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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Building Would Have Been a Mile High?

September 6, 2016

21885_uk091416The Mile High building, of course. Although it exists only in a few impressively vertical drawings, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Illinois skyscraper—commonly known as the “Mile High” building—was, as the name suggests, to tower 5,280 feet over the city of Chicago. Although Wright professed to hate cities in general, he wasn’t one to be outdone by the soaring glass boxes of the midcentury modern mainstream. His colossal “Sky-City” was a vision of a skyscraper to end all skyscrapers: 528 stories, 18.4 million square feet, nuclear-powered elevators, and parking for 15,000 cars and 150 personal helicopter pods. The Illinois never got off the drawing board, but its ambitious scale and bundled, crystalline structure inspired the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building (though only about half the elevation of the Illinois proposal).

Here’s an amazing animation of the Mile High building created by the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Skyline of Love | $160

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: OUTSIDE YOUR WINTER WINDOW

January 27, 2016

Instagram Challenge | Outside Your Winter Window | UncommonGoods

 

The next Instagram Challenge theme is OUTSIDE YOUR WINTER WINDOW.  We did a little something different when deciding which photo to use to promote this contest. I tried to picture what winter looked like outside the windows of my past, but as a native Floridian turned New Yorker, my mind kept shifting between palm trees and piles of dirty city snow. We talked about snow globes, snow gauges, and starry landscapes.  We imagined deer roaming through a winter wonderland. Ultimately, these abstract perspectives of what this season looks like inspired us to use artist Renée Leone’s vibrant piece Blizzard. This image illustrates her perspective on winter in Chicago, specifically from North Avenue Beach and Lake Shore Drive. Through geometric patterning, she created a personal portrait that not only depicts what she saw in this particular location, but also what she felt.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio with Dolan Geiman

June 4, 2012

With artists throughout the 50 states, being able to visit the studio of each designer is a valuable, but more often unlikely opportunity. However, sometimes an opportunity lends itself to step inside the mind of an artist without ever setting foot in their hometown. Dolan Geiman is a mixed media designer who marries found objects and iconic imagery in his pieces. He generously takes us on our first remote studio tour and shares his tools, tricks and inspirations through photos of his space and in his owns words.

What are your most essential tools for creating your art?
The tools I find most essential for creating my artwork are as follows, in this order:
apple pie, crisp warm days, cool nights, bluegrass and country music, a clear mind, and a vision of the finished project. Other tools are easier to obtain.

Where do you find inspiration within your workspace?
I keep artifacts around my studio that give me energy and creative power: a turtle shell, a cow skull, a box of fasteners my sister sent me from Prague, a collection of pine cones and bird nests, a box of civil war buttons and old watches. Things that have energy and I can plug into them like one might plug a Norelco into a bathroom socket.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Well, there is not a whole lot of downtime for me. I think it’s that way when you run your own business. A lot of peers tell me in in their wispy yoga voices “Ahh, you just have to make time for yourself.” Yeah, it ain’t that easy. So, I take time at the end of a few months of hard labor. I’m trying to eek out a few moments early in the morning to walk and look at birds. But for now, while the work is there, I will be there holding its hand or holding its head while it throws up.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I never learned how to say “no” earlier in my career. It’s nice to say no. It helps you to stay sane. It’s hard if you are broke, but don’t ever let people take advantage of your creativity in that way.

What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Charge more for your services. And stop smoking cigarettes. And move to the country. And get a damn haircut.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I basically keep this little treasure chest in my head and on the front of the chest is a goal. When I complete the goal I get to open the treasure chest. It’s usually full of wine and beer and a few days of fly fishing in the mountains. I try to set goals that are attainable but very difficult. And I do weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Well, I used to celebrate more but then I married my business partner and that put a damper on the celebrations… haha. I like to celebrate after I complete a successful project or a milestone in the business. I think I appreciate these things because I’m more of a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of person. And it also helps mentally, and mental health is something I take very seriously. If you just keep doing these cool things and then don’t stop to look at what you’ve done and where you’ve been then five years goes by and you are just older and not any happier.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I have this quote that I say to myself which is like my mental tattoo – “make art or die” – because if I stop making art I will most likely die. Like a pancake without syrup. Useless and not making anyone happy.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am trying to learn more about woodworking and creating antiqued finishes. I rely on the spoken advice of my peers and colleagues for this. There are two nice woodworkers in the basement studio below my studio so I often pick their brains for advice.

How do you recharge your creativity?
I go fishing or hiking or camping or bird watching or anything in the woods for at least several days. I’m trying harder and harder to re-charge my creativity these days, since I feel like I am working harder and harder. I have had several mental breakdowns in the past five years, due mostly to the fact that I work way too much. But this is the burden of being a Libra blessed with creativity. It’s a blessing and a curse… and a curse. I find the best recharging happens when I am far from other people and just staring at something like a cloud or an ant or a cloud that is shaped like an ant. I often meditate in nature and will create an entire novel in my mind which I try to slowly erase until there is nothing but… nothing. Meditation is hard.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I am not really sure. I like to collaborate with other folks, but I think mostly the collaboration is more conversational. When I am around other artists that I enjoy, we often create nice mind energy conversations and the mood is good and so I feel like we are all collaborating on a conversation and it’s like we are pooling our positive energy into the physical space. It’s more of a Jungian thing. When you leave the space of being around good people, smart and interesting people, there is energy there and you can draw on that later. It’s a similar feeling to déjà-vu, perhaps a cousin of déjà-vu. But in reverse.


photos by Dolan Geiman, Eric Grimes, Chris Nightengale, David Schalliol, and Paul Zimmerman

The Uncommon Life

Dancing Lion, Hidden Intrigue

August 29, 2011

Not sure how our new dancing lion speakers ($70) might fit into your life? If you’re a Chicago lawyer caught in a web of political intrigue, these speakers might just be for you!

(We also think they’re fun for kids rooms, dens, and to get things started at dance parties! The speakers… not the lawyers.)

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