Story

Through our Better to Give program, UncommonGoods has donated over $1 million to our partner non-profits.

Reach Out and Read

As an independently owned business, we have the freedom to support causes we believe in, helping them to impact the world in a positive way. Through our Better to Give program, we make it easy for you to join us in supporting these great causes—with every purchase you make, we’re proud to donate $1 to your choice of one of our non-profit partners. Over the week of Thanksgiving, we increased the Better to Give donation to $5 for those visiting our site through a special email campaign, taking us past the $1 million donation mark on Black Friday!

Our newest Better to Give partner, Reach Out and Read, joined us in 2014, and was immediately a popular choice, gaining over 35 thousand customer backers, for a total of more than $35,000 in donations. Reach Out and Read serves more than 4 million children annually, sharing the transformative power of reading with families in need nationwide. As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the program incorporates early literacy into pediatric practice, equipping parents with tools and knowledge to ensure that their children are prepared to learn when they start school.

With obvious passion for his organization’s work, Reach Out and Read’s Executive Director Brian Gallagher shared some of the ways that Better to Give has benefited their efforts over the past year:

Reach Out and Read’s Executive Director Brian Gallagher

“The support has allowed us to purchase brand-new books (our favorites include Goodnight Moon and Clifford the Big Red Dog) and to deliver critical literacy guidance to families in need. With the support of UncommonGoods and others, we have been able to grow our program in 2014, adding our unique early literacy intervention in 287 additional health centers, hospitals, and pediatric clinics nationwide, serving 230,000 more children. UncommonGoods has provided essential funding to keep our program expanding—truly helping us to change pediatrics, change families, and most importantly, change futures.”

Brian also commented on some of the benefits of our collaboration beyond the bottom line:

“In addition to the amazing financial support, the Better to Give partnership has helped educate an entirely new audience about Reach Out and Read—and the importance of early literacy and early intervention. We have seen our social media base steadily increase over the year, and feel certain that many of those fans and followers are UncommonGoods customers. We have also been able to reach shoppers who have a social conscience, and may have chosen to support Reach Out and Read additionally outside of the Better to Give partnership. We are so grateful to have had the chance to align ourselves with such a great brand, and use this platform to help us raise funds and overall awareness of our organization and our mission.”

Finally, he sees some important affinities between UncommonGoods and Reach Out and Read that make this partnership a great fit:

“We love that UncommonGoods is more than just a company—you give back to those in need and you strive to better the world, as we do through our literacy intervention. And based on the amount of support we’ve received this year, your customers are clearly people who also care about literacy and value the early interactions between a parent and a child. We are beyond thrilled with this relationship and look forward to all that is to come as our two organizations continue to work together to effect positive change.”

 

Nancy and Walter Warner: a Bigger Jam Session

UncommonGoods promotes the work of more than 600 small, independent makers; 80% of these have 10 people or fewer on their team.

Walter and Nancy Warner | UncommonGoodsNancy and Walter Warner, Beer Jelly Set

 Part of UncommonGoods’ long-standing mission is to support the work of innovative, independent makers—artists, designers, craftspeople, and…jelly makers. Each of the 600 makers that we represent has a unique story, and Nancy and Walter Warner are no exception. The two former archaeologists moved to Vermont to pursue new ventures: Walt pursuing a career as a cultural resource lawyer, and Nancy launching a business making distinctive, artisanal preserves. Their collaboration with UncommonGoods has allowed them to take their craft from cottage industry to a full-steam operation.

Nancy Warner put her spoon down long enough to reflect on the effect of their partnership with UncommonGoods over the past year:

“Working with UG has allowed us to grow our business with confidence in 2014. The partnership and the audience UG reaches has helped us more than double our gross sales from the previous year. We thought we were full time before our partnership with UncommonGoods, but teaming up has helped us become job creators: we’ve hired four employees, invested in new equipment, and have quickly outgrown our tiny spot on the town green and are on the hunt for our next home in Vermont.”

Beer Jelly | UncommonGoods

She also commented on the esprit de corps between her venture and the UncommonGoods team:

“I believe we are a great fit with UncommonGoods because the staff there is as excited about our work as we are. True believers in the creative and uncommon process, UncommonGoods has worked with us to develop new flavors like Cabernet & Cracked Pepper wine jelly, conferenced with us regularly to be sure we’re on the same page, and supported our use of environmentally-friendly packaging (even though it may cost just a bit more). Most importantly, the UG crew reaches out to us regularly to be sure they understand our process and our limits as small producers of handcrafted items. In some ways, UG feels like an extension of our own team.”

Kenesha Phillip on the People Who Drive the Success of UncommonGoods

UncommonGoods is committed to paying a living wage, with hourly team members paid 70% higher than the Federal minimum.

Kenesha Phillip | UncommonGoods

 Kenesha Phillip, UncommonGoods Area Operations Manager

UncommonGoods maintains a team of 120 year-round—and 685 seasonal team members in the fourth quarter (2014)—all under one roof in the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Keeping all operations in New York and in a common space has been a priority since the company’s founding. And maintaining a great team by paying a living wage, providing opportunities to grow with the company, and valuing the potential of each individual have been essential elements in UncommonGoods’ success over the past 15 years.

Despite the frenetic pace of our warehouse in December, Area Operations Manager Kenesha Phillip—who herself started as a seasonal Team Lead in 2012—took some time to reflect on the character of UncommonGoods’ team:

“I think that the recognition of humanity is a really important thing. In the world that we live in now…it’s important that people know that you see them, and that they know they’re valuable, and that’s the most important thing that UncommonGoods does. Tom or Dave [company founders] will walk into the warehouse and say that the people closest to the customer are the most important people to the business, and that’s very nice to hear and very comforting and makes people feel appreciated. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being on the warehouse floor, it’s that people give their best effort when they feel like you see them and you value them…they feel like they’re here to help the team accomplish a bigger goal.”

Brooklyn Army Terminal

Brooklyn Army Terminal

She also commented on the challenges and opportunities that come with the company’s seasonal activity which calls for a high quality team:

“The human element here is really important, and something that we fight for all the time. And it’s not an easy thing to do—the bar is raised year after year, and we need better and better people to work for us. But it’s definitely an attraction when you know you can start as a seasonal worker and move into a management role. It helps us hire a strong team and keep a strong team here. I’d worked in retail before, so I know how people are typically paid in retail and what kind of environments they are…[here] it’s just different…we pay people a living wage, and we try to treat people with respect. If you walk over to the warehouse right now, you can’t tell who’s year-round and who’s seasonal. We try to make sure that everyone has a great experience, regardless of whether they’ve been here for a few months or for years. We work together as a team.”

Regarding UncommonGoods’ commitment to keeping the entire company under one roof in Brooklyn, she observed:

 

UncommonGoods Warehouse

“For us to be successful as a company, Operations has to go well, but everything else in the company has to go well too. We partner with so many departments every year to make sure that the customer has a good experience in the holiday season. We work with the Merchants…with Customer Service…with Human Resources…to make sure that those things all come down to the customer. So it’s a nice thing having the corporate offices in the same building as the warehouse.”

And she discussed the importance of paying a living wage for a company—and team—that calls New York home:

“It’s very expensive to live here, so people need the wages that we pay…and people always ask about it when they return because we do pay such a good wage compared to the Federal level. I know that it impacts the lives of the people that work for us in a significant way, even if it’s for a short time. It’s a significant thing, and it means someone being able to pay their rent. It makes all the difference in people’s living conditions. I know that some people that work for us have a difficult time financially, so it’s important that we continue to do this, and it’s something to be proud of.”

 

Always Becoming a Better Business

As a founding B Corp, we’re committed to sustainability. This year we made strides with our highest B Lab score yet.

B the Change | B Corp

 

We’ve always been passionate about sustainability, and back in 2007 we joined our fellow founding B Corporations in starting a global movement to redefine success in business. As the official B Corp website explains, by earning our certification we’re “voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.”

In 2014 we showed that we’re still going strong when it comes to sustainability. In fact, we proudly announced that our Impact Assessment came back with our best score so far: 111.4 points. (That’s 12% higher than our previous score.)

Many of the improvements we made in 2014 helped us earn our recertification and earn a higher score than we’d had in the past. We formed a sustainability committee to give employees opportunities to personally impact our sustainability decisions, we implemented composting and better recycling programs, and we improved our vendor relationships.UncommonGoods B Lab Scorecard

While we are definitely happy with the changes we’ve made and our improved score, we know that working to be a better business is an ongoing process. After our recertification was complete, we sent a representative from our sustainability committee to join other representatives from businesses in the B Corp community at the B Corp Champions Retreat to bring back advice on how we can continue to grow as a socially responsible company and make a positive impact on the world.

We’re excited to continue to make positive changes in 2015, to grow and nurture our talented team, and to keep building strong relationships with our Better to Give partners, makers and artists, and customer community. Happy New Year!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Maggy Ames

October 10, 2014

Maggy Ames | UncommonGoods

One morning a few weeks ago I woke up extra enthusiastic. I couldn’t wait to get to work. That’s because my work day started with a trip into Manhattan to meet an artist whose work I’d loved since the moment I saw it on our tabletop buyers’ sample shelf. I was going to meet Maggy Ames, the maker of the some of the most beautiful stoneware bowls I’d ever seen.

When I got to Maggy’s space, one of the last working corroborative pottery studios in Manhattan, I was happy to see that she was as enthusiastic about the start of the work day as I was. She was ready to start throwing pottery, but she didn’t mind taking a moment to show me and UncommonGoods Photographer Emily around first. We snuck a peek at the kiln room just in time to see a fresh batch of bowls come out, watched Maggy’s team weigh and prepare clay, caught a glimpse at the secret formulas for a few glaze colors, and admired how the clay dust that seemed to touch everything in the studio made the place even more magical.

After our introductions and a little exploring, we watched as Maggy transformed a large, lumpy ball of clay into an exquisitely curved bowl–something she does about 15 times on an average day. Watching the process was certainly inspiring. Talking with Maggy, who’s been making pottery for 30 years and retired from law to became a full-time artist 5 years ago, gave me a much welcome creativity boost too. Whether you’re looking for little motivation to get making, some inspiring words of wisdom, or just some beautiful photos of art in the works, I hope you’ll love meeting Maggy and seeing her studio as well.

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Maker Stories

A Perfect Design for Your Knitting Nest

September 15, 2014

Aaron A. Harrison | UncommonGoods

The son of an architect father and artist mother, Aaron A. Harrison quickly gravitated towards all things creative. LEGO towers gave way to kindergarten art contest wins, which eventually gave way to an MFA in ceramics and sculpture. Knowing he wanted to play with clay forever, Aaron decided to turn his passion into a career once he started raising a family.

While working in production at a ceramic slip casting company that specializes in bird feeders, birdhouses, and nightlights, Aaron began to shift his focus from artist to designer. “It was here that I learned how to run a production studio,” says Aaron, “making products from clay was preeminent to making clay art.” Working with all the bird-friendly pieces at the studio also fostered an appreciation for the bird form, inspiring Aaron to incorporate the winged creatures into his own designs once he started his own studio in 2009.

Birdie Yarn Bowls | UncommonGoods
Birdie Yarn Bowl | UncommonGoods

On his process, Aaron says, “creativity as a designer follows the need to solve a problem.” In the case of one of his most popular designs, this problem was the unrolling of yarn. After two separate friends asked him if he made yarn bowls, he researched the concept, made some prototypes, literally put a bird on it, and the Birdie Yarn Bowl came to be. Each yarn bowl begins as a ball of clay that is then thrown by hand on the potter’s wheel. Once the bowl firms up, the bird is added, then the hook and holes. After an initial firing and glazing, each bird is painted by hand, then fired one more time to seal it all in.

Painting the Birdie Bowl | UncommonGoods

Aaron works out of his 500 square foot basement, painting each individual bird himself and packing each completed yarn bowl for shipping. “It’s not uncommon to find my children wrapped in bubble wrap or making packing peanut soup for their dolls,” says Aaron of his at-home operation. For inspiration while he works, Aaron keeps drawings from his children around, as well as a LEGO calendar (“my second favorite pastime after ceramics”), and an architectural drawing of an observatory from his father.

Aaron's Studio
Packing the bowls

With all this inspiration by his side, it’s no wonder Aaron’s work has been featured in Knit Simple, Vogue Knitting, and Knit Scene. Though he’s “still waiting for Oprah or Martha Stewart to place their orders,” Aaron gets immense satisfaction from the feedback of others, telling him that his piece inspired them to be more creative. Both this and the opportunity to work from home are the ultimate pay-off. “Sitting at the wheel three to four hours a day, working long into the night to finish an order, and the physical strain of manipulating the clay can take its toll,” says Aaron, “but I am working for myself and I can see my children grow up. In the end, it’s a tremendous blessing and extremely satisfying.”

Buy the Birdie Yarn Bowl | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Barry Rosenthal

June 6, 2014

Barry Rosenthal | UncommonGoods
When our team learned that renowned photographer Barry Rosenthal calls our building, The Brooklyn Army Terminal, home to his studio we couldn’t wait to work with him on a project. Once that project–Pop Top Six Pack Glasses–was ready for our customers’ eyes, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone all about the set. Learning more about Barry’s work and the creative process that lead to the finished product got me, and the blog team, even more excited about having such a talented artist as a neighbor. Knowing that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out his studio space, our own photographer, Emily, and I made the (very) short journey across the BAT atrium to see where Barry assembles his collections of found artifacts and other objects to create captivating photos.

Join us in exploring a new corner of our building by stepping into Barry Rosenthal’s studio, taking a look at some of his unique work, and finding out what goes on behind the scenes when the camera isn’t clicking.

Barry Rosenthal Art | UnommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ana Talukder

April 7, 2014

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder | UncommonGoods

Here at UncommonGoods, we work with amazing vendors who constantly wow us with their creativity, artistry, and love of their craft. We don’t always get to meet the artists with whom we work; often relationships are forged through email and over the phone. Recently I was lucky enough to travel from our Brooklyn headquarters to Seattle to visit the studio of Ana Talukder , the super talented designer behind our beloved Latitude/Longitude jewelry collection and several other gorgeous designs.

Arriving at the studio, I was greeted with a big hug by Ana, and was immediately charmed by her bubbly and vivacious presence. I could not wait to see her studio and it was just as I imagined from hearing her description of it over the phone–a spacious and bright room with walls awash in her favorite color: purple. Her studio is a happy place, with touches of her personality everywhere–a purple peg board with small metal buckets to keep her organized, a board of inspirational quotes, and my personal favorite: an indoor window box of pansies (in purple of course!).

Ana and I looked at her new designs and talked about her process. I was wowed by how prolific she is, and how many new ideas she is constantly hatching. It was a great afternoon together and time flew by! Meet Ana and welcome to her colorful and inspirational world!

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Maker Stories

Ricky Giacco’s Eco-Conscious Concrete Creations

April 4, 2014

An avid container gardener and all-around horticulture-lover, Ricky Giacco founded NativeCast in 2010 to create and sell his handcrafted concrete “functional sculpture” while following environmentally responsible business practices. His “green concrete” is amazingly light, yet strong, and made mostly of recycled materials.

Ricky Giacco | UncommonGoods

Giacco’s uniquely creative planters come from an illustrious family tree. The Roman Colosseum, the Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, and this adorable Cupcake Planter are all made of concrete, the most widely-used building material in the world.

DIY Cupcake Planter

The production of concrete uses much less energy than other building materials, such as steel, aluminum, glass and wood. But it’s not carbon-neutral, and we Earthlings use 19 billion tons of it a year. That adds up. In fact, about 7 percent of human carbon emissions comes from concrete manufacture. So at UncommonGoods, we’re big fans of Ricky’s innovative, ecologically sound concrete, which he makes from scratch in Chadds Ford, PA.

The Mix | UncommonGoods
You could call Giacco a concrete mixologist. He concocts new recipes using ingredients native to his region. But unless you enjoy the taste of seashells, pine cones, and crushed, reclaimed roadway rock, you won’t want to drink these cocktails. Your plants will love drinking from them, though; concrete makes a great planting environment. Because it’s porous, it allows air and moisture to move into plants’ root structure; and it maintains a more stable soil temperature throughout the year, compared to plastic or metals.

NativeCast is a family affair: Giacco is its creative head, his father handles most of the business end, his wife works on trade shows, his mother works in the production studio once a week, and Giacco says each member of his “rather large” family “helps out in one way or another.”

We wanted to know more about every aspect of his business, and he graciously allowed us to indulge our curiosity.

Ricky's Studio

You “design” not only your objects, but the material they’re made of. Does that give you a special satisfaction?
Designing the material I work with is very cool, and I am happy with the results I am getting. There is satisfaction in knowing that my customers also enjoy what I’m doing. I do know the material’s limitations, so as I look to design new pieces and expand the business, I am exploring some new material ideas.

The most important breakthroughs have been in the mixing process. We have successfully replaced the typical heavy aggregates with lighter and more eco-friendly options while maintaining a good strength. This process is much easier said than done.

Ricky's workbench

Gun

Tell us a bit about the process of making your concrete.
Our green concrete is made by hand and is a fairly complicated process to mix. It is made of Portland cement, sand, lime, recycled concrete, post consumer plastic, shells and pine mulch. The ingredients are always the same, but the ratios tend to vary. This is due to a number of different factors; the biggest ones are air temperature and the technique being used to craft the pieces. We use different application processes depending on the individual product. This forces us to hand mix many small batches of concrete.

Is it a form of hypertufa?
It is not exactly hypertufa, but the concept of modifying the concrete mix for planters is the same.

Where and how do you get the recycled material you use? Is it pre-crushed? Do you treat it? Does it affect the color of the stone?
Our recycled content is all locally sourced. The reclaimed concrete is cleaned and crushed into very small pieces so we can properly incorporate into our mix. We do not treat the recycled content any further. The recycled content does not affect the color of the stone. It acts as filler so it is really contained within the concrete walls.

What factors come into play when making these decisions about materials and their suitability for a given piece?
The things I am trying to do with any given piece are fairly straightforward. The first is to make the container as strong as possible while using the smallest amount of concrete material. Then I look for the most efficient way to apply the concrete. And the last part is mostly using the best concrete mix to achieve the surface texture for the container. This process does take a bit of experimentation to get production rolling.

Ricky Giacco

MaterialsDo you actually hand cast every piece yourself? How do you do it quickly enough to fill the demand?
I do cast every piece myself and it is time consuming. I have the experience which allows me to move fast, but efficiency really comes down to making good molds and have a quick system to fill each one.

Your family helps a lot; that sounds lovely… depending! Do they all have a lot of these planters and other items in their homes?
Yes my family helps quite a bit and yes they all have planters in their homes. This is how we test out the product and improve others. I think working with family is a very special thing, if you can find a way to be productive. I’m sure it is not for most people. However, I am constantly surprised how much I like it.

Your materials are sustainably smart. Do you think construction or other types of companies, governments, etc. could use this kind of material on a large scale?
I certainly think it’s a good concept for an eco-friendly building material. However there is a lot of science involved in engineering concrete. What we make is intended for a craft application. I know there are plenty of scientist, engineers and universities working on the construction grade eco-concrete.

Concrete is alkaline, and very porous. Are your planters best used for alkaline-loving plants that don’t need a lot of water?
Yes, concrete is made from limestone, which is an alkaline rock, and therefore alkaline plants will do best in our containers. If you wish to put an acid loving plant in concrete, a liner is recommended. And it is porous, and is better for plants that don’t need a lot of water. In my opinion, porous is good all around; potted plants die because of over-watering.

How should one take care of these pots?
The concrete containers are fairly easy to care for. What I tell most people is to avoid standing water. It can stain over time and in freezing temperatures can crack concrete. Other than that, they are pretty easy to use.

Apple Bark Planter

Your Apple Bark Planter was cast from a crab apple tree that got sick and had to be removed. It sounds like you’re very sentimental about plants! What are your favorite things to grow?
I did know this tree for many years and was disappointed to see it go. I had this idea to make the planter, and I think it turned out pretty well. My favorite plants are cactus and succulents. They seem so exotic to me. I love how rugged and nearly indestructible they are. I wish I lived in a warmer climate to grow them beyond my containers.

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