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Creativity

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?

Gift Guides

Tip: Use Socks to Disguise Your Christmas Gifts

December 21, 2011

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would love to try to guess what our folks got us for Christmas. With so many mysterious treasures under the tree, taunting us, we couldn’t help but lift, shake, and squeeze them in hopes of guessing their contents. Okay, the truth is, we still do it.

Cassie, Luke, and Beau, 1993
Much to our dismay, my mom is an expert at making sure that her gift selections stay under wraps until Christmas. She has put rocks in boxes to throw off the weight, stashed tiny gifts in giant boxes, wrapped notes explaining that the gifts were actually somewhere else (e.g. “Look in the closet for your real gift”), among many other tricks. One of the sneakiest ways she’s gotten me, and yes, I’ve been fooled by this more than once, was the good ol’ sock trick–with new socks, of course.

The sock trick is an easy way to disguise an easily guessable gift. It’s also a way to get away with giving kids socks for Christmas. You’ll just need a few pairs of socks, wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon.

First, figure out how many pairs of socks it will take to cover your gift. The 100 Shapes Stencil Book is pretty small, just over 7 x 7 inches and about 1/2 an inch thick, so I used four pairs of socks to make my gift package extra cushy.

Wrap the socks around the gift, making sure that the “padding” covers both sides. If you keep the pairs together, you’ll get a little extra cushion.

Once the gift is hidden in socks, you can continue wrapping as usual. I start by placing the gift on the paper, then cutting off the amount I’ll need. I tend to stick to a simple wrapping technique. I fold the sides of the paper over the gift, tape, and fold the ends up toward the middle before taping again. I also finish it off with a simple a bow.

If you’re looking to get fancy with your wrapping technique, you can get some tips from a pro by checking out our How to Wrap a Gift Box and How to Tie a Gift Bow videos.

When you’re finished, the present will be nice and squishy, so the recipient will probably think they’re getting a sweater, decorative holiday towels, or something else less fun than the awesome gift you really picked out for them. And they get some bonus socks.

What’s your favorite way to disguise a gift? Have you ever been tricked by a sneaky gifter? We’d love to hear how! Share your sneaking gifting stories in the comments below.

Design

Comments of the Week

December 2, 2011

With the gift-giving season booming, UncommonGoods has been bustling! We’re answering customer questions, helping people find great gifts, and taking, packing, and shipping orders. But don’t worry, through all of the holiday shopping fun, we haven’t forgotten to find great new products for our community voting app. We’re happy to see that our community is able to take a break from baking Christmas cookies and writing letters to Santa to share votes and comments with us!

Some of our favorite feedback this week comes from commenters who’ll zip it when it comes to headphones, want to leave a lasting impression, and are excited about open discussion.

Many commenters love the fun design of the i-Slide Zipper Headphones, but Maggie pointed out that they’re also practical.



Good point, Maggie! We agree that the tangle-free aspect is a definite bonus.

Another fashion accessory in the lineup this week isn’t quite as bold as the bright orange headphones. Inner Message Rings make their mark subtlety. The raised letters and symbols on the inside of each ring actually leave imprints in your skin.

ER questioned whether the ring would be a good fit, but Stephanie and Ranel are convinced that this design could be a comfy, everyday piece.

Ranel’s favorite product this week isn’t the only fun modern design getting buzz. The Modern Bottle Opener is getting noticed for it’s unusual size and shape.

Do you agree with Laura that this modern design could get the conversation flowing? Are you like Roberta and have a bartender friend in mind? We’d love to hear your feedback on this, and all of the great uncommon designs up for voting this week!

Gift Guides

How to Make a Gift Bag

December 2, 2011

I tend to procrastinate when it comes to gift wrapping. I purchase the gifts I want to give and stuff them under the bed or on a shelf in the closet until right before Christmas. Then, while I’m fantasizing about radiantly glazed holiday hams and sweetly spiced rivers of eggnog, I’m also faced with making a pile of presents bright and giftable.

Those odd shaped, extra-uncommon gifts pose a particular challenge. I suppose I could skip the fancy wrap and just stick bows on things that don’t pack up pretty. Or, I could put any asymmetrical or otherwise un-rectangular products in big boxes stuffed with lots of tissue paper, then wrap them. I go with option three–a fancy gift bag.

While the bow trick works in a pinch, it’s not nearly as fun to take off a bow as it is to find a surprise inside of pretty wrapping. I know this, because my husband is a huge supporter of “just stick a bow on it.” I do have to admit, it’s a step up from his other, “just hand her the thing in a crumpled-up shopping bag” approach.

The second tactic–put that hard to wrap gift in another box–seems like a viable option, but wrapping a box just right takes time and creates a lot of waste; you spend 20 minutes getting each crease perfect, only to see your lovely artwork ripped to shreds and tossed in the trash. It’s heartbreaking, really.

So, you can see why, for me, option three takes the customary yuletide fruitcake.

Not only are gift bags simple to use and reusable, they’re also easy to make. All you need is some heavy wrapping, construction, or scrapbooking paper and ribbon to create a sturdy, eco-friendly alternative to traditional wrapping. I picked pretty blue craft paper from the paper mezzanine at Pearl Paint here in New York. (Yes, that’s really what their paper department is called; it’s an entire sublevel–mezzanine, if you will– full of gorgeous papers for wrapping, crafting, and scrapbooking.) I wanted my bag to be festive, but not too Christmasy, so it could still be reused after the holidays. To fasten the paper, I used a Staple-less Stapler, but you could easily use a hole punch and stapler to create a similar effect.

First, make sure you have enough paper to cover the item you’d like to wrap. To wrap the Holiday Record Coasters, I placed the product in the middle of the top half of the paper, then folded the bottom up to completely cover the gift. It’s okay to make the bag a little bit bigger than you need it, just make sure the gift doesn’t stick out of the top.

Next, “staple” along the edges on both sides. The staple-less stapler will create interlocking flaps for a secure hold, but it also leaves a small hole where you punch. You’ll also want to punch once in the bottom left-hand and once on the bottom right-hand, just above the seam.

Threading the ribbon through the holes not only adds decoration, it also increase the bag’s sturdiness and create a handle. However, before threading the ribbon, make sure you have enough by measuring it against the length of the bag four times (once for each side, once for the handle, and once for extra ribbon to work with).

Start threading by inserting the ribbon in one of the bottom corners, just above the seam. Leave a few inches of ribbon, then pull the remaining ribbon up through the next hole in the side of the bag. Tie the two ends into a knot, and create a bow with the remaining ribbon from the short end. Using the long end, continue to thread up the side of the bag, looping around the outside edge of the paper.

When you come to the end of one side, leave enough ribbon to create a handle before continuing to thread down the opposite side.

Once you reach the end of the second side, pull the remaining ribbon up through the hole on the corner above the seam. Pull the leftover ribbon back though the final loop on that side, and tie it into a secure knot. This side won’t be as pretty as the bow on the opposite side, but the problem can be easily remedied by cutting off any excess ribbon and tying a new bow to cover up the knot.

The finished product uses no tape, glue, or staples (if you go the staple-less stapler route), can be used over and over again, and costs less than buying a pre-made gift bag. For an added touch, stuff the bag with leftover wrapping paper, folded into fans (or other origami shapes, if you’re feeling extra crafty), instead of using a new sheet of tissue paper.

Design

Comments of the Week: Holiday Card Design Challenge!

November 25, 2011

We’ve been getting into the holiday spirit, and our Holiday Card Design Challenge is helping to make the season bright! We selected our favorite screen printed and letterpress designs and now our semi-finalists are up for voting. There’s still time to leave your feedback and cast your votes for your favorite messages of holiday cheer, but first, check out what our community is saying about these festive greeting cards!

Semi-finalist Laurie Okamura’s Porcupine and Reindeer cards, for example, are getting some great feedback.

While Lisa and Mary Margaret love the designs, they see these cards working better for another holiday.

Clara, however, thinks they’re perfect for a special couple on Christmas.

Rebecca also expresses love for the designs in our voting app this week, but isn’t a fan of the estimated prices.

After seeing this comment on her Fa La La La La & Pa Rum Pum Pum cards, artist Katie Daniels stepped in to say a few words about her process.

Many voters, such as Elinore, agree that handmade cards are worth spending a little extra.

Barbara expressed a similar sentiment for for Blackbird Letterpress’ Yuletide Yeti.

We totally agree, and can’t wait to find out which design wins! Would you send these little pieces of art to your loved ones this year? Visit our community voting app before Monday, November 28 at Midnight to help us pick which designs will go on to the final round. The top five cards with the most votes will be presented to our judges for the opportunity to win $500 and a vendor contract with UncommonGoods.

Happy voting!

The Uncommon Life

An Uncommon Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

November 22, 2011

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year or attending a potluck, consider taking inspiration for uncommon foods from a few of our favorite blogs. Who knows, you might end up creating a new tradition by cooking up one of the following dishes!

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s unique city-to-country transformation and trademark style have landed her a book deal, Food Network show, and even a movie (to be released next year). Give your guests a taste of pioneer goodness with this unique pumpkin soup, and save yourself from dirty dish duty too!
 (Image courtesy of The Pioneer Woman)

For another stuffed squash dish (and potential main substitute for any vegetarians at the table), Honest Cooking presents a Winter Squash With Stuffing and Goat Cheese that’s just as flavorful as any typical turkey.
 (Image courtesy of Honest Cooking)

Finally, if you’re seeking an alternative to pumpkin or plain apple pie, Jenna of Eat, Live, Run suggests a Chocolate Angel Nut Pie that’s unique and uncommon, but still evokes all the flavors of fall.
(Image courtesy of Eat, Live, Run)

Whether you’re sticking to the classics or making something new, we wish you all an equally Happy Thanksgiving from UncommonGoods!

Design

Comments of the Week

November 18, 2011

It’s hard to believe it’s already November and the holiday shopping season is underway! We’re proud to offer a plethora of giftable goods, but we know that sometimes shoppers want to take a break from browsing. Our community voting app is a great place to take a load off and tell us just what you think! The goods shown aren’t available for purchase yet, but with your help, they could be in the future!

Our favorite comments this week were posted about an eco-friendly, handmade jewelry design, a gorgeous custom pendant, and a fresh, fun umbrella.

We’ll get our roundup rolling with Darcy’s comment on Monica Farbiarz’s latest design, Batik Drop Earrings.

We’re glad to hear that Darcy not only likes the look of these tagua nut earrings, but also supports fair trade artisans!

Another lovely handmade jewelry design is also getting some attention this week, Amy Ambroult’s Personalized Silhouette Necklace. To make these unique necklaces, Amy takes customer photos and shrinks them to fit the pendant, she then creates a sterling silver silhouette for an uncommon take on the traditional cameo. Although Barbara likes the idea, she isn’t quite sold.

Although Barbara isn’t completely convinced, Louisa and Hilary are both ready to buy.

That’s the kind of enthusiasm we love to see! Our next commenter was less enthusiastic. In fact, we detect a hint of sarcasm in her feedback for the Goggles Umbrella.

Thanks for the feedback, Laura. Just in case our sarcasm meter is off–we sincerely hope that you only lose that important sign on days when it’s raining.

Speaking of sincerity, Deborah seems sincerely amused by this creative design, and was still able to slip in a joke.

We’re glad this silly (but functional) product gave you a good laugh, Deborah! Thanks for your feedback, and thanks to everyone who used our community voting app this week! We look forward to seeing what you have to say about our next batch of items up for voting!

The Uncommon Life

Birmingham Knocks NYC Out for Most Design-Savvy City

November 14, 2011

When it comes to cities that have their eye on modern design, you’d expect New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago to be top of the list, right? Not so!

We were taking a look at the sales data for some of our most popular design-friendly gifts:  the Face Mug, Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag, Buddha Bowls, Elevate Utensils, and Urbano Eco Trash Can.

The trends that emerged are not what you’d expect.

Birmingham, AL – Leading the pack of stylish cities is Alabama’s cultural capital.  Home to Vulcan (the world’s largest cast iron statue) and a brand new 19-acre Railroad Park, it’s no wonder this epicenter of cool urban planning has design-minded gift-givers as well.

Vulcan Park, Greg Willis

Royal Oak, MI – A suburb of Detroit, Royal Oak may be unfamiliar to most. But, as any dedicated 1990s TV-watcher will tell you, Royal Oak was the setting for the much-loved Home Improvement series starring Tim Allen. Perhaps great home improving lives on not only in the show’s Disney Channel reruns, but in Royal Oak’s residents as well.

Pleasanton, CA – This Bay Area city’s name is an accurate indication of its residents’ eye for good design. We bet their lovely interiors and home decorating skills factored into Pleasanton’s ranking as one of the best places to live.

Green Bay, WI – Green Bay’s strategic location on Lake Michigan made it a historically important center of railroad transportation and trade. Nearly 400 years of gift giving and exchange sounds like enough experience to land the #4 spot on our list of America’s most design-savvy cities.

Museum of Glass, Casey Yee

Tacoma, WA – Tacoma has the highest density of art and history museums in the state of Washington, including a Museum of Glass that our Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag would feel right at home in. Whether UncommonGoods shoppers in Tacoma find inspiration for their homes from museum visits or not, we applaud their great taste.

You may be wondering where cities such as New York and Los Angeles are on our list.  The City of Angels ranked 45th, and the Big Apple came in 94th.  If these numbers don’t sound right to any of you Angelenos and New Yorkers, what are you waiting for?  Get shopping!

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