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What items are you most eager to add to your inventory?

November 16, 2015

We are passionate about showcasing creative product design here at UncommonGoods. Our buyers search high and low for unique products that come complete with a compelling story behind the who, what, where, when, why, and how they are made. As we prepare for the end of year madness that is the holiday season, take a peek at what our buyers have on their wish lists for the New Year.


Megan Stickel, Assistant Buyer – Children, Desktop & Leisure

I’m looking for a variety of items to grow our children’s category. I’m particularly looking for items that inspire creative problem solving like prompt journals. Our Portachair Harness is a good example of a product that creatively solves a problem. I’m also looking for creative memory keeping ideas (e.g. storage, journals, personalized products) in addition to musical items for older kids, decor items for kids (e.g. rugs, lamps, and bedding). High on my wishlist are also science kits and DIY kits that are not mass distributed. These are particularly hard to find. Handmade games followed by interesting and accessible musical instruments are at the top of my wishlist for our leisure category. I’m also looking for arts and crafts tools/accessories (e.g. handmade knitting needles) and cool tech at accessible price points. Our Magnetic Bike Lights and DIY Smartphone Projector are good examples of what I’m looking for on the tech side.


Jamie Hoffman, Buyer – Home Decor, Garden, & Seasonal 

For our home decor category, I’m looking for creative storage solutions like bookshelves, key holders/racks and coat racks. I’m also keen on finding new bath caddies and accessories in addition to up-cycled or unique lighting (e.g. reading lamps, table lamps), and area rugs. For our garden category, I’m looking for indoor planters with personality that integrate form with function. Weather instruments (e.g. rain gauges, outdoor thermometers), wind spinners, kinetic garden sculptures, sun-catchers, birdhouses, and bird feeders also rank high on my wishlist.


NeQuana Rollings, Associate Buyer – Tabletop

Eating utensils/flatware are at the top of my wishlist in addition to everyday drinking glasses, serveware (e.g. bowls and platters), and wedding registry-friendly items.


Sharon Hitchcock, Buyer – Jewelry

Mother’s Day is a big holiday for us, so I’m definitely looking for jewelry that creatively represents motherhood or grand-motherhood. In fact, I’m looking for jewelry that celebrates women! Our Strong Women Pendant necklace is doing well, so I think this is a huge opportunity in jewelry, especially with Hillary in the running for the White House. I’m also looking for watches (men’s and women’s) with intelligent design where form meets function. The watchbands must be vegan without any PVC. Last, but certainly not least, on my most-wanted list are well-priced earrings (ideally under $50) for self-purchase that can stand alone (they don’t have to be matchy-matchy with a necklace).


Jackie Udden, Associate Buyer – Jewelry & Accessories

I’m looking for jewelry holders in various materials and functionality that are decorative, but functional. These can be in the form of ceramic, wood, or metal wall hangers and pedestals. I’d also like to expand our collection of ties. I’m looking for ties that are whimsical and intelligent and that can express someone’s personality, hobbies, interests, and profession without being too novel. I’m also keen on finding more bags. I’m looking for mostly handbags, but also bags for men in all silhouettes and price points. All bags must be 100% vegan without vinyl or PVC.


We’re only as successful as our artists and designers, so if you have a product that you think is uncommon enough to join our assortment then feel free to submit through our online form or reach out to one of our buyers.


Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Lisa Fida

August 31, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Lisa Fida, the designer of Clifford the Copper Eating Caterpillar™ and friends.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Hmmmm…. That’s a good question, because I don’t consider myself an “artist”… more of a crafter. When I think of an artist, I think of someone who can draw, sketch, paint, etc. Or a sculptor… or the eccentric person down the street that makes all sorts of weird kind of stuff and calls it art. Ha, ha! I spent 20 years as an accountant and always thought of myself as purely analytical, but never “creative.” However, now that I think about it, I was creating/designing, somewhat, my whole career, e.g., spreadsheets, reports, databases, procedures, processes, etc. Now, I create/design “whimsical representations of nature’s flora and fauna!” And I love it!

Lisa Fida Collection | UncommonGoods

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Doing my very first craft show and seeing that other people actually enjoyed my work and wanted to pay good money for it! What a day! We had a pop-up tent, a fold up card table with a white sheet over it, and some galvanized buckets for displays. And it was very cold and very windy! Every time the wind kicked up we had to hold the tent to keep it from blowing over! We’ve come a long way from that fateful day but it still surprises me even after 5 years that people still like what we make.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Have you ever seen the movie “Twister”? Ha, ha! No, it’s not like that, but sometimes it feels that way. I have a morning routine; reading the news, checking Facebook and email, etc., and if I don’t get my routine out of the way first thing, then I feel kind of discombobulated. Then I check what I have for upcoming orders and plan out my work week. I have a dry erase board (don’t mind the hearts left by my husband) that I write tasks out on and that seems to keep me and my Critter Creators™ on track.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I don’t have one particular thing. I find inspiration all over the place; from nature, other artists, in the middle of the night in a dream. I can be anywhere and my head will be swimming with ideas.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
They’d all get a kick out of Clifford the Copper Eating Caterpillar™ holding onto his copper leaf! I imagine the girls would like the Ladybugs and the boys would think Freddie the Fly Catching Frog™ was cool. And then, when they saw Suzzie the Sunday Strolling Snail™, they would pick her up and start making her crawl all over the place!

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Being my own boss. My husband says I can only work for a handful of people and I think I’ve already gone through that handful. Sorry to all of those bosses over the years that I’ve frustrated or driven crazy!

What are your most essential tools?
Not what? but who?- My Critter Creators™: Nicole, Ciana, and Steven. And my husband. There’s no way I’d be able to produce the quantity of product needed to keep up with demand without them. My husband constantly encourages me, tells me I’m doing a good job, and hides love notes in the shop for me to find throughout the day. And my Critter Creators™? Well, they don’t leave me love notes, but we all work well together and they do a fantastic job!


Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Bud Scheffel

August 10, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Bud Scheffel, the maker behind our new Hummingbird Garden Mobile.


When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was about 5 years old. I had a sketchbook in my back pocket for my entire childhood.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
The most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist was to be able to raise a family on my income earned doing what I love to do more then anything else in the world.


What does your typical day in the studio look like?
It’s chaotic but organized. I often have several sculptures that I’m working on simultaneously.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I have a book of Alexander Calder from 1956, that I am constantly inspired by. He championed the mobile concept decades earlier, and I am proud to be one of the very few experts in my field.


Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
“Oh, that’s cool that it balances like that. How do you make something so beautiful? I love the colors.”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Keep reinventing yourself. You are able to become a much better artist if you constantly push yourself to go further. I have made over 20,000 designs over 25 years.

bal-weekend-review-pg-327 b

What are your most essential tools?
Hand-held lasers, water jets, welders, shears, pliers, and grinders.

How has international travel influenced your artwork over the years?
While traveling around the world, my art has been influenced and reflective of the cultural differences of the native peoples including their fashion, color choices, architecture, infrastructure, landscape, and natural surroundings. For example, while living in Japan, I chose to create a line of metal mobiles that reflected the pagoda style architecture.

What are your other interests, and how have they been incorporated into your artwork?
I was interested all my life in math and physics, and have created work from the 1980s to current – very technical, complex structures incorporating these disciplines into true marvels of engineering that nobody has ever seen before.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Grow Your Own Organic Cilantro

July 2, 2015


Product: Garden-in-a-Can: Grow Organic Cilantro & Citrus Juicer

I’ve been told cilantro is really hard to grow so I was skeptical. Could it really be that easy? Just pop the top, bury the seeds and water for a few weeks? And would lime juice help me win the guacamole competition? My answers were yes! and yes!

When I heard we would be doing a more gardener-novice-friendly grow kit, I jumped on the chance to test it out. If all goes well, I’d have fresh cilantro in the house for the Purchasing team guacamole competition in a few weeks! I also knew then that lime (and tons of it) would be my secret ingredient, so I employed the help of our new citrus juicer to get the best results!

So, I did just that! I opened up the can, gently buried all the seeds about an inch under the surface and then poured about 2 shot glasses of water in every day or two to keep it looking moist.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sarah Grange

May 18, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Sarah Grange, the artist behind our new embroidery hoop art collection.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up my parents always encouraged me to be creative and gave me the freedom (and the craft supplies) to do so. Around 8 years old, I decided that when I grew up my best friend and I would open an art studio/veterinary office.  While my life goals have become a little more realistic over the years (i.e. I’m probably not going to veterinary school anytime soon/ever), I’m basically that same girl.  I’m still dreaming/working towards that goal of having the perfect studio where I spend every day supporting myself by doing what I love.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Graduating college and starting my small business, Kitsch & Stitch, has been one of my greatest and most exciting accomplishments.  To look back on the past two years and see the growth that has come out of the long days and nights spent designing and embroidering is incredibly motivating.  But most of all, seeing that people appreciate my creativity and work enough that they want it in their homes is one of the most exciting and motivating aspects of what I do!  Hearing that someone loves their new embroidery hoop or that it made the perfect gift for their loved one makes my day.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Caffeine, good music, lots of thread and fabric, and two adorable kitties (even when they’re biting at my ankles while I work).

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
The walls and shelves in my studio are filled with art and objects that are inspiring and important to me.  I’m a bit of a collector and I love to have all sorts of art, heirlooms, and vintage knick-knacks in my space.  My antique embroidery book that belonged to my great-grandmother is one of my most treasured items.  It’s inspiring and motivating to think that women in my family have been embroidering/sewing for centuries, and here I am continuing the craft tradition (but in a very different way).

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
 “Ooo what does it do?” or “Why?”
It’s been a while since I talked to a kindergartner, but I feel like these are pretty popular questions among 3-5-year-olds.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
It’s a toss up between “Fake it till you make it” and “If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end,” but both essentially serve the same purpose for me. I’ve found that at times when I’m feeling intimidated or having trouble believing in myself, the best plan of action is to push those thoughts aside and keep moving forward, even if I’m not totally sure of where I’m headed.  At times when I’m doubting myself or my work, these mantras get me going again.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods


Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods


Frank Lloyd Wright For Our Feathered Friends

January 28, 2015

When I saw the sample of our new Prairie Bird Feeder from across the room, I recognized its inspiration instantly: the so-called “Tree of Life” art glass pattern—probably the best-known motif from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo masterpiece, the Darwin D. Martin House.

Prairie Bird Feeder | UncommonGoods

Prairie Bird Feeder

But I suppose I should be able to spot such patterns at 50 paces. After all, I spent nine years as curator for the Martin House Restoration Corporation, helping to preserve, document, and share such designs with the public. I stopped short of getting a Tree of Life tattoo, but you might say that the Prairie style is in my blood.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed in concert with Nature—with a capital N, he insisted—and Drew Kelley’s Wright-inspired bird feeder design follows that organic lead. The cedar feeder is simply stained as Wright might have done, and its miniature roof is gently pitched and cantilevered like the rooflines of the Martin House and other homes of Wright’s Prairie period (c. 1900-1914). Add the art glass motif applied to the side panels, and those birds will be eating in sublime style.

Darwin D. Martin House

Darwin D. Martin House, Wikimedia Commons

But there’s another connection between Kelley’s bird feeder and the Wright house that inspired it. With relatively free reign on his ambitious Buffalo commission, Wright designed not only an interconnected complex of five buildings for the Martin family, but also an impressive complement of furniture, fixtures, art glass (nearly 400 pieces), and custom architectural details. He even designed custom clothesline poles for the kitchen garden and four limestone birdhouses to adorn the roof of the Martins’ conservatory.

Wright’s birdhouses feature multiple chambers in a colony-like configuration favored by purple martins. So, scholars suspect that the birdhouses were, in part, a play on the name of the client (martin / Martin). And like purple martins, the human Martins lived communally, with extended Martin family (Darwin D. Martin’s sister Delta Barton and her family in the smaller house in the complex) and servants living in the same complex. Beyond Buffalo, Wright also designed a custom birdhouse for the Westcott house in Springfield, Ohio.

Darwin Martin Bird Houses

Birdhouses, Darwin D. Martin House. Biff Henrich /IMG_INK, courtesy Martin House Restoration Corporation.

After challenging American architecture in the Prairie period, Wright went on to design some of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century, such as Fallingwater and the Guggenheim museum in New York. His body of work—both realized and conceptual—also includes a mile high skyscraper for Chicago, and a house for Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.

Despite this dazzling portfolio, you can safely say that at least a few of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs were for the birds…and so is our new bird feeder.

Maker Stories

Self-taught Metal Artist Chris Crooks on the Danger & Pleasure of His Work

June 28, 2013

You could say that Chris Crooks’ art makes a lot of sparks! It’s true factually as well as metaphorically, as you can see in this photo of him at work on one of his 16-gauge steel creations. Chris loves working in metal because, as he says, “The possibilities are endless. If you can dream it, you can do it.”

He took a somewhat winding road to get to where is now, running his own successful metal art company. After graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 1984, he worked in advertising, then ran a printing business with his wife, while painting during his free time. Wanting a change of scene, the couple moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1990. There, Chris started a company making solid cast statuary. It was while collaborating with a metal art manufacturer that Chris met his true love, materially speaking: Metal, he realized, was so much more dynamic than plaster. It was in 2001 that he began designing and making his first line of metal sculpture, inspired from the southwest and the Sonoran desert. We were curious to know more about his path to creative fulfillment and success — so we asked him about it!

What’s your studio like? Do you do all the work yourself, or do you have assistants to help with certain tasks?
I rent a space in an industrial park. I started out from my garage, as the business grew, and my wife’s and neighbors’ patience stretched, it was time to move to an industrial space in downtown Tucson. There I can bang and grind at all hours of the night and stretch out a bit. It’s a 1000 square feet of pure metalworking nirvana.

Do you display your work in your own lawn or garden? If so, what kind of reaction have you gotten from it?
I really don’t display much of my garden art, but my friends and neighbors make up for it. I generally don’t give people my art as gifts unless they actually ask, since you are never really sure they like it as much as they are telling you, kind people as they are. With their response to the garden art though, I am never at a loss for a present.

How did you end up working in metal?
It seemed like a natural progression from sculpting in clay to working in metal. My first pieces combined the two, using the metal to augment the plaster, then the plaster to decorate the the metal, and then no plaster at all. Metal is just so fun and versatile, I feel like I’m just getting started.

Do you work regular hours, or do you work when you feel like it?
Well, when you work for yourself – you’re always motivated. OK, maybe not always. Generally, I work something like 60 hours a week. I really don’t have much say in the matter, especially when UncommonGoods comes calling! As a small business owner it really doesn’t feel like work.

What are the biggest challenges to doing this work?
Beyond the logistics of getting all the orders out the door, the biggest challenge is coming up with new designs. New designs and product is the lifeblood of an art company. Fortunately, coming up with new designs is also the funnest thing to do.

Is it dangerous sometimes? What do you do to keep it safe?
Yep, it certainly can be dangerous. I’ve learned my lesson more than once not to disregard safety precautions. Never the same precaution and never more than once. Whenever I’m training somebody, it reminds me how dangerous it can be.

How much metal do you go through in a year?
I use about 400 sheets of 4 x 8 foot metal a year of varying thickness.

How do you get it all to your studio?
It is both picked up and delivered.

You studied Fine Art in college – did you expect to be an artist, or did you think you’d always have a “day job”?
I always wanted to be an artist. I didn’t know if I could pull it off…didn’t really have a clear vision of what being an artist would mean for me. I got a day job at an ad agency out of college, that was fun for a while. Painting was not as rewarding as sculpting, and metal sculpting is completely enjoyable and engaging. It seems to be working so far.

What were your paintings like, back when you were in advertising — were they in any way related to the themes of your metal art? And do you still paint?
Here’s one of my Bar Fly paintings, and recent painting on metal.

How did you learn the skills of your metal art?
I am completely self-taught.

What do you like about living the artist’s life?
I always wanted to make a living doing something genuinely enjoyable. To get up in the morning raring to go, and never having enough time to do everything you want to do. I remember watching the Crocodile Man Steve Irwin cavorting about wrestling crocs and generally living life large. He was just so happy. What a way to live life. Crikey, now I got some of that.

Do you miss anything about having a regular job/working for somebody else?
Not really. Routine is nice, as long it’s not every day. Coworkers, company paid health care and a 401K are definitely positives.

What do you do for inspiration?
I get back to nature as often as possible to recharge. Honestly, whenever I find the time to be creative there’s generally tons of ideas ready to go.

See Chris' Collection | Uncommongoods

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