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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Seth and Maddy Lucas

June 10, 2015

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Instagram photo taken by @ellothereprintco

One of my favorite meetings at the UncommonGoods headquarters is something we like to call grown up “show-and-tell,” where the marketing  team previews the products that will soon join our This Just In assortment. I was immediately intrigued by the story behind the National  Parks Sticker Map. Assistant Merchandising Coordinator Jillian described Seth and Maddy Lucas as a young married couple who had a goal  of visiting all of the national parks in their lifetime. It might have been because I was in the middle of reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” but I immediately thought “I wanna do that, too!” I started daydreaming about where I would thru-hike one day, imagining myself rolling out a sleeping bag next to a serene lake in [insert middle of America location]. But when Jillian mentioned that the designers were based in Brooklyn, I swiped the serene lake away like an email on my iPhone and thought “Oh, I wanna go there too.”

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

I had never been to a home studio before visiting Seth and Maddy. Upon entering their light-drenched apartment, I think the phrase  “bring your work home” took a whole new meaning. From the nostalgic American pillows on the couch, to the colorful shelves in their kitchen, it was easy to tell that their artistic aesthetic is consistent throughout every detail in their daily lives. When I stumbled  upon their copy of the “Wes Anderson Collection,” everything clicked. I realized that Seth and Maddy had the ability to create an all encompassing visual language similar to what Anderson fans feel when they are lost in any one of his famous films. The  ability to live life with such a distinct style seems to come naturally to Seth and Maddy, whether they are backpacking around another park, or just listening to a record on their couch. Meet travelers and designers Seth and Maddy Lucas, and learn more about their colorful inspirations, their collaborative process, and the delicious way they celebrate a victory.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where do you find inspiration within this space?

Seth: The lighting is my favorite part about it. We have two big glass doors that bring in lots of light, and I think that’s key with any workspace.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?

Seth: I do my sketching in Paper [by FiftyThree] or Adobe [Illustrator] Draw on the iPad with the Pencil [by FiftyThree]. I love being able to draw and then send my files directly to Adobe Illustrator.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where does down time fit into a day in a home studio?

Seth and Maddy: It’s never scheduled, but we have lots of really amazing coffee shops nearby in Bushwick. We like to take a break at random times throughout the day and grab bite or a drink.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young couple starting a business?

Seth: I think giving each other our own defined roles was the hardest part to figure out together. There’s just parts of the business that I know Maddy will be better at, not only in organizing our workspace, but in organizing and putting together our online shop. Know that we’ve become comfortable with what we do and how we split up work, our day-to-day process runs much more smoothly.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?

Seth: Mostly in the idea stage. We come up with a lot of ideas together, and if we’re excited enough about an idea I’ll start working on it right away and Maddy will give me suggestions. We really try to only put out products that we love and feel like we have to get it made right now because we want to have that product in our lives.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your product?

Seth: The National Parks [Sticker Map] came about when Maddy suggest we make a lifetime goal of visiting all 59 national parks, and she wanted me to make a map to mark our journey. We had a hunch that others would want to use this map and sticker design as well, and we’ve been blown away at how many others share our passion for visiting the national parks.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What advice would you (both) offer the you of 5 years ago?

Seth and Maddy: Relax, you’ll figure it out. Freaking out over our lack of business knowledge has always made us feel underqualified, and we’ve had to make some mistakes to figure out what we’re doing. But moving forward and learning from mistakes has been the best way for us to improve.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you celebrate a victory?

Seth and Maddy: Dominique Ansel is our favorite bakery and they make these really cool chocolate chip cookies in the shape of a shot glass and fill them with vanilla infused milk. As soon as we finished our first trade show, we made our way to Dominique Ansel and had cookie shots. It’s sort of become our unofficial celebration when we’ve finished a big project.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you recharge your creativity?

Seth and Maddy: We take a lot of weekend trips. We’re not messing around with our national parks goal. We’ve been to 20 now, and they make for a great chance for us to get work stuff out of our minds and just enjoy the outdoors.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?

Seth: “Show up every day.” This is a quote from one of my favorite podcasters, Seanwes. I love how it’s only three words, but it says everything you need to know. Just show up, be there, every single day. If I want to see progress, I need to make new products and come up with new ideas, this process is never ending and to make it work we have to show up every day.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you set goals for yourself?

Seth and Maddy: Getting ready for trade shows has become a great way for us to get out new projects. It gives us a deadline, and we can set up smaller deadlines so we know when we need to be done coming up with new ideas, when we need to design those ideas, and how much time it will take to get those ideas printed.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

 

National Parks Sticker Map | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Alexandra Ferguson

June 1, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Alexandra Ferguson, the designer behind our new handmade, eco-friendly pillows.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Photo by Gabi Porter

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My mom, who has a fashion background, was always working on crafting projects with us as kids. So I grew up in a very creative home and learned from an early age that the best way to get something really fantastic was to make it myself.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
I love working out of my factory. Working with an incredibly talented team to roll up your sleeves and make something is a really satisfying way to spend your day. I also love speaking with my customers – we are so lucky to have such a passionate and dedicated cult fan base. I get so much inspiration from them!

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
A lot of my day is spent managing the work flow through the room. Our factory is designed to be incredibly lean and agile, handling a large volume of custom orders with a very short lead time. Often I feel like an orchestra conductor making sure that the timing of all the moving parts is accurate. I also spend a good chunk of my day outward facing, working with customers over the phone and email, processing orders and ultimately getting boxes on the UPS truck! The best moment is watching a ton of boxes get loaded up, that’s when I can relax a little knowing that it was a job well done.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Photo by Colin Miller

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
My own pillows! I think I have 3 of our “Breathe” pillows in my office. Those are helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
They’d probably read it aloud! My 5-year-old nephew loves to practice his reading and writing with “Aunt Al’s” pillows. “Here Comes Trouble” is a favorite among the toddler set. I get lots of cheeky twinkles when they read that one.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Um, do you have space for 80? “I work hard for the money” is a favorite. There’s no sitting back and relaxing in my factory, and I’m proud of the hustle!

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Build Your Own Brooklyn

February 20, 2015

Rocky |UncommonGoods

Product: DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits

Research:
I think images of artwork are great. But I think videos of artwork being created are so much better. That must mean that GoPro videos from the perspective of the artist creating a piece are the best! At least that’s my theory… which brings us to today’s Gift Lab. I took you out to the beach in my last blog post to demo a product. This time around, you’re going inside my head to see something cool get built from the bottom up.

Hypothesis:
Our DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits offer the chance for you to craft a mini version of two signature structures in New York, the Kentile Floors sign and your ordinary rooftop water tower. It caught my eye after I saw the two shots of custom designed water towers on our product page.

DIY Watertower | UncommonGoods
DIY Brooklyn Skylines - Watertower | UncommonGoods

Perfect product to test my theory with! First off, these are hot. Nice job Zero Productivity and Atomiko. But more importantly, I can gauge how well we’re able to see something being constructed and designed, without spending hours on hours doing it. I haven’t drawn anything in years. A lot of effort would’ve been needed to produce something that gives my 5-year-old self some competition.

I was also glad to see that two different versions of the kit existed. While doing research on best practices for filming (read: watching GoPro videos on Youtube), I found it difficult to tell which GoPro dock to use for this; chest mount or head mount? So I bought both. I decided that I’d use one mount for one kit and another mount for the other.

Two DIY Brooklyn Skyline kits, two mounts, and one GoPro in hand later… the test was ready to begin.

Testing GoPro with DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits | UncommonGoods

Experiment:
I started with the Water Tower kit first, for no other reason than wanting to get closer to fantasizing about being a graffiti artist. After I laid all of the cardboard pieces on the table as instructed, I strapped the GoPro chest mount on, pressed record and got to work.

Here’s a closeup of the major pieces made for the water tower.
Build Your Own Brooklyn Watertower | UncommonGoods

Now it was time to design it. I grabbed a pack of Crayola markers and started doodling.

Finished Watertower | UncommonGoods

The first immediate takeaway – Tagging my water tower before building it would’ve been the better idea. The advantage of utilizing a flat surface didn’t cross my mind even slightly; until it was time to record myself doing it. That explains the split between the clips. I had to game plan.

The other thing was the actual video. In order to learn more about using the GoPro, I turned to Wistia.com’s #GoProWeek as a resource. Every day for that week, they shared a different pro tip (no pun intended) for getting the best shot. One of the techniques I used was the time-lapse recording feature that snaps pictures every few seconds, instead of actually recording straight through. I wasn’t a fan of the final result, because the footage came out too choppy. I think I set the timer in between shots too far apart. I decided to make sure to use the other recommended method for the next kit; shooting normally and speeding up the footage in a video editor.

Besides that, the rest of the process was smooth sailing and more fun than expected. The maker’s of the kits provided clear step-by-step assembly directions and all pieces worked as intended. Any edge that needed folding went over smoothly. The laser cut tabs and indents fit perfectly into each other. Connecting the pieces was a snap (that pun, intended). The biggest surprise was the glue; it did not leave a mess on my hands or the table I worked on. It comes already setup in drops that are separated by perforated plastic. When the instructions tell you to grab one, just rip one dot from the pack, peel off the plastic covering, and apply to the marked area. That easy.

Glue Dots

Next up was recording the Kentile Floors sign DIY kit with the GoPro attached to the head mount. You’ll notice that it begins with me filling in the letters first, and then moving on to putting it together.

The simplicity of the structure’s design made assembly much quicker. There wasn’t much of a surface to draw on but filling in the narrow letters required a little bit of time. I really like the point of view that the head cam captured. It feels like you’re actually putting it together rather than observing someone else do it.

Kentile Floors Sign Kit | UncommonGoods

Conclusion:
All in all, I’m convinced that my theory is correct. Watching art creation from a GoPro perspective is a cool experience that helps anyone appreciate the process behind the final result more. It’s amazing to see what goes into pieces, especially from our assortment, I’d imagine. We have a wide selection of uncommon goods that obviously require an uncommon approach to create.

In retrospect, I see where areas for improvement lay. In a future flick, I would:

  • Adjust the speed back to its normal rate at certain points in the video. There are some scenes where it would have made a better experience, such as when I was working on a small detail like applying the glue dots. It also would’ve been a great way to end it so you see the final product as it is just completed.
  • Angle the GoPro camera on the head mount down a few more degrees.
  • Add some background music.

DIY Skyline Kits as Desk Accessories | UncommonGoods

The Skyline Kits made for a great GoPro test run, and I’d definitely recommend them to someone looking for a fun and easy DIY.  What’s even better? I’m left with two new desk additions that visitors can stop and admire. Long overdue, since the Levitron Lamp had been retired for some time now.

 

The Uncommon Life

B is For Beer, Breweries, Brooklyn, and Beyond!

October 13, 2014

While we’d like to claim that UncommonGoods’ home borough of Brooklyn is the single epicenter of beer culture in the US, that would be a slight to hotspots like Portland, San Diego, and Denver, not to mention lesser-known enclaves like Sussex County, Delaware or Western New York. But along with its important role in the craft beer revival, New York City does have a long history of brewing, longer than some other locales synonymous with craft beer today.

Wise Beer Growler | UncommonGoods

Wise Beer Growler

Breuckelen Brewing History

The first known brewery in the New World was in lower Manhattan, where two thirsty Dutch settlers established a brewhouse in the colony of New Amsterdam in 1612. As the island became more densely settled (and was reborn as New York) brewers started to relocate to the wide-open spaces uptown and across the East River in Brooklyn (“Breuckelen” in New Amsterdam days). Just over 300 years after that brewery beachhead, Brooklyn boasted nearly 50 active breweries, many founded by German-Americans capitalizing on the booming popularity of German-style lagers.

It’s no stretch to say that daily growlers of local beer (named for the grumbling stomachs of hungry workers) helped to build many New York landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge. Schaefer, founded in 1842 on a German lager recipe, built a new state-of-the art facility in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1915, keeping Brooklynites well-supplied for 60 years. Unlike many others, Schaefer survived the dry spell of Prohibition, but succumbed to the corporate forces of big national brewers like Anheuser Busch in the 1970s, throwing in the towel in 1976.

Currier and Ives Image of Brooklyn

‘The City Of Brooklyn’ print by Currier and Ives, 1879

It’s Alive!

Brewing in New York suffered in the ’70s and early ’80s, along with many other aspects of life in the Big Apple. But by 1984, signs of life emerged when former AP correspondent Steve Hindy teamed up with his Park Slope neighbor, Tom Potter, to found Brooklyn Brewery. From humble, DIY beginnings, they led the charge for a Brooklyn beer revival. Today, with an expanding facility in Williamsburg, not far from Schaefer’s former site, Brooklyn Brewery produces an impressive array of beers enjoyed throughout the region and nationwide.

Following Brooklyn Brewery’s success, other breweries have cropped up around the borough, offering more and more variety for beer lovers in Brooklyn and beyond. From the distinctive, genre-defying beers of Sixpoint (Red Hook), to the environmentally-conscious brews of Kelso (Fort Greene), to the sideshow chutzpah of Coney Island Brewing Company, Brooklyn is re-emerging as an East Coast center for craft brewing. In the big picture, there’s even more good news for brews: the Brooklyn revival is just one wave of an American craft beer resurgence. This year marks 3,000 breweries operating in the US—most of them microbreweries or nanobreweries like Brooklyn’s brewers—a level not seen in this country since 1870. Throughout the nation, a century of lost ground has been regained!

Wooden Beer Tote | UncommonGoods

Wooden Beer Tote with Bottle Opener

Beer is Culture

Sixpoint Brewery’s motto, “Beer is Culture” may be the perfect phrase to encompass the role of beer in Brooklyn today. Beer’s role in Brooklyn life isn’t just relegated to the proliferation of craft breweries; there are scores of multiple tap beer pubs, specialty stores like Bierkraft in Park Slope, beer history tours and tastings led by Urban Oyster and others, and numerous spots where you can fill up a growler with a dizzying variety of craft beers from all points on the map. And that’s just one borough of the metropolis where beer has been part of the local culture for over 400 years.

Cheers!

Indulge in some hoppy goodness with the help of our favorite beer gifts, or learn more about the history of brewing by visiting the sources we used for this post: BeerHistory.com, Brooklyn Brewery/History,Schaefer Beer/History, The Buffalo News

Design

How To Make It: Instagram and Your Creative Business Videos

April 9, 2014

On March 25 we invited Ronen Glimer of Artists & Fleas, Ronda J Smith of In the Seam, and local members of our design community to a panel discussion about using Instagram to market your designs and build a following. The event was hosted at Union Hall in Park Slope and guests stuck around afterwards to swap business cards, meet our marketing and buying teams, and make connections.

If you’re ever in the hood you should check out one of our events, but watching the highlights are always a great back-up plan.