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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Alex Monroe

July 14, 2016
Alex Monroe

Alex Monroe in his London shop, photos by Emily Hodges

It’s only natural to “ooh” and “aah” over Alex Monroe’s handmade jewelry, which is inspired by beautiful botanicals, woodland animals, and beloved everyday objects. He has the craftsmanship to shape precious metals into delicate designs through traditional jewelry-making techniques and the keen artist’s sixth sense to capture the smallest intricacy. Through Alex’s eyes, no detail goes unnoticed. What’s really magical, from the engagement rings showcasing whimsical twig bands to watering can necklaces with sapphire droplets dripping from their spouts, is that a different story can unfold from each of Alex’s designs depending on the individual wearing them.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Necklace by Alex Monroe | UncommonGoods

How Does Your Garden Grow? Necklace by Alex Monroe | UncommonGoods

Upon entering Alex’s London-based shop, I was pleasantly surprised to be standing in a room that mimicked The Jungle Book. Lush trees and green plant decor covered the walls and pineapples seemed to float against the windows — yet signs of old-school civilization like binoculars, globes, and magnifying glasses peeked out on top of the jewelry displays and handmade wooden cabinets. One glance around the shop and it’s obvious that the natural world and useful objects are ongoing themes in Alex’s designs.

After visiting his shop, I had the opportunity to stop by the charming Victorian cobbled yard in south London where he first started making his own jewelry in 1986. Today, he has a team of skilled jewelers recreating his designs in that very same studio.

See inside this whimsical world and learn more about Alex’s journey as a world-renowned jewelry designer who has worked to perfect his aesthetic over the past 30 years.

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Maker Stories

Watercolors of the United States: Renee Leone’s Paintings

July 8, 2016

Renee Leone at work

Renee Leone’s perfect world is a natural one. “I love landscapes and vast panoramic views and being able to see to the horizon,” the Chicago-based painter says. “Being outside with nature invigorates me and truly inspires me.”

Happily for the rest of us, Renee translates that inspiration into vibrant watercolors. Her geometric yet playful renderings of everything from redwood forests to desert cacti to urban seasides delight viewers — which is exactly why Renee creates. “I love hearing from people who have purchased or admire my work, and having them tell me they enjoy it,” she says. “When I see art that moves me, it’s a very cool feeling. I love knowing that my work does that for other people.” She colors in the rest of her story for us.

Drawing file collage

Desert Cacti of the Southwest (left) and  Renee’s filing drawers (right)

When did you first realize you were an artist?
I’ve loved art since I was a child and won awards in elementary school for my art. I always had this feeling inside I was very creative and artistic, although I didn’t really think I was good enough to be an artist. My self doubt kept me from pursuing a creative field. But I couldn’t shake the fact that I needed to do something more creative, and I wanted to learn to “really” draw. [After earning my bachelor’s in communications], I enrolled in design school. When I finally did learn to draw technically, I realized this is truly what I should be doing and I couldn’t believe it took me so long to realize I was an artist and needed to follow this path.

PicMonkey Collage

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Gift Guides

Gift Guide: Wedding Anniversary Gifts by Year

June 23, 2016

cta-giftguide-anniversarygifts
Just as there aren’t official rules that fit every romantic partnership, the “appropriate” wedding anniversary gifts by year aren’t written in stone–nor iron, copper, bronze, tin, steel, gold, or diamond. The origins of the traditional anniversary gift list are shrouded by the mysterious, misty mists of time, anyway.

The “traditional” guide for anniversary gifts by year featured mostly practical items, to help couples set up their new homes. The modern list, created by the American National Retail Jewelers Association in 1937, is (surprise!) big on precious metals and gems. As much as we adore sparkly baubles, we don’t believe that jewelers have the authoritative last word on this subject.

However, an anniversary gift guide of what’s generally considered appropriate can be a lifesaver: without one, it’s easy to succumb to mental paralysis when you need to come up with anniversary gift ideas for friends or relatives celebrating X years of marriage.

With all this in mind, here is our own fresh guide of anniversary gifts by year: traditional, modern, and, of course, uncommon.
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The Uncommon Life

Why it’s Better to Give with The International Rescue Committee

June 20, 2016

“The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities.                                                                                                     –The International Rescue Committee 

There’s a lot of information packed into that mission statement, and it’s difficult to actually sum up everything it means, because the organization behind it, The International Rescue Committee (IRC) does so much to help those in need. Humanitarian crises include war, natural disasters, famine, drought, and numerous other man-made and environmental tragedies. The IRC’s responses to those crises include education, vocational training, economic support, emergency medical care, and countless other programs to empower those impacted by situations they had no control over. While it’s hard to outline all of the fantastic work IRC does in a blog post, it’s less challenging to express the pride and honor we feel as we welcome them to our Better to Give program.

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Design

A Serving Solution
as Amazing as Chocolate

June 13, 2016

Few treats are quite as inviting as rich, decadent chocolates. That familiar, sweet scent. The lure of its velvety texture. The promise of a few moments of the unique pleasure the mouthwatering morsels will bring.

What could possibly make this bite-sized treat even more appetizing? A presentation that gets chocolate out of the box and on full display. The A-Maze-ing Chocolate Server does just that, and offers a clever solution when it comes to stashing those leftover wrappers.

“We wanted to create a presentation worthy of chocolate, because chocolate is amazing,” said UncommonGoods’ Senior Product Development Associate Tiffany Jyang, who worked on creating the design for our Uncommon Collection.

The initial idea for the piece was, in part, based on the success of other Uncommon Collection items that offer unique serving solutions. Products like the Pistachio Pedestal, Popcorn Bowl with Kernel Sifter, and Cheese & Crackers Serving Board  are all unique presentation options that each tackle an entertaining challenge–discarding nutshells, dealing with pesky unpopped kernels, and keeping enough cheese and crackers on deck to keep snackers satisfied. With these designs in mind, the Product Development team thought about other ways to improve the presentation of foods frequently served at dinner parties and cocktail hours.

A-maze-ing Chocolate Server | UncommonGoods

“Sometimes there’s an excess something that you don’t want to carry around at a party or stick in your pocket,” Tiffany explained. “In [the case of chocolates] it’s the wrapper. This [server] is an all-in-one solution.”

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