Browsing Tag


Maker Resources

How To Make It: Collaborating and Building Your Network | Videos

April 11, 2013

Earlier this month we hosted another design panel and happy hour for designers in Brooklyn. The topic of conversation was learning how to work well with other artist in a collaborative community, a business partnership and on the internet. Sitting on the panel was artist and founder of the AmDC Kiel Mead, Katy Maslow and Michelle Inciarrano of Twig Terrariums, and UncommonGoods Community Outreach Coordinator, Gaby Dolceamore (yeah, that’s me!).

Guests were invited to mingle with each other and the panel; enjoy some Brooklyn Brewery beer, Dark Horse Wine and Pelzer’s Pretzels; and vote on a community winner of the Woodworking Design Challenge. Check out Zsuzsanna’s winning design, the Floating Window Air Plant Wall Decoration.

We know not everyone can head over to Brooklyn on a Tuesday night to join our events, so we are happy to offer clips from the night’s discussion below!

Communication is key, especially when best friends become business partners!

Michelle and Katy of Twig Terrariums reveal how they split up the work in their business.

Kiel describes the dynamic of contributing to a group of artists in the AmDC.

The Twig ladies talk about how important it is for them to share their craft with the local community.

The group discusses the importance of telling your art’s story.

The panel weighs in on the belief that 80% of a group’s work is done by 20% of its members.

Kiel describes how he makes the most out of networking with other artists.

…or just watch the entire thing!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Michelle Inciarrano & Katy Maslow

January 10, 2013

It only took a short subway ride to get from UncommonGoods headquarters to the Twig Terrariums studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn, but when I got there I was surprised at how far away I felt. I stepped into a tiny forest of laughs, puppies, and Lady Gaga songs (OK, there was only one puppy–but you get the idea). It was very clear that the Twig brand is all about the things BFFs Michelle and Katy love most – making beautiful and whimsical living environments inside apothecary jars, achieving their goals, and having fun. Growing up in Brooklyn, they were childhood buddies and reconnected at a friend’s birthday party a decade later. They recharged their friendship with regular craft nights, and when Michelle suggested they try putting together terrariums, Katy had to admit that she didn’t know what one was.

I could give one of Michelle’s famous Braveheart-like speech about how much fun I had in their studio, but I’d rather you hear about why Twig is so successful in Michelle’s own words.

What are your most essential tools?
Our #1 best tool of all time is… wait for it… the “pokey stick.” Yes, a simple dowel. We absolutely love them.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Where do you not find inspiration? We are obsessed with making these miniature gardens – and do not understand any other way since we started. We simply cannot fathom an end to creating them and the possibilities are endless. We revel in them.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Plan on needing more space than you think. Seriously. We moved studios 4 times in the last three years. Four times! And when you factor in that most of the stuff to be moved is made of glass, you understand our horror. Luckily, we made it through with surprisingly little broken, but jeez, that was a challenge. And then when you factor in the costs of moving, repairs, storage and design, the enormity of the situation becomes clearer. We still cringe when we think of it! But now we have 3,000 sq feet to play in, and although we still run out of room on occasion, we have an outdoor area to play in when we need a break. And did I mention the 14-foot paper mache tree we built in the middle of the studio? Yes, we now have a 14-foot paper mache tree!

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
I would write the “us of five years ago” a novel! Seriously. A novel. There is so much I’d like to say, but if I had to cut it short, I’d reassure myself by saying that everything is going to be okay, and to stay focused. I’d reassure Katy, too. We worry a lot.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I mind-map with Katy for all long-term goals – this is where we discuss the new things we want to do and create, then break them down into short-term goals, then break those down into to-do lists.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
We celebrate everything here at Twig! The staff here are a small family. Or cult. We can’t decide. You can ask them yourself but I have a feeling they’ll say it’s a cult. We all believe in the team “work hard/play hard” philosophy, so while we are happy to have a Mimosa Monday, we may have had a late Friday. We are all self-driven. And finishing everything we had to do on Friday is a victory. It’s usually an impressive list. Taxes are a victory. So is being featured in a magazine, or a wonderfully fun event at New York Botanic Gardens, or winning an award (or four) at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The only rule is that we party after the work is done, but one of my favorite things to do during a long (or particularly packed) day is surprise everyone with a picnic style bbq feast on top of our picnic tables (underneath our paper mache tree, of course). Ribs, fried chicken, mac n cheese, creamed spinach… you get the idea.

Putting together the Unchartered Territory Terrarium.

What quote keeps you motivated?
Katy and I are both English majors (hers in poetry, mine in fine art and classic literature). Never ask English majors for quotes. We’ll inundate you. We can’t help it. There are too many.

Instead, Michelle and Katy shared Twig’s motto “an easily maintained, easily contained life”, something that describes their work ethic as well as their terrariums. They believe that being maintained and contained includes strong goal-setting and super-sized list making–but also playing as hard as you work.

How do you recharge your creativity?
Oddly, we argue. Then we cry. Then we hug. We are happy. Then we create. This happens only every four months or so.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
That’s the thing; there isn’t much down time here during the day. We are a growing a small business here! But once the day is done, there is always beer in the fridge, chips and dip laying about, and stories to share.

Michelle and Katy sat in Prospect Park one day trying to figure out what the name of their creative company would be. The mulled over many choices until Katy reached down, picked up what she refers to as the most perfect twig she has ever seen and made one simple suggestion that stuck. That fateful twig now rests inside this antique apothecary jar in their store.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
We collaborate with a few glass blowers to design pieces for us, as well as visualize our designs. We love it!

After spending an hour or so with Michelle and Katy, it was really easy to understand why their terrariums are so popular, why the press can’t stay away, and why fans flock to their studio for workshops and classes. They are all about having fun and getting the work done – especially the really fun work.

The Uncommon Life

UncommonGoods Crew Braves Sandy

October 31, 2012

This morning the UncommonGoods staff reunited after a long weekend battling Hurricane Sandy in New York City. We shared our stories of terror, adventure and community. Here are some of our stories.

Our CEO,  Dave, spent the night at UncommonGoods headquarters in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, right on New York harbor, and saw the tides rise over the nearby fishing pier.

inside the Brooklyn Army Terminal


In the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, known for its streets lined with century-old trees, a tree fell near the apartment of Heather on our merchant team. Her roommate, Peter, helped with the cleanup.

Norma, from our Customer Service team, lives in the West Village where there is still no power. When she and her roommate, JR, found out that there was power uptown, they walked more than 30 blocks to a KFC to charge their phones. At an electronics store on the same block, they bought the last power strip and offered the other plugs to passersby, allowing for trapped tourists and frightened coeds to speak with their families. “Chatting with them and making them laugh was a needed relief for all of us”, Norma says. “It ended up being a good time at the KFC yesterday.”

Senior Graphic Designer Jessica and her fiance, Conor, took a walk on Monday through their Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus, named for the local canal. Conor had his camera in hand and took some stunning photos of the damage and the calm after the storm.

Sadly, the canal doesn't look much worse than it normally doesA rainbow over Brooklyn

Inbound team member, Quincy, spent all day Monday helping neighbors leave their flooded houses in his Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, offering his home as a comfortable, dry space for them to wait until the tides receded.

Children’s & Leisure Buyer, Melissa, didn’t make it into work today. She has been stuck in Lower Manhattan without power but was able to share some photos of her neighborhood and the meals she and her friends have been making for each other.

Payphones. Remember those?


We hope that you and your families are safe and sound.


How To Make It: Implementing Green Practices in Your Designs

October 23, 2012

We are excited to host our 4th How To Make It event on October 29, Implementing Green Practices in Your Designs, a topic we hold very close to our heart. Our panel will be weighing in on sourcing reclaimed materials, the legal implications of calling a design “green”, and setting up an environmentally friendly business and work space.

As always, we want our guests to stick around after the panel discussion for refreshments and networking with the panel, other local creatives and UncommonGoods staff – we know you’re dying to get your cards in the hands of our buyers!

RSVP for the event through our How To Make It page.


How To Make It: Scaling Up Event Videos

September 21, 2012

Last month we hosted our 4th How To Make It panel event and networking happy hour in Brooklyn, NY. Over 100 guests showed up to powerHouse Arena to hear our panelists, Rachel Rheingold of Maptote, Jesse James and Gus Anangopolous of Aesthetic Movement and artist Jenny Krauss of SAFEFA, talk about their experiences in scaling up their business. But a lot of you couldn’t make it so we wanted to share some of our favorite moments of the night. Check out these videos of the panelists sharing their advice and anecdotes.

Rachel describes how Maptote is run and who takes on what tasks.

The group talks about the best way to bring your designs to a trade show for the first time.

Does size matter? Jenny talks about the effects of press placements in big magazines and small newsletters on her sales.

Rachel shares ways of figuring out where your designs fit in the marketplace and keeping your eyes (and ears) open to new opportunities.

The panel discusses the measures that should, and shouldn’t, be taken to protect your intellectual property.

Or watch the whole discussion in its entirety!

Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio with Emily Rothschild

September 4, 2012

Studio tours have opened up so many new views into the lives and creative minds of our artists. In visiting with Emily Rothschild last month, I learned that her jewelry line was only the tip of the artistic iceberg. A designer who is always excited to learn, Emily constantly challenges her mind with lessons and classes, expanding her talents and perspective.

We thought her well-rounded attitude would serve well on the judging panel for the Bike Lovers Design Challenge and couldn’t wait to see inside her Fort Greene home-studio.

What are your most essential tools?
A few of my most essential tools are my camera for documenting inspiration for new work as well as completed projects, a radio for constant NPR streaming, and a pair of jeweler’s pliers which always seem to come in handy. My most loved tool is a pair of glassblowing jacks. The jacks have an excellent weight, feel, and history: it’s easy to imagine the years of hard work they endured before I owned them.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I find inspiration from the objects around me all of which have a story: tools I inherited from my father, a workbench from RISD, design books and culled images, a kitchen spatula from the 1940s… I find it is important to be surrounded by loved objects.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
My two dogs remind me to step away and take a walk; they make me slow down and refresh. It’s often hard to remember to step back but it is necessary to see things from all angles: sometimes you need distance in order to get closer to a solution. I’m also settling into my new role as a mom and know that I will be spending as much time as possible with three-month-old Otto between projects. I’m often guilty of working too much but for him I’m willing to slow down and clear my head completely.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I learned that I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone, seek advice when needed, and find solutions in a variety of ways. I enjoy working in new areas of interest and with new materials which means that I have to reach out often to others. I am lucky to have found a great community of designers who work in the same way and are just as curious. Sharing information goes both ways and is key to making it on your own – it means you’re never really alone.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Love what you do. And find a community of people with similar interests and goals whom you can share ideas (and gripes) with. Community is key.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I usually have a variety of projects going on at any given time which helps me to stay focused and continue moving forward. The goals I set often seem unreachable when I first set out – I’m generally completely intimidated when starting a new project and also raring to go. The only way I can make anything happen is to dive in and take risks.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
My husband reminds me to reward myself after working hard and wrapping up a project. It’s easy to run right into the next job when you work for yourself, I’m lucky to have someone to celebrate victories with – both big and small. I try hard to remind him of the same!

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I think about something my father always said: “Why is a duck when it spins?”. I figure if I can unlock that life mystery, I can make just about anything. My father was a great source of inspiration, information, and humor and someone who had a great hunger for investigating and learning. His wide spanning interests helped to form my curiosity about people and my perspective on design.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
This past year I took rhino, wax carving, and quilt making classes at Third Ward, Fitzjerald Jewelry, and Pins and Needles respectively. There is always some new skill I want to acquire for a project; I love learning to work with different materials and getting lost in the process.

How do you recharge your creativity?
I recharge my creativity by working on a diverse range of projects at a variety of scales – both client-based and self-generated. I work on research-based design work with my team, Hello. We Are _____., and more product-based work on my own. This combination of experiences and opportunities makes for a well balanced and never boring workweek. I also try to remember to get out of my studio often and look around – studio visits, museums, jogs, a trip out of the city, anything that keeps me looking at and talking about design.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I’m lucky to have the support of an excellent design team as well as a strong local design community and access to any number of makers and manufacturers. I have been working as part of a team of designers ( for the past few years and we are excited to be growing our team and outreach this year. I find it is impossible to design alone.


How To Make It: Scaling Up Your Creative Business

August 20, 2012

On August 28th we will host our third How To Make It design panel & happy hour at powerHouse Arena in DUMBO. We will welcome panelists Jenny Krauss of SAFEFA, Jesse James and Gus Anangopolous of Aesthetic Movement and Rachel Rheingold of Maptote. They will weigh in on scaling up a creative business. Topics include the right time to take the leap, how to get help scaling up inventory, and preparing the other parts of your business for the next step.

As always, after the talk we will host a happy hour with beer from Brooklyn Brewery where you can stick around and chat with the panelists, UncommonGoods staff, and other local designers.

RSVP now through Eventbrite and sign up for our MeetUp group to be first to hear about our future events.

Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio with Claudia Pearson

May 17, 2012

When the second floor of Claudia Pearson’s Brooklyn brownstone opened up, she knew it would be the perfect place to set up a studio. Claudia was using a corner of her family’s apartment to create illustrations for books, magazines and the merchandise she was creating. Space was getting tight as her two sons and business were growing so moving to the downstairs was an easy decision.

Claudia is the designer behind the 4 Seasons Tea Towels and one of our newest UncommonGoods artists. She is not a new name around Brooklyn flea markets and I have admired her commercial work and illustrations for cooking magazines, so I was excited to visit her sunny studio and learn about her craft and her business.

What are your most essential tools for creating your art?
My illustrations are a happy marriage of analog and digital techniques so my essential tools are pencils, erasers, inks combined with my printer, scanner and Photoshop.

Where do you find inspiration within your workspace?
I recently rented the apartment below where I live with my family so after 15 years of working at home I now have a separate studio. It’s filled with sunlight and walls to pin up my work in progress. We live in a leafy Brooklyn neighborhood on a corner so the sounds of birds and life outside keep me connected.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Sadly at the moment there isn’t such a thing. I’m constantly working on commercial projects for publishers, advertising and editorial clients. I do check my favorite blogs with my coffee first thing in the morning and did recently add a sofa where I can relax and check emails.

What are some of your time management secrets?
I work with two computer screens, one for illustrating and another for email so I can respond to emails immediately. I make a list of tasks for the next week at the end of each week. I divide the list up by the days of the week and make sure never to load up one day with too much stuff, making my list manageable. I also have an assistant who comes once a week. Now I can let go of some of the things that used to take up a lot of my time. I have a great assistant who is able to take care of skill-oriented tasks that are not specific to me.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
As a designer who relies on outside sources to produce my products, planning ahead in production was definitely a learning curve. Staying on top of suppliers and being firm about deadlines.

What advice could you offer yourself 5 years ago?
I would recommend creating schedules all the time throughout the year and during slower times making sure future products are designed and ready for production. Also to foster good relationships with design blogs and magazines that can provide valuable marketing.

Where does collaboration come into play in your work?
I’ve always loved to collaborate with people who have different skills to me. In 2010 I worked with a local chef; she came up with seasonal recipes that I illustrated and we established a set of 12 recipe cards that take you through a year of local ingredients. Last year I collaborated with a local ceramicist and we put my seasonal fruits and veggies on cups. It’s fun to apply my work to mediums that I’m unfamiliar with and bring variety to my line. I’m currently developing ideas with another local chef and food writer for a cook book so stay tuned.

So far I have been fortunate enough to have collaborated with friends of mine which has made it easy. Make sure when you are getting into a partnership or collaboration, especially with a friend, that roles are clearly defined in a way that makes the individuals’ work equal.

How do you set goals for yourself?
These days most of my goals are set for me by clients and their deadlines. When I’m designing a new line of tea towels I work seasonally and make sure I have a 6 week period to create artwork and get samples printed. My business has grown at such a phenomenal rate over the past two years that I now need to take stock and make a 5 year plan.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
When a creative job comes my way and I feel it will be a benchmark in my career, I take my family out for a nice dinner and we chat about it together. We have two sons who are 9 and 7 and they are extremely inspired by my world. I enjoy sharing my ideas with them and see how it is enabling them to flourish creatively.

How do you recharge your creativity?
We love to travel and try to get away whenever we can. Traveling has always inspired my work and now with kids, it’s fun to see the world through their eyes. We go to London every summer to visit family and friends. We also try and sneak in a trip to the Caribbean every few years. Failing that, a weekend upstate will certainly recharge my batteries.

Pin It on Pinterest