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Design Challenges

Design

Art Contest – The Fun Will Never End

April 4, 2013

The call for entries for the 2013 Art Contest ended on Sunday night with close to 200 amazing submissions. We were blown away with the response and the caliber of work that was entered, so we went back to the drawing board. Seeing your artwork only once a year is not enough. With a customer base that loves art prints and buyers who love picking them out even more – we decided to keep the Art Contest going… all year long! Keep coming back to send us your brand new pieces every month and get more involved in our design community.

For the most part the rules and prizes are still the same. Midnight on the last night of every month is the deadline for that month and the buyer’s picks will make it into our community voting app.

Check out the Art Contest page for more details.

Maker Stories

Jeff Knight’s Dreamy Cutting Board Wins the Woodworking Design Challenge

April 4, 2013

It’s not news that we’re extremely proud of our artists, and our newest UncommonGoods artist is no exception. From almost 100 Woodworking Design Challenge entries, Jeff Knight’s Nimbus Cloud Cutting Board made our judges sigh, giggle and announce Winner!. But the more we learn about Jeff, the more we realize the breadth of his talents. Meet Jeff – woodworker, graphic designer, t-shirt entrepreneur, travel writer and the newest member of our UncommonGoods artist family.

What is the most uncommon thing about you?
I think the most uncommon thing about me is my renaissance-man attitude toward projects. I’m the kind of guy who likes to roll up my sleeves and figure out a way to make a good idea happen. If that means learning a new tool or trade, then so be it. I have a pretty big range of hobbies and interests. I keep myself busy and always look forward to learning something new. This past year I’ve been involved in various projects from co-founding a design club to partnering in the launch of a pop-up t-shirt store.

Where do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired by a variety of things; nature, comic books, toys, games, classic films, art, midcentury design, social events, friends, family, etc. I try to keep my eyes and ears open to things, and when inspiration strikes I’m usually prepared with a sketchbook close by. A weekly trip to a thrift shop sometimes helps rekindle my inspiration. You never know when looking at an old dinner plate or album cover will provide inspiration for a future project.

How did you get into woodworking?
My dad was a woodworker as long as I can remember, so naturally, as a child, I used to hang out in the wood shop and build little things from the scraps of his projects. Sometimes a block of wood could be a pirate ship or an airplane. Much later in life, I found making things from wood familiar and comforting because of my upbringing. My dad had everything to do with my love of woodworking.

How do graphic design and woodworking fit together in your craft?
Form and function are important in what I do for both design and woodworking. I’m heavily guided by both concepts. There’s a back and forth tendency of wanting to make things function as a usable object, but also to craft that thing into a beautiful form. I find both graphic design and woodworking require a mastery of certain tools, but they also both require a sense of wonder, creativity and imagination to produce engaging results that resonate with people.

How do you market your designs on the web?
I’m not a huge marketer of my own work. So far I’ve found the best success through social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo. Like this contest, I couldn’t have gone very far without a strong group of supportive friends and family. There are so many tools available online to help get your name out there, it just takes some time and a little bit of strategic planning. If people like your work, they’ll share it and pretty soon folks take interest in what you’re doing and eventually that turns into sales.

Describe your workspace.
Luckily my woodworking takes place at a co-op space called DIY Wood Studio. They help keep the place neat and tidy so whenever I need something, the right tool is in its place. My workspace for graphic, however, is a complete mess. I surround myself with good, inspiring design in the form of toys, posters, magazines, funky objects, books and tons of other stuff. Because of that, I have Post-Its, drawings and other notes all over because I get ideas often and need to write them down or sketch them out.

Any advice to artists and designers thinking about entering an UncommonGoods design challenge?
Take a risk and enter. Be sure to rally up your friends and colleagues, they can be some of your best chances to filling in votes. But, above all, don’t let negative comments get you down. Constructive criticism is one thing, but personal preferences and insults are not necessary in the creative process.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Matthew Amey

April 2, 2013

It feels a little silly when we throw around the word “uncommon” so frequently here around the UG headquarters, but sometimes there just isn’t a better way to express how we feel. I first interviewed Matthew Amey when he won last year’s Art Contest. Being inked myself, I was overjoyed to learn his winning piece was a tattoo-turned-print. I was also completely baffled – was there a better word to describe the newest member of our artist family?

This time, take a look inside the Maryland studio of this design challenge alum to see how he transitions from painting on skin to paper.

What are your most essential tools?
I work primarily with tattoo machines but I also paint in oils quite a bit. I am fortunate to have a career (tattooing) that allows me to also work in other artistic mediums when time permits.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I work in my studio five days a week, eight hours per day. I find time between tattoo appointments to explore new ideas, mediums, do research for new projects and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My studio is jammed with materials that I have collected throughout my travels. Much of my inspiration comes through interacting with other artists and discussing new ideas with prospective clients.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Being an artist is great but running a business, as an artist, is a daunting task. The creative mind is not one that worries about deadlines, bills, advertising. As an artist all I want to do is create work. Once I figured out how to shift gears from artist/creator to businessman/manager things got a lot easier. Once I found a ‘business manager’ it made my work much more enjoyable.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Trust your instincts; you’re making the right choices. Stay positive.

How do you set goals for yourself?
Much of my time is spent just thinking about projects. Once I decide on a project that I want to complete I am pretty adamant about following it through to completion. Some long-term projects get worked on little by little until completion. Ultimately I have to determine which projects are of utmost importance and work on those first. UncommonGoods has become one of my main goals this past year and I’ve been focusing much of my ‘free’ time on that work.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victory is fleeting. If/When I’m able to take time to reflect on my accomplishments chances are I’m thinking about what to do next. I’m not sure where I’ve heard this statement but it is very true that, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
My efforts flow through these three simple statements. Imagine; think outside the box, allow yourself to wonder. Create; make work, be creative and productive. Inspire; make work that inspires others to think, contemplate or produce work of their own. Repeat….

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am constantly challenging myself to experiment with new materials, techniques and styles both in tattooing and within my other artistic endeavors.

How do you recharge your creativity?
My artwork develops in cycles. During the warmer summer months I try to get outside and experience nature as often as possible. I live near the ocean and in the Summer I am very busy tattooing the tourists who frequent my town. In the Fall I start putting non-tattoo related projects together and in the Winter and Spring much of my time is spent working on completing those projects. I am currently getting ready for the summer season so I’m trying to wrap up some larger art projects that I started last Fall.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Much of my tattoo work is collaboration between myself and my clients. They come to me with an idea and I attempt to help them visualize their ideas in the most concise way possible. Occasionally I will collaborate with other artists in my studio to produce paintings.

Design

Call for Entries: Art Contest

March 8, 2013

From now until the end of March, we are hosting a call for entries for our Art Contest. This is a call for all original, 2 dimensional art work that UncommonGoods will print, frame and sell on our site in a limited run. The grand prize winner will win $500 and 5% royalties from the sales of their piece.

To learn the official rules of the contest, meet our talented judges and submit your work, visit the Art Contest page.

Maker Stories

Meet Beau Lyday, Garden Design Challenge Winner

March 4, 2013

Our busy year of design challenges started off with a call for garden decor in January. With entries from across the country of sculptures, planters and birdhouses, our judges Katie and Chris had the difficult task of picking a winner. They decided on a design they considered to be a triple threat- with beautiful craftsmanship; a creative, unique design; and functional. What they didn’t realize during their deliberation, that they were inviting Beau Lyday of North Carolina into the UncommonGoods artist family. Meet Beau, a carpenter whose skills were passed from generations and a philosopher whose view on art and life is sure to inspire.

What was the inspiration behind the Garden Tool Box Tote?
My wife loves Pinterest and she pinned a garden box on her “Projects for Beau” board. Using the rake for a handle was a really neat idea. I made her a gothic style garden box for a present. That got me thinking about my grandfather Pennington. He was a carpenter. He passed before I was born, but I remember playing with his tool box in the shed. Wooden tool boxes used to be a commonplace item, but are rare now. Using the handle idea and my memories of my granddads tool box, I came up with a strong serviceable garden tool box tote.

Who or what are some of your design influences?
My Father helped me make a stool when I was six. He was a teacher at school and at home. We worked side by side, repairing and refinishing antiques through high school and then whenever we could get together. He taught me how to work with my hands and to be safe with machinery. Most of all he instilled in me a pride in workmanship and if it was not right it was wrong.

After college, I studied the works of Palladio and Christopher Wren, learning the classical relationship of balance and proportion. Their rules have become my basic design building blocks and help me discern why something looks right or wrong and how to fix it.

My wife, Brenda, is a wonderful artist with a keen eye. We make a wonderful team. When she makes a critique she is seldom wrong and she does it with love. I am my own worst critic. She is my greatest influence.

How does designing fit into your lifestyle?
Designing/creating is how I uncover my authentic self and act on it. The quote “By the work one knows the workman” says it best. Whether a person appreciates what I do or they don’t is not as important as the act of bringing an idea, a feeling to life. Working with the creation process, understanding the challenges and overcoming them, creating something useful and pleasing is where my true vocation and occupation come together. So, my work is my full time job.

What are some of your other designs?
Brenda and I try to have breakfast and watch Sunday Morning each week. I love the sun art work. This inspired me to create a series of sun mirrors.

This week I have continued taking down an old barn. I made a checker board with a Celtic ribbon border out of some of the wood I repurposed from that barn. There were also several pieces of wonderfully aged red painted boards that I used to make Brenda a primitive one door 3 shelf wall cabinet. She showed me a strange table in a magazine that we figured out was kite shaped. It took me two tries to make one but it is a very unique small side table and it’s only Wednesday evening. My web site has over 70 items I have made this year.

I am always looking for new inspirations, experimenting, refining until I have it right.

Describe your workspace.
We live in an 1840’s post and beam farm house I restored. Behind the house Brenda and I have side by side studios with wood floors and good windows. My grandmother’s Warm Morning pot belly stove keeps my shop comfortable in the winter time. I am going to have to take a week off and fix up my studio. It’s functional but not too pretty. I have a blacksmith shop in a shed by my studio. Brenda’s description of my work space is sawdust, sawdust, sawdust.

What is most uncommon about you?
I am a unique individual. My uncommonness stems from spending most of my life observing. How do the lines come together and work with each other. Which colors are present and how do they blend. What are the effects of textures and light. Can I identify the functions and understand how it works. I question how these observations relate to each other. I debate with myself why objects are pleasing or unsettling to me. These conclusions have become my memory library that I draw from to see things, to create and to interact.

I made a whirligig base on a child’s antique rocking horse and carriage and showed my dad. The horse’s head rocked up and down, the carriage following along. My dad said he remembered riding in a carriage like that when he was three (he was 80 at the time). I asked him what he thought of the whirligig and he said, “Son there is a fine line between crazy and genius. He did not tell me which side of the line I was on, but he had a smile on his face.

Design

Call for Entries: Garden Decor Design Challenge

January 18, 2013

We couldn’t wait to get this year’s design challenge calendar underway and are excited to announce the call for entries for the Garden Decor Design Challenge from now until January 31. This call is a search for garden sculptures, planters, bird houses and other accessories for an outdoor space and the winning design will be featured in our Spring catalog.

“Our customers love handmade, creatively designed garden décor,” says our home accessories buyer Katie Giannone. “With spring and summer right around the corner, we are entering our strongest sales period for outdoor items. This design contest is an exciting opportunity to showcase your work, gain exposure and a potential partnership with our brand.”

To learn more about the challenge and to submit your designs, visit the Garden Decor Design Challenge page.

Design

A Year’s Worth of Winning Designs

January 4, 2013


Happy New Year! We’re excited to see what 2013 will bring, and we have big plans for the next 12 months. We’re planning more sneak peeks Inside the Artist’s Studio, interviews with designers from across the country, behind the scenes looks at what goes on here at UncommonGoods, great gift ideas, and of course, brand new design challenges! But, before we announce our first challenge of the year, we’re taking a look back on the great designs that came to us through our 2012 design challenges and the people who created them.

Last Spring we were already thinking Summer! Our first design challenge focused on sustainable picnic ware from Susty Party. We asked illustrators to send us their summer picnic-themed art, and we saw a big batch of submissions celebrating fun in the sun!

Denae Douglas’ Bicycle design was the judges’ favorite, earning her the grand prize. Her blue bike was stamped on eco-friendlier disposable bagasse plates and cups perfect for picnicking. (We know it’s still January, and it’s cold outside, but we do have a few sets left if you’re looking to stock up for Spring!)

All of the illustrations that came rolling in with the Summer Picnic Challenge had us in the mood for great art, so for our next call for entries we asked artists to send us their artwork for the Art Contest. We asked our online community to pick their favorites, then sent the top 5 designs to our judges for review. In the end, Mathew Amey’s “Jump Off” leaped into our lineup.

Matthew’s piece was limited edition, and didn’t take long to sell out, but art fans need not worry; our buyers loved his work so much, they’re adding more of his illustrations to our assortment.

After the Art Contest we switched it up just a bit, from art you hang to art you take on the go! Our iPhone Art Case Design Challenge was a huge success. We received a slew of votes and comments in the semi-final round and heard some wonderful feedback from the judges in the finals.

The judges loved the techie feel of Naomi Meller’s computer design and chose it to win the grand prize, but our buyers weren’t quite ready to let go of all of that other great artwork! Several design challenge submissions were selected for our iPhone Art Case Collection and became uncommon goods!

Speaking of art on the go, we couldn’t have a year of design challenges without including a call for wearable art–A.K.A. Jewelery–entries! The winner of our 2012 Jewelry Design Challenge was a little different. Not only do we love Kim Jakum’s excellent craftsmanship and fine attention to detail, we also couldn’t stop talking about the unique (and oh-so-sweet!) personalization element of the piece. Kim’s Personalized Children’s Signature Necklace gives the wearer a chance to capture their little ones’ own handwriting in sterling silver.

Then, last Fall, we switched gears again and asked our design community to think bicycles! Submissions to our Bicycle Lovers Design Challenge included helpful bike tools, custom pieces to deck your ride, cycling wear, and art made out of reclaimed bicycle parts, like Laura White’s winning Bicycle Cog Suncatchers.

Laura’s pieces aren’t only beautiful, they also celebrate the sport of cycling and are made from reclaimed materials, which is always a plus here. In fact, we love reclaiming, recycling, and reusing so much that we decided to build a design challenge around the idea. Our final design challenge of the year focused on upcycling, and we saw some seriously clever creations made from materials that would have otherwise been discarded.

The story behind winner Susan Harbourt’s Forget-Me-Not necklace is almost as compelling as the piece itself! The beautiful copper flowers and the wires keeping them in place actually started out as part of the original electrical wiring in her Edwardian era country home. When she and her husband renovated the house, Susan saved the copper and turned it into a winning design.

Susan’s story of creating something new out of something old is surely inspiring, as are the stories of many of our 2012 winners and semi-finalists. If you’re interested in learning even more about what it takes to be design challenge champ, check out our previous roundup for more success stories or check out these tips from a former design challenge winner.

We hope this stroll around the winner’s circle put you in the mood for creative new creations, whether you’re a designer yourself, or a just someone who loves uncommon design! We’re certainly looking forward to a new year full of new goods. If you’re interested in taking part in an uncommon design challenge, see what we have coming up in the next couple months and stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook to see when and how to submit.

January – Garden Decor Design Challenge
February – Woodworking Design Challenge
March – Art Contest 2013

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