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Maker Stories

Inside the Designers’ Studio
with UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team

September 16, 2016

 

UncommonGoods Product Development Team

UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team: Carolyn Topp (Director of New Business & Product Development), Elisha Janas (PD Assistant & Graphic Designer), Emily Reside (Senior Product Designer), Tiffany Jyang (Senior Product Developer), and Morgan Tanner (Senior Production Manager), photo by Emily Dryden

Each month, we have the privilege of bringing you a look inside an artist or designer’s creative space. Sometimes we hop on a train and head someplace nearby in Brooklyn, sometimes we hit the road to see friends a little farther from New York City, and every now and then a jet-setting contributor will helps us feel a little closer to a studio that seems worlds away. These adventures are always entertaining and inspiring, and they give us chances to get to know the people who make the goods we sell a little bit better. 

While planning some upcoming Studio Tours and reminiscing about the many great experiences I’ve personally had seeing where our products are made and meeting the people behind them, something occurred to me: We make products. Right here at UncommonGoods, a team of product designers, developers, and managers is at work coming up with brand new uncommon creations. 

I realized that despite all of the studios I’ve personally visited, the folders of photos from other folks’ tours I’ve sorted through, and the blog posts I’ve edited, I still haven’t given our readers a look at the place where we develop our very own designs. But that’s about to change. Welcome to this behind-the-scenes look at our Brooklyn office, where you’ll see works in progress, inspiration and advice from our Product Development team, and even a quote from The Boss (Springsteen, that is; not Dave Bolotsky.)

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Design

The Aurora Light: A Brilliant Addition to our Assortment

September 12, 2016

*Editor’s Note: The Aurora Smart Lighting Panels are coming soon to our assortment. Get them first by pre-ordering here.

Aurora Light Blue Office

Photo courtesy of Nanoleaf

If you search for the definition of “aurora,” you’ll see it described simply as “a natural electrical phenomenon.” A bit of historical research will find you Aurora with a capital “A,” a glowing, celestial goddess from ancient Roman mythology who announces the sun’s arrival each morning. You’re also likely to call up images of the aurora borealis (commonly known as the Northern Lights), a stunning natural wonder that some people spend their whole lives hoping to see.

When you get your first glance at a set of the Aurora Smart Lighting Panels, a shining newcomer to our assortment, its name seems exceedingly appropriate. It’s an ecodesign enthusiast’s dream, in that it’s both highly efficient and really nice to look at. It’s like a mini Northern Lights right up on your wall. It’s versatile, too. You can use it as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to an alarm clock, programming a soft glow to greet you in the morning a la Aurora the goddess. Or, once night-time hits, you can dance till dawn using the Aurora for ambiance. Just click onto your saved Party Time setting and you’re good to go.

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Gift Guides

Gift Guide: Care Packages for Every College Student

September 7, 2016

They passed their SATs and they wrote their college essays. They packed their bags, picked their majors, and they even chose their dorms! Moving away to college is an exciting time in anybody’s life—and this fall’s batch of college-bound kids are in for four of the best years of theirs. So, what should you include in care packages to your star student to help ensure they get the most from their experience?

Here’s the thing: Starting college can be stressful. Not only do new students need to learn the way around campus, memorize their course schedules, and make new friends, they also need to buy a lot of stuff. They need textbooks and bed sheets, pencils, notebooks, closet organizers, shower caddies, alarm clocks, travel mugs, dorm room slippers—and more. That’s a lot of gear for one person’s first year at school! Even the most overachieving scholar is bound to forget something.

Any student will appreciate a care package in their first semester or two away from home. That’s why we’ve compiled some college care package ideas for every kind of college kid. Your competitive athlete, class president, young doctor-in-the-making, or little Steve Jobs might be scrambling to hit the ground running, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them ring in the new school year with some fun gift items too.

Here are a few ideas to send that special champion in your life out into the world with a bang.

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Maker Stories

Christine Schmidt’s Mismatched Earrings & Peculiar Pet Pendants

August 22, 2016

Christine Schmidt in her San Francisco Studio | UncommonGoods

Christine Schmidt is a jewelry artist, printmaker, designer, illustrator, author, and fraternal twin. She says that maybe that last one influenced her decision to veer from convention and create her clever, quirky mismatched earrings: “I am myself different but a part of a unit. I’ll spare you the therapy–but I like to change it up.”

Here at UncommonGoods, we like to change it up too, and that’s why when we saw some of Christine’s mismatched designs, we couldn’t wait to work with her to create more canny combos.

We thought about a few of the interests our customers (and even many of the folks that work here) share, and worked with the artist on a new line celebrating books, space, and pets. Christine captured each of these concepts through her charming illustrations, turned them into brand new mismatched earrings, and even designed adorable cat and dog necklaces exclusively for UncommonGoods.

She took some time out from being a multi-talented super artist to tell us about her road to a creative career, her process, and working with our team.

Christine Schmidt's Mismatched Earrings | Exclusively at UncommonGoods

Books and Eyeglasses, Sun and Moon, and Cat and Dog Mismatched Earrings | Exclusively at UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Nancy Nelson’s Bee Love Jewelry: Honeycomb, Heart, and Hive Help

August 19, 2016

Many jewelry makers would describe their collections as “playful yet sophisticated and timeless.” Nancy Nelson happens to be one of them, but she isn’t referring to a new line of fall fashion must-haves; in her world, it’s the inspiration for her work: the honeycomb. Each of her bee-based designs is a sweet but serious tribute to the awe-inspiring insects that build their own hexagonal homes, produce healthy honey, and pollinate the crops we depend on every day. Her Bee Love Necklace and Earrings were shaped by the geometry of a heart-shaped piece of honeycomb given to her by her beekeeping friend Katie, but also by the vital environmental role played by bees and the alarming threat of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

BEE LOVE NECKLACE NANCY NELSON JEWELRY

There are many theories about what causes CCD, including fungicides, viruses, mites, and the commercial beekeeping process itself, in which colonies are stressed by being trucked all over the country to seasonally pollinate crops. But entomologists, apiary advocates, and artists alike are working hard to diagnose and respond to the crisis. “After learning about the epidemic of the bees vanishing from their hives and knowing that they pollinate a third of our diets, I realized I needed to do my part to help save the bees,” said Nancy. In response, she donates a portion of sales from her honeycomb jewelry collection to Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit organization addressing the decline of the honeybee population in the United States.

honey-bees-326337_1920

Recently, we asked Nancy to reflect on the connections between bees’ industrious design work, their role in a healthy ecosystem, and her own tribute to their creations. Continue Reading…

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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Maker Stories

Tony Holman’s Problem-Solving Pottery

June 9, 2016
Tony Holman | UncommonGoods

Tony Holman working in his Plano, TX studio, photos by NéQuana Rollings

 

“Being a full time artist is never easy, but it’s certainly worth the hard work (and gray hairs),” says Tony Holman, a potter who makes practicality and purpose look good.

Tony began honing his pottery skills almost 40 years ago at Indiana University, fine tuned them soon after at Bloomington Pottery, and now runs his own studio in Plano, Texas. It’s here where he creates his line of handcrafted helpers that play a vital part in the well-appointed kitchen.

Statues in the Holman's yard

Tony created these statues in grad school. They now stand in the Holmans’ garden

His kitchen creations—an all-in-one fondue warmer and platter setself-draining utensil caddy, and omelet maker that turns out fluffy eggs in 45 seconds flat, to name a few—are an irresistible blend of form and function.

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

 

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