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Eco-Friendly

Maker Stories

Finding Security in Reclaimed Art – Meet Sarah Nicole Phillips

May 30, 2013

After an overwhelming response in March, we decided to keep our Art Contest running all year round. With twelve months to send in artwork, I was worried that the well might run dry with new ideas and exciting designs. Our first month proved me wrong with a collection of amazing submissions.

Our interim art buyer Melissa chose Security Blue Grass from the top voted semifinalists for its aesthetic, originality, and use of reclaimed materials. Those three elements make its designer, Sarah Nicole Phillips, the ideal Uncommon artist. Meet our newest artist and help us welcome her to our vendor family!

What is one uncommon fact about you?
After high school, I traveled for two and a half years straight, during which all my possessions fit into a backpack.

When did you first realize you’re an artist?
I knew I had become an artist when I purchased a used 54” 5-Drawer Steel Flat File from a guy on Craig’s List, to store my art. In New York City, space is a precious resource so my bed is lofted on top of the flat files. I do not believe this sleeping arrangement has affected my dreams.

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
I draw inspiration from observing the tensions, conflicts and contradictions of contemporary life. I spend a lot of time consuming news media, but just as important is placing myself in situations where lives are smashing up against each other like crowded subways and commercial streetscapes at rush hour. I always carry a small notebook with me to jot down something I see, or draw something that catches my eye. I am conscious of the waste we create and how we manage it.

I have attended several artist residencies in bucolic, rural settings. These quiet places allow for ideas simmering on the back burner to boil over, but I need the background hum of a city to stimulate ideas for new bodies of work.

Describe your artistic process.
The process begins with me scribbling sketches in my notebook. Most of these sketches are fragments of ideas blurted onto paper and are never realized into final pieces. Once I hone in on an image I’d like to create into a collage, I make a full scale drawing that serves as an image template. I search through my supply of patterned security envelopes and select which ones I will use to construct the collage. I have several bankers’ boxes full of envelopes to choose from, sorted into categories according to imagery, color, tone, and other characteristics. The envelopes come from myriad sources; friends and family and sometimes strangers bring me discarded envelopes generated from their workplace or home office. I arrange a “dry assemble” before using adhesive to stick all the pieces down. The final step is to run the collage through an etching press to ensure the thousands of individual pieces are never going to become unstuck.

Describe your work space.
I have a bright, airy, live-work space on the edge of the industrial neighborhood of Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. Source photographs and sketches are tacked onto the walls. I work sitting at a long table, and pin works-in-progress onto a big white wall that I can stare at, or glance at passively as I walk by to refill my coffee mug. My indispensable tools are a self-healing cutting mat, metal rulers and various cutting blades. The windows are open, as long as the wind isn’t strong enough to blow apart works-in-progress. Public radio or podcasts are always playing.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
Submit work that you not only know is strong, but that you are genuinely proud of. If selected as a finalist, you’ll be discussing the design challenge with your with friends and colleagues; it’s much easier to talk about your work with enthusiasm when you feel truly engaged with the work.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: From Wine Bottle to Watering Globe

May 28, 2013

RESEARCH
Ok, so I don’t have the greenest green thumb, but I love having fresh herbs and veggies on hand. When I’ve planted in the past my poor plants’ main downfall has been lack of water. If my sprouts are not directly in sight every day I tend to forget them. The backyard for my apartment building is accessible, but it isn’t exactly easy to get to each day, so I need a watering system that will babysit my sprouts a few days a week. I’m hoping the Plant Nanny is up for the job!

HYPOTHESIS
The Plant Nanny will keep my herbs and tomato plants well-hydrated without daily watering sessions on my part.

EXPERIMENT
I got my seedlings home and potted in a sunny spot. I also brought home the Plant Nanny wine bottle set. Because my herbs went into pots on the small side I decided to try empty beer bottles for their Nannies. The tomato plants went into a larger pot, so they got a wine bottle. The necks of the beer bottles fit just about perfectly into the wine bottle Plant Nannies. But I wasn’t certain that the water would hold out in them over the next few days.

The directions recommended that the end of the Plant Nanny should be pushed down by the roots. This was easily accomplished without over-packing the soil too tight or crowding out my seedlings.

It was also really simple to get the full bottle into the Plant Nanny. The directions noted to put a finger or two over the top of the bottle before tipping it into the Plant Nanny. The water filled the base of the nanny and balanced out without losing hardly a drop.

Ok, so I have to admit I thought the upside-down bottles might not be that great looking. (Course, neither do the re-used pots I got from a neighbor that was going to chuck them.) It turns out that they look pretty cool, and I can already tell that they’ll blend in a bit better once my plants start to fill out.

CONCLUSION
So, I did my planting on a Sunday afternoon. By Wednesday morning there was only a bit of water left in the both the beer bottles and the wine bottle Nannies. The small-bottle-to-small-pot and large-bottle-to-large-pot idea worked out well with the wine bottle Plant Nannies! The soil in all three pots was moist without being overly flooded.

Looks like I’ll be able to let the Plant Nannies “babysit” for about 2-3 days at a time. If we hit a dry spell I plan on checking my plants every 1-2 days to be on the safe side.

Maker Resources

How to Make Your Products Eco-Friendly and Spread the Word

February 18, 2013

This month we had the pleasure of hosting our fourth How To Make It design panel and networking happy hour in Brooklyn. We invited local designs (although some traveled from as far as Central Pennsylvania) who came to hear our panel discuss greenifying your designs and small business and how to get the word out about your eco-friendly creations. Everyone stuck around to swap business cards, meet our buyers and enjoy Brooklyn Brewery beer and Morris Grilled Cheeses.

Weren’t able to make it? Watch some clips of the conversation below.


Rebecca talks about the return on investments made in making your products more eco-friendly.


Rebecca shares some great marketing ideas for building a happy and healthy customer-base.


Tiffany shares some common mistakes made when marketing eco-friendly products.


Green products also means a more energy-efficient work environment. Rebecca shares some easy retrofits to make your home and office greener.


Yuka gives advice on pitching your products to the media.


You have a green product, now what about your packaging?


A lot of companies throw around the word “green” but there are some restrictions.

Want more? You can watch a video of the entire discussion below.

Design

NYC Green Resources

February 7, 2013


For those present at our How To Make It event panel on Tuesday, February 5, and those interested in learning how to implement greener practices in their home and their work space, here is a list of green resources in New York City from Rebecca Krauss of the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s EcoBiz program.

ConEd provides free energy assessment
www.coned.com/energyefficiency

Choose an ESCO (energy service provider) to save money and/or go green
www.greenmountain.com
www.viridian.com

Find your recycling rules
www.nyc.gov/nycwasteless

Where to recycle everything else
www.earth911.com

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: A Pocketful of Convenience

January 30, 2013

Background Research
The Pocket Utensil Set is an exciting new addition to UncommonGoods’ collection. In the world of utensils, I had only experienced traditional silverware, plasticware, and chopsticks until now. This new option could open up an entirely new realm of utensils for me.

Hypothesis
Since I dislike the feel and overall experience of plasticware, and I often find myself in situations where plastic is the only option, I predict that always having stainless steel flatware on hand will improve the way I enjoy meals every single day. I predict that I will be much happier always having this option available to me.

Experiment
I began by examining the packaging. It’s quite simple, and leaves minimal waste. (Good for the environment, which is always a plus for me.) The back of the packaging has simple directions for separating the device in two.

My friend’s dog Max watched as I learned how to split it in half. This was really easy to do. (It’s also very easy to re-assemble).

When I first set out, I wanted to use the pocket utensil is every possible scenario until my experiment was done. I took it everywhere I went. In some situations, such as when having dinner at a friend’s home, where a table is set and so forth, it really made no sense to pull out my own silverware, so I figured I would refrain. However, I found it most useful when my roommates have left all the silverware dirty in the sink, and I didn’t want to dig for a dirty fork to wash, and then subsequently, use. I now ALWAYS have a clean fork, knife, and spoon available to me!

The feeling of using the pocket utensil is much nicer than the plastic variety; however, there are a few things I’d like to point out. The fork, spoon, and knife are scaled down a bit. Which makes them still useful, and, of course, portable–but it is harder to grab a bunch of spaghetti on this smaller fork than with a larger, traditional one.

The spoon is most certainly not for soup, but it is fine for cereal or any food where it makes sense to have a smaller amount in each spoonful. It’s great how easily you can separate the fork/bottle opener end from the spoon/knife side. If you had a meal that requires a spoon, fork, and knife all at the same time, you may find yourself rushing to the kitchen to wash off the knife and spoon alternately, as needed. This could be a bit annoying, but luckily most meals do not require that many utensils.

The Pocket Utensil is cool-looking, portable, and useful. It definitely improved those meals where I would have had to wash my silverware right before eating, or where I would have had to use wasteful, flimsy plasticware.

Conclusion
My hypothesis was proven to be true. I enjoyed meals with the Pocket Utensil far more than without. The only real ideal situation is to always have traditional silverware ready, clean, and available to you, no matter what. When you can’t have that, the Pocket Utensil is a brilliant alternative.

The Uncommon Life

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: An Uncommon Story

October 9, 2012

There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)

Storybook Puppets | UncommonGoods

Storybook Purse | UncommonGoods

Storybook Slippers | UncommonGoods

Storybook | Necklace

Storybook Blanket | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

October Instagram Photo-A-Day Challenge

October 1, 2012

Show us your eco-side this October on Instagram. Snap a photo each day inspired by the day’s prompt and post it with #UGphotoaday. We will be sharing our favorites on the blog and Facebook.

We will be posting as well so be sure to follow along (@UncommonGoods) to see what we come up with!

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