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Design Challenges

Maker Stories

Matthew Amey’s ‘End of Innocence’ Jumps into our Collection

May 23, 2012

With every new design challenge comes the chance to step into the minds and lives of some of America’s budding designers. The Wall Art challenge brought in over 100 entries and an opportunity for artists to tell a personal story through the paintings, sketches and digital graphics they have created.

Our judges worked through art with sentimental stories, unusual mediums and contemporary themes. They decided on some pieces that they could see hanging in the homes of many Americans yet others they loved for their niche attraction. But the piece that stole their heart was one about the uncertainty in change and straddled a fine line between hopeful and ominous.

The more we learn about Wall Art Challenge winner Matthew Amey of Maryland, the more we love End of Innocence: Jump Off and can’t wait to share its story with customers. Matthew heard about our design challenge from his wife who encourages him to share his work with others in new and exciting ways and will soon be able to say that his work is on the walls of homes across the country. Meet Matthew, our Wall Art Design Challenge winner and the newest addition to the Uncommon Artists family.

When and how did you discover art?
As a young child I took art classes during summer camp and was thrilled with the freedom that was afforded us to create whatever we wanted. My older brother was much more astute at drawing than I was so, as a challenge to myself, I set out to be a better artist than him. I believe I was 7.

What are your favorite things to design/illustrate?
My interests are many and diverse. I’ve spent the last four years studying fine art at the University of Delaware where I’ve been exposed to a plethora of techniques, materials and insight into the concept of a fine art profession.

Recently I have been enamored with cephalopods; octopuses especially but I’ve been researching and becoming more interested in cuttlefish and squid.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
I am constantly thinking of what to do next. Dwelling on past achievements, while ingratiating, can be burdensome. The process of making art, the actual moving of paint around on canvas, pushing a pencil across paper, or drawing with a stylus on a drawing tablet to create digital works, is what drives me to create more. While I enjoy the finished pieces and I’m excited to see how others react to my work, I am more enamored with the actual creation of the work. I started out as a doodler and dabbler but that has turned into a profession that is quite fulfilling.

How else do you express your art?
I have been a professional tattoo artist since 1991 and much of my work is informed from that experience. Tattoos are a very personal expression for my clients. I have built a reputation for creating high quality work in the skin and my clients know that my work excels when they give me artistic freedom to work within their design parameters.

As a tattoo artist it is very apparent that my job is to help my client express their ideas on their body. Often it is an opportunity for me to explore many different ideas, compositions and concepts that I wouldn’t normally investigate.


What attracted you to want to take part in this challenge?
My wife knew that I was searching for outlets to show my non-tattoo related artwork and she turned me on to this contest. I happened to have these illustrations that are part of a series that I recently created.


What was the inspiration behind End of Innocence?
In 2008 I returned to college after a 20 year hiatus. While studying fine art at the University of Delaware it became apparent that I was surrounded by young, soon-to-be adults who were going through some major emotional and physical changes. One day a tattoo client of mine requested an image of his daughter on a rope swing under the silhouette of a tree. After doing the tattoo on him I started to think about the image and how it had the potential to tell a more compelling story. I started putting together images of different trees with children on rope swings and ended up with a series of 5 disparate images.

Each image has a tree, a child either on the swing or jumping off, and varying types of birds either in flight or perched on a branch. The tree represents stability, safety, comfort, excitement and all the positive attributes of a loving family. The child is enjoying the ride and seems oblivious to what lies just outside of the trees reach, the future. The birds represent the varying societal norms that the child could eventually grow into.

Any advice for someone interesting in taking part in a future challenge?
Take a chance. You’ll never know how your work will affect others until you put it in front of them.

All photos courtesy of Matthew Amey.

Design

The Judges, the Lunch and the Winner!

April 25, 2012

 Last week the judges of the Summer Picnic Design Challenge met at Eat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to discuss the top five voted designs and decide on a winner. Around the table were Candace, the tabletop buyer for UncommonGoods, Ian Yolles from RecycleBank, and Jessica and Emily of Susty Party. The food was farm fresh, the weather had us in the mood for a summer picnic and the judges were ready to deliberate.

Blown Dandelions by Kendall Walker won the popular vote. The design reminded Candace of being a little kid and blowing dandelions in her back yard. Jessica loved the simplicity of the lines yet thought the image had movement.

Jessica loved that Watermelon by Tanya Alexander was such a solid design that would use a lot of ink and look really bold on a cup and plate.

Jitterbugz by Caty Batholomew was a favorite of Candace. She thought it was a great design for a family and had a fun illustrated style. To her it screamed summer and she thought it would get people excited about the warmer months and upcoming picnics.

Bonnie Christine’s Nature Walk- Bird made us all want to “put a bird on it”. Emily thought it was a very pretty design and would look nice on anything, especially sustainable dinnerware.

But the design that stole the judge’s hearts was Danae Douglas’s Bike. Ian loved that Danae’s design promoted sustainable living and made him happy as an avid biker. Emily thought the design made living an eco-friendly lifestyle look very glamorous. Jessica loved the clean, crisp lines and Candace reaffirmed that UncommonGoods shoppers love bicycle designs and thought it would be a big hit.

 We asked Danae about the inspiration behind her design. “I wanted to show a picnic as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, as well a chance to travel greenly to get there. Biking is an excellent way to stay healthy, to take in your surroundings, and to get you where you’re going without doing any harm to the environment (and it’s also really fun!).”

To stay creatively inspired, Danae peruses books and magazines in addition to staying on top of local and global issues. “As a designer I think it’s really important to be globally minded and try to take in as many different perspectives as you can.”

Help us congratulate Danae on her victory in the comments below. She won $500 and will see her Bike design stamped onto sustainable cups and plates from Susty Party and sold at UncommonGoods.

Design

Everyone’s Talking About our Art Contest

April 13, 2012

If you haven’t entered our Wall Art Design Challenge yet, there’s still 2 more weeks to enter!

Chris Olson of Momathon Blog says, “Now is the perfect time to enter your original artwork.”

The Shillington Design School thinks it’s a great opportunity for students.

The Harlem Arts Alliance encourages New Yorkers to apply.

Megan Patrick from How Design did a round up of her favorite art and encouraged all creative types to enter.

And our guest judge, James Gulliver Hancock tweeted, feel like making some wall art? enter here – http://www.uncommongoods.com/designs/art-contest and I’ll decide if it’s good enough 🙂

So what are you waiting for? We’re accepting any work you already have in your portfolio, and you could win $500, see your work sold as a limited edition print at UncommonGoods, get a one-on-one critique with our guest judges and more.

We can’t wait to see your artwork!

Design

Summer Picnic Design Challenge

February 29, 2012


It might be cold outside but we have summertime on the brain at UncommonGoods! We are dreaming of backyard cookouts, sandy beach blankets, frisbee in the park, driving with the windows down and picnics with friends. We can almost smell the barbecue sauce.

Why are we so summer crazy? We are very excited for our first design challenge of 2012. We have teamed up with SustyParty and Recyclebank to search for the cutest, funnest, most delicious graphic that will be stamped onto sustainable plates and cups to furnish your summertime meals. Designs will be selected by UncommonGoods merchants, our Voting Tool community and an impressive panel of guest judges, including Diana Yen, of The Jewels of NY.

The winning designer will receive $500. Find out contest rules and how to enter here.

Design

Designs that Shine: Uncommon Design Challenge Winners

February 20, 2012

There’s only one more week before our 2012 design challenges begin. Before we announce the next big call for entries, we’re taking a moment to share a few of the success stories from our 2011 challenges!

Although we could only award the grand prize to one winner in each challenge, many finalists also became uncommon goods. The Uncommon Jewelry Design Challenge help us discover some fantastic designers.

Wesla Bay Weller’s Cymbal of Love Pendant received more votes from our community than any other entry and was chosen by our judges to receive the grand prize. Made from recycled cymbals and guitar strings, and hung from a gold-plated bronze chain, the pendant is a great gift for music lovers and musicians.

Voters–and our judges–loved the recycled materials story, the combination of textures, and simple but meaningful design. Now available for purchase, Wesla’s piece is a hit. One reviewer told us, “I am a drummer and received this necklace as a gift. It’s very well-made with adequate length and can be worn with a variety of outfits. I get many compliments every time I wear it.”

The necklace is on it’s way to becoming a best seller. In fact, Wesla’s design has been such a hit, a whole page of our latest catalog is devoted to her story!

And the jewelry design challenge runners up that became uncommon goods? Maryann Dolzani’s Custom I Am…Pendant is inspiring women to be true to themselves (we also recently decided to feature additional charms, since customers pointed out that “I am” often more than one thing), Deb Soromenho’s Heart and Arrow Lariat makes a great gift for someone you love, Tina Tang’s Customized Name Necklace and Bracelet let you celebrate your name or a word with special meaning to you, and Irene Cheung’s Teardrop Stacking Rings are a unique take on the double-band look.

Lee from NH loves her I Am necklace so much she told us, “I absolutely love it! I haven’t taken it off since. I like the sound it makes when it jingles…Came really fast and in a little brown sack. I think it’s beautiful and very meaningful. I bought a couple extra charms to put on it.”

Our first design challenge winner from 2011 is also getting some great feedback. We teamed up with City Harvest, a non-profit organization that helps to feed New York City’s hungry and asked illustrators to help us create a new Plate with a Purpose.

Graphic designer Michael White’s winning plate design was called a “Very cool design. Great gift for charitable minded and design minded people who like to entertain,”by Dinah in Atlanta. Mo in Washington, DC said, “Great design, lovely color and it makes a great gift.”

Michael’s modern skyline design is a warm depiction of city living. His clean lines, creativity, and message won over our community and our judges. Now $5 of every City Harvest Plate with a Purpose directly benefits New York’s hungry men, women, and children and Michael’s design continues to get five star reviews.

Our Ceramics Design Challenge winner is also getting some wonderful feedback.

Tasha McKelvey’s petite stoneware Birdie Mini Dish was chosen to win for its functionality, unique design, and craftsmanship. To create the little bowls, Tasha presses the clay against a century-old barn door to give it a texture imitating the grain of aged wood.

This dish makes a great gift for many occasions. And it’s not just limited to a jewelry holder. The little tray can also be used as a spoon holder after stirring coffee or tea.

“My wife could not believe that her husband could find something so neat for her,” a customer told us. “Great find!”

We loved the Birdie Dish so much we also decided to carry Tasha’s Tiny Mushroom Ring Dish.

Tasha wasn’t the only designer to find success through the pottery challenge,either. Semi-finalist Mitzi Davis’ Bird and Cloud Dinnerware Set was chosen for the unique shape, imaginative imagery, and off-beat practicality of the bowl and plate.

Another set, Kathy Gorg’s Calla Lily Pitcher and Cups also entered our assortment. We love the symbolism of the calla lily (purity and innocence), and that the set makes a great wedding gift.

From gorgeous handmade jewelry, to fun plates for a good cause, to creative ceramics, we found some great new products through our 2011 design challenges. We’re also thrilled to welcome such talented designers into our family of artists!

Will your unique design be our next uncommon good? Stay tuned for our next call for entries!

Design

The Search Is Over

December 1, 2011

In November we put out the call for hand-printed holiday cards, and of the dozens that entered, we picked 14 beautifully letterpressed and silk-screened cards we thought would be perfect for holiday shoppers. By Cyber Monday, these 14 finalists had received almost 4,000 votes and it was time for the judges to pick a winner from the top five.

The moment guest judge Melinda Morris picked up Dolce Press’ Word Search Holiday Cards, she knew the search was over.

Senior Graphic Designer Rebecca Paull Marshall agreed.

Melinda, co-owner of Lion in the Sun, a custom card and paper shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, loved the Word Search cards for their broad appeal. Who doesn’t love puzzles?

And voters agreed, saying these cards would be perfect for all ages and all holiday celebrations. One voter said, “WOW these cards are awesome! It’s always really hard for me and my wife to find cards that work for Hanukkah and Christmas, these ones definitely do the trick.”

Rebecca, who studied letterpress at the San Francisco Center for the Book, was impressed by their technique. She liked how you could feel the grooves of the letterpress in each card, because it’s a great reminder of the skill and art that goes into making them. “The letterpress added a level of sophistication to the simplicity of the game,” Rebecca added.

Alex of Dolce Press told us, “We like to keep things simple.” And it’s true! We love the clean and modern look of the Word Search cards.

But don’t let that fool you. Each card is hand printed on a Vandercook Cylinder Proof Press and each color is printed one at a time using hand-mixed inks, that allow Alex and her colleagues to achieve colors that don’t exist in the Pantone spectrum. Plus the cards come in an cleverly hand-printed box.

If you can’t wait to share these cards with friends and family, they are now available! Don’t worry, each set comes with an answer key, so your friends and family won’t be stumped for too long!

Design

Comments of the Week: Holiday Card Design Challenge!

November 25, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy voting!

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