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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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The Uncommon Life

Waves of Wisdom:
9 Uncommon Facts About Sea Glass

April 4, 2016

Imagine that you’re walking along the beach on a gorgeous sunny day when something shimmery in the wet sand catches your eye. At first you think it might be a rock, still glistening from the tide that washed it in. But as you get closer, you see that it’s really more of a gem. Not a gem in the precious stone sense, but in that “Wow, I just found something really special!” way. It’s sea glass–the smooth, frosty product of broken glass left to tumble in the waves.

Collectors scavenge the shores to find these tiny treasures, and some creative beachcombers even turn bits of found sea glass into beautiful jewelry pieces. Since we recently expanded our own collection of sea and beach glass designs, we decided to learn a little more about the glass “gems” at the center of these wearable works of art. Read on for a few of the uncommon facts we found about sea glass.


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Maker Stories

Magic from the Fire: Patrick & Carrie Frost’s Handmade Glass

October 23, 2015

Patrick and Carrie Frost |UncommonGoods

For Patrick and Carrie Frost, the glass is always, well, half full. The husband-and-wife team, who founded Frost Glass in 2012, love being able to create together. “Collaborating and having a combined vision for Frost Glass makes it possible for us to achieve great things,” Patrick told us in a Q&A. “And being an artist teaches you to see potential in everything. Once you embrace that principle, it’s very empowering.”

The Ohio-based pair aim to share that sense of joy with those who buy their handmade wares: “Our goal is to enhance your everyday experience. We try to fill your day with magic,” he says, adding that the best compliment is “hearing that people entertain with our glassware or decorate their homes with our work.” He fills us in on the art of glass-making, the couple’s long studio days, and their inspiration.

Carrie Heating Glass | UncommonGoods

When did you and Carrie start creating work together?

We met in the spring of 2009 at the Penland School of Crafts, assisting a master glass maker from the Czech Republic in a two month course. Both of us had experimented in different media through elementary and high school, but glass was always mysterious. Once you have your first encounter, it is hard to break free! No other material offers the same levels of challenge and reward, it is a very addictive experience to have.

What does a typical day in your studio look like?

We usually work in the studio first thing in the morning for about 6-8 hours. Afterwards, we spend a few hours doing administrative tasks, equipment maintenance, packaging and shipping, ordering materials, answering e-mails, and applying to shows and events. A typical week is six days, 10-12 hours a day. We devote one day a week minimum to “office tasks” — this gives us a break from the studio and allows us to catch up on everything else!

Hot Glass and Tools


Inside Carrie and Patrick Frost's Studio | UncommonGoods
How long does it take, from start to finish, to make one piece?

This is a loaded question we get asked at shows — nobody is ever impressed when you tell them 20 minutes! I say we’ve both dedicated a great deal of time and energy over the past 13 years to get to where we can create at our current level. It’s like being a pilot — 10,000 hours makes you comfortable flying. We’ve done that many times over by now!

Opening Glass
What are your most essential tools?

One of the great things about glass blowing is that the best tools and techniques have remained unchanged for more than a thousand years. Heat, gravity, how you turn, and the way you move and manipulate the glass without touching it will make the most efficient and elegant form.

Even the hand tools we use are very primitive. Glass work is essentially a throwback technique, which makes it really cool and protects it from being obsolete. There are things that can only be done by hand that a machine cannot replicate and that is what makes it special.

Patrick at the Fire | UncommonGoods
Do you keep anything inspirational around you when you work?

Our rescue dog Jeffrey is a great inspiration! He keeps us grounded and gives us an example of great K-9 courage, overcoming what he had to as a young puppy. Now he keeps us company in the studio or wherever we go.

Do you drink from glasses you make in your home?

We keep some of our glassware handy, but our favorite works are ones from friends or other artists that we’ve worked for. These are the best to drink out of because they remind you of a time, place, and experience you had with someone special.

Shamrock Glass | UncommonGoods

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: CLEVER COSTUMES

October 14, 2015

Instagram Challenge | Clever Costumes | #UGInstaFun

The next Instagram Challenge theme is CLEVER COSTUMES. Every autumn, I always remember one of my favorite lines from Anne of Green Gables: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” From the perfectly cool weather, to the creative energy leading up to our favorite spooky holiday, there’s so much to love about October. For the rest of this month, we want to see the clever costumes you’re planning for October 31! While sharing your most creative Halloween photos, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstaFun to be in the running for a $50 gift card. Visit here to see the entries we’ve received so far.

Congratulations to @dishnthekitchen for winning the Pumpkin Spice Instagram Challenge with this delicious shot of pumpkin pizza. (Click the photo below to try her recipe!)

Instagram Challenge Winner | Pumpkin Spice


Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Practical Design Meets Practicing Better Business

October 1, 2015

As a B Corp certified company, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green” – we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best-interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always excited to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.

While many of our makers rely on sustainable practices at one point or another in their process, we’re especially excited about those who place the wider world at the forefront of their craft – those who are making an uncommon impact.

Meet Lishu and Leonardo Rodriguez, founders of fellow B Corp El Dot Designs, which specializes in mindfully-sourced home furnishings that have a positive impact on the lives of the people who make them. Their work is as much about sustaining the environment as it is about providing economic opportunity for disadvantaged women and minority artisans, all the while nurturing the traditional craftsmanship behind practical modern designs.

Lishu and Leo Rodriguez

 Lishu and Leo Rodriguez 

Where does the natural environment find a place in the inspiration for and impact of your work?
Nature is our teacher and our muse. We believe in our symbiotic relationship with the natural environment. Our work nurtures this relationship where humanity and the natural environment benefit form one another.

How do craft traditions and modern practicality merge in your designs?
Craft is based on necessity dating back to the beginnings of technology. Our designs appreciate this evolution towards efficiency and durability while maintaining that human touch and our heritage of making with our bare hands.

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The Uncommon Life

Gift Lab: Creating the Spa Experience at Home and On the Road

July 10, 2015

Gift Lab | Spa Experience Tin

Product: Spa Experience Tin


Remember that bit from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the patriarch of the family insists that Windex is the cure-all for everything, from pimples to mysterious rashes? All you ever have to do, he says, is “put some Windex on it!” I’m kind of like that with tea tree oil. I never travel without it.

I am fascinated by natural beauty regimes. I love experimenting with DIY body scrubs and lotions, and learning about alternative beauty trends like the “no-poo method.” Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to make my own products, and truly natural beauty products can be outrageously expensive. So when I first noticed the well-priced Spa Experience Tin in our assortment, I knew I had to check it out. I jumped at the chance to relay my spa experience for the blog.

Before trying out any new products, I’ve become much more conscious about looking up the ingredients first. (Especially because I’ll probably always be worried about the effects of my Lip Smackers chapstick addiction during my youth.) I’ve definitely fallen victim to “greenwashing” in the past, purchasing “all-natural” products only to discover that their ingredients looks like a chemistry experiment, with one or two organic ingredients mixed in for good measure. I was pleased to see that this handmade collection is assembled by 1818 Farms, an idyllic farm in Mooresville, Alabama. But I still wasn’t convinced that these handmade products would meet my standards until I saw this short list of recognizable ingredients for each product:

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Alexandra Ferguson

June 1, 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 Alexandra Ferguson, the designer behind our new handmade, eco-friendly pillows.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Photo by Gabi Porter

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My mom, who has a fashion background, was always working on crafting projects with us as kids. So I grew up in a very creative home and learned from an early age that the best way to get something really fantastic was to make it myself.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
I love working out of my factory. Working with an incredibly talented team to roll up your sleeves and make something is a really satisfying way to spend your day. I also love speaking with my customers – we are so lucky to have such a passionate and dedicated cult fan base. I get so much inspiration from them!

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
A lot of my day is spent managing the work flow through the room. Our factory is designed to be incredibly lean and agile, handling a large volume of custom orders with a very short lead time. Often I feel like an orchestra conductor making sure that the timing of all the moving parts is accurate. I also spend a good chunk of my day outward facing, working with customers over the phone and email, processing orders and ultimately getting boxes on the UPS truck! The best moment is watching a ton of boxes get loaded up, that’s when I can relax a little knowing that it was a job well done.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Photo by Colin Miller

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
My own pillows! I think I have 3 of our “Breathe” pillows in my office. Those are helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
They’d probably read it aloud! My 5-year-old nephew loves to practice his reading and writing with “Aunt Al’s” pillows. “Here Comes Trouble” is a favorite among the toddler set. I get lots of cheeky twinkles when they read that one.

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Um, do you have space for 80? “I work hard for the money” is a favorite. There’s no sitting back and relaxing in my factory, and I’m proud of the hustle!

Alexandra Ferguson | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

High Society: Elegant Roach Clip Jewelry Designs

April 17, 2015

More than any other word, “roaring” is used to describe the 1920s. But despite the word being synonymous with “boisterous” and “rowdy,” mention of the decade usually conjures images of sophisticated parties, Art Deco, and beautiful women in stylish clothing dancing the Charleston. Sure, the parties may have been fueled by bootlegged booze and a crazy new style of music, but tales of the Jazz Age often leave today’s daydreamers feeling nostalgia for the class and culture of a decade gone by.

Erin Rose Gardner in her studio light | UncommonGoods

Intrigued by the melding of sophistication and excess that made the ‘20s such an interesting time, Erin Rose Gardner created a line of Art Deco jewelry “inspired by the significant changes in lifestyle & culture” of the period. This is a good place to mention that each piece in this collection of elegant designs also serves as a fully functional roach clip.

Mary Jane's Necklace by Erin Rose Gardner | UncommonGoods

One of these significant changes was the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which ushered in prohibition. During the 1920s it was illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport alcohol. Of course, prohibition eventually came to an end when the 21st amendment repealed its predecessor, and now adults across the nation are free to drink gin that didn’t get its kick in a bathtub.

Today the temperance movement against alcoholic beverage seems like the distant past, considering the prevalence of bars and nightclubs across the country, pop culture references to imbibing, and even some evidence that drinking in moderation can actually be good for you.

Erin’s work speaks to a sort of modern prohibition that’s happening now, the war on pot. “The modern prohibition movement is part of the current conversation,” said Erin. “It seems like we may be at the beginning of the end with individual states voting for legalization. I find it interesting to think about how political policies shift social norms.”

Erin working in her studio.
Studying metalsmithing and jewelry at the University of Oregon gave Erin training not only in the technical aspect of her craft, but also foundations in conceptualization and research. “With my work, I am constantly looking for connections and meaning,” she explained. “As a producer of maker-made objects, I want to create things that people find beautiful and well-crafted, but also interesting.”

The layered story of Erin’s Mary Jane’s Necklace and Earrings may seem to start with the style of the ‘20s and a commentary on modern prohibition, but the “connections and meaning” she spoke of go even deeper. In fact, according to Erin, the designs were born from a personal narrative:

It started over ten years ago, I stole my mother’s roach clip. She had not used it in years, but kept it poked into a houseplant as it held sentimental value. As a child I thought this thing was a toy or special pair of medical tweezers. Although I wasn’t sure what it was, I did know this metal thing was special because it was a gift from her sister when they were teenagers. When my parents separated, my mom forgot her roach clip in the plant, so I took it. I lost it within four hours and never told her. (She now knows because my baby sister is a tattletale!)

An online image search lead to a vintage clip that looked like Erin’s mother’s made by a company called Squirkenworks run by furniture artist Garry Knox Bennett. Erin became interested in how the artist questioned the “preciousness” of craft and explored non-traditional materials. Squirkenworks sold electroplated roach clips across the country and still operates today as Gold Seal Plating. “The passive income provided by this business has allowed Bennett the freedom make furniture that pushes boundaries and is not constrained by market expectations,” Erin explained.

Each of Erin’s own clips is completely handmade and features a unique sliding mechanism inspired by the one Garry Knox Bennett invented in the 1960s. (She actually had the opportunity to meet Bennett, discuss her project, and take a look at this collection of clips and other works when she visited him in Oakland, CA last summer.)

Erin's Anvil

Using a hammer and anvil, Erin shapes simple brass rods into elegant contours. “I strive for perfect symmetry and function as I make each individual pendant or earring,” she said. “Each piece features a unique sliding mechanism. Simply pull the slide back and the clip springs open. Then to clip, move the slider forward and the device is tightly secured. The tips are serrated which gives optimal grip.” The brass is transformed again during the final step in the artist’s process, when she polishes each piece and electroplates it with 24k gold.

Erin's Materials
Erin commented that, like “every metalsmith,” she fell in love with the material. It’s easy to see this love, and her dedication to the process, when you look at the detail in each handcrafted piece. The collection appeals not only to those with 1920s fashion sense or fond memories of the roach clips that became popular in the ‘60s. The designs are fully functional for the enjoyment of those in legal territory, statement pieces for marijuana legalization supporters, and—as Erin put it herself—“well crafted, but also interesting” adornments for those looking for high quality, uncommon jewelry.

Erin Rose Gardner | UncommonGoods

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