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Design Challenge Winners

Maker Stories

Dreaming Big: Anne Lehman Wins Graphic Design Challenge!

June 20, 2014

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

We love our annual Graphic Design Challenges because we receive such unique and diverse entries from talented emerging graphic designers from all over the nation! On our last Graphic Design Challenge, we decided to give designers a bit more direction. We not only provided them the phrase we wanted the contestants to include in their design,”Dream Big, Start Small”, but also let them know what product their design could potentially be placed on if they were to win, a babysuit™!  

When Anne Lehman’s charming entry rolled in, we knew immediately that she would be one of our semi-finalists. The colors, images, technique, and overall appeal of her Mouse and Moon design was something we felt walked straight out of a children’s storybook. The judging panel believed that Anne’s vision was the strongest and that she, without a doubt, committed to the inspirational theme. Meet our latest Graphic Design Challenge winner, Anne Lehman. See how she came up with the concept of her Mouse and Moon design, what she did when she heard the great news that she won, and what her one secret vice is as a graphic designer.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your hometown? 
I am from the town of Reading, Massachusetts, which is about 15 miles from Boston, home of our country’s first public park and subway system. An uncommon fact about me—I am left-handed and have red hair—this combination of traits is in less than 1% of the population.

How did you come up with the concept of your design for our Graphic Design Challenge?
When I read “Dream Big, Start Small,” I pictured a mouse immediately with a small piece of cheese. The concept of the moon came to me when I started to sketch the mouse and cheese. Since the deadline was just three days away, I tried not to over think my design and turned my first sketch into my final piece that I submitted. I am learning that sometimes your first ideas are the best ones!

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Tell us about your journey into becoming a graphic designer.
My journey started when I was a small child—making art and creating things is all I’ve ever wanted to do—ever since the first time I held a crayon. My professional journey started about 15 years ago. My first job after college was a customer service rep at a printing company that specialized in invitations and stationery. I had a degree in fine arts, but was struggling to apply my art skills to the real world. Seeing how the designs were created and being around the printing process motivated me to go back to school and learn the technical side of graphic design. I needed to make things and create!

I loved learning how to take my fine art skills and apply them to the computer to create logo designs and layouts. For years I worked as a professional graphic designer in the corporate environment. During this time, I discovered that I needed an additional creative outlet, so I would work on my own pieces and often create handmade artwork for family and friends. I found my true passion is creating artwork by hand and the creative freedom and imagination that goes into it. This lead to opening my Etsy shop, Sunny Spot Studio, in 2010. Since then I’ve been making steps towards my dream of having my own freelance business full time where I can create and sell my art, illustrations, and graphic design creations.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Baby Suit Graphic Design winner?
I was so excited when I heard that I won! I called my fiance, Matt, immediately to share the good news. He is my biggest champion and encouraged me to enter the contest so it really felt like we were in it together. We had a nice dinner to celebrate and then I think I spent the rest of the night on the phone with my greatest support system—my parents, sister, and a couple of close friends.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods -matt

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
I am always evolving my process, but I don’t think I could live without my pencils, black pen, paints, and watercolors. I always start with traditional materials and have never been able to just jump right in and design on the computer. I will usually scan my artwork and then do some touch up and add typography with design software. I received the most amazing gift recently—a Cintiq Wacom tablet, which allows you to draw and paint right on the screen—this is changing my technique and opening new doors for me. I am now experimenting more with adding color and texture in Illustrator and Photoshop, after I scan my pen and ink drawings.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
I always have many ideas in the pipeline for new pieces to offer in my Etsy shop. I plan to add more wedding related items, including invitation artwork soon. I am currently enrolled in an e-course: Make Art That Sells: Assignment Bootcamp from Lilla Rogers, who is one of the world’s top illustration agents and a wonderful teacher. The course runs over six months, with monthly themed assignments geared toward different markets in the industry. It has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to learn and grow my portfolio with her expertise, and also to connect with talented artists all over the world. Our current assignment is to create nautical themed wall art.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
I learned that it takes self-confidence to be an artist. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Art is very personal and it can be intimidating to put your work out to the public. Not everyone will admire your work, but if you can stay true to your self and who you are as an artist, it will help you to grow in your career and find your style.

Where do you picture yourself 5 years from now?
In 5 years, I picture myself as an independent artist/designer and business owner, supporting myself full time. I hope to be making lots of art pieces and working on creative projects in the freedom of my studio. These projects would include children’s book illustration, pet art and portraits, nursery art, personalized prints, and designing and illustrating pieces for art licensing. I plan to be very busy!

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Are there any particular graphic designers or bloggers you look up to when it comes to your area of design?
Recently I have discovered the art and career of Kelly Rae Roberts. I enjoy following her on social media and on her blog, where she shares so much about her artwork and life. Her journey to becoming a successful artist and entrepreneur is an inspiration to me.

3_studio-Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
If I have the time, a nice drive to my favorite nearby town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire helps to clear my mind. I love to walk around the quaint historic town, visit the art galleries and shops, and to spend some time by the waterfront. Otherwise, a quick yoga class or a bit of time browsing Pinterest always helps me to recharge.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

Do you have any secret vices that causes procrastination? 
I wouldn’t call it a vice, but I can be my toughest critic, which can sometimes cause me to over think my work and stall my finished product. When I am selling an art print or piece, I want it to be the best it can be for my customer. When I realize I am over thinking or reworking my project, I try to step away to separate myself from it. Then I can come back later with a fresh mind to complete the work.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you? 
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

I keep this quote hanging up in my studio to remind me that I am now on the right path with my art and design career. I’ve learned that if you pay attention to your intuition and follow your dreams, your life will change and you will become much happier. For me, I wasn’t creating enough during my professional career, which left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. When I started to make more of my own art and take steps towards having my own design studio, doors opened up and positive things started to happen for me. And now a few years later, I am about to leave the security of a day job, finally having the courage to branch out on my own and work towards supporting myself solely through my art and design.

Graphic Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our next Graphic Design Challenge?
Don’t be afraid of submitting your work, just go for it. It is a great opportunity to gain exposure and share your work with the public and a team of professionals.  You will be amazed at the support that will come your way.

We’re pleased to announce that the Dream Big, Start Small Babysuit with Anne’s design is now available for purchase from UncommonGoods!

Maker Stories

A Zymbol is Worth a Thousand Words

April 25, 2014

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we couldn’t have picked a better time to feature mother and son duo, Sally and Dane Short, the makers of the inspiring Zymbol Necklace. The actual design of the necklace is intriguing, yet the story behind what the Zymbol represents is what really grabbed our full attention. Depending on who the wearer is, the Zymbol design can mean a million different things–from phrases, to places, to people. “Given that Zymbol contains every letter of the alphabet and every number, it can represent any and all messages; from private anecdotes to everyday affirmations.” Read about how the Short family made an accidental discovery of the Zymbol design and how they are paying it forward with children’s hospitals across America through their one-for-one program.  Meet Sally and Dane Short: mother and son, business partners, and our latest Jewelry Design Challenge winners!

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

What’s an uncommon fact about you and your hometown?
Dane: Hmmmm, most of my peers seem to think it’s uncommon that I don’t like Apple products.  Wait, are people going to get mad at me for saying that? My hometown, Durango, CO has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco!

Sally: Most people don’t know that I was a belly dancer in my 20s and performed the Arabian Dance part in the Nutcracker Suite. Los Angeles, my hometown, moves approximately one-quarter of an inch to the east every year!

How did you come up with the concept of the Zymbol Necklace?
D: A few years ago something amazing happened to our family. One night my lovely mother, Sally Short, was doodling and she wrote down the phrase ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’ stacking each letter on top of the next with a peace sign.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoodsShe loved the design and message so much that she decided to send it off to be cast as a pendant. A few months later my sister and I randomly saw the pendant sitting on its side and we noticed a ‘K’ popping out. Since there’s no ‘K’ in the phrase ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’, it got us curious and motivated us to look for other letters. That night, we ended up sitting down as a family and uncovering the entire alphabet and every number hidden within the doodle!! We decided to create a line of inspirational jewelry based on the design. We named it Zymbol as it is one symbol representing all letters A-Z.

Given that Zymbol contains every letter of the alphabet and every number, it can represent any and all messages; from private anecdotes to everyday affirmations. I personally wear mine representing daily goals and intentions.The amazing concept about the Zymbol Necklace is that it can represent so many different things to different people.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoodsZymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods
What’s the most creative story you’ve heard from someone who owns one?
D: That’s a tough question! People from all walks of life wear Zymbol containing their personal message of inspiration – from breast cancer survivors to members of the military. Of all the testimonials we’ve received, I think the following is my favorite:

“I wanted to tell you a story of how your ‘family project’ became a part of my ‘family project’. As a mother of four daughters ranging from 18-30 and a 10-year-old granddaughter I am all about family. As it happens my daughters’ birthdays are all in the spring, so this year I was looking for a gift that would mean something to all of us, a legacy of sorts. But in these financial times I needed something that didn’t cost and arm and a leg. I happened upon Zymbol at a networking event and I couldn’t get the design out of my head. I knew I found the perfect gift for a group of very distinct young women.

I took the group out to eat and talked to them about the idea of creating a ‘family crest’, one that would have a ‘secret’ meaning only to us. They liked the idea and as a group we came up with what that meaning was. (The actual meaning for us isn’t important to explain as the beauty of the symbol is that each family can give it their own special meaning.) What is important is that when we wear it, we have a connection to each other. I know personally when I’m having a bad day (or a difficult client) or just need centering, I will reach up and hold Zymbol in my hand and I find it comforting as for me it represents not only my daughters and granddaughter, but also my mom, my brothers and sisters…my family.

With my daughter’s approval to the concept of the design, I bought six pendants that each received on their birthdays.

My oldest daughter liked the idea so much that she had a tattoo of our ‘family crest’ put on the inside of her wrist. She wanted something that would be not only served as a constant reminder of family, but as a reminder of other things, like being a better mother, or better person. She says if she needs encouragement or centering or maybe even patience at any given moment, she can look at the symbol and be reminded of what is important and what she needs at that given moment.”

How cool is that! She sent me a picture of her daughter’s tattoo which I then posted on Facebook. The idea of tattooing Zymbol caught on and we now know of 22 people who have tattooed Zymbol on their bodies!

tattooS: My favorite stories come from children in the hospital. We’ve always thought of Zymbol as a gift to our family. Two years into the business we decided to pay it forward by implementing our own version of the TOMS Shoes one-for-one program. For every Zymbol sold, we gift an acrylic pendant to a child in the hospital. With the pendant, each child receives an activity sheet full of blank Zymbols.  This allows them to trace and spell out their personal message of inspiration and encouragement. That message can change and evolve each day, or remain consistent. We’ve had kids trace messages like HOPE, LOVE, NEVER GIVE UP and YOU ARE A WARRIOR.  The following video shows a recent ‘drop’ we did in Austin, TX.


How did you celebrate when you learned you were our next Jewelry Design Challenge winner?
D: We were ECSTATIC!!! Our mission statement is to ‘spread love and empowerment, one Zymbol at a time’. We knew winning the Jewelry Design Challenge would help us in fulfilling our mission.

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
D: Our current mission is to visit children’s hospitals all over the country in the next two years. This will be a direct result of our one-for-one program. In the next two months we’ll be visiting Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Denver and Texas Children’s in Houston.

S: I’m most excited at the opportunity to become a vendor with UncommonGoods! This has always been a goal of ours.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? 
D:  My favorite quote is ‘We become what we think about’ by Earl Nightingale. I am a believer in positive thinking and the law of attraction. I’ve found that by controlling my thoughts, I’m able to control my reality.

S: Mine is more of a phrase than a quote. LOVE IS ALL U NEED. What does it mean to me?  Everything! This phrase has evolved into a business that allows me to work with my family and inspire people around the world.

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our design challenge?
D: Don’t be afraid to relentlessly reach out to your network. You are an artist. Be proud of your work. You might be surprised at the amount of support you’ll receive.

Maker Stories

Scott’s Flower Power Wins the Art Contest

March 14, 2014

ScottSilvey_portraitScott Silvey literally understands the power of flowers. Scott’s nature-inspired art pieces resonates from living on an Indiana farm and caring for a garden when he was a child. Various plants and flowers have always carried a bit of a magical spirit to him. In his winning art piece, Aphrodisiac Bath, he illustrates a vibrant botanical scene that celebrates not only the beauty, but medicinal properties of flowers and herbs. The backdrop of where the plants sit are scrolling scripts, detailing the ingredients for a stimulating bath. Many of Scott’s work celebrate the healing power that nature possesses. “I create paintings and other art that investigates the manifold ways in which plants can positively effect human life. In a world that is becoming increasingly artificial, my work is a reminder of the healing potential that lies in the roots, stems and leaves growing all around us.” Scott has also been inspired through living, studying, and working abroad in Japan, South Korea, England, and now back to the United States. Meet Scott Silvey, our latest Art Contest Winner, and our ultimate Flower Power King.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsHow did you come up with the concept of Aphrodisiac Bath?
All of the pieces in my Invocations series are in effect portraits of various herbal remedies. The plants in each painting could be combined in reality to make traditional medicine to treat various afflictions. While working on this series my best friend gave me the news that he would be getting married. I wanted to do a painting as a wedding gift for my friend Sam and his wife Jackie, but creating an image of medicine just didn’t seem appropriate. So when I ran across this recipe for a stimulating bath I got really excited. What could possibly be a better image for newlyweds than one which increases their desire for each other?

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsTell us about the moment when you realized “I want to be an artist.”
In undergraduate school I studied psychology. During my final year of undergrad at Earlham College I decided to take a photography class just to fill a requirement. It was that decision that changed my life’s direction. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I began by just shooting what was around me but my image making soon turned to creating almost allegorical sets to pose myself and others in. I actually didn’t get such a good grade in the class though because my interests often diverged from the assignments.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat different techniques do you use when creating your art?
With the painting I use primarily water-based paints and a carbon transfer process that I’ve developed through the years. Much of the primary imagery comes from the internet and then I just assemble and compose the individual pieces into finished work. When I make sculptures or installation the techniques depend on what is required for the concept. I weld, do woodworking, casting, forging, sewing or whatever is needed for the piece. In the next few years I hope to expand my technical repertoire. I want to do some performance and film work in addition to what I currently do.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsYou once lived in Japan. What exactly led you there?
When I was a child my father always collected National Geographic magazine. The images of beautifully attired geishas, exotic temples, and snow monkeys found from time to time in its pages always fascinated me. Then, when I was in university I spent a lot of time looking at ukio-e and other Japanese image making and design. I liked all of the seeming dissonance in the work. The density of imagery in the kimono design versus the remaining abundant negative space in a print. Or the intense violence of a battle scene juxtaposed with someone arranging flowers in a quiet room in the corner of the painting. I never really thought I’d have an opportunity to live in Japan but when the opportunity to move to Tokyo arose, I jumped at it.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsCan you describe how living in Japan influenced your art work?
I think the biggest influence Japan had on me while living there was on my composition sense. In the last place that I lived before moving back to the States, my local train station had a small display area for ikebana (flower arrangements). Every day as I walked to or from the train I was treated with a constantly shifting array of mini sculptures. That moment of stillness among the bustle of commuters always made me pause and take note.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsAre there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
Yes, I have five notebooks full of ideas for installation and large-scale painting projects I’m eager to put into the world. As you might imagine, there were certain spatial constraints in Japan that limited the kind of work I could do. Now that I’m back in the U.S. I really want to work big again. My first solo exhibition in America will involve three large installations, 365 live plants, about 4 tons of raw soil sculpted into the form of an Ohio River Valley culture ceremonial mound and some glowing neon among other things.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhich artist(s) do you look up to?
There are many artists that I admire. As Newton said, we stand on the shoulders of giants and to not be aware of your predecessors or acknowledge their contributions to your work/ field is just ignorant and delusional. Generally I love the work of outsiders, folk artists, the mentally ill and children. The themes, material usage and compositional sense of those who haven’t been ‘educated’ is just fantastic. Probably Henry Darger is one of the names many people may recognize in that category. In addition I love the drawings of Hans Bellmer, work by Morris Louis, Edward Hopper, Albert Bierstadt, Jessica Stockholder, Marc Quinn, Petah Coyne, Tom Sachs, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Shana Robbins and my wife Mio Silvey among many others.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
It takes a lot of persistence and faith in yourself and your ideas to have any success in the ‘art world.’

 What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Try to get more sleep because raising a child and making art is going to make you very tired.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated? 
Last year, at the announcement of his retirement from an illustrious career in animation, Hayao Miyazaki was quoted as saying, “Never stop trying to achieve more universal and profound expressions of humanity.” I think those words best express my drive as an artist. There are as many ways to live a human life as there are, have been or will be humans in existence. There is beauty in the fact however that on the most fundamental level we are all the same. The deepest personal expressions can also be the most universal. The more that I can come to understand who I am, the closer I can get to comprehending what it means to be human. My work is an attempt to find those factors which unite us all.

IMG_20140314_1655091

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
I usually try to pick up a new book, watch a documentary or just go for a walk alone.

Do you have any secret vices?
It’s always easier to not work than work. For me the most interesting part of the art-making process is coming up with the ideas and doing the research. I don’t have any particular vices that prevent me from doing work, I just have to stay focused on making the actual artifact and not just swim in the ideas.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Art Contests?
Do your work, follow the leads that life gives you and always try to do your best. Push yourself to find a different angle on what you know and you may find an entrance into a whole new thematic world. Then, gather up your friends, fill out the application form and send it in. A seat at the table is waiting for you!

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

Click here if you want to add Scott’s beautiful artwork into your home or gift it to someone who would appreciate his masterpieces!

 

Maker Stories

Sean and Armelle’s Glass Design Wins Upcycling Challenge

February 7, 2014

It can be said that with every creative couple, the ultimate dream is to one day collaborate and use their talents and ideas together to create something pretty special. Sean O’Neill and Armelle Bouchet O’Neill did exactly that with their genuine love of glass making. The O’Neills proudly run Studio Manufact and push themselves to the limits to perfect their craft and to supply well-designed glass products to their community. We received dozens of unique and clever entries for our annual Upcycling Design Challenge, yet it was Sean and Armelle’s Upcycling Glass Tumblers design that caught our eyes. The tumblers are sleek and simple, it’s a product that can be used everyday while still appreciating the actual design itself by not just looking at it, but holding it. Starting to design a new glass collection, the couple decided to scavenge glass bottles from around their neighborhood venues. Sean says, “It is really refreshing to create something unique out of something as ubiquitous as a beer bottle. We have been so encouraged by the positive response from our community that we are really excited to share our design with the wider world.” Meet The O’Neills, our Upcycled Design Challenge Winners.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your hometown?

Sean: I went to four different high schools in three different states.

Armelle: I grew up on a farm in the south of France. An uncommon fact about our neighborhood park is that it was designed by the Olmsted brothers, sons of the designer of Central Park. Seattle is covered in parks, over 10% of the city is either a park or open space.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

Your Upcycled Glass Tumblers are an elegant and beautiful design, how did the idea of recycling bottles and to make them into a product come about?

Sean: I have been making a line of glasses I call “crinkle cups” for years, that design lent itself seamlessly to use recycled bottles as the starting point. We are planning to move into a new studio and bring our production capabilities in-house rather than continually handing over large sums of money to rent a studio for the hot glass component of our production. By designing objects that we can create using existing glass we can cut out the glass melting part of the equation. With the reclaimed bottles, we have a consistent supply of materials that would, otherwise, be destined for the waste stream. So it was a progression that came as a result of wanting to make affordable, unique designs that we could produce consistently and be able to offer them to a wider audience.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

How long have you been working with glass?

Sean: I got into glass making in high school in 1997, I moved around quite a bit over the years, but I have found a way to work with glass everywhere I’ve lived since then.

Armelle: I started while I was a student in Art School in 2001 and fell in love with the material. A few years later, I went to school at the Danish Design School to specialize in glass and moved to Seattle in 2009.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

Where do you find inspiration within your work space?

Armelle: We collect many objects for their texture, form and color that as inspiration for our fine art work and our business, Manufact. Working with materials and and refining processes also inspires us, so the more we work in the studio the more ideas we get. We are also really fortunate to share a space with over a dozen other makers. So being in that proximity to so many other creative people is very inspiring.

studiomanufact_5

Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?

Sean: Between making artwork, starting a new business and having a young family I can’t honestly say that downtime is a daily occurrence. But now that we have the wheels turning on so many facets of our life that we are passionate about, the next step is to organize them in such a way that downtime takes some priority.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

How do you recharge your creativity?

Sean: If I feel like I need to recharge I make sure that I disconnect from the internet and look through my photos and sketchbooks where I inevitably find lots of ideas to revisit and explore.

Armelle: Ideally, by going on excursions, observing, and taking pictures. But lately it has been difficult to find the time to go on field trips.

jakestangel1
Other than working with glass, what else do you do?

Sean: As for me, in the midst of pursuing a career as a glassmaker, I started a business designing and building self-watering garden beds, mainly the byproduct of building six of them on the roof of our studio. I am also a technician in the School of Art at the University of Washington.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

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Armelle: We have a two year old little girl, spending time with her after working with glass is our favorite occupation. We also teach, ride our bikes, and garden!

Do you have any special projects or events that are in the works?

Armelle: I’m preparing for two group shows with my artwork, one in Seattle and one in Chicago.

Sean: I’m designing the layout and new equipment in preparation for our move into a new studio!

What are your most essential tools that you must have on your side while you design?

Sean: A camera is an essential tool for me to document and translate a lot of what I see in the world around me.

Armelle: My coffee cup, living in Seattle has made me addicted to coffee!

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What was the toughest lesson you learned working with glass?

Armelle: That you can’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched, meaning that you can’t get attached to material things that has to endure such extreme and exacting processes because there are so many opportunities for something to go wrong.

Sean: The realization of the occupation that I have chosen as my path in life, working with glass takes a long time to master and it’s very energy intensive. This is one reason why the Upcycled Glass Tumblers are so exciting, with them we have found a way to offer a product that is unique and efficient by using recycled materials.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What advice would you offer the Sean and Armelle of 5 years ago?

Sean: To trust that if you pursue your passion your efforts will be acknowledged and rewarded. The most important thing is to be true to yourself and if you do that, the rest will begin to fall into place. It seems really easy to focus on the byproducts of success and attempt to attain those rather than aiming for the essence of what makes something work well and creating that for yourself.

Armelle: Do it right the first time! This advice can be applied in so many circumstances and it most often holds true. You must really take care to do things well so as not to waste time fixing them later, that way you have the freedom to move forward.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

Are there any particular artists or similar businesses you look up to?

Armelle: I got my start working in a studio called Glassmedjen Denmark. They have been a model business for me ever since. In addition, there is a Finnish artsit, Anu Penttinen, who I have always looked up to as an example of what is possible if you stay true to an aesthetic and continue growing and pushing forward with your designs. Here in the states I would say I look up to Joe Cariati. He is a talented artist who has also created a successful business making really refined handmade objects.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Upcycling Design Challenge?

Sean: We got pretty giddy and congratulated each other but to be honest, we’re still waiting to celebrate…

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you? 

Armelle: “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” -Confucius

Sean:  “Everybody does better when everybody does better.” I feel a little silly because I saw this quote on a bumper sticker and I’m not sure who actually said it but it really resonates with me. I think that when you thrive, those around you thrive and vice versa. It is also a reminder that you can’t wait around for other people’s success to rub off on you, you have to go out and create it for yourself.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?

Sean: I am trying hard to hone the business side of the equation these days, by spreading the word about our business and getting people excited about it and meanwhile trying to be diligent in our record keeping and the less glamorous side of working for yourself.

Armelle: I am excited about utilizing technology to compliment my handmade process, so I am learning various design programs to translate my ideas and images into the objects I create.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What are the pros and cons of being business partners and married at the same time?

Sean: We really complement each other by offering a different perspective to one another. It always helps to see something with a fresh set of eyes and that is sort of built in when you work with a partner. We both excel in different areas so we are able to cover a lot more bases than we would working alone. The cons come with the territory of sharing everything… home, business, and studio. Work is always part of our life, it is hard to stop and not think about it once we leave the studio.

Sean & Armelle O'Niell

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work to the next Upcycling Design Challenge?

Sean: Love it! Share it! Offer something you believe in and inspire other people to get behind it.

We are pleased to announce that the Upcycled Glass Tumblers are now available at UncommonGoods.com!

Maker Stories

Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace Shines Bright

January 15, 2014

Natha Perkins

Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace design is obviously beautiful, but I would have to say the message behind it shines a little brighter, just giving me more incentive to add the charming pendant into my very own jewelry box. The message that stands behind the design is all about finding clarity, direction, and seeking one’s path. When wearing it, it should remind you to trust your internal guidance, reassure yourself that you know your own answers and that you, indeed, know exactly where you want to go. As someone who has been bitten pretty hard by the travel bug and tends to live life a bit off the beaten path, I’m in love with the fact that the eight pointed star symbol was the first known compass in the history of humanity. Natha’s necklace is the first winning jewelry design I’ve come across with a resonating message that touches on both my personal hopes and fears. I hope to stay on the (very loopy and sometimes off-the-cliff) path that I’m currently still paving out for myself. I fear losing sight of that direction and hopping onto someone else’s already-made yellow brick road. The Eight Pointed Star Necklace is a pretty reminder to keep going and to never doubt oneself. Meet Natha Perkins, someone who definitely knew how to pave her way into becoming our latest Jewelry Design Challenge Winner.

Natha Perkins

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your jewelry?
I don’t  journal much, or keep a diary, but I have 30 rings that I’ve made through the years for myself.  Each ring has a specific story behind it and each design is totally relevant to something that was happening in my life when I made the ring.  (I’ve been metalsmithing for 13 years, so for those of you counting that’s approx. 2.3 rings a year)

I love that your necklace has a lot of meaning behind it, do you mind explaining it?
I love the symbolism behind this piece!  I wrote a blog post about it here, but in a nutshell, the Eight Pointed Star is an ancient and universal symbol, as well as the first compass in the history of humanity. It guides your way to a new life, giving you clarity of vision to see the future through a lens of hope, healing and beauty. It also bestows nurturing energies. A symbol of optimism, an eight pointed star assures you that unexpected help is coming and serves to help bring about a renewal of good fortune in the material world. Like with any of our pieces, wearing  this piece will help bring you clarity simply by providing you with a reminder that you are indeed supported.

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Jewelry Design Challenge?
We did a lot of jumping up and down and screaming!

Where do you find inspiration within your work space?
The studio itself is full of tools and stones and lots of different working areas but we have the most beautiful garden just outside with grape vines and a gurgling rock fountain and roses.  We’re also basically at the foot of a great big gorgeous mountain (Boulder is surrounded to the West entirely by mountains) so when we walk out of the studio, we’re surrounded by all of this natural beauty.  We can walk 2 blocks and hit a hiking trail that weaves its way up to an amazing vista of the cities of Boulder and Denver.  It really is heavenly and I feel very lucky. studio gardensWhere do you go/ what do you do to find inspiration when you find yourself in a creative rut?
This might sound strange, but when I’m not feeling creative, I go to see my acupuncturist.  In Chinese medicine, blocked creativity means some sort of imbalance in the qi and yin department.  If I’m feeling blah or feeling uninspired, I figure I need a body tune up.  (Did I mention I live in Boulder?  We’re kind of alternative here.)

If you have a great idea for a design and want to pursue it, what’s your first step?
When I was in art school, our professor required us to have 40 sketches of a single design before we could finalize our idea and start on a piece.  Thank God I’m not designing my pieces in art school any more!  I honestly just dive in.  I have an idea, I gather the metal, the tracing paper, some saw blades and I get going.  This has led to many an end result that was really different from the original idea but like any medium, the materials co-create with the artist and it’s fun to see what comes through. Natha PerkinsOther than being an artist, what else do you do?
I’m a mama, I’m a life and entrepreneurial business coach, I teach art and jewelry classes.  I went and got certified to coach because I wanted to teach people how to make intentional art.  Art is such a beautiful way to get in touch with who you are on a deep level.  Talk therapy is great but its heady.  We all have our old stories that we tell over and over and it’s hard to see past them to the truth.  Art and intentional making incorporates head, heart and hand and opens you up to new types of insights and understanding about yourself and your process.  I feel really called to help guide people to this place.

When (and how) did you realize you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
When I was 20, I searched high and low for  a juicy red, heart shaped ring and I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere.  I don’t know why, but I felt such a  longing for this red heart shaped ring.  I dreamed about it.  Fast forward 2 years and I took a small class in a strange warehouse next to a strip club (which isn’t relevant to the story at all but it’s an interesting fact nonetheless).  The teacher was this eccentric man who  taught me the basics of metalsmithing.  I was hooked in the first class because I realized that I could actually make my heart ring.  It  took me 5 years to get good enough to make my ring but I still treasure it because it was the inspiration that started my jewelry career before I even understood it to be that. Natha PerkinsDo you have any special projects or events that are in the works or that are floating around in your brain right now?
I’m actually knee deep in a handful of  projects right now that I’m really excited about.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been coaching and working on some art classes that involve intentional making.  Myself and two other women; a life coach and a photographer, are formulating a curriculum that we’re planning to take into local high schools.  The idea involves working with young women and teaching them empowerment tools through a combination of intentional making, student led photo documentation and teaching of emotional skills.  I’m also working to develop some cool art classes to offer to the participants of  The Boulder Tattoo Project, a large scale community art project involving a”love poem” to the city of Boulder and 200+ residents (including me) who got bits and pieces of the poem tattooed on their bodies.  My friend Chelsea (who spearheaded BTP) and I are collaborating on the classes and they will include making art that centers around the actual words that each person chose to get inked with.   Everyone involved chose words that were particularly meaningful to them in some way and we want to offer a venue for them to explore that on a deeper level. teachingWhat are your most essential tools that you must have by your side while you design? 
I do most of my designing in my head, usually when I’m walking in nature, alone.  I come up with a word or a line from a poem or song and the piece takes shape around that.  I also love to design using stones and stone colors.  I will go through my 15 or so boxes of stones just pulling out shapes and colors, just to see how the colors play against each other.  I’m fascinated with color play and color theory and it shows up often in  my pieces.

Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?
Funny you should use that word productive.  It’s  been on my mind a lot lately because I realized that I have this uncomfortable tendency to feel unproductive if I’m just relaxing.  So to answer your question:  I practice yoga 4 times a week, I walk the dogs, I read lots of articles and books, I cook food for my kids.  All of which sound suspiciously productive, don’t they? Natha PerkinsWhat was the toughest lesson you learned as a freelance jewelry artist?
I hired a press company that cost an absolute fortune.  They promised me more than they were actually able to deliver and they kept about $5,000 in samples too (that were supposed to be be returned).  But I had my part in it as well;  I wasn’t prepared for the experience.   I didn’t have  the fundamentals in place, like line sheets and tight production collections.  Knowing what I know now about editorial coverage, media, wholesale, retail and business in general, I see clearly that my approach was doomed to failure.  I was trying to build a mansion on a slippery foundation.  It was a disaster but I learned so much, I would never make those same mistakes again!  Today in fact, I’m a much stronger and more savvy business woman which is a very different skill set than ‘artist’ but a necessity when you’re trying to sell art. piles of SpellBound RingsWhat advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
You create your own reality.  If you can’t learn to relax, the world will meet you with un-relaxing situations.  If you don’t appreciate the things you do and create, the people around you won’t be able to either.  If you’re constantly trying to control the world, you will will exhaust yourself trying to make the impossible possible.  Everything is perfect.  You are loved.  You are amazing and strong and more powerful than you will ever know. (Okay, I’m getting teary now, but it’s all true.  Again, the old stories that we tell ourselves about not being good enough, smart enough, not being enough…such lies.  But I’m getting it now, I’m seeing the truth.)
Natha Perkins
Which artists do you look up to?
I’ll say this: I look up to anyone who has the courage to make their art, to express themselves in that way and to put themselves out there.  Our art, our creations; no matter the medium, comes from the depths of our individual souls and anyone who has the courage to show up like that, to lay themselves open to the appraisal and opinions of others has my respect. Natha Perkins

What does it mean to you being a design challenge winner?
I’m thrilled to be the winner of this challenge!  My studio assistant Whitney and I had so much fun working on our newest collection Divine ~ Align.  We put so much thought into the symbolism and meaning of each piece. So to be recognized in such a prestigious way for one of the pieces in the collection is a huge honor.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“You set the standard for how you are treated.  People will treat you the same way that you treat yourself.”  It’s lovely and it’s true.  I’m not sure where I found this quote but I came across it during my certification program with The Secret to Life Coaching Company  (with whom I got certified) and I’ve learned to see the world through a new lens.  We really are responsible for everything in our lives, we create everything, which is actually a really empowering notion. quoteWhat are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Management tools!  I adore metalsmithing and my business Luscious Metals.   I love to create art but I’m transitioning my business into something that’s bigger than just me and my personal skills.  My amazing studio assistant, Whitney, is ready and willing to take on more responsibility and wants to help me grow the business and this is just the beginning. I know that in order for this to work out, I need to transition from artist and designer to manager and  leader.  I’m ready and excited to see where we go next! Natha PerkinsWhat advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Jewelry Design Challenge?
Some of the best business advice I’ve ever gotten was from a book called The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles (great book!). “Act now.  There is never any time but now and there will never be any time but now.  If you are ever to begin to make ready for the reception of what you want, you must begin now.”  In other words, make sure your ducks are in a row (good product, great pictures etc.) and then GO FOR IT!  You can’t win if you don’t enter right?

Find Natha and her business Luscious Metals on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.