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Garden

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Gift Lab: Can a Self-Watering Pepper Planter Be Trusted?

December 4, 2017

Data scientist Dr. Ken proudly displays his wee peppers. Spicy!

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Self-Watering Pepper Planter

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House plants that enter into my care rarely thrive. More often, they have the sort of existence Thomas Hobbes (no, not that Hobbes) might have written about—that is, “nasty, brutish, and short.” And while I’ve tried many different types of plants, the problem is always the same: water. Some occasions it’s too little too late, others it is a root rot-inducing flood. Frequently, it’s one followed by the other as I overcompensate. Whatever knack is required, I don’t have it, and I was ready to give up on the idea that anything could grow in the barren desert landscape of my living room.

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Maker Stories

Talking Purpose, Fun, and Sustainable Design with Fred Conlon

September 6, 2017

Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker/Park Record

Fun fact: Utahan Fred Conlon has been working with us here at UncommonGoods for over ten years, and in all that time, we’ve only mentioned him on the blog a teeny-tiny handful of times. But it’s 2017, and we’re saying, “No more.” It’s time to give Fred his due the best way we know how, and that’s with his very own maker story.

Raised in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Fred’s the son of two high school English teachers, which may at least help to explain how he wound up with a degree in Public Communication despite his ambition to open a pottery shop. After a brief tour as a ceramicist, Fred transformed his shop into the full-time metalworking studio where he now crafts punny paperweights and his signature Gnome-Be-Gones, both fixtures of our assortment here at UG for the better part of the past decade. Read on for a Q&A with Fred that touches on inspiration, sustainability, and what makes his job so special. (We also took a couple of moments to scour his Instagram, the evidence of which, too, lies below.)

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Maker Stories

Where the Wild Things Grow:
Artist Catherine Murphy Turns Metal to Magic with Her Garden Decor

June 19, 2017

Catherine Murphy has always been an observer. From the rich architecture she saw shuffling around European cities as a child, to the awe-inspiring complexity she’s discovered in nature, Catherine’s brain is a mosaic of interwoven experiences. Today, she fuses these influences into stunning designs for your garden at the Haw Creek Forge. Nestled on the edge of the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina, you might find Catherine and her team of artisans collaborating on a new idea or welding shiny plates of copper into praying mantises and hummingbirds. We had the pleasure of learning more about Catherine’s process and her magnificent journey to becoming a metal artist.

Catherine’s garden fairy makes an enchanting addition to your yard.

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The Uncommon Life

10 Easy to Grow Succulents for Every Home [Infographic]

October 6, 2016

Indoor Succulent Advice | UncommonGoods

With fall in full swing it’s time to spruce up your indoor gardening game. If you’re hoping for an easy and beautiful indoor garden sanctuary try succulents. Succulent plants come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, suitable to all kinds of interior spaces. Easily identified by their juicy leaves and stems, these plants aren’t just pretty—they’re designed to hold water during droughts. Good news for the forgetful gardener: succulents are resilient, hardy, and versatile.

But with thousands of varieties to choose from, it’s hard to know which types of succulents are right for your indoor space. Low levels of natural light and cooler temperatures mean you’ll need to adjust how much water and fertilizer you use. Some adapt to hanging planters and terrariums better than others and some indoor succulents can even be toxic to your pets. When you get right down to it, there is a lot to know about succulent care! That’s why we’ve researched and compiled a list of 10 favorite indoor succulents to brighten up your home this fall.

The 10 Best Indoor Succulents | Indoor Plant Tips | UncommonGoods

Thanksgiving Catcus | UncommonGoods Continue Reading…

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!

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Wyatt Little

August 17, 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 Wyatt Little, the artist behind the Terracotta Shoe Planter.

PicMonkey Collage

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
For as long as I can remember, I would draw non-stop as a kid and when I was 7. I started sculpting sand stone and making unfired clay pots. I would get a lot of support and positive feedback so I just kept doing it and now its just totally stuck. I feel weird if I’m not always creating something.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
That moment when you see your creation in its physical form for the first time, after thinking it through and planning every little step.

Mixing Clay

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I try to knock out quick emails in the morning then jump into production of whatever piece I need that week. I will get lunch with a friend and make sure to have some time to think and maybe ideate on some new ideas or develop current ones a bit further.  Then for the rest of the day I am either developing new stuff or working on orders.

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Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? 
I have a Buddha that presides over my studio space. He just reminds me to stay chill and pay attention to the things that matter.

Soaking Terracotta_post firing

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I think they would have a lot of questions like …”why would you make a shoe out of clay?” “Can I wear it?” Then after I tell them its a planter my hope is that they would want to immediately get some clay and start making something of their own.

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What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Happiness is knowing the right things to want more of.”

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What are your most essential tools?
My my scale and my kiln. Those two tools are pillars of my entire creative process. The scale allows me to make precise mixtures of anything. In ceramics, consistency is key. You are always mixing things; be it clay, glazes or plaster, if your consistency is off its really hard to scale up and deliver on big orders. The kiln is just like a magic machine. When I first learned how to use and program it, I became addicted. Every morning you open the kiln its like Christmas morning. You get to see all of the little things you made in their full glory.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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