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Maker Stories

Meet Naomi Meller, iPhone Case Design Challenge Winner

June 29, 2012

Every new design challenge fills us with such excitement! It is inspiring to see the passion, emotion, and wit in the artists’ stories behind their unique designs. The iPhone Case Design Challenge brought in over 100 entries and the opportunity for artists to share the paintings, sketches, and graphic designs they have created.

Our judges worked through designs with unique mediums, bold colors, and uplifting stories. They decided on pieces that they thought America would love for their whimsy, and others they thought would inspire iPhone case envy. But there was one piece that the judges couldn’t get off their minds; they loved its wit and clever juxtaposition of technology on technology.

We simply love the clever geeky chic of Computer iPhone and cannot wait for you to learn more about its designer, our iPhone Case Design Challenge winner, Naomi Meller of Rhode Island. Naomi recently rediscovered her love of art and designing through photography and will soon be able to see her designs on the backs of iPhones all over the country. Meet Naomi, the newest addition to our Uncommon Artists family.

When and how did you discover art?

I’ve been involved with art for as long as I can remember. As a very young child, I drew elaborate pictures that often caught the attention of my teachers. This evolved into years of drawing and painting, usually for it’s therapeutic value. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I don’t want to keep it all to myself.

How did you realize that photography was your passion?

Photography was one of the only mediums I had never experimented with. When I had my daughter over 2 years ago, I got very sick and came close to losing my life. The months following were difficult, and I was physically weak. I tried to walk around a lot to build stamina.

During my walks, I started taking pictures with my iPhone. I fell in love with these photo walks I’d take, and decided to buy a dSLR to take my photography to the next level. I’m stubborn, and sometimes that can be a good quality. I set out to learn how to properly use my camera, and I did. Since I started taking pictures, my passion for taking them has only grown.

What are your favorite things to design/photograph?

My number one favorite thing to photograph is my daughter. Kids grow so quickly that I just want to capture all the good/bad/and in between moments of her growth.

I also love to create characters in my self-portraits. This allows me to step outside of myself, become someone different, and express myself in a raw and comfortable manner that I hadn’t been able to in years.

How do you keep yourself inspired?

I never stick to one style of photography. And I never stick to one type of subject. Some weeks I’ll take portraits of our family. Some weeks I’ll focus entirely on surreal self-portraits. On occasion I’ll do some photojournalism work for my husband’s news site. By always changing my subjects, I’m always changing my perspective. And it keeps me going.

I also love challenging myself in Photoshop. I taught myself how to use the program by way of trial and error. Sometimes I’ll take a picture, and work on it until I’ve succeeded in something I didn’t know how to do before sitting down. Currently I’m trying to master an old film camera that my dad gave me. I always keep things evolving, always keep learning – that way I avoid feeling stagnant.

How else do you express your art?

I’ve recently started a photography blog to help publicize my work, but also to inspire myself to start writing again. Writing is something that I did creatively for a long time, but haven’t much in the last several years.

I’ve also picked up a paint brush again. I have an earlier photograph in which I combined painting and a surreal self-portrait. I hadn’t picked up a paint brush in a long time. I still have several canvases in my house just calling my name!

What attracted you to want to take part in this challenge?

Aside from the fact that I’m a huge UncommonGoods fan, over the last few months I’d been feeling much more anxious about getting my work out there. I’ve been creating things for over 20 years, and the only person in my way has been me. I thought that this challenge would be a great opportunity with a great company.

What was the inspiration behind Computer iPhone?

Most of the work that I’m most proud of has come from a quick decision. When I over think and over analyze, it usually harms the outcome of a piece. Computer iPhone came about because my husband had recently dismantled a broken computer. Pieces were surrounding the office we share. I had submitted some other designs, but they were very portrait based. For Computer iPhone, I thought, “what would look cool, hold up well to wear, and still portray the irony that I always have in my work?”. And so I decided on a piece of the computer.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in taking part in a future challenge?

Don’t doubt yourself. If you enter a future challenge, and don’t make it through, the worst case scenario is that you can try again. I did.

All photos courtesy of Naomi Meller

Design

Noteworthy Design: Wedding Wishes

June 8, 2012

Picking a personal wedding gift is tricky. It has to be sentimental, but not too cheesy. Functional, but with more appeal than the stereotypical kitchen appliance. And, of course, it should be something the couple will cherish for years to come. Our community agrees, David Voorhees’ Personalized Wedding Wishes Vase has it all.

Time and skill go into creating each of these wheel-formed, hand-decorated pieces, but using the finished product is actually quite simple. Each vase comes with a wedding poem (written by Voorhees) and blank sheets for writing your own wedding wishes.

The couple can use the vase instead of a traditional guest book, or place it near the guest book table. As guests enter the reception, they are asked to write their very own special messages to the couple and drop them into the vase for the newlyweds to read on their first anniversary. Since the bottom of the vase is perforated, the artwork doesn’t have to be destroyed for the messages to be enjoyed a year later.


Our buyers loved the handmade vase the moment they laid eyes on it, but wanted a little “relationship advice” before making the commitment to carrying this uncommon good. Our voters agreed that the custom creation is certainly something special.

“This is a really great idea, beautiful and made in the USA,” Christie told us.

Renee agreed, “I think it sounds like a great idea, and gives lots of warm thoughts on the 1st anniversary…”

“I love the idea of opening this on the couple’s first anniversary! The perforated bottom is fabulous, since I would hate to wreck the vessel otherwise,” said Alli.

Now Voorhee’s design is an UncommonGood, and it’s receiving fantastic reviews from those celebrating the marriages of loved ones in their lives.

“This was the perfect answer for a wedding gift for a couple who were older, found love again, had two households to contend with and needed no more appliances or other like items,” explained Judy the aunt from Long Beach, CA. “Family and friends were able to write notes they will open in a year. What a nice way to wish a new happy couple on their way.”

Mary from Ashville, NC also shared a 5-star review: “This is my absolute favorite wedding gift to give! It is a beautifully hand thrown vase that has a personalized message on one side with a floral design hand painted on the other side. At the reception, guests are encouraged to write a personal hand written message to the couple on paper and put it into the Wedding Wish Vase. Then, a year later, on the couples first wedding anniversary, they open the vase and read all the messages the guests wrote to them on their wedding night! How awesome!! This is such a lovely, unique, personalized, meaningful wedding gift.”

We’re proud to see such wonderful feedback coming in for such a clever and beautiful handmade piece. We’re looking forward to feedback from happy couples as they open their Wedding Wishes Vases to read warm messages and words of wisdom in years to come!

Design

Community Comments: Praise for Uncommon Designs

April 9, 2012

When a brand new creative design comes our way we get pretty excited. What could be better than the thrill of discovering a new uncommon good? Seeing our community get just as excited as we are!

We love seeing those “thumbs ups” in our community voting app followed by feedback explaining what you love about the designs.

Of course, commenting isn’t just for the voting app. If you own an uncommon good, we want to know why you love it! Here are a few examples of community comments that make us smile.

Made of polished silver plated aluminium, this Row Boat Salad Bowl is charming and functional. The intricately-grained sheesham wood oars are actually serving utensils.

It was a hit in our voting app, floating into our assortment with 465 votes.

pema8684 from New Hampshire proved Mary’s point by gifting the salad set to her boat-loving dad.

The Nerd Herder Gadget Wallet also makes a great gift. Of course, it’s a great gift for yourself, too!

The wallet was originally designed by Brook Kirk to help her musician husband stay organized. Mandi was excited about the Nerd Herder’s potential to stash guitar picks (and other daily necessities for the nerd on the go).

Post-purchase, blueorder from Phoenix, AZ confirmed that the gadget wallet is an awesome design.

The Nerd Herder is perfect when you’re out and about, but this next design by Jill Henrietta Davis is made for a relaxing night in.

Penelope’s comment made us dream of sinking into a hot bubble bath and enjoying the ambiance created by the handmade glass Lotus Bud Oil Candles.

And while Mona from East Providence, RI bought her candles for use at work, she’s in the business of helping other unwind.

Reading commentary like this gets us excited about the goods in our assortment, but it also puts us in the mood to find more clever, uniquely designed products. Would you love to hear what our community has to say about your work? Share your designs with our buyers and your creation could become an uncommon good.

Design

Secondhand Saris, Firsthand Fair Trade Fashion

April 8, 2012

This new sari handbag was brought into our assortment with the feedback and support of 558 customers.

Indian women have worn saris, beautiful, often embellished sheets of fabric, for hundreds of years. The traditional garment can be worn in many ways, but every sari, no matter how lovely, will eventually be draped a final time.

Fortunately, the gorgeous fabrics don’t have to go to waste when the sari no longer serves its traditional purpose. Artisans in India wash and repair the cottons, rayon, and silks from secondhand saris, then transform them into fashionable, functional handbags.

The one-of-a-kind creations are handmade by skilled craftswomen who are given a fair wage, allowing them to earn a living while staying in their villages near family instead of having to travel to bigger cities.

After the fabric is cleaned, the craftswomen cut it into vibrant strips and organize it to ensure that each bag expresses rich color combinations, from bright jewel tones to deep earth tones. Since saris are often patterned, sometimes quite elaborately, each bag also features interesting details within individual fabric strips.

The artisans hand-sew the fabric strips to the white cotton lining, creating the light, ruffled look of the bag. To add to the functionality of the piece, a wooden toggle and a fabric cord are both attached for fastening.

The finished product caught our attention, but this product story really pulled us in and we couldn’t wait to share it with our community. We were thrilled to find that our community voting app users stood behind the product, too.

“I think this is a beautiful bag and the cost is very reasonable,” Michelle told us via the voting app. “I plan on buying it and knowing that each bag is different make it even better! I will not see this bag coming and going.”

Nataly drew on her own experiences to add her feedback. “Reminds me of my travels in India, how I always noticed that no matter how remote the location and how outdoor the environment, they keep their Saris SOOO vibrant and beautiful,” she wrote. “Every where you look–bold statement making colors.”

We also saw a ton of Facebook and Twitter love for the Sari Bag. “Love this bag! I think saris are so beautiful. What better way to reuse them?” @kellyatate tweeted.

We love seeing such enthusiastic support for our potential products and we’re pleased that this fair trade, handmade, upcycled bag is now an uncommon good!

The Uncommon Life

Contest: Share your Favorite New Designs & Win!

March 7, 2012

We love reading voter feedback in our community voting app and we want to thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for new designs and talented designers with the chance to win!

Share your favorite potential products on Twitter and you could win an UncommonGoods gift certificate to help buy your favorite new design (or one of the existing uncommon products you’ve been pining for).


How it works:

1.) Pick one of the products up for voting that you think should become an uncommon good.
2.) Visit the voting app, cast your vote, and tell us why you love the product in the comments section.
3.) Follow us on Twitter and tweet your pick @UncommonGoods. Make sure to include a link to the product voting page.

We’ll pick 5 winners to each win a $5 UncommonGoods gift certificate. We’ll announce winners on March 19, 2012.*

Tips:

1.) Craft a clever tweet. Tell us why you love the product or designer in 140 characters or less. (Reading the product story can be a big help here.)
2.) Vote on as many products as you’d like while visiting the voting app. The products aren’t in competition with each other.
3.) Use the share buttons on the product voting page to encourage your friends to vote for the product you chose, or tweet @ your design-savvy friends to invite them to vote for a chance to win.

Could it be any easier? Yes! Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what we’re looking for. But, of course, you’ll have to show us up with even better tweets.

The Sari Bag has my vote @UncommonGoods! Handmade from recycled materials. Thumbs up! http://unc.gd/frlpW8.





Judie Bomberger’s family garden stakes should be the next good @UncommonGoods! http://unc.gd/frlpW8. They’re so rustic yet fun!





Please carry Little Paper Planes @UncommonGoods! My kids (& I) would love them! http://unc.gd/frlpW8.





I’m a-MAZED by the Labyrinth Game @UncommonGoods http://unc.gd/frlpW8! I’ll buy it even if I don’t #win!





I voted for Christina Kober’s fortune cookie #design @UncommonGoods http://unc.gd/frlpW8 b/c it would make an amazing gift for @mybestie!






We’ll choose the cutest, most clever, and most creative tweets to win. We can’t wait to see your pick and hear why you think it will make a great uncommon good. Happy voting and good luck!

*P.S. This contest is only open to residents in the 50 states and District of Columbia. (We’re sorry about that, but that’s how far we ship!)

Design

Uncommon New Designs: Foodie Favorites

January 9, 2012

Whether you’re a great cook, a self-proclaimed foodie, or a competitive eater in training, you’ll love these epicurean-friendly new designs.

In fact, our community voting app contains a medley of tools to get you baking, broiling, chopping, and whipping.

The Twisk Whisk is just one of these clever kitchen inventions.

The Twisk transforms from a robust round mixer to a slim flat mixer with a simple twist, and it’s easy to store in flat form. This whipping wonder is pretty impressive, but a few other new products up for voting are just as innovative.

The Cut and Collect cleans up the prep process a bit, while Nesting Utensils and this collapsible Cookbook Stand help you stay organized.

Now, you may want to share your home-cooked creations with your family, but this can be a chore if you’re serving picky eaters. Fortunately, one of the newest additions to our assortment can help.

My Food Passport encourages kids to take tasty travels through trying new foods. Once the journey is complete, they can stamp their passport with a sticker to prove their culinary courage.

We have something new for those who are already quite adventurous and love to try a variety of flavors, too.

These Stoneware TV Dinner Trays are perfect for portioning your favorite main courses, veggies, and desserts.

Would you love to get cooking with new foodie favorites? Visit our community voting app to add your comments to the mix, or stop by our this just in page to see more uncommon new designs!

Design

Uncommon New Designs: Stylishly Rugged

December 29, 2011

Beards have been in style for some time now, and from beard art to facial hair championships, we’re pretty sure they’re here to stay.

We’re celebrating this hairy phenomenon with the Men’s Shaving Kit in our community voting app, which is actually more for keeping a fuzzy face looking good than actually shaving.

This rugged-chic set got us thinking about other great products that mix a natural, outdoorsy feel with high design.

Also in our voting app, lovely light blue Antler Mugs are sweet and simple, with big game appeal.

Another solid new design, the Quadro Bottle Opener, incorporates natural agate. The rugged, volcanic rock looks harsh when collected, but when carved and polished it’s colorful, rich, and sleek.

Of course, many ladies are outdoorsy, nature types as well. Another new design, Tasha McKelvey’s Mushroom Ring Dish may not feature a fungi specimen recognized by naturalists, but it is made from stoneware clay pressed against a piece of wood from a 100-year-old barn, giving it a weathered, textured look and feel.

Would you stash your ring in this little dish next time you want to work with your hands? Know a bearded fellow who could use a break from being burly to pamper his cheeks and chin? What’s your favorite outdoorsy trend?

Maker Stories

Don’t Knock on Wood–Wear It!

December 26, 2011

Looking for a new look for the new year? Why not try a style that incorporates reclaimed wood into modern fashion? David Steinrueck’s creative ties are a clever way to celebrate living against the grain.

David took a moment to tell us about his design inspiration, finding salvaged wood in the San Francisco area, and how to wear a wood tie with any outfit.

Q: How did you get the idea to create ties made out of wood?

I started Wood Thumb with my brother Chris in January of 2011. We wanted to prove that with a little bit of community support and minimal funding, a craft can be turned into a thriving company. The wood tie was designed to allow unconventional people to stand out from the crowd and make a bold statement to the world.

Q: Why reclaimed wood? Is it difficult to get the type of wood used to make the ties?

We use reclaimed materials in part due to our belief in zero waste products and also because of the incredibly beautiful wood we were able find in salvage yards around our area. We are lucky enough to live in an area of the country where we can track down an abundance of old redwood that we are able to use in our process. By using reclaimed wood, we offer every customer a unique product, each with its own special past life.

Q: How do you recommend wearing a wood tie? Casual with jeans? As part of the formal look with a suit?

There are many ways to rock a wood tie:
The Tech Slacker – Wears her tie to the office with a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of New Balance shoes.
The Urban-Eco – Wears his tie with a worn collared shirt, khakis and hiking boots or sandals.
Center of the Club – Wears his tie with a bright collared shirt, a blazer, dark shades, and dress shoes. Bottle service.
The Mission – Wears her tie with 1950s collared shirt, skinny jeans, and sneakers.

Q: Did you expect such a great response to your unique design?

The very first tie we made was received with excitement from everyone we showed. We have grown our production from 50 ties/week to 500 ties/week and we are still not able to keep up with our current demand. Nonetheless, I am still astounded every day that so many people are enjoying the work and craft that we put into each tie.


Thanks, David! We love the suggestions on how to rock a wood tie! We’d love to hear more ways to jazz up outfits with offbeat accessories. What’s your favorite uncommon statement piece?

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