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Design Challenge Winners

Maker Stories

Jen Fox’s Winning Scarf Wraps Us Up In Chaco Canyon

August 4, 2015

I’ve always ascribed to the philosophy that “the easiest way to turn a small task into a big deal is to put it off.” Though I’m admittedly a procrastinator most of the time, when I see something I need to get done, or something that excites me, I jump right on it. Same goes for Art Scarves Design Challenge Winner Jen Fox — but we’re not talking about getting calculus homework done here; Jen has creativity in her DNA, so when she’s struck with inspiration she lets her ideas flow immediately, creating beautiful designs like the Chaco Canyon Art Scarf in the process. 


After having lived in New Mexico for several years, Jen’s inspiration for the scarf’s design struck when she visited the Pueblo Bonito Ruins in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. The ruins consist of asymmetrical clusters of low-to-the-ground structures arranged in simple yet captivating patterns, structures so antiquated that they would appear to recede completely into the clay-rich soil and dusty sagebrush around them if not for their strong geometric forms. Above them, the blue sky is accented by a dynamic flow of clouds, juxtaposing with the stillness of the ruins.

PicMonkey Collage

Jen successfully captures these dualities – natural and human-made form, stillness and motion – in her winning piece. The asymmetrical, geometric layout of the ruins is evoked on breezy modal fabric in colors that evoke both the deep red-orange earth tones of the ruins and the light blues and whites of the desert sky. 

Read on for more about Jen’s inspiration, her artistic process, and her advice for aspiring artists.

Jen Fox headshot

What inspired the concept of your winning piece? How do the ruins of Chaco Canyon or the natural world in general manifest in your design?
The artwork was inspired by the Pueblo Bonito ruins in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park located in northwestern New Mexico. It’s truly an awe-inspiring part of the country, and it’s difficult to avoid being impacted by the beauty of the place and the mystery of the people who once inhabited the area. I try to be outdoors as much as possible, whether that means camping in the nearby mountains or making time for an evening walk by the river. I find calm and stillness in the motion of the ever shifting landscape and weather, and it’s a constant source of inspiration for me.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
Uncorked a bottle of champagne with friends, of course!

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I have always been a very creative person, and was always making things as a kid and beyond. I think it’s part of my DNA to create, and there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with having a tangible outcome of an idea that once just existed inside my own head.


What’s your artistic process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you?
I honestly don’t have much of a set process. I do find that when I am inspired by something, it’s wise to take advantage of the freshness and initial enthusiasm of that feeling and make the time to act and create immediately. If nothing else, I jot down a few words or a quick sketch to catalog my thoughts until I have an opportunity to revisit them.


Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
My work space is a 4′ x 8′ sliver of a room that’s connected to the entryway and the living space of my small home. And frankly, when I’m working on a project (mostly textile based projects), my work space spills over onto my dining table, my living room floor, and any other available surface.

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
Always take the time to slow down and notice what is around you — inspiration can strike in the most mundane of moments, but you must keep a sense of awareness of your surroundings. Take the time to create for yourself and no one else to really find your own point of view.


Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck. How do you keep yourself inspired?
Sometimes the only thing to do is just start. Even if you are feeling uninspired and unmotivated, the simple step of starting something can get the momentum going and lead to the release of a creative block. Otherwise, taking a break and being active outside is one of my favorite ways to get out of a funk.


Maker Stories

Design Challenge Winner Lindsay Locatelli Shifts Our Perception of Home and Jewelry

July 8, 2015

As a summer intern, I’m still becoming acquainted with UncommonGoods’ vast menagerie of jewelry, but I have to admit that Lindsay Locatelli’s winning entry in our Jewelry Design Challenge is especially cool. Her Tiny Village Stacking Rings depict a home-y village nestled beneath a series of mountains, all in robust sterling silver. The design is especially unique due to its kinetic aspect; unfixed, the rings can constantly shift and reorient themselves on one’s finger, “similar to driving through the mountains.”

PicMonkey Collage

Lindsay drew inspiration for her piece by a time in her life when she drifted throughout the American Southwest, exploring its extraordinary natural features and adapting to life in three different cities. Though “home” originally meant Minnesota, her newfound connection to the Southwest led her to question whether “home” was concrete – or, like the rings, constantly shifting.

Her piece compellingly evokes the perhaps dissonant feeling many of us face at some point in our life when “home” evolves in meaning, or takes on a new shape. But her design also indicates the consistency our home offers, even if the place we associate with it is dynamic.

Read on for more about Lindsay’s evolving art practice, her work space and process, and her advice for aspiring artists.


What inspired the concept of your winning piece?
I went through a nomadic phase straight out of college and spent a good deal of time exploring the southwest. I fell in love with the region and felt like it was my true home – a very specific connectedness that I never had before. I grew up and currently live in Minnesota but this experience made me question the concept of what “home” could mean from one individual to another.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I made a nice studio upgrade and bought myself a Little Smith Oxy/Acetelyne torch and it’s completely changed how I work and made my practice much more efficient.


When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I guess I’ve always considered myself as a creative soul ever since I can remember. I’ve gone from illustration and painting to sculpture, furniture design and on to jewelry… I was raised in a very creative environment surrounded by many artists and an amazing support system.

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
I’m a quarter Japanese, I’m a Gemini, and my best friends are two Shetland sheepdogs.


What’s your artistic process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you? 
Well to be completely honest, I wear many hats and work many jobs so when I’m able to jump into the studio, it’s quite an intuitive and organic process. I lay all of my bits and bobs out on the table and piece them together until something feels good. When it came to the Village Stacking Rings, I began stamping out tiny little houses as well as little mountainscapes. I wanted to create a set of rings that had a kinetic aspect so that when they are being worn, the perspective is constantly shifting – similar to driving through the mountains.


Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
I think it would be safe to say that most artists have very intriguing spaces only unique to them. Mine is fairly clean right now but because I’ve worked in so many mediums over the years, I’ve got everything from tiny little motors, electrical wires, and power tools to gemstones, silver, brass, clay, paper, textiles, and more. I also have an inspiration wall where I keep and collect strange treasures like bones, dried plant bits, old tin cans, vintage cameras, etc.

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
Visualize what you see for yourself, enjoy the ride because there’s a silver lining to everything and on each day, complete at least one thing off your to-do list. It’s easy to get swept up in life’s daily distractions but sticking to your list helps to keep you on track and focused.


Describe your first experience as a jewelry designer.
After taking a creative hiatus, I began to work again in my studio and I was limited to a few tools and some wood. I began to carve out little rings and wore them around until one day I got picked up by a local gallery. From there on, my business has grown little-by-little.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck. How do you keep yourself inspired?
Going back to that to-do list, on days where I’m not motivated or mentally drained I will get back into the studio and force myself to knock off a couple of those items that I might not have been able to get to in the last week. I also like to spend time every week researching and looking at what other contemporary artists are doing because sometimes I get stuck in a jewelry-sized mindset and this helps me think outside the box.

Maker Stories

Lisa Wilson’s Winning Butterfly Cloud Necklace Lands in our Line-up

April 30, 2015

Lisa Wilson | UncommonGoods

I’ve always loved butterflies, so when I saw Lisa Wilson’s entry in our Jewelry Design Challenge, I’ll admit my heart was just a bit aflutter. Her Butterfly Cloud Necklace depicts a fleet of lovely Lepidoptera positioned in such a way that they almost seem to be moving their delicate wings. 

While none of the butterflies in Lisa’s piece actually flew away, the design did manage to fly through the voting process, flit about our judging round while our team admired its quality and craftsmanship, and then landed in our assortment. In fact, our buyers loved the design so much that we also decided to carry matching Butterfly Cloud Earrings.

Butterfly Cloud Necklace | UncommonGoods

I’m not sure when or where my personal fascination with butterflies started, but luckily, Lisa has a better memory than I do. She knows exactly why she chose the colorful winged creatures as the subject for her winning design. As Lisa watched the butterflies that fluttered by her Colorado garden studio, she thought of “a wanderer’s heart” and the idea of fluttering around the country until finding a place to call home. 

Read on to learn more about Lisa’s love for Colorado, her inspiration for new designs, and her advice for aspiring artists. 


Lisa at work | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I love getting good news first thing to start off the week, and hearing I won the design challenge definitely made my list of favorite Monday mornings ever! I literally did a little happy dance right then and there while I was on the phone with UG. Of course, my husband was just as thrilled as I was and later we went out for a lovely dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
On some level I think I always knew. Not that I’ve always wanted to be an artist professionally, but I think we all start off with at least some sense of adventurous creativity. For me, a love of tinkering, making, and just putting different things together for the sake of seeing what happens has always been a fundamental truth of the way I understand and interact with the world.

Empty Vessel by Lisa Wilson
You mentioned that this necklace reflects on your time “fluttering” around the country before landing in Colorado. How did you know you’d found your home?
I knew I’d found home because I couldn’t stay away. After finishing my MFA, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in an Artist-in-Residence program at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and teach metalsmithing and jewelry design classes at various colleges and universities around the country. Necessarily, this meant a lot of far and frequent moving around. At the time it was all one big adventure and moving on from one part to the next was always a happy experience with exciting new things ahead and good memories in the wake. When it came time to move on from Colorado though, the thrill of heading out into the world again seemed to pale in comparison to the life I had happened into. I had just spent a lovely summer enjoying the beautiful mountain landscape with my (now) husband Michael, dancing my feet off nearly every night, and working away in my studio each day. I did actually end up moving away to Indiana for a semester of teaching, and for the first time, knew what it felt like to feel homesick. So, at the end of the appointment, I packed my bags, headed home, and haven’t looked back since.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
This is a question that has always been a bit tricky for me, because really anything is fair game! Ideas for my designs come from the many people and things in my surroundings that inspire me to celebrate life. Inspiration can come from an object, a sound, or a material process. It can come from something simple and pretty to see, something complex, bittersweet or even painful. Spring is budding here in Colorado right now, so new designs are taking shape in the simple and universal delight of the landscape coming to life.

Garden - Grape Hyacinths 05
What’s your creative process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you?
Usually at the beginning, one of two things happens. Either something I see/hear/etc. strikes me, and I immediately want to start designing, or I start to feel antsy; I want to be designing and making–but I need a starting point, so I start looking for one. Usually, once that ‘restless’ feeling sinks in, it isn’t too long before something is in the works.

The two most important parts of my process are by far daydreaming and playing. I will spend hours just thinking in my head about what I might make before I even start sketching. Sometimes I’ll spend so much time just conceptualizing that by the time I get to the making part, the rest of the process flows from sketch to fabrication to finished piece in just a few hours. I also like to play though, by which I mean I like to just get my hands on some materials and see where the day takes me. This more ‘hands on’ version of my process often yields several prototypes, what I describe as ‘3d’ sketches, or even a whole mini-series of separate designs over the course of weeks.


Silhouette Workshop
Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
One thing is certain, and that is that there is no such thing as too much work surface! Like so many other artists and craftspeople, I tend to ‘grow to the size of my container,’ so somewhere along the line, I decided not to have one. I keep a sort of core studio space, that may not be pretty, but houses larger tools, materials storage, and more permanent fixtures, but I also will set up to work wherever the mood strikes. When the weather is nice (it is gorgeous in Colorado throughout the spring, summer, and fall!) I will pick up whatever I need to work with and set myself up outside in the garden, or for lighter work throw open all the doors and windows in the house and work right in the living room.

Studio Assistant Hazel
What’s your best advice for aspiring artists and designers?
In a sentence…Be generous with yourself. If you are passionate about what you do, afford yourself the time to do it. Make it a priority right alongside everything else that it takes to pay the bills, maintain relationships, and whatever else is a basic necessity in your life. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and enter that competition, apply for that job, and attend that professional conference, because you are your own best champion and to get that first ‘yes’ is worth however many ‘no’s it takes to find it.

See Lisa's Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Diving into Holly Hansen’s Winning Artwork

March 3, 2015

Swimming III | UncommonGoods

Simplistic as it may be, I firmly believe in Isak Dinesen’s philosophy that “the cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.”  I am happiest when soaking up vitamin D near any body of water. Growing up in south Florida triggered my deep love for the ocean and my fascination with marine life. Though I’ve grown to appreciate all landscapes, there’s no environment that I find more restorative than a pristine beach.

I was inevitably captivated by Swimming III, Holly Hansen’s winning Art Design Challenge entry. I was not surprised to learn that the young artist grew up around Cape Cod. Her ability to effortlessly reflect the layers of the ocean from dawn to dusk suggests that she shares a similar affinity for the sea shore. This piece made me feel instantly nostalgic for the days where I’ve freely floated in the ocean like a mermaid, trusting the waves to flow my body along the beach until my sun-kissed skin turned pruney at sunset. It’s because of this nostalgia that I admire the reason behind Holly’s decision to use a monotype method for this piece: its spontaneity allowed her to “let go of a lot of control” and gain more flexibility. This piece is an experiment that worked…swimmingly! At it’s core, it’s such a refreshing example of the dynamic energy within this beloved landscape. Read on to meet Art Design Challenge Winner Holly Hansen, and learn about her artistic influences, her go-to inspiration triggers, and her uncanny knack for spotting four-leaf clovers.

Holly Hansen | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your winning piece?
Swimming III is the final piece of a triptych. With this series, I focused on creating mood and atmosphere in my landscapes in ways I hadn’t attempted before. Previously, I worked primarily in etching, but for this series I chose monotype for its spontaneity. I was able to work with landscape in a refreshing and flexible way. With such a responsive medium, I could let go of a lot of control. The series was an experiment, but it sent me off in the right direction.

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. I am THE BEST at finding four leaf clovers. I will take any challengers, especially since people have given up on looking with me.

2. Most of us are familiar with synesthesia, that scene in Ratatouille where Remy sees dancing colors when he eats something delicious. I have visual motion-to-sound synesthesia. It’s like having sound effects to everything I can see, that only I can hear. Almost like a cartoon.

3. I’m 23 and I still order Shirley Temples at bars.

What different techniques do you use when creating your art?
I am very attracted to mark making. A large portion of creating an image is finding the most exciting pairs of marks to sit next to each other. I use several different tools to create marks. I push myself the most when I’m drawing. I try many techniques to push myself out of my comfort zone. At one point I was standing above my desk with a .005mm Micron pen taped to my longest brush, drawing on a 22” x 40” piece of printmaking paper. Whether it’s flying through drawing after drawing, or having four pieces of Bristol taped to the desk and one palette of gouache, nothing was said in one articulate statement. It feels more like pulling adjectives out of no where and throwing in nouns you had no idea mattered to you in a stuttering, clumsy, and heartfelt argument. After all that’s said and done, I have the right momentum to approach my primary piece at that time.

Holly Hansen | UncommonGoods

Describe your workspace.
I made Swimming III while I was still in school, and could utilize their extensive print shop 24/7. Now I’m just working at my desk at home or out in observation. I don’t have access to a print studio, but things are much more spontaneous and open minded. I’m in a phase where I’m less focused on creating finished images as finding new things that interest me. I went through a phase where I was picking up whatever fabric I had left on the ground near my desk and scanning it. It’s just a baby seal plush and some fake furs pressed against glass, but I’m having so much fun.

Who or what are your influences?
Anyone who is really pushing themselves to make something they haven’t done before. In that way, I studied the way artists progressed over time, specifically focusing on Sally Mann and Andrew Wyeth. You could do the same with with Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift. I love seeing the determination and passion in those who seek growth.

Holly Hansen | UncommonGoods

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating Swimming III?
Swimming III was specifically a search for different ways to use a large roller to create an image in monotype. Instead of using a small roller to cover the plexi, or a large roller in one big sweep, I challenged myself. I found the biggest roller I could physically hold. Doubling back and layering with the roller unintentionally led to the four distinct segments of the piece. The series involved several experiments with a large roller, each piece having multiple layers of monotype, drypoint on plexi, and hand-drawing.

Holly Hansen | UncommonGoods

What’s your favorite feedback that someone has said about something you created?
A gallery owner who had never seen my work began one of my school final reviews with: “I had no idea there were young artists interested in landscape. I mean landscape? It’s refreshing to see someone try and make their own voice in something so well established.” That was the first time somebody had recognized my intentions. It’s hard to gain respect working in landscape, but I see it as a challenge to create your own voice in a popular genre.

Holly Hansen | UncommonGoods

What are your hobbies outside of art?
I love cooking. You’re learning a skill through experience, just like making art, except you get to eat it. And if you mess up? There’s no one to disappoint but some taste buds. It can be very meditative, focused, or carefree. Whatever you need to do to end your insane day and please your stomach. And I love to take care of my plants and succulents.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck. How do you keep yourself inspired when you’re in a rut?
I hang everything I’ve been working on around the studio and look. Then I go to an artist’s supply store and look. If that doesn’t work, I leave the city, go back to the Cape, and look.

Holly Hansen | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

A First Look at Sarah Janece Garcia’s First Light

February 19, 2015

Sarah Janece Garcia's Studio Space | UncommonGoods
I’ve always loved nature-inspired art, and when I saw Sarah Janece Garcia’s Design Challenge entry, I knew I was looking at something special. Not only is Sarah inspired by nature, she’s also motivated by an unstoppable urge to create. That drive from within helps her start fresh pieces with enthusiasm, building with colors and abstract shapes until her work transforms into recognizable images of plants and animals.

Her winning piece, First Light, is a beautiful example of how Sarah draws from nature to combine realism and abstraction. Allowing what she describes as “the movements of wind and water” to guide her brush, the self-taught artist creates solid forms that seem to flow like liquid. Read on to meet the artist, learn more about her process, and see why she believes it’s important to follow your passion.

Sarah Garcia | UncommonGoods
How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I am very appreciative that my painting First Light got to be a part of the Art and Design Challenge. I was so honored that it received such positive feedback and so many votes from the public. When I received the call that UncommonGoods had awarded the painting as the winner, I was thrilled. As an artist, my wish is to create work that others are drawn to and thus connect with. So, to know this piece reached out to others in such a positive way was very encouraging.

My husband, who is certainly my number one fan and supporter, is in fact who told me about this challenge, so fittingly he was the first person I told and celebrated with. He was beyond happy for me, as were all the wonderful art supporters I have that offer me continuous inspiration. Being able to inform those that are a part of my artistic journey that First Light won really brought the happiness full circle.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
A moment that sticks out in my mind occurred in 5th grade where the class was asked to make an illustrated short story on what we wanted to be when we grew up. In that story, on the last page, I wrote, “When I grow up I will be an artist” and drew a picture of myself at an easel painting on a canvas. The reason this story has never faded from my memory is because I find it to be a constant reminder of the fact that I am getting to make my dream come true on a daily basis. I have gotten this wonderful opportunity to fulfill a wish I grew up believing I could do and every day that I get to paint is a day that I am accomplishing what I feel I was meant to do.

Paints and Brushes
Painting Materials

How did you teach yourself to paint and how are you continuing to develop those skills?

My upbringing was one in which creative expression was very much encouraged. I grew up with art and music being created all around me and I was always provided with the tools to express myself creatively. I can remember my mom telling me stories [when I was growing up] about artists that bravely traveled the world to create their beautiful paintings, and learning about artists that had come before me. I experimented in many different styles of art for many years, all of which I would delve into and learn as I went along. I was never shown how to draw or paint certain things, but the fact that I had all the encouragement and tools to try the out different mediums or styles were invaluable to me growing as an artist. Once I found my style of painting nature in the mediums of oil and watercolor, I saw real growth as an artist. I reached a point that I knew my artistic voice and style had arrived, which enabled me to guide the direction of my work and learn my craft in a better way.

I found that being self-taught was a wonderful first step for me. However, there is always more to learn in the world of art and countless possibilities to explore. I feel that instructional classes, art workshops, subject research, and a great deal of experimenting are all fantastic tools to advancing artistically. I am a true believer in working hard at what you feel passionate about, putting in the hours to develop your skills, and seeking out any knowledge that can be gained in bettering yourself as an artist. I find the endless possibilities in art to be so exciting.

Coco Chanel Quote

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
The short answer is nature. Like the human spirit, nature has this amazing ability to not only grow but flourish amongst such varying circumstances. As people, we rely on nature for life sustaining necessities as well as its provision of beauty that we get to enjoy. I find abundant inspiration from what grows from this earth and what takes flight above me in the sky. My abstractions are produced with stories of nature in mind, the movements of wind and water being the most predominant. For subject matter, my thoughts always go to flowers and flying creatures. The delicate mix of strength and gentleness that both flowers and small creatures possess really fascinates me. I become inspired to explore this balance in my work. I find the beauty of nature to be incredible powerful in my life. Nature’s beauty enriches my soul and continues to bring me comfort and happiness at the precise moment I need it. I feel very strongly that when I show love and respect nature, nature always returns the favor.

Inspiration for Sarah's Work
Greenery Around Sarah's Home

What’s your artistic process?
My artistic process always begins with an abstract creation. I use either oil or watercolor to create my initial abstraction. Often, my abstractions are inspired by the elements of wind and water. For the structure of my abstractions, I often look to the beauty and movement of glass art. I find glass art contains a fluid, interweaving movement, which allows me to lay abstractions down in a more effortless and clear manner. My color choices always come from what is inspiring the piece. For me, every painting has a story and that story dictates my color palette.

As I paint, my story builds and the colors in which I feel continues to better tell the story are what I place on the canvas or paper. In my artistic process, I never truly know where my abstraction will end up and that abandonment of control is what I feel gives my work the movement and freedom that I hope to capture in each piece. Once the abstraction is at a place where I feel confident with it, I place my subject matter. The subject matter I like to work with is the wonderful natural elements that surround us all. I always let the abstract direct what will be placed on it and I place the subject on when the abstraction is wet. I find this enables the subject to move with the abstraction while still remaining the focal point of the piece.

Once the elements are positioned, I am able to come in with the necessary details to define the subjects on the painting. From the beginning to the end of the painting I am able to explore nature in both a literal and abstract way. To me, this process fulfills my artistic need to express my vision while still being relatable to others that have a soulful love for nature.

Sarah's Oil Painting Space

Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
I work in a home studio and I find that being surrounded by the things I love in my home helps inspire me to paint beauty. My in-home studio is equipped with all the tools I need to either paint in oil or watercolor and I often will rotate the location I paint in depending on the medium.

I am a constant night owl, so painting in my home studio is the most agreeable route. I find the night time to be the most inspirational, due to the fact that while most of the world rests I am able to find my center and concentrate solely on my work. I keep my workspace minimally lit, because it enables me to better paint the light in my work. I often lean towards dark colors as a preference, so keeping my studio workspace a bit more dim allows me to elevate my saturation of color while painting brighter brights. Also, I find when new inspiration or a fresh perspective is needed a change in scenery is all it takes.

Due to painting natural elements in my work, I sometimes take my painting outside in the sunlight where nature surrounds me. When choosing our home, we made sure that it had beautiful established greenery everywhere. We have numerous crape myrtle and fruit trees along with big rose bushes and a variety of flowering plants. I keep bird baths and feeders available to make sure our lovely little hummingbirds abound and the beautiful birds are able to find a sanctuary along with us in our backyard. By surrounding myself with the things I love, both inside my studio and outside in the environment, I am able to continuously be motivated and better able to incorporate these much-loved elements in my work.

Generations |Sarah Janece Garcia

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
I believe maintaining an exuberant passion for creating is an imperative necessity for all artists. Sure working, learning, and growing in your craft is very important, but just as essential is a passion for your work. I find that a deep passion for the creative process continues to be the driving force behind my work. I once read that you should never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. If crafting art falls under this category in your life, then by all means never give up on that love of artistic expression. I find this love for art and painting continuously keeps me striving to develop my skills and encourages me to experiment in the creative process.

See Sarah's Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Glass Winner Heather Trimlett Melts Our Hearts With Her Vibrant Design

January 16, 2015

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

I remember the first time that I watched a glass artist use a torch. I was sitting in a glassblowing demonstration at an art fair, surrounded by a big crowd waiting to witness what would happen when molten glass meets high heat. The crowd’s silence gave way to an entrancing performance. Watching the artist manipulate red and orange glass was like getting hypnotized by a campfire. I couldn’t imagine the patience and precision required to work hand-in-hand with an alluring, deadly element.

One glance at Heather Trimlett’s Spiro Earrings instantly takes me back to that day. I can tell that Heather’s ability to twist glass into a freely flowing pattern requires an eye for enchantment. As I got to know Heather during this interview, it doesn’t surprise me that she found her niche in jewelry making. Her personality is just as warm, friendly, and colorful as her beautiful pieces. Her color palette is a perfect match for our assortment! Meet Glass Design Challenge Winner Heather Trimlett, and learn about the process behind her winning design, her first experiences at the torch, and how she views the world in multicolored glasses.

Spiro Earrings | Glass Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods


How did you come up with the concept of your winning design?
For years I have played, practiced and experimented with carefully layering different colors of glass on top of each other and creating twists made of these different colors of glass. When I realized that adding a rod of clear glass to my twists would magnify the colors and allow them to appear to float freely in the clear glass, I had my magic. This combination of layering and precise twisting came together for the Spiro Earring design.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our Glass Design Challenge?
My first wave of euphoria came when I found out I had been accepted into the UncommonGoods Glass Challenge! I sent an email to all my clients, students and supporters, and asked them to please vote for my earrings! I was thrilled by their enthusiastic response.

Then I won, but couldn’t tell anyone! During the “period of secrecy,” I told a few close friends and toasted with a few glasses of wine. My insides were jumping up and down yelling “YEA!”

Once it was OK to tell, I sent an email to EVERYONE I knew to tell them I had won!

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. I’m an avid gardener. Propagating my Staghorn ferns then sharing the babies with friends ranks high on the list of fun things about the garden. Spending all day Sunday in the garden is the definition of a perfect day for me. My fingers are perpetually crossed that one day my Proteas will decide to bloom. My newest venture is growing things we can actually eat.

2. I have become a collector of Lego figures. Probably the influence of a 4-year-old grandson. Or is it all those bright colors?

3. While I sit at my torch making beads, I watch bees drinking at my fountain. It’s amazing; there are hundreds of bees every day in the summer! The bees at the fountain, conversations with my students who are beekeepers and my concern for the declining bee population have led me to start studying beekeeping and trying to work up the courage to keep my own hives.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Describe your workspace.
I have two workspaces with garden views. The studio is my space for glass work and includes torches, tools, and all things related to fire. Living in southern California has allowed me to comfortably work “outside” in my garage for 20+ years. I like to say I park my car in my studio. From my torch, I have a beautiful view of my front garden.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

My beautiful, bright new office is the second workspace. It’s done in my favorite color combo: lime and turquoise accented with black and white. A large glass door opens onto my garden at one end. I sort beads, make jewelry and take care of paperwork in this space.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Who or what are your design influences?
1. Color! This is the #1 driver for me. Sometimes I feel like a magpie chasing shiny things. I am constantly aware of the color around me, checking for combinations that might work well with my glass work. I love how bright colors can be in the California sunshine!

2. Order. I love orderly things, mechanical things, symmetry and repetition of line and shape. The fine mechanics and shine of a well-made tool truly inspires me.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Describe your first jewelry designing experience.
I was born to be a maker of things. I have always sewed, crocheted, built stained glass windows and many other things.

Playing with pop beads as a child was probably my first jewelry making experience. I still think they are a hoot and use them as design inspiration with my students.

Once I found flameworking (making beads at a torch), my career was set. I backed into jewelry making out of a need to do something with the plethora of beads I was making. My jewelry is simple and clean, as well as a nod to my love of symmetry and color. Clean, repetitive simple shapes are my favorite.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Can you walk us through the set by step process of creating the Spiro Earrings?
The first step in making my Lime Spiro earring is to make the twist that will be the spiral pattern within the earring. I start with one rod of clear glass and three rods of color. I heat the four rods and melt them together. The colors are placed around the clear like the stripes in toothpaste coming out of a tube. While the glass is molten, I carefully twist and stretch it out until it is about the diameter of a pencil and then let it cool. This is my twisted cane.

Next, I begin to create the bead itself. I heat a stainless steel mandrel and a rod of lime glass simultaneously. The size of the mandrel determines the size of the hole in my bead. I carefully wrap one layer of lime green glass around the mandrel as my base layer. Next, I heat the twisted cane gently and carefully, wrapping it around the lime green layer. Lastly, I apply a very thin layer of turquoise glass. I continue to head the bead gently to bring it to its final smooth shape.

I place each finished bead into the kiln to anneal (cool gradually) overnight. For me, the next morning is like Christmas when I open the kiln to see all that I accomplished the day before. I remove the beads from the mandrel, clean & polish them and then assemble them into the Lime Spiro earrings.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Are there any interesting future projects you would like to pursue?
When I am not on the road teaching or home making beads, my 10+ year goal is to learn battuto, an Italian glass engraving technique.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck.  How do you keep yourself inspired?
1. I am always charged up after teaching a class. My students give me energy, support and inspiration!  Their questions create new puzzles for me to solve all the time!

2. Glass Bead Yoga. Production work gets me back into the groove. The repetition it requires is calming, feels good and safe, like an old friend. My mind has the space to settle down and regroup, ready for the next design idea.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Maker Stories

Jewelry Winner Kristin Schwartz Stops To Mold The Roses

November 4, 2014

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

As you may have learned in our recent Uncommon Book Club Picks, I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” a novel about a female botanist who seeks to discover and explain the inner workings of the world during Darwin’s era. Alma, the story’s protagonist, is raised in her father’s renowned botanical estate, and spends much of her adulthood studying and admiring the estate’s plant collection. After further examination of the Buds Necklace, Kristin Schwartz’s winning Jewelry Design Challenge entry, I’m convinced that Kristin and Alma are kindred spirits. Like a trained taxonomist, Kristin appears to have studied every curve of the Lapsana flower before delicately molding it to metal clay. I can imagine Kristin with Alma’s microscope, calculating precisely how to add a subtle blue-green patina to her winning pendant. 

Here at UncommonGoods, our buyers love anything that has an exciting story. When Kristin’s story entered our radar, we didn’t hesitate to introduce her handmade collection into our assortment. Kristin’s fascination with her natural surroundings is beautifully illustrated in both her designs and her workspace. Meet Jewelry Design Challenge Winner Kristin Schwartz, and learn about her transition from the corporate world, why she keeps Champagne in her fridge, and how nature inspires her tiny pieces of art.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | Buds Necklace | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept for your winning design?
I take molds of plants for a lot of my work, so I am always on the hunt for tiny plants and flowers that might translate well to jewelry. I knew as soon as I saw this tiny yellow flower it was going to be good. Most of my plant-based pieces have an organic (random) shape, but I thought a round pendant would appeal to more people.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won the first Jewelry Design Challenge of 2014?
I was inspired by a friend a couple years ago to keep a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator in the event of an unexpected victory or celebration, big or small. Of course I popped it open! And then got back to work.

How did you discover our Jewelry Design Challenge?
I have received the UncommonGoods catalog for a very long time and one day I received an email from the people at Jewelry Design Manager (Bejeweled Software) that said UG was looking for entries for the challenge.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. Iʼm in my 40s and I love that my Dad still calls me Kiddo.

2. I am not athletically inclined, but I did play soccer when I was six years old. The only goal I ever made was for the other team. It did happen right after half time, so I have to give my kid-self a break.

3. I love collecting shoes, but would rather be barefoot.

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
My designs usually start with one question: is it plant-based or is it done completely by hand? Sometimes I have a very specific piece in mind and I just have to figure out how to make it happen. For the most recent series, the image was in my head for YEARS while I mentally worked out the details. It actually turned out better than I had imagined with a combination of hand work and a plant mold. Other times, I see a plant that just needs to be featured on a piece of jewelry. It usually turns out pretty well, but I do have a pile of molds that have never turned into anything. I rarely draw ideas out on paper unless there are multiple elements that require serious problem solving and test runs.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Describe your workspace.
I love my workspace! It was the number one reason for buying my house. Itʼs in my basement, but full of natural light. Through all the windows I am surrounded by trees. And I have a ringside seat to the wrestling matches between my two boxers, Lumen and Kisa (pictured below).

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Who or what are your design influences?
All my work is about growth, change and connection. It may not be totally obvious in all my work, but those are the seeds of my ideas. So, of course, nature plays a huge influential role, as do relationships.

Describe your first jewelry designing experience.
It was definitely unintentional. When I was still in the corporate world, I took a four hour metal clay class only because I had never heard of it. I made several pieces of unrelated…somethings, just to get a feel for the process. Jewelry eventually became my focus when I got great feedback on experimental pieces.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating the Buds Necklace?
I work solely in Precious Metal Clay (PMC). For those who are not familiar, metal clay is made up of microscopic particles of recycled silver [or bronze or copper]. All those particles are held together with an organic binder. It looks and acts much like modeling clay.

For this piece I took a mold of the tiny Lapsana flowers. Once the mold has cured, I roll a piece of metal clay onto it. I remove the piece of clay and turn it over onto a flat surface. While the clay is still wet I cut out individual pieces (in this case, circles) and let them dry overnight. I then try to get them as perfect as possible by sanding edges and smoothing surfaces that need it. It is much easier and less time consuming to do this with dry clay than it is with metal. When the pieces are ready, they get fired in a kiln. When the temperature reaches 1,650 [degrees Fahrenheit], the binder has burned out and all the silver particles melt together. There is an 8 to 12 percent shrink rate and the result is a fully metallic, pure silver piece. I drill a hole in it for the jump ring. When it comes out of the kiln, there is some fire scale on the surface. That is scratched or sanded off before I put the whole piece into a patina to get the green color. It is then sanded again, leaving minimal color behind. I think the color brings out the texture and design a little more. I wire-wrap a clasp onto a piece of hand-painted silk cord and add the pendant. Tah-da!

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Whatʼs your favorite thing that someone has said about something you made?
There was a woman who recently came to my table while I was selling at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I asked how the day had been treating her so far. She sighed and said, “I am so happy to be on front of such a peaceful space with pieces of art I relate to.” She didnʼt buy anything but the compliment was worth so much more.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
Living in the Northwest is great for natural inspiration. I am still amazed at all the different plants that bloom in the spring. I sell my work where 10 million people visit every year. I get to hear a lot of stories. Talking and connecting with people is also great inspiration for me.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

What are your hobbies outside of jewelry design and running your own business?
I donʼt really have much time for a whole lot, but I love to cook and work on my house and in my yard. Essentially, my hands are always dirty.

(Photos by Lauren Williams)

Maker Stories

Woodworking Winner: Glenn Goes Against The Grain

October 7, 2014

Design Challenge Winner | Woodworing Design Challenge | UncommonGoods  
It’s no secret that we love wood designs here at UncommonGoods, and so do our customers. And because our first Woodworking Design Challenge was such a success with over 100 entries, we decided to host another one earlier this year! Once again, we weren’t disappointed with the heavy amount of amazing entries we received, Glenn Heimgartner’s submission being one of them.

When sifting through the woodworking entries, I knew that Glenn’s Wooden Wrap Lamp (at the time named the Audrey Lamp) would make it as one the semifinalists. Through just a single photo, I recognized Glenn’s solid craftmanship and fell in love with the lamp’s beautiful and simple design. When we finally saw the lamp in person, from the maple veneers to the black walnut base, my prediction of a well-designed, handmade product was proven correct. I secretly wanted to take the lamp into my own apartment and place it permanently on my bedside table.

Meet Glenn – a sustainable woodworker, soccer coach, father of three (who allegedly runs faster than a cheetah), and our latest Woodworking Design Challenge winner! 

Wooden Wrap Lamp
Can you tell us three fun, random facts about yourself?  
1. I went to 4 different high schools in 4 years – including one in Japan.

2. I completed a 30-day expedition in the Yukon – no showers, no laundry for 30 days –undoubtedly one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

3. According to my 6-year-old son and his buddies, I run faster than a cheetah.

How did you come up with the concept of your Wooden Wrap Lamp design? 
I had just finished a long stretch of building large, rather in-depth custom furniture pieces and was interested in changing gears and making something of a smaller scale that was more of a functional accent piece.  Also, I had a large amount of walnut scraps that I wanted to upcycle instead of discard. I had been thinking about the idea of a lamp for a while and figured this was the perfect time, as I needed a holiday gift for a family member.

I had seen other lamps with the general construction of a solid wood base, 4 posts, and a top and always liked the look and feel of light shining through wood veneer shades.  What resulted was the first version of the wooden wrap lamp, which is a blend of modern, arts and crafts, and Japanese design details with a natural, handcrafted feel.

Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

How did you discover our Woodworking Design Challenge? 
We’ve been getting the UncommonGoods catalog for years and my wife showed me the announcement for the challenge in the Winter Catalog – A WEEK BEFORE THE SUBMISSION WAS DUE.  She urged me to submit and I figured since I just made a wooden lamp as a gift for a family member that it would be a good fit for UncommonGoods.  Luckily I was able to set other work aside and get a refined version designed, built, and shipped on time.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our Woodworking Design Challenge?
Can’t say I did anything too crazy.  I think I might have given my wife a high-five and then enjoyed a good beer.  Was just honored and excited to know that others out there believed I created something of value.

Design Challenge Winner | Woodworking Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
For me it’s simple, I start with an idea that needs to meet an aesthetic need and perform a function.  I do most of my design in my head – from the initial concept through fabrication – never stopping the internal struggle until the piece is complete.  I sketch on paper and draft in 3D to explore proportions and details and to solidify my focus.  I usually have a 3D plan to take to the shop and start fabrication.

Once I start to create actual parts, I trust my eye and will deviate from the plan, tweaking various details – thicknesses, proportions, radii of curves, etc. – to arrive at a more finished product.  The piece is completed and sometimes it hits that comfortable balance between form and function – sometimes it doesn’t.  If multiples will be made, I refine and rebuild.  If it is ‘one-off’ custom piece, it is what it is at that point.

Design Challenge Winner | Woodworking Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you walk us through the step-by-step process of creating your lamp?
I go through current inventory of walnut and purchase additional if need be.  I ‘upcycle’ scraps from larger projects when possible.  The selected walnut is milled into various pieces that make up the solid wood frame (2 base pieces, 4 posts, and 2 top pieces per lamp).  Details on the ends of these base and top pieces are shaped via the router and by hand.  Joinery is cut via basic machines and cleaned up via hand tools (base and top pieces are joined via lap joints; posts are joined to the base via mortise and tenons and to the top via bridle joint).

Pieces are glued to make the base and top respectively.  Posts are glued to the base.  Maple veneer is cut and glued in ring shapes to make the shades.  All pieces are sanded and finished.  Rings are glued to posts.  Top is glued to the posts.  Final quality control and touch up finishing is completed.  Nickel hardware and electrical components are installed and light bulb is tested.  Product is packaged.

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
First and foremost, I’m in full production mode in the shop handcrafting multiple lamps to meet UncommonGoods demands for the Winter Catalog!  On the custom furniture front, I’m working with a few private clients designing various unique, functional pieces for residential settings (dining room table, library table, bench for a foyer, etc.).  I’m also in the process of designing and prototyping two more home accent pieces for retail that will be of the same style and materials as the wrap lamp.

Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods
Other than making and promoting your woodwork, what other hobbies are you into?
With three amazing small children (ages 6, 4, and 1), I don’t have too much free time for hobbies.  Luckily, my passion of woodworking satisfies most of my self-centered needs.  When I do get a free second, I love the outdoors and exploring the nearby mountains on my own or with others. (I usually do a great one-hour hike right from my shop a few days a week.)  I coach my oldest son’s soccer team and help my parents with their small farm.  I’m fortunate to live in a town that has a great music scene and I see live acts whenever possible.

Design Challenge Winner | Woodworking Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Where do you get your wood from and is it sustainable?
I have a professional background in sustainable forestry and sustainable wood products, so I am well versed on the land management techniques and supply chain logistics of such material and goods.  I take pride in sourcing responsibly harvested wood from local forests and I purchase from local mills and small sawyers whenever possible.  I mainly work in walnut, cherry, and maple, which readily grow in the forests of my area.

I also have worked in reclaimed chestnut, pine, and oak, which are usually recycled from demolished buildings.  I work to minimize waste in project planning and ‘upcycle’ scraps from larger projects like tables into smaller projects like the wrap lamp.  Shavings are spread on tree/shrub beds that surround the shop and are also composted.

Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What makes wood products special?
Wood is always alive, whether it is upright in the form of a tree or milled as a beautifully wide-planked tabletop.  I am constantly fascinated by the idea that a tree can function as part of a forest (cleaning the air and water, providing wildlife habitat, and providing an amazing backdrop for outdoor recreation) and then be sustainably harvested to continue its life in functional and beautiful items such as furniture and home goods.

I love that a log can be milled in different ways (rift sawn, flat sawn, quartersawn) to result in different grain patterns and that every piece is different, exhibiting unique details like curly grain, pronounced figure, knots or worm holes.  I always get excited to finish mill a rough piece to see what amazing grain is exposed.  It never gets old smelling and handling this material on a daily basis.

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