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illustration

Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Year of Creativity

January 8, 2016

Inside the Artists' Studios | UncommonGoods

One of the most exciting things about serving as Editor of The Goods is that there’s always a Maker Story right around the corner. I am honored to get opportunities to meet talented artists, to see what they make and how they make it, and– when I’m extra lucky– to actually step inside their creative spaces. Over the past year, I had the pleasure of visiting several artists and seeing them in action, as did a few of our blog contributors, photographers, and buyers.  

From woodworking to weaving to jewelry making and beyond, we saw so much creativity last year that we couldn’t help but give our 2015 Studio Tours one more chance to shine before heading out with cameras and notepads to capture more inspirational moments in the year to come. Here are a few hand-picked highlights from those Studio Tours, complete with a few inspirational quotes, photos that made me want to drop everything and start a new creative project on the spot, and plenty of great advice. 

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The Uncommon Life

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kimberly Hall

August 3, 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 Kimberly Hall, the artist behind the There Are Always Flowers Print.

PicMonkey Collage

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
It took me a long time to think of myself as an artist. I have had a very varied career with lots of different titles, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that having a kind of crazy career was really because I had the point of view of an artist.

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What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
This year I think it will be showing my print and pattern work in Paris this fall! I love how I never quite know where this path will lead…I love the surprises, the wonderful ones and even the losses are still so exciting.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

They always seem to be a little different. I have two daughters and I usually drop them off at school in the morning which is the only real consistent part of my day. After that it could be anything from research & collecting inspiration for a job, or working on the continually growing collection of patterns I show twice a year at Premiere Vision Designs in New York, or prepping to teach a class in either fashion or illustration. I love to meet other freelance and artist friends for a coffee during the day and hear what people are up to. Philly has a great sense of community that I love.

NOTTENE selling cards

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 lot of trinkets and talismans! I love to draw them… right now I’m starting a series on my blog where I post many of the interesting postcards I have collected over the years. It’s something I always pick up wherever I go. Check them out here>>

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I have a kindergartner and she ALWAYS has an opinion when she sees my work!! Her favorite is one of my postcards that says “Join Our Club”, she likes to hand it out to friends and get people in the Nottene club!

NOTTENE join our club

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I always think of the Voltaire quote “I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” I illustrated it for Design Milk last year & you can see it on my site. It reminds me that being happy is a state of mind I can put myself in… and it’s good for me to do that!

KEHDesigner+Desk

What are your most essential tools?
Hands, mind, and heart. Everything else is cake!

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Maker Stories

Alyson Thomas’ Creative Cocktail Illustrations & Other Adventures in Art

June 18, 2015

Alyson Thomas | UncommonGoods

Attorney-turned-illustrator Alyson Thomas has always loved drawing, painting, and making things, but says she “didn’t think anything of it” until she was voted “most creative” in her college dorm. She didn’t exactly leap from law school to illustrating designs like the ones featured on our Cocktail Diagram Glasses, either.

Alyson’s career started in a very different place–the Department of Homeland Security. From doodling on sticky notes in meetings, to turning in her badge and spending a year on a drawing project, Alyson’s love of illustration grew and eventually blossomed into a full-time business. 

She took a break from diagramming delicious things, visiting “nerdy cocktail bars,” and generally being awesome, to answer a few questions about quitting her day job and the creative endeavors that followed.

Bloody Mary Diagram Glasses | UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phil Thompson

January 14, 2015

Phil Thompson | UncommonGoods

Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, Jeanne Gang—some of the greatest, most renowned names in architecture–have marked their space on the Chicago skyline. Their skyscrapers, public buildings, and homes in the Windy City have shaped modern design over the centuries. It is no wonder, then, why illustrator Phil Thompson finds inspiration in Chicago’s Prairie Style bungalows, classic six-flat brick Craftsman buildings, and skyscraping architectural landmarks. As a recently departed Chicagoan, I can attest that Phil and his wife and studio mate, Katie, live in one of those architecturally remarkable apartments that most of us dream of finding. Built in 1912, the Craftsman flat has many of its original Deco fixtures and warm, comforting wood detailing.

A colleague here at UncommonGoods tipped me off to Phil’s intricate custom home portraits. The cleanliness of his structured, blueprint-like approach suitably matches the sparseness of his studio. He surrounds himself just with what he needs: drawing paper, a basket full of trusty micro-pens, and drafting tools. There are a few exceptions to the sparseness—all of which are largely contained within a small bulletin board—a calendar, the usual lists of to-dos, and some inspirational quotations. Phil also prominently displays a beautiful postcard-size watercolor by his grandmother to remind him of his artistic roots.

I am always thoroughly impressed and warmed by artists that are able to seamlessly and successfully blend their passions and skills. Phil and Katie are two of those artists. He pairs his discerning eye and exacting hand with a passion for accurately rendering architectural styles and the home. Phil’s Classic Home Portraits honor those places where we build memories, families, and community.

Phil's Studio

What are your most essential tools?
Micron Pens, down to their smallest size, and Strathmore drawing paper. But the pens in particular. If I ever find out that company is going out of business, I will buy their entire inventory of pens.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My home/studio is in brick 6-flat building built in 1912. Our unit has most of the original woodwork, leaded glass, and some of the original lighting fixtures. It was done in the Craftsman style, which I find have the most beautiful, warm and inspiring interiors.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Lunch is my best downtime. It’s my time to get out to one of the great places in Ravenswood, especially those along the historic railway “corridor” behind our backyard.

Phil Thompson at work

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Always plan to pay more in taxes than you anticipate. If you’re transitioning from employee at a 9-5 to a business owner, you’ll get well-acquainted with sales tax and payroll taxes.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
If you want to earn more money, forget about trying to outsmart the housing market or real estate market. Focus on finding a business that blends your passion, your skills, and customer demand, and take it one step at a time.

Classic Home Portrait | UncommonGoods

How do you set goals for yourself?
I have an annual sales goal that keeps me going. Daily, I write down a matrix dividing work and personal tasks into “important/urgent” and “important/non-urgent.”

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
When I get a big custom commission or get a big flurry of print orders, it’s usually dinner out with the wife–on a weeknight (gasp).

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
It’s on the bulletin board in front of me: “Success is not final, failure not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”- Winston Churchill

"Success is not final..." Churchill Quote

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft? 
I want to apply the type of line-heavy stuff I do with pen and ink, to traditional etching/linocuts,and create prints. There are two local shops that teach this type of skill, and I’m planning to take a class there.

How do you recharge your creativity?
Podcasts about people’s personal stories and struggles. I’m fortunate in being able to work and listen at the same time, so I’ve listened to months’ worth of podcasts like this. Hearing about how other people are inspired and come up with stuff, how they worked around roadblocks, gets me charged up.

Phil and Katie Thompson

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
My wife is like the Roman emperor giving the thumbs up or down when I show her a finished product. She’s honest. Sometimes the result stings but over time it makes my work better. She also is a cornucopia of ideas about new ways to present my work and new subject matter.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Matthew Amey

April 2, 2013

It feels a little silly when we throw around the word “uncommon” so frequently here around the UG headquarters, but sometimes there just isn’t a better way to express how we feel. I first interviewed Matthew Amey when he won last year’s Art Contest. Being inked myself, I was overjoyed to learn his winning piece was a tattoo-turned-print. I was also completely baffled – was there a better word to describe the newest member of our artist family?

This time, take a look inside the Maryland studio of this design challenge alum to see how he transitions from painting on skin to paper.

What are your most essential tools?
I work primarily with tattoo machines but I also paint in oils quite a bit. I am fortunate to have a career (tattooing) that allows me to also work in other artistic mediums when time permits.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I work in my studio five days a week, eight hours per day. I find time between tattoo appointments to explore new ideas, mediums, do research for new projects and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My studio is jammed with materials that I have collected throughout my travels. Much of my inspiration comes through interacting with other artists and discussing new ideas with prospective clients.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Being an artist is great but running a business, as an artist, is a daunting task. The creative mind is not one that worries about deadlines, bills, advertising. As an artist all I want to do is create work. Once I figured out how to shift gears from artist/creator to businessman/manager things got a lot easier. Once I found a ‘business manager’ it made my work much more enjoyable.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Trust your instincts; you’re making the right choices. Stay positive.

How do you set goals for yourself?
Much of my time is spent just thinking about projects. Once I decide on a project that I want to complete I am pretty adamant about following it through to completion. Some long-term projects get worked on little by little until completion. Ultimately I have to determine which projects are of utmost importance and work on those first. UncommonGoods has become one of my main goals this past year and I’ve been focusing much of my ‘free’ time on that work.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victory is fleeting. If/When I’m able to take time to reflect on my accomplishments chances are I’m thinking about what to do next. I’m not sure where I’ve heard this statement but it is very true that, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
My efforts flow through these three simple statements. Imagine; think outside the box, allow yourself to wonder. Create; make work, be creative and productive. Inspire; make work that inspires others to think, contemplate or produce work of their own. Repeat….

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am constantly challenging myself to experiment with new materials, techniques and styles both in tattooing and within my other artistic endeavors.

How do you recharge your creativity?
My artwork develops in cycles. During the warmer summer months I try to get outside and experience nature as often as possible. I live near the ocean and in the Summer I am very busy tattooing the tourists who frequent my town. In the Fall I start putting non-tattoo related projects together and in the Winter and Spring much of my time is spent working on completing those projects. I am currently getting ready for the summer season so I’m trying to wrap up some larger art projects that I started last Fall.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Much of my tattoo work is collaboration between myself and my clients. They come to me with an idea and I attempt to help them visualize their ideas in the most concise way possible. Occasionally I will collaborate with other artists in my studio to produce paintings.