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Designer

Maker Stories

Thomas Both & The Art of Tableless Dining

October 14, 2013

Thomas BothMix and mingling at cocktail parties, couch lounging on movie night, and eating Sunday breakfast in bed just got a whole lot easier with Thomas Both’s Ooma Bowl design. “It struck me that all the plateware we use is designed for tables, yet often we eat without a table.  So my point of view was to design something that is suited for eating without one, and to do it in an elegant way.”

Thomas earned his BS in Engineering at Harvey Mudd College and shortly after worked as a mechanical engineer for three years.  Yet as a person who was a bit more right-minded, Thomas recognized that he held a creative heart, and wanted to finally wear it on his sleeve. He was admitted to Design School at Stanford University, which paved his way to teaching innovative designs at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. “Now, I work much more as a designer than an engineer, but both play a part.”

Thomas BothObserving small living spaces was how Thomas’ inspiration behind the Ooma Bowl came about. After speaking to people living in small apartments he was inspired by the idea of tableless dining. Thomas realized that most non-table plateware lacked a level of elegance, such as bad TV dinner trays or strange party plates. Soon, he turned these discussions and observations into a real life design solution.

oomabowl hospitalThomas believes that a strong perspective helps design a unique product.  He didn’t want to just make a cool looking bowl; he wanted the design to be tied in with a direct purpose. In the early stages of designing the bowl, a friend of Thomas’ broke his leg and was stuck in the hospital for a quite a while. Because the Ooma Bowl was “a bowl that’s designed to be held” without the use of a table, Thomas took this opportunity to have his bedridden friend become one of his first experimental guinea pigs. “I called him up. While everyone else was checking if he was okay and visiting him, I asked him if he’d test out my prototypes. He liked the feeling of being locked into the bowl, not holding it but the bowl holding you.”

Thomas brought his designs to the next level of actual production. At first, he had no experience with ceramics. “Except maybe in grade school messing around with clay. It was a dining design project that just so happened to end up in a ceramic piece.” He had to learn about slip casting, working with clay, glazing, and firing all at once. After rough prototype after rough prototype, including failed plastic forming attempts, Thomas finally made the first buck out of REN shape into two pieces. “One side on a lathe, and the other just sort of by eye and feel.” He then glued the sides’ backs together and made adjustments. The next iteration he worked on was stacking and getting a nice feel in the hand, which was much more work than he ever anticipated.

thomasboth2

thomasboth3Once the design was perfected into its brilliant form, Thomas found a manufacturer in Los Angeles, but just as it was a difficult process to design the perfect bowl, it was probably an even more nerve racking time to manage the products. “Selling and managing production, storage, sales, and shipping is a lot of work. I had way too many boxes in our living room for a long time. That part wasn’t so much fun for me; it was more of an on-going nuisance.”

Yet, after only a short hiatus, Thomas is proud to see that the Ooma Bowl sought its way back out into the world, licensed, and it’s now an exclusive item on the UncommonGoods site. Sarah Stenseng, our Senior Product Development Associate who attended Stanford with Thomas, worked with him to get the Ooma Bowls back into production. Thomas says, “The Ooma bowl would probably still be sitting on the sidelines if it wasn’t for UncommonGoods.”

thomasboth4 Thomas’ advice for designers who are producing a product from just a simple idea is to “get engaged and excited about how people do things and how they think within a certain domain , and pay attention.  Opportunities will emerge.  Then you have to try things.  Make stuff.  It can be crappy, you’re just working on the concept. Work your way to a product idea that you’re excited about and other people love.  Then you can bring more refinement to it and move toward manufacturing.”

Thomas Both

Design

6 Videos That Will Help With Designing Your Website

October 11, 2013

the panel of How To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsWe had the pleasure of hosting our latest How To Make It event at the Wix Lounge in Manhattan with the help of Wix.com staff. Since Wix is a website-building platform, we thought it would be very appropriate to dispense advice on setting up your company’s website with the help of jewelry designer Catilin McNamara, UncommonGoods Assoicate Art Director Rebecca Paull Marshall, and Wix Training and Support Manager Ariele Krantznow. To make the discussion even more specific, the panel critiqued the websites of three guests in attendance, sharing what they loved about the site and what areas needed more work.

Although we would love to get to meet you in person, we understand not everyone can make it out to our events so we thought we would share the key points from the panel discussion with you on the blog! Below are 6 clips that will help design your website.

How To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsPelzers Pretzels! | UncommonGoodsHow To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsHow To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsHow To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoods

When building a website, where should you start?

What are some ways to best tell your story on your website?

What should you expect from a hired graphic designer?

What are some tips for DIY product photography?

What are your best DIY smartphone photography tips?

What is a style guide?

Still want more? Watch the entire discussion below.

photos courtsey of Wix Lounge

Design

Eileen Baumeister McIntyre’s Journey to UncommonGoods via Flourish & Thrive Academy

October 9, 2013

Jewelry designer Eileen Baumeister McIntyre | UncommonGoodsNow that our Jewelry Design Challenge runs all year round, we try to find new groups and organizations to partner with to help spread the word. A couple months ago, we learned about Flourish & Thrive Academy, an online meeting space for jewelry designers to connect with experts to gain the tools they need to succeed as creative business people. It felt like a match made in heaven until we realized one of our newest and most popular jewelry designers Eileen Baumeister McIntyre is a F&TA alum. That kind of gave us goosebumps. Learning about Eileen’s experience with F&TA made me realize that there are many other designers out there who could gain from the community Tracy Matthews and Robin Kramer are developing. So we asked Robin to interview Eileen about how her business has developed since making the connection to F&TA.

Flourish & Thrive Academy: One of the brilliant things about being in the jewelry industry is learning more about the artist behind the product. Recently, I sat down with one of our Mastermind students, jewelry designer, Eileen Baumeister McIntyre to discuss her jewelry business and her recent success.

Eileen is the epitome of what we consider an “Artiste” and using her art to fuse her passion for jewelry and the garden. Eileen has a BA, cum laude and an MA in fine arts, studied botanical illustration and learned metalsmithing from master jeweler, with Kathleen Di Riesta.

As a New York State Certified Art Teacher, she has been teaching art in the public school system for 25 years. Currently, she teaches at the high school level and has been awarded multiple grants to share her jewelry design and entrepreneurial knowledge with her students.

Eileen's Golden Sunflower Necklaces| UncommonGoodsF&TA: How long have you been designing and making jewelry and when did you decide that you wanted your jewelry to be a business?
Eileen: About seven years ago I decided to take a glass fusing class with two good friends of mine. It was so much fun and I became totally addicted to making glass fused pendants wrapped in sterling silver and adding them to beaded necklaces I created. It became a real problem because I started amassing hundreds of them.

I wore a different pendant to work every day and started to catch the attention of my coworkers. They asked me to bring in trays of the pendants and I would sell them at work. My coworker, and good friend Joe, suggested that he host a jewelry party at his house for me. I didn’t know what to expect or how to run a jewelry party but said, “sure!”

Joe invited about 20 guests, he has a reputation for being an amazing cook and his wife Janet was a wine buyer, so fabulous food and wine were guaranteed. That evening I sold about $1700 in Joe and Janet’s kitchen and Garden of Silver was born.

The next two years consisted of home jewelry parties and then on to juried fine art/craft shows on the sidewalks of NYC, which was profitable but absolutely physically brutal. I somehow ended up tearing ligaments in my wrist, which required surgery. I recruited my mother to help me at these exhausting outdoor shows because she is the best unpaid employee ever!

In 2011 I decided to forget retail shows and aside from my own website, focus on selling wholesale.

F&TA: What made you seek out help for your jewelry biz?
E: Initially I was learning the handcrafted jewelry business by trial and error with many costly errors along the way. Over the span of the last three years it became apparent that I lacked a host of business skills, particular to the jewelry industry, to make my jewelry company successful.

F&TA: How did you find F&TA?
E: I found out about Flourish & Thrive Academy from an email I received from Andreea Ayers of Launch Grow Joy. Andreea had interviewed me on her website the previous summer and knew I was a jewelry designer.

F&TA: When did you start working with Flourish & Thrive Academy?
E: I watched the video on the Flourish & Thrive website, read everything I could about F&TA and felt Tracy and Robin were a perfect fit and would provide precisely what my fledgling company needed.

My choice of Flourish & Thrive Academy proved fortuitous. Tracy and Robin were not only the most experienced and professional consultants; but proved to be easily accessible, personable and generous with their expertise.

Eileen's web pageF&TA: What made you want to be in the F&TA Mastermind program and what changes have you seen in your business since working with Tracy & Robin?
E: After taking the first F&TA course called Laying the Foundation, I had every confidence that Tracy and Robin could facilitate significant success in the growth of my business and decided that it would be a smart business investment to join their Mastermind program. I was (and am) determined to make Garden of Silver a highly successful jewelry design company and wanted to make sure that I was oriented in the right direction, learning from experts in the industry and getting individualized advice along the way.

I feel like I have been in business school for the last year and have extended my knowledge into dimensions that I couldn’t even have imagined.

F&TA: What changes have you seen in yourself since working with Tracy, Robin & The F&TA community?
E: I previously owned a very successful six-figure art instruction studio business for 15 years that I sold 8 years ago. I had erroneously assumed, on the merits of my previous success in business, that I had an adequate business sense.

The wholesale jewelry world is quite distinct, a different story, from my previous business. I simply did not know what I did not know. After working with Robin and Tracy, I feel confident that I am doing the right thing professionally. Tracy and Robin are so available, supportive and positive. Their coaching keeps you going when things are tough and appearing insurmountable.

F&TA: When did you learn about UncommonGoods and how did you come about submitting your work to UncommonGoods?
E: I had learned about UncommonGoods via a friend and a couple of years ago, when I was exhibiting at a trade show in Florida. Two buyers from UncommonGoods came by my booth. Last spring I decided to apply to be a vendor (on their website) because the company has an amazing reputation working with artists. Personally, I love their website and catalog!

Since working with Tracy and Robin I have created a marketing calendar, a list of my DREAM clients and I am regularly contacting those “dream” clients. UncommonGoods was at the top of my “dream’ client list.

Eileen's Windy Grass Earrings | UncommonGoodsF&TA: How has it been working with UncommonGoods?
E: Working with UG has been fantastic! I have spent all summer filling new orders for them. The buyers have been great, easy to work with and responsive with feedback. The company is extremely well run, plus their people are professional and a pleasure to work with.

Recently, the buyer contacted me with amazing news that my jewelry was their number one product launch of the year and that she wanted to put it in their holiday catalog! This is a DREAM come true for me and quite an honor!

I can’t believe the growth and exposure to my company in the last few months. Garden of Silver has been put on the map.

F&TA: What is your hope for your jewelry biz and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
E: I see my business expanding tremendously in the next five years with more wholesale clients and bigger collections. I am currently working a full time job teaching high school art in addition to launching my jewelry company. I envision being able to retire from teaching soon so I can follow my dream of being a full time artist/jewelry designer.

F&TA: Is there anything you would like to share with other jewelry designers?
E: Yes, make the investment in yourself and your jewelry business and learn from the best. I highly recommend Tracy & Robin (or finding someone like them)! You will NOT be disappointed!

Come have fun and play with us in October. Check out how our 151 ways you can boost your Holiday Sales this year!

GO HERE TO GET YOUR FREE LIST OF 151 WAYS

About Robin & Tracy:: Tracy Matthews, a successful bespoke jewelry designer, and Robin Kramer, a rock star independent sales and marketing consultant, co-founded Flourish & Thrive Academy, in order to create an active community of dynamic jewelry designers who share design tips, sales successes and marketing secrets.

F&TA began as a solution to a problem many new jewelry designers face: how to treat their business like a business instead of a hobby. It has evolved into an answer to the plea, “I wish there was somewhere I can learn everything there is to know about starting a jewelry business so I can focus on being creative and work on the big picture.”

In addition to the vivacious community, F&TA offers incredible designer support services such as a complete jewelry business program, individual and group coaching, and an ever growing library of free sales, marketing, and business resources.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Robert Blinn, Carl Collins, Peter Knocke & Daniel Stillman

October 7, 2013

the men of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsSome designers have a creative studio, some have a company work space, but for this Studio Tour I rode my bike to the apartment of Carl Collins, the gathering-space of GothamSmith. It was early on a Tuesday morning and before they went their separate ways for the day, Pete, Daniel, and Carl got together around a handmade wooden table to meet with me and get some work done. There were few idle hands at the table; as we talked about how they all met and became GothamSmith, Carl was busy sketching new designs, Pete stamped their logo on muslin bags, and Daniel cut chain to assemble necklaces with pendants just delivered by Shapeways – a NYC-based 3D printing service that brings their designs to life.

As they reminisced about their original meeting space – a now-closed watering hole – and flipped through a book of anecdotes and inside jokes that they published for each other a couple years back, I couldn’t figure out which came first, the business or the friendship. Although Rob wasn’t able to join, I could tell these four guys are as passionate about their friendship as they are about their brand, an idea born from a lack of manly items at a handmade craft show.

Meet the guys of GothamSmith!

the table | GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsWhat are your most essential tools?
Whiskey, a pen, a napkin, and conversation. We are a social bunch who handle most ideas, debates, and challenges while out and about in the city.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
We find inspiration in each other when we are in this space. It’s filled with so many elements of culture and history that it sparks constant debates. Just being surrounded by all of these design artifacts and books makes it easy to just grab an item and start a conversation.

inside the GothamSmith gathering space | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
The four founders of GothamSmith all split time amongst various day jobs as well as other side projects. What is this ‘down time’ thing you speak of?

What was the toughest lesson you learned as young designers starting a business?
Organization and planning can be so boring and difficult, but it is so critical to any form of success.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Stay Focused, Keep Moving

inside the GothamSmith gathering space | UncommonGoodsinside the GothamSmith gathering space | UncommonGoodsHow do you set goals for the team?
Most of our goals are simply tied to the products that we want to make and how long we can tolerate them not being real.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
We are a tight group of friends that is somewhat always celebrating. Life is about appreciating all of the little bits of beauty around you while pushing yourself to greater and greater successes.

there is always more | UncommonGoods

When asking them to creatively convey the team’s favorite quote, all they had to do was flip to a page in their book.

What quote keeps you motivated?
It is a reminder of the abundance of life.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
In the world of 3D Printing, we are all constantly figuring out the medium. Sometimes things work for random reasons and a lot of time they don’t. We are constantly sketching, prototyping, and refining everything from how we model pieces to what finishes create the aesthetic we want.

inside the gathering space of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsinside the gathering space of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsHow do you recharge your creativity?
Live music, museums, beaches, long bike rides, road trips, art exhibits, Dim Sum… basically anything the city throws at us.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
GothamSmith would not exist if it were not for the founders all having the same frustrations and passions. We collaborate on everything because GothamSmith only happens when we come together. We’re a bit like if Voltron came from Brooklyn.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emilie Shapiro

August 5, 2013

Jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoodsI would definitely consider it love at first sight. The moment I saw the ragged edges and claw-like setting of the Raw Gemstone Necklaces, I knew I wanted to meet the designer. (And get one for myself.) So I invited myself to her Long Island City office and studio for a meeting.

Whenever I meet one of our incredible artists, I try to find similarities between myself and these seemingly normal people making extraordinary things. Our artists can make us all feel so much from a necklace or a wine glass that it makes me wonder if there is some super-human element they possess. Finding a common ground might indicate some greatness within myself. So I always look for a connection.

With Emilie Shapiro, it’s the love of treasures -digging through her rock and shell collection, hunting for pieces in her grandmother’s jewelry box, rediscovering something others have overlooked and bringing it all back to her worktable to create something new – that keeps her ticking. I too share her love of found objects and breathing new life into them.

Meet Emilie, lover of found objects and handmade jewelry designer.

Emilie's essential tools | UncommonGoodsWhat are your most essential tools?
I absolutely could not live without my stone collection. It’s something I’ve been working on since I was about 3 and picked up my first seashell (my first business was selling painted seashells on the beach), and then moved on to rocks and crystals. I have stones, minerals, shells, bones and wood from all over the world!

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I have a lot of treasures in my studio that I’ve collected throughout my life. From simple things that I find on the street or beach, to beautiful pictures of my grandmother, mother and niece. I think you define what is precious in your own life – whether it’s a piece of coral you found washed up on the beach or a ring made of brass and rough gemstones. Someone designed it, but the beholder defines the meaning.

Emilie's studio | UncommonGoodsEmilie's studio | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
We take lunch really seriously around here! I love to cook so I like to bring food for my assistant, Chrissy, to spice up our work day. We’re both pretty excited about my CSA this summer. This week I made pesto with kale and garlic scapes – it was delicious!

What was the toughest lessons you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Trust your instincts, because they’re usually right.

You are your best advertisement – wear your work because you never know who you’ll meet!

Act professional, then you’ll be treated professional.

Always look people in the eyes when you speak.

Life is to short to work with unkind people. There are a lot of good people in the world, sometimes you have to take the time to find each other.

Emilie's rock collection | UncommonGoodsWhat advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
5 years ago I was entering my Senior year at Syracuse University feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders – who was I going to apprentice for? Would I work for a larger fashion company? Would I head back to Florence and continue my studies? Would life go on after college, etc? Looking back, I would tell myself to relax and that it would all work out the way it should. I would have experiences that would eventually lead me to where I am, and where I’m going.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I think the toughest and most important part of being your own boss is creating a schedule, and then sticking to it! My goal for my new collection is expanding my wedding & engagement line. Creating new designs is the fun part, sticking to my schedule is the hard part!

Emilie Shapiro's creative studio | UncommonGoodsHow and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victories are so important, whether they’re small – like finding a great deal at a garage sale, or big – like getting into UncommonGoods! To celebrate any victory, big or small, I usually meet my best friends for drinks.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am trying to get more into traditional goldsmithing and recycling techniques. Starting with 24k gold and blending other metals to create custom alloys for beautiful hues of gold. I’m going to take a class at Liloveve Jewelry School in Williamsburg where I currently teach the wax carving classes and some other specialty techniques. It’s so beautiful there!

Emilie's favorite quote | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated?
The most amazing part about my job is creating every single day and doing what I love. Whether it’s designing a new piece, seeing my work in a new Gallery or boutique, or teaching someone to do something how to create something that didn’t exist before – I am creating something tangible that will be here way beyond me.

How do you recharge your creativity?
A great yoga class! It’s so important to keep a healthy body and mind, but to also make time for yourself when you run your own business. I find the most challenging part of being your own boss is making a schedule and sticking to it so you don’t end up pulling all nighters – I hope those days are behind me!

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I teach jewelry classes and am constantly learning so much from my students. I am always blown away by their talent and eagerness to learn, and always learn new things about myself when working so closely with my students.