Yuka of Inhabitat.com picked out her favorite eco-friendly gifts for the environmentalist on your shopping list this year. For her entire collection, click here.
Jaime of Design Milk picks her favorite gift ideas that celebrate modern design. Visit her entire collection here!
During the holiday season, every team at UncommonGoods is very important – from the Outbound warehouse staff packaging up your orders, to the Tech Team making sure our website is in ship shape, to our Purchasing Team who makes sure all of our best sellers are in stock – but one team stands out in my mind as being integral in making the most special holiday gifts happen. Our Drop Ship team is the liaison between our customers and artists to make custom gifts like the Anniversary Wine Box and the Personalized Family Print happen.
What does “drop ship” mean anyway? It’s the term used when an item is shipped straight from the designer to the customer. To ensure the product is perfect before heading to our customer, the Drop Ship team collects the information so the artist can customize the product. In many cases, the Drop Ship team checks back with the customer with a proof of the product to confirm everything looks good.
A custom gift is certainly very special so our Drop Ship team keeps busy during the holiday season, but not without deadlines. The last day to order most custom or personalized gifts is December 4, with an approved proof by December 9, so don’t hesitate. Time is running out!
Heather has picked out some great items for your Secret Santa, and they’re all under $30!
For more Secret Santa gifts, visit Heather’s collection.
Cale Beckman, UncommonGoods Outbound Warehouse Senior Manager of Operations
My hometown is…
Staten Island, NY
I chose to go into warehouse operations because…
I enjoy the fast-paced nature of operations and I love to solve problems. Things often can change in a moment’s notice and I love the challenge of thinking on my feet to develop creative solutions to ensure that we continue to provide excellent service to our customers.
The cheesiest thing I’ve ever loved is…
Cheez-its – Yum!
If my 2nd grade teacher could see me now, she would say…
You ask too many questions!
My favorite process in the warehouse is…
Picking. (“Picking” is when a team member selects a customer’s products from storage and gets their order ready for packing.) I love this process because there are so many ways to tweak it for efficiency, with immediate results.
An uncommon fact about me…
I was a professional DJ for many years and continue to DJ as a hobby.
Working at UncommonGoods I’ve learned…
To wear many, many hats.
Would you rather…be rich, famous, or neither?
I would rather be rich. I really wouldn’t like the attention of being famous. I could still do good with my riches without the problems of being famous.
When us Marketing Team gals heard about the new Carve-A-Stamp Kit, we wanted to test it our for ourselves. So a couple weeks ago, we ended work things a little early for some crafting, gossip, and girly tunes in a secluded conference room in the office. (Ok, there were no tunes but if there were, it probably would have been something like Beyonce or Carole King. Or just Beyoncé.) We learned a lot in that small room. Not just about each other, but the kit in general. Here are some things we learned.
1. The kit comes with easy to follow and beautifully illustrated instructions, 25 original templates designed by Owl City Studio, transfer paper, a stamp block with two sides for carving, a carving tool with multiple blades, a red stamp pad, and a muslin bag to store your finished product.
2. The designs are adorable. It was hard for me to choose so I ended up doing the bow and the polka dot bow tie. Good thing the stamp was two-sided – I have an obsession with bows and am terrible at making decisions. Cassie decided on the owl and Emily on the leaf.
3. The transfer paper is super easy to use. All you had to do was trace one of the designs, place the paper on top of your stamp block, and rub gently to transfer the image onto the stamp. The image showed up nice and clear on the rubber and in the proper direction. Remember: stamps work backwards!
4. The transfer paper also comes in handy when you’re free-handing your design. Fancy-pants graphic designer Jessica drew her stamp creation by hand, a hot air balloon, and used the transfer paper to recreate her original design onto the stamp block.
5. Not every carving tool is for everyone. Since all of our designs were so different – some curvy, another more jagged, some with tiny details and dots – we each found our own favorite carving tool. Test them all to figure out which one works best for you.
6. The finished product is a lot prettier than what you carved. We all looked at our designs when we were done and said “ick” – in unison. But once we stamped the design on some paper, they all looked amazing. All those little imperfections you see (since your eyeballs are probably three inches from the stamp while you’re working) don’t show up when you use the stamp. Plus stamps are supposed to be a little imperfect. That’s their charm!
I love a good grilled cheese. The gooey goodness inside reminds me of childhood meals, always paired with a tomato soup, of course. I first saw the Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags and thought it would be a fun, and super easy, way to make that delicious, buttery comfort food. I’d never heard of such a product before. How simple – just put it in a toaster! I’m, however, familiar with the iron-grilled cheese approach…enough said. In comparison, that ironing approach is quite barbaric.
Given my experience with toast and grilled cheese, I suspect that the sandwiches will be nice and melt-y. However, the warm buttery flavor (that is signature to anything cooked with butter on a frying pan) will be missing.
Step 1: Checking out the goods
The Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags are very different than I expected. They’re a silky-papery material. Very tough and pliable. So far, I’m impressed. Three bags are included in the package (wish it was four for those 4 slotted toasters). The grilled cheese in the picture looks really delicious – nice and golden.
The Ooma Bowl
I love the clean and colorful look. It’s meant to easily fit into the hand for holding. Overall, the style gets two thumbs up from me. The bowl may also serve as a nice pet food dish? Food on the left, water on the right.
Step 2: Assemble the ingredients
For my experiment I’m making 2 recipes.
First: The Classic. Simple and to the point; white bread, sharp cheddar.
Second: Italian Craving–Featuring the Ooma Bowl. Yummy take on the classic done Italian style. My plan is to cut the finished sandwiches into sticks and use to use the Ooma Bowl for easy dipping. Using mozzarella, pesto spread, fresh basil, and sundried tomatoes. For the dipping sauce I’m using my favorite marinara Rao’s Homemade (it’s the best; I highly recommend trying it).
Step 3: Get’m grilled
Attempt Number One:
The Classic. It was pretty simple to get them into the bags. It needed a little maneuvering, but nothing difficult. I have a nice toaster that accommodates bagels. After getting them bagged I put them in, I set the toaster to level 4 and set it into motion.
The end result was not what I was hoping for. Setting 4 didn’t cut it. The cheese didn’t melt, and the bread was not toasted enough. Compared to the picture on the packaging, my sandwich was a total fail. Try again…
Attempt Number Two:
OK, the setting was too low; I overcompensated by upping the game to a level six setting. Also, I was thinking I would try to add some butter to the bread in hopes of obtaining that nice golden buttery glow. I melted 2 tablespoons and brushed the outsides of the bread with a pastry brush. Drum roll please…
I got the taste spot on and beautiful melted cheese. However, I ended up with burnt bread. It didn’t taste bad, but charred is no good either. Also, the butter made the bags all greasy.
Attempt Number Three:
I completed my attempts with the Classic recipe and moved onto the Italian Craving. First things first, I washed the bags. They got greasy from the butter and the melted cheese. Washing was incredibly easy. I used a simple sponge with handle and hot water. I hand dried, but noticed that the bags held moisture. I didn’t have time to let them air dry, so I continued on with the sandwich making.
I made a total of 4 sandwiches; all of which came out a little darker than I expected. I’m not sure what’s to blame. My toaster setting, the moist bags, the butter; I really am not sure. What I do know is that the sandwiches were tasty. (The chef has to taste their food before it leaves the kitchen).
Step 4: Plate and Taste
Time to eat, drink, and be merry. As planned, I cut the grilled cheese into long strips and placed them into the Ooma Bowl. I heated the sauce and added that to the smaller section. Et voila! A culinary masterpiece. (At least for moi, a simple cook.)
The bowl was easy to hold. Modeled by my fiancé (thank you for your help). Recommended for couch activities such as Sunday sports and Netflix. A delicious end to a full day of ingredient shopping and toaster cooking.
Did these match up to the classic grilled cheese? Not completely; however, they were 1. Easy to make and 2. Melt-y and tasty.
1. Don’t apply butter before toasting! It may be good to apply after? Question for thought.
2. The bags need to thoroughly dry before the next use. I later washed, hand dried, and placed on the handle of a frying pan to dry.
3. Toaster settings are key; you need to find the right one. (I have yet to find the right one for my toaster.)
Photo Credit: Moi! Anna Moreno
Model: My fiancé Noah Perkins
“I love Deer Boy. I want to hang him on my wall and pretend he is my boyfriend.” commented one of Sarah Constantino’s many admirers during the September Art Contest. This comment literally made me laugh out loud, partly because it was unexpected and partly because it was pretty much my feeling exactly. At first glance, Deer Boy is simply a bright and whimsical piece to hang in your bedroom for fun wall art decor. But when you take a second look, it starts to play with your eyes and you notice charming details that you perhaps didn’t notice at first: the double lips and ties, the wood-like back drop, the garland caught on his antlers. It’s one of those feel good pieces you could place anywhere in your household for that cozy touch. From her prints to her porcelain to her typography, Sarah’s overall work channels a child-like spirit that us adults sometimes forget we still have. Meet Sarah Constantino, our lastest Art Contest winner who fell in love with her husband through Twitter and mapped out her career choices while drawing unicorns in her kindergarten class.
What’s an uncommon fact about you and your hometown?
An uncommon fact about me… I fell in love with my husband in 140 characters on Twitter. (Okay, it took a bit more than that.) We met on Twitter, became friends, and after only meeting in real life for two weeks I decided to pick up my Iowa roots and move down to Florida. It was the craziest/best decision I’ve ever made. It’s been 3 years since I moved and I love my new hometown. An uncommon fact about Cape Coral that I found interesting is that this Gulf Coast city contains more canals than Venice, Italy!
Deer Boy is charming and playful. How did the idea of this design come about?
My husband and I had some holiday parties to attend. I kept noticing that the “wallflowers” of each party were the most interesting people to talk to at each event. As the night progressed things became a bit more surreal as well. I felt inspired when we got back home and I decided to break out the acrylics and paint. Deer Boy and Deer Girl were the end results. I normally don’t paint people, so this was an unusual subject for me.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I started drawing unicorns in kindergarten and I remember thinking that it was the only thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My goals have changed a bit since then, but the drive to create something every day is a strong one for me. I am a self-taught artist and have been able to make a living off drawing, painting, and creating art since I was 18. I used to design for an American craft furniture company and after about 10 years of that, and a lot of growing up, I knew that I had it in me to go off on my own. Now I get to create whatever I feel like using whatever medium I want. Every. Single. Day. It fulfills that constant desire I have to make, make, make!
How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Art Contest?
I jumped up and down for awhile. And then I went back to painting. Anyone that knows me personally knows I work a lot. I plan on celebrating later this month with some interesting cocktails and good friends.
Where do you find inspiration within your work space?
I have an inspiration board where I keep a lot of my favorite things (cards from family and friends, a photo of my mom as a little girl, artwork from other artists, color palettes, silly mementos) basically anything that recharges me and makes my eyeballs happy. I also love being able to look out the window and see the sunny Florida surroundings and the activity on the lake behind our house. So many birds! And sometimes a gator or two.
Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?
Well, to be honest, right now there isn’t a ton of down time. I’m busy with holiday orders from my Etsy shop and need to stay focused to get my creations out the door. It’s my favorite time of the year! When things are slower I like to wake up early and walk around the neighborhood. I take a break here and there to pet my two weirdo cats that keep me company during the day.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m working on hand illustrated typography. I just keep writing out words and phrases and finding a letter shape to express the full meaning of each word. I have several empty notebooks that are now filled with these scribbles.
How do you recharge your creativity?
While I’m creating I like to listen to podcasts, burn through a TV series on Netflix, or listen to books on tape. I go through obsessive stages with my entertainment. Right now I’m really into a few different books on the history of Ancient Rome, Russia, and Genghis Khan. A few months back it was every Game of Thrones book I could get my hands on. Give me a series in sci-fi, history, or fantasy and I am a happy camper.
Other than being an artist, what else do you do?
I started my own business called SEWZINSKI and have been lucky enough to stay busy and productive with that. It’s my full-time everything. It started with embroidered wallets that were completely sewn and stitched by hand. It’s evolved into hand painted ceramics and upcycled home decor. It will change into something else in the future as well. Experimentation is how I learn best and there’s still so many things I’d like to try.
Do you have any special projects or events that are in the works or that’s floating in your brain right now?
Yes. They are secrets. It’s always good to have secret projects.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a freelance artist?
Not everyone will like you or your art. Some might like both. Some might like one or the other. It sounds simple, but building a tough skin and taking criticisim about your work can be difficult. It can also be hard to separate yourself from your work. Both those things are important and are still daily struggles for me.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Hey Sarah of 2008, it’s okay to take that risk and go off on your own. Stop being so scared of failure. It keeps you from succeeding!
Which artists do you look up to?
Andy Warhol was one of the first artists I really remember relating to when I was younger. I will always be in love with him. Right now I am really inspired by Ashley Goldberg’s art and career path. I’ve been following her work for awhile and I’d like to develop that beautiful relationship with color and space she seems to have with my own style of work.
What quote keeps you motivated?
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” -Andy Warhol The more art I create, the better artist I become. If I get too caught up in people’s opinions, or the details in the piece not being perfect, I could lose the chance to create something new with the time I’ve wasted worrying. Keep making, keep moving forward. It’s a great way to finely tune the skills needed and attain new skills to perfect through proliferation.
What advice can you offer anyone who are submitting their work to our Ongoing Art Contest?
Go for it. I submitted a piece that is a different subject from the bright colors and crazy animals and folk art that I normally paint. Take a chance and you could discover a whole new direction to take your work.