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Brooklyn

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Meghan Ellie Smith

December 13, 2013

Meghan Ellie Smith

Clutter Castle is what Meghan calls her eccentric home studio, tucked away in the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn. When I saw the odd, yet beautiful, string installation hanging from the ceiling, a collection of wooden instruments displayed on the wall, and a creepy plastic hand sitting on its own mini mantel, I fully understood how the Clutter Castle earned the honor of its name. But it’s funny, although I was like a kid in a candy shop in her vintage oasis — oohing and ahhing at every corner, I didn’t find it overwhelmingly chaotic. I felt as if the odds and ends of all the clutter were actually masterfully organized to push the use of imagination and a creative atmosphere. Which made perfect sense, because those were my exact thoughts about Meghan’s winning art piece, Chaos Mountain. The bright and earthy colors bleed into one another with no particular pattern, yet the shaped splices are meticulously placed. I love it. Perhaps the juxtaposition between the crashing watercolors and structured mountain reminds me a little of myself: a bit messy, a bit random, a bit chaotic, but in the end of the day, I know what I want to do and exactly where I want to go. “Not all who wander are lost,” a favorite quote by many free spirited individuals, resonates within the illustration of Chaos Mountain. Meghan Ellie Smith,a true free spirit herself, is not only the Queen of Clutter Castle, but officially wears the crown of our latest Art Contest. 

Meghan Ellie Smith I absolutely love your aesthetic and design. How exactly did you decide on the concept of Chaos Mountain?
Thank you! I’ve been very inspired by nature lately, especially mountains. I guess being in the city all the time can make one feel a little desperate for the great outdoors. Working on Chaos Mountain was a really nice way to get some simulated nature time. Meghan Ellie SmithIMG_0289

Where do you find inspiration within your space?
I’ve got 7 roommates! All of whom are musically, artistically, and creatively talented. Being surrounded by wonderful, passionate friends is an amazing source of inspiration.

Where does down time fit into a day of being productive.
I pretty much just go on reddit.com/r/aww and look at cute animal photos whenever I’m waiting on paint to dry. That and watch Parks and Rec, and take the occasional nap when the mood strikes.

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What are your most essential tools that you must have by your side while you design?
Pretty much just acrylic paint, brushes, paper towels, scissors, duck tape, laptop, and very important- CANDY.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a freelance artist?
Lots of people will tell you they can’t pay you, “but you’ll get great exposure.” This is a load of crap.

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Other than being an artist, what else do you do?
First and foremost, crazy cat lady. I took that to the next level recently and started volunteering at an animal shelter called BARC in Williamsburg- they’re awesome, I highly recommend volunteering and/or adopting from there. I’ve also just been named the talent booker for a new bar/music venue in Williamsburg called Kingsland which I’m crazy excited about!

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Where do you picture yourself and what will you be doing in 5 years?
If all goes according to plan, bottle feeding baby tigers. And making a legit living being an artist.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
DON’T LIVE IN THE DORMS; you’re gonna have a weird roommate who doesn’t flush.

Meghan Ellie Smith

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
One time I was in the car with my mom and I asked her, “How many birds are there in the world?” She responded, “Seven. It’s all mirrors.” Both hilarious, and amazing. It’s way more fun to let your imagination bend reality and see the world however you want. IMG_0331

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft? 
I’d love to learn about screen printing! I’ve got some friends that can teach me, so it’s just a matter of finding the time to do it. Also photoshop…very daunting.

How do you recharge your creativity?
The aforementioned nap times are pretty great for that, and hanging out with my friends and laughing about all things ridiculous puts me in the  greatest mood, which is when I’m at my creative best.

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Do you have any special projects or events that are in the works or that are floating in your brain right now?
I’m currently working on my biggest painting yet! It’s 3ft.x4ft. and sort of a surreal, illustrative mountain scene. I’ve always been pretty scared of doing large format work so it feels really good to be confronting this challenge. I’m happy to report- so far, so good.

Meghan Ellie Smith

 

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Robert Blinn, Carl Collins, Peter Knocke & Daniel Stillman

October 7, 2013

the men of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsSome designers have a creative studio, some have a company work space, but for this Studio Tour I rode my bike to the apartment of Carl Collins, the gathering-space of GothamSmith. It was early on a Tuesday morning and before they went their separate ways for the day, Pete, Daniel, and Carl got together around a handmade wooden table to meet with me and get some work done. There were few idle hands at the table; as we talked about how they all met and became GothamSmith, Carl was busy sketching new designs, Pete stamped their logo on muslin bags, and Daniel cut chain to assemble necklaces with pendants just delivered by Shapeways – a NYC-based 3D printing service that brings their designs to life.

As they reminisced about their original meeting space – a now-closed watering hole – and flipped through a book of anecdotes and inside jokes that they published for each other a couple years back, I couldn’t figure out which came first, the business or the friendship. Although Rob wasn’t able to join, I could tell these four guys are as passionate about their friendship as they are about their brand, an idea born from a lack of manly items at a handmade craft show.

Meet the guys of GothamSmith!

the table | GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsWhat are your most essential tools?
Whiskey, a pen, a napkin, and conversation. We are a social bunch who handle most ideas, debates, and challenges while out and about in the city.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
We find inspiration in each other when we are in this space. It’s filled with so many elements of culture and history that it sparks constant debates. Just being surrounded by all of these design artifacts and books makes it easy to just grab an item and start a conversation.

inside the GothamSmith gathering space | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
The four founders of GothamSmith all split time amongst various day jobs as well as other side projects. What is this ‘down time’ thing you speak of?

What was the toughest lesson you learned as young designers starting a business?
Organization and planning can be so boring and difficult, but it is so critical to any form of success.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Stay Focused, Keep Moving

inside the GothamSmith gathering space | UncommonGoodsinside the GothamSmith gathering space | UncommonGoodsHow do you set goals for the team?
Most of our goals are simply tied to the products that we want to make and how long we can tolerate them not being real.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
We are a tight group of friends that is somewhat always celebrating. Life is about appreciating all of the little bits of beauty around you while pushing yourself to greater and greater successes.

there is always more | UncommonGoods

When asking them to creatively convey the team’s favorite quote, all they had to do was flip to a page in their book.

What quote keeps you motivated?
It is a reminder of the abundance of life.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
In the world of 3D Printing, we are all constantly figuring out the medium. Sometimes things work for random reasons and a lot of time they don’t. We are constantly sketching, prototyping, and refining everything from how we model pieces to what finishes create the aesthetic we want.

inside the gathering space of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsinside the gathering space of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsHow do you recharge your creativity?
Live music, museums, beaches, long bike rides, road trips, art exhibits, Dim Sum… basically anything the city throws at us.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
GothamSmith would not exist if it were not for the founders all having the same frustrations and passions. We collaborate on everything because GothamSmith only happens when we come together. We’re a bit like if Voltron came from Brooklyn.

Design

How To Make It: Designing Your Website | Design Panel + Happy Hour

September 17, 2013

How To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsDesigning a webpage from scratch can be daunting! There are so many design decisions to be made to properly showcase your handmade designs. On Tuesday October 1, meet UncommonGoods Associate Art Director Rebecca Paull Marshall, jewelry designer Caitlin McNamara, and Wix.com Training and Support Manager Ariele Krantzow at our next event and get their advice on putting together a beautiful and effective website. Submit your website for a direct critique from our panel during the discussion.

Stick around after the talk for some drinks, snacks, and networking with the UG team and other local creatives.

Wix.com enables everyone to design, publish and host stunning HTML5 websites. No coding, no previous design skills, just log in to Wix and start creating with our easy drag-and-drop website builder! In that spirit of encouraging creativity and enabling entrepreneurship, in 2010 Wix founded the NYC Wix Lounge. The Wix Lounge is a completely free co-working, event and exhibit space for creative professionals. Grab your laptop, pop into the Lounge and enjoy a productive work day, great networking opportunities, and amazing events. The Wix Lounge provides free support to New Yorkers, giving them the tools and tips for successfully launching and managing their businesses’ online presence. To learn more about the Wix Lounge, please visit http://www.wixlounge.com.

To learn more about the panel and sign up, visit our Events page.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Kasia Wisniewski & Nicholas Foley

June 3, 2013

Living in New York City you learn very quickly not to judge a book by it’s cover – every door hides a secret in this city. Upon walking up to Kasia Wisniewski and Nicholas Foley’s building I had no idea what was in store. Only a few blocks from my own place, and on a block with manicured brownstones, Kasia and Nick’s door was gated and uninviting. But upon being greeted and swept upstairs to their apartment by Kasia, I was surprised to be standing in the treasure hidden from the street. Their home is what I imagine Marie Antoinette’s place would look like if she were a Brooklyn artist – a mix of Baroque accessories, Mid-Century furniture, antique sewing machines, dress forms. And right there, among their beautiful furniture and artifacts, was an industrial laser cutter, taking up what I imagine could be a sizable second bedroom.

That’s another thing about New York City – you have to make it happen by any means possible. For Nick and Kasia that mean taking out a wall, building a ventilation system, and giving up precious real estate to fit the laser cutter that helped Kasia leave her job in luxury fashion design and start working for herself. But nothing is wasted – they have used the cutter to create Kasia’s wall art and jewelry, to cut stencils to create other designs, and Nick even used it to cut wood to create a suspended indoor garden. Getting to tour their space and talk about their work was truly inspiring and a reminder that nothing is earned in this city without a little sacrifice.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
We are collectors! We’re surrounded constantly by reminders of things we love- from books and photographs to piles of fabric and knick-knacks from our travels. Living in Brooklyn has forced us to be creative with a limited space, so we’ve put our passions front and center. Nick is starting an indoor vegetable garden in the corner of our living room, so a lot of it is creating our own inspiration as well.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Working from home means we’re working on and off from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep – but when you’re doing stuff you like, it’s not work. I usually take an hour or so to go for a run around midday and we always watch something funny during dinner at the end of the day.

We also have a blog where we detail our food and design experiments, so working on that is sort of a treat for us as well.

What are your most essential tools?
Our most essential tool is our laser cutter- we use it not only to create products like our You Are Here map, but we also use it to create tools for our other projects, from stamps and stencils to jigs and frames. My industrial sewing machine (a birthday gift from Nick to me) is another Collected Edition MVP.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Transitioning from a full-time job in a high stress fashion company to being my own boss was terrifying. I think the hardest part was really realizing how fast time goes by when you’re working on projects by yourself. At first I would beat myself up if I didn’t have something solid and concrete at the end of the day – but mistakes and revisions are 95% of the design process.

What advice would you offer yourself of 5 years ago?
I would encourage myself to follow my instincts and believe in my vision. I think all designers suffer from insecurity, but if you focus on making good work and being true to your aesthetic, others will get onboard.

How do you set goals for yourself?
We both have a very clear idea of what we want our lives to be like in 5 years or 10 years – but the path to get there is still developing! We are both big fans of lists – both small detail and big picture. I try to set manageable goals I know I can reach, while always keeping in mind the endgame.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Every victory is celebrated by figuring out how to win the next victory.

What quote keeps you motivated?
This Samuel Beckett quote pretty much sums up creative entrepreneurship. I think there are very few designers that ever feel completely satisfied with their work – you should always be aiming to “fail better” on the next go-round.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m starting to experiment with casting. I love using tutorials from sites like Instructables to inform my experimentation. We also have an electroforming set-up that we both worked with some in college but is now lying dormant – that’s another avenue we have been exploring and requires a lot of trial and error to perfect.

How do you recharge your creativity?
The only time I can ever really relax is when we go away – whether on a proper vacation or just a day trip. A change in scenery does wonders for the mind.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Since so much of what we do is custom, each piece is really a collaboration with the client. My favorite thing is to work closely with a customer to bring an idea to life – it’s a beautiful thing to know that what you do brings happiness to another life.

The Uncommon Life

Celebrate Cycling for National Bike Month

May 17, 2013

Since May is National Bike Month, and today is is Bike to Work Day, we’re celebrating by sharing some stats about how our team gets our bike on.

In NYC, biking to and from work is among one of the regularities of city living. When the subway stations are too hot, humid and crowded during the summer, it’s not too uncommon to see bikers out enjoying the breeze as they cruise through the boroughs to work. Actually, NYC has ranked #7 on the Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities list and have you heard about the new Citi Bike Membership program? Awesome.

Jessica McDonough, Associate Art Director, on a cruise.

Here are some quick facts about UG bike riders:

How we get to work.

Lee Griffin, Operations Manager, walking his bike through the warehouse to his office.

The time we spend riding to work.

Mindy Wilson, Human Resources Manager, gives biking a thumbs up.

Who’s biking by department.

And the top three UGooders (combining commute in miles, commute in minutes and frequency) are…

#3 – Laura Frost, Customer Service Assistant Manager
8 miles, 60 minutes, Average of 4 – 6 times per month

#2 – Erin Fergusson, Senior Manager – Merchandising
8 miles, 40 minutes, Average of 3 times per week

And, our #1 bike commuter is…
Dave Bolotsky, Founder and CEO
8 miles, 35 minutes, Average of 3 – 4 days per week