Browsing Tag

Designer

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with JoAnn Stratakos

July 14, 2014

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods
At UncommonGoods, we’re always excited when we launch a product that in time reveals itself to be a complete game-changer; an overwhelmingly popular product that sheds new light on what makes something a runaway sensation. But every once in a blue moon, we meet a new product that we know will win hearts as soon as it is placed in This Just In. Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn was the latter. From his goofy blue eyes to his chubby little feet, we were smitten and didn’t have any questions as to whether everyone else would share our love for him.

So we decided to take a trip to Pennsylvania to meet Elwood’s creator. By “we” I mean Senior Buyer Candace, Purchasing Planner Maham, and myself, and by “trip” I mean a car ride outside of cell phone service to a place where the streets had no name. Literally, we had to call when we were close so the artist could give us directions that Google couldn’t help us with. We were warmly greeted by ceramicist JoAnn and her spirited team of Mudworks helpers who were eager to show us how our most beloved new product is born. It was easy to fall in love with people as it was to fall in love with their creations so we are excited to share our visit with you.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods
What are your most essential tools?
My hands.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My inspiration comes from working the clay, and inside my head… that’s where the designs come from.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Down time??? I am supposed to have down time??? Elwood disagrees! (Though we do have company outings, and frequent lunches where we attempt to take turns making various foods for all to enjoy.)

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I was never a “young” designer. I started learning to make pottery when I was 40+ years old. The best lesson I learned was the harder you worked, the luckier you got!

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsWhat advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Advice to the me of five years ago…learn bookkeeping.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I set goals HIGH… then stretch to reach them.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated?
I don’t have only one quote… there are several: “If you argue for your limitations, then all you get is to keep them.” “Well-behaved women never make history.” “Never teach a pig to sing… it’s a waste of your time and it only annoys the pig.” “Behind every successful woman is a man who’s surprised.” I guess what they all mean to me is that you have to keep going, keep motivated and put your energy where it will do the most good.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
New skills? Every day is an opportunity to learn something, but I am not attending workshops or classes personally.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoodsHow do you recharge your creativity?
Vodka, definitely vodka.

Where does collaboration come into play with you craft?
Pottery is one on one, me and the clay. However, when I come up with a new design, I do run it past my crew to see if it will be viable. As an artist, though, I tend to make things I like, things I’d like to have around me.

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods

Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Opposites Attract: Michael Stromberg’s Magnetic Art

July 9, 2014

Designer Michael Stromberg | UncommonGoodsOpposites attract as designer Michael Stromberg brings new concepts to life. “I realized that there was an entirely unexplored artistic outlet waiting to be defined,” says Michael of his eye-catching magnetic sculptures and games. “I also enjoy pondering the invisible forces that make these so unique.”

A magnet simply isn’t a magnet without forces that attract and forces that repel. Michael uses this principle in different ways, depending on his ultimate design. For games, he uses strictly repulsive powers as an added hurdle for skill. His art and sculpture, however, utilizes the power of attraction.

Michael began his journey into magnetic art after planning a tournament for a magnetic shuffleboard set he’d designed in the early 2000s. It seemed appropriate to have a magnetically-suspended trophy as the grand prize. After finding nothing on the market that fit the bill, he decided to create his own. “As soon as I began to work on the award, a fairly simple geometric design, my mind began exploring where I could go with this.”

25337_zoom1His sculptures always begin by establishing a focal point for the new piece. Once this has been decided, the frame and ancillary parts are designed as a complement. Everything eventually works together so that touching just one piece of the sculpture causes the other parts to come to life as if by magic.

Fascinated by how the magnetic attraction creates a fluid work of art, Michael says that his designs blend left-brained precision with right-brained imagination. Working with magnetics typically takes hours of re-balancing in order to ensure that the parts move the way he envisions. “Many artists use only gravity and wind to manipulate their work, both of which are predictable, natural forces. Adding magnetism causes new and fresh interactions.”

While his primary medium is wood, chosen for its unique grains and aesthetics, Michael has begun working with clay, fabric, and polymer resins—an exciting turn for his inspired takes on environmental sculpture. “As far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed making things,” says Michael, “from acoustic and electric guitars to snowshoes, I’ve enjoyed creative endeavors my entire life.” And with his beautiful kinetic pieces, his creative evolution continues.

Michael Stromberg's Designs

Maker Stories

Breaking the Mold: Paul Brothe’s Ceramic Compost Container

June 13, 2014

Paul Brothe in his ceramic studio | UncommonGoodsWhen Paul Brothe decided to leave his tech executive career behind for his deep-rooted love of ceramics, he took his ability to keep things simple and applied it to his clean, classic design aesthetic. From sleek, curved candleholders to all-in-one servers, Paul’s designs blend form and function with beautiful handmade craftsmanship.

Paul’s first foray into ceramics was the crafting of a Mother’s Day present when he was six years old. “It was so exciting to me,” says Paul, “It seemed like a natural fit.” He got a job pouring molds at a ceramic factory when he was 13 and kept with it for five years, until it was time to head off into the real world and choose an occupation. Not quite keen on the idea of being a starving artist, Paul received a finance and business degree, often coming back to ceramics in his spare time. After a successful career in tech, Paul decided it was time for a leap of faith and started pursuing it full time.

For his designs, Paul simply looks to history. “We’re still making things that we made 3,000 years ago. We might decorate and market them differently, but the basic elements are the same.” Starting with a classic silhouette, Paul builds on his pieces using inspirations from museums and the world around him, careful not to compromise the original intent. “The seemingly simple are often very difficult, as there is nothing to hide behind, just a basic line, curve, or shape.” This reminder keeps him mindful with his designs, looking to iconic and organic inspiration rather than fads.

Garden Compost Container | UncommonGoodsHis sleek composter is a surprisingly chic example of this, its faux bois surface inspired by the tromp l’oeil effects used on pottery in the 19th century. The silhouette remains simple, but its adornments speak to the purpose of the piece. “I recycle everything,” says Paul, “I wanted to design something that spoke to the idea of why we compost.” A simple gardening spade handle completes the environmentally conscious display.

Energized by his new creative career, Paul continues to explore the medium with the same enthusiasm he felt when he made that first Mother’s Day gift. “Creativity is often trial and error,” says Paul, “Everything around me inspires me. When I am out on the weekend exploring my surroundings, I’ll see a building, a flower, or someone doing something that will inspire me with a new idea.”

Olive Dish | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Davis

May 6, 2014

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoods
I had been cruising around Philly listening to XPN for a couple days. Lou Reed had just passed away. It was a very appropriate time to visit Jeff Davis in the Vinylux studio, a business created in celebration of everyone’s favorite music.

Jeff began collecting vintage records in 2002 to re-purpose into home decor and fashion accessories, the production of which looks similar to most of what I have seen in other studios: work tables, hand-tools, storage space. However, over time, Jeff realized there were machines and tools he required for his designs that did not exist — a vacuum to clean vinyl splinters, a machine to melt a record into a smooth bowl in a matter of seconds — so he took to creating them himself. Most artists show off their finished products, but in Jeff’s case some of his most impressive designs are his machines.

It wasn’t a surprise that a trip to Jeff’s studio would be incredibly exciting for me — all that vinyl and someone to talk to about my favorite albums — but it was a surprise to learn about the business savvy of one of our oldest vendors, to meet an entrepreneur who cares deeply for the safety of his employees, and see such an exciting company sprouting from a city I called home for so many years. Meet Jeff Davis, small business owner, expert at reincarnating old vinyl, and, in my opinion, example of what it means to be living the dream.

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoods
Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsWhat are your most essential tools?
My hands, trim router, machines I have built to aid in the fabrication of our products.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Having the task of creating products from records limits my scope, but also pushes me to innovate and consider the material in a very thorough way.

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Lunch, walking the dog, listening to records (but honestly, there is not much down time)

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Running a business is the business of the business. Designing, making, creating, etc. is part of the picture, but running your own business is not about being a good designer–a whole different set of skills and information is needed to start, run, and sustain a business.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Every day there are small victories–getting big orders out, coming up with a great new product. We celebrate with food.
And music!

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated?
“Maybe there’s just two extra pieces”–this is a quote from an episode of the Amazing Race that stuck with Jeff. There was a couple completing a statue as one of their challenges. They made a statue that looked complete but there were extra pieces. One teammate tried to figure out how they were incorporated into the statue, while the other just offered the advice that perhaps there were extra pieces to throw them off. It has offered Jeff a reminder to try to see things from another perspective and not be thrown off by what is handed to you.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Hire someone to do the books, make the sales calls, and organize the admin side of things.

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsHow do you set goals for yourself?
I try to have new product for every trade show (2x year) and for important catalogs (like the UncommonGoods holiday book).

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am looking into purchasing a CNC router. It is a computer-controlled cutting tool that will make us very agile and aid in the design and production process.
UPDATE from Jeff: I have purchased the CNC router! It is really helpful in the aid of designing new products, a truly time-saving, mind-expanding tool. Woo hoo!

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsInside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoodsHow do you recharge your creativity?
I read a lot, and try to synthesize the ideas and information I encounter into something meaningful.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I meet with other designers and makers to discuss craft, business, design, etc. I also work closely with the guys who work in my studio, and we figure out a lot of things together–how to make a product, new design ideas, etc.

Jeff Davis Collection | UncommonGoods

Design

Meet the Bloggers from our Spring Jewelry Lookbook

April 17, 2014

This spring we wanted to highlight four of our newest jewelry collections by makers inspired by nature in a digital lookbook. Instead of styling the pieces ourselves, we relied on the skills of two talented bloggers, Jessa and Holly, who brought these botanical designs to life in their own personal way.

Before you check out the lookbook, discover the inspiration behind the looks they created for us!

Meet Jessa of Caked Vintage | Spring Jewelry Lookbook | UncommonGoodsMeet Jessa of Caked Vintage | Spring Jewelry Lookbook | UncommonGoods
Jessa of Caked Vintage

What makes handmade jewelry special in your opinion?
Handmade jewelry tells a story, a journey from concept to creation, you can hold in your grasp. It is intricate, intimate, and inspirational.

How do you like to spend a warm spring day?
Spring picnics are perfection! A blanket lunch amidst a faint floral breeze, paired with a sun-kissed nap, has to be one of spring’s simplest pleasures.

What inspires your spring wardrobe?
I am inspired by color; spring is the perfect palette of hues and patterns for designing and pairing your wardrobe.

What was your favorite piece to style? What do you love about it?
I am in love with the Shattered Glass Bib Necklace. It’s the perfect example of how something once broken can become something beautiful.



Meet Holly of Holly Dolly | Spring Jewelry Lookbook | UncommonGoodsMeet Holly of Holly Dolly | Spring Jewelry Lookbook | UncommonGoods
Holly of Holly Dolly

What makes handmade jewelry special in your opinion?
I know how much time and effort and love and passion goes into each and every piece. When it means that much to the designer, it means just as much to me.

How do you like to spend a warm spring day?
There is nothing better than spending a warm spring day by the water, watching the boats and snacking on a cannoli.

What inspires your spring wardrobe?
Color! I tend to hide in a neutrals and darker colors during the winter. The fresh, renewed feeling of spring makes me want to break out every single bright color in my wardrobe.

What was your favorite piece to style? What do you love about it?
The Golden Sunflower Necklace reminds me of this huge field of sunflowers that my husband I stumbled upon last summer. Just bright yellow as far as the eye could see against a bright blue sky. It was breathtaking.