The cork was popped, the champagne spilled, and the New Year’s festivities are over–which means it’s time to focus on a fresh new start in 2016! Chances are you’ve made a New Year’s resolution with the hope of a successful year, but sticking to your goals is easier said than done. Perhaps you’re struggling to make changes or maybe you’ve already broken your resolution, but fear not, we’ve got the goods to help you get back on track and keep you motivated all year-round!
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.
Editor’s note: When we visited jewelry artist Jen Pleasants for a Studio Tour earlier this year, we knew we’d found a special place we wanted to tell everyone about. “I could really feel and see the love she built within her surroundings,” said our contributor, Emily, after spending some time with the artist.
We asked Jen to share her favorite tips for turning a workspace into a place filled with creativity, happy thoughts, and positive energy.
I guess something about the showtheLOVE studio feels good to people– which is why I was asked to write this article, even though I am in no way an expert on the topic.
If you walk into work and you feel good just being in that space, then you are more likely to put good energy into whatever you are working on. If you are an artist making things for others to enjoy, this becomes especially important.
Below you will find two lists of ideas for cultivating a positive workspace – one more mainstream and the other more out there. Pick and choose items as you please that might work for improving your space!
10 Basic Ideas for Promoting a Positive Workspace
1. Hire people who are positive, happy, and kind
If for some reason you accidentally get a bad egg, don’t hesitate to let them go and skip to my second set of advice to remove bad energy.
2. Hang inspirational posters on the walls
I love inspirational quotes and love to surround myself with them. Some of the ones hanging in my office are:
-Change your thoughts, change your world
-You are looking particularly good today
-Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn
-Somewhere over the rainbow
-If you work really hard and are kind amazing things will happen
-Everything will be okay
-What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
-The only zen you will find at the top of the mountain is the zen you bring up there
-Live what you love
-Give and be happy
–She believed she could, so she did
3. Speak kind words
Try not to gossip or speak ill of people in the space you want to keep clear. One of my favorite quotes is by Hafiz, “The words you speak build the house you live in.”
4. Burn candles
This helps the office smells good without toxins. (Which is why I use beeswax candles with essential oils, not synthetic fragrances.) It also creates a peaceful atmosphere because something about candles is magical. Just don’t forget to blow them out before you leave!
5. Remove clutter
It is so obvious that a clutter-free environment feels better. Having said that, this is the one that I have the hardest time with. I am a pack rat and want to turn everything into an art project and don’t have an organized bone in my body. This one is really challenging, though I always feel better when I finally pick up my messes!
6. Provide good healthy snacks and drinks.
Fresh organic fruits and nuts are good, though I am partial to dark chocolate and tea too.
7. Hang a team mission statement or manifesto on the wall
I haven’t done this yet but I think it is good idea! Instead, I have #8 posted on my wall.
8.Keep a copy of the Desiderata–or any poem or sentiment that speaks to you–on hand
I have posted this special poem on my bulletin board and anytime I start getting upset I look at it and it brings me back to what is important “…for you are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, and whether or not it is clear to you now, the universe is unfolding as it should”.
9. Avoid indoor air pollution
Office space can be polluted by plastic off-gassing, asbestos, radon, mold, pesticides, etc. Be acutely aware of any products you bring into your space that might be a culprit. We use natural cleaning products and pesticides. Sick employees don’t foster a positive workplace!
10. Surround yourself with live plants
Not only does this create a peaceful feeling of being in nature, but the plants also clean the air! Oh, and they are beautiful decorations too, making the space a happier one to be in just from a pure aesthetic level.
10 Things That Only a Half Hocus Pocus/Half Crazy Person Will Do to Create Good Ju Ju in an Office– A.K.A. How to Remove BAD ENERGY from an Office (CAUTION: The list below might not be up your alley, but it has worked for me!)
1.Keep on hand a magic selenite wand
I have one on my desk and I use it to clear negative energy from me or anyone who needs it. I just use it like the security guy at the airport uses the wand to check for metal. I slowly wave or rub it across the person or myself including my head and shoulders until I feel cleansed! Selenite works well to clear people and promotes mental flexibility. Black tourmaline is also said to clear negative energy.
2. Post sign at front of office that says “Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space”
I love my sign but don’t always have the nerve to put it at the front door, so sometimes it is hidden back by my desk.
3. Burn white sage
When we need to remove negative energy we do what many cultures before us have done and burn dried white sage to get rid of bad energy! It smells so good and the ritual itself just puts everyone in a better mood as we are being proactive!
4. Combine salt and Saint George’s sword
Cut the leaves of the plant Saint George’s sword (also known as snake plant) and put them in a jar of half water and half salt (maybe 7 teaspoons salt). Hide the jars behind doors and under desks. This keeps bad spirits at bay, according to my Brazilian friend Ju Ju, who has the best ju ju! We do this a couple times of year.
5. Play new age music
You will feel like you are in spa and all is well. Monk chanting is good too. Both of these choices are only to be done if you are trying to rid negative vibes not if you are in regular work mode. High frequency music is recommended by some too, though it gives me a headache. Most of the time we have on a variety of top 40, reggae, or R&B, just to keep the environment fun and relaxed.
6. Spray essential oils
Take some drops of essential oils and mix with water in a spray bottle, and then spray away (not near computers). Use basil oil to stimulate the conscious mind to invoke happiness or lavender oil to calm and relieve nervous anxiety. Sometimes if I don’t have a spray bottle, I put it on my wrists and rub!
7. Open windows
Fresh air can make a world of difference; especially in a small office.
8. Plant some rue outside your office or studio
On our office deck, we have some rue. It’s supposed to purify the environment and it clears the mind of negative thoughts and energy. And it smells good! Plant with some rosemary in the same pot for extra potency.
9. Light a Himalayan salt lamp
I love my lamp and in addition to giving off a warm peaceful light, it gives off negative ions, which supposedly are a really positive thing!
10. Wear meditative charms
Like our Tibetan Bell to remind you to think good thoughts! Wear it and do great things!™
If you have tips for making your workspace a happy place, share them in the comments!
A while back, we rounded up a series of inspirational quotes that we gathered along our adventures through artists’ studios. Those 8 Quotes that Keep Makers Motivated are enough to give most creative types a little get-up-and-go, but why stop there? We’ve since visited more studios, interviewed a ton of talented artists, and collected even more quotes that help keep our makers going strong. Here are a few that we hope you’ll enjoy!
Considering that Cassidy Schulz Brush deals with lighting all day, it’s no surprise that she’s a fan of Edison. “There are a few quotes by Thomas Edison that I find inspirational,” she told us when we visited her Brooklyn studio. She wrote this quote out on her chalkboard wall and snapped a shot for us.
We’re proud to feature a wide assortment of Ana Talukder’s Jewelry and our Jewelry Buyer, Sharon, was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out Ana’s studio in Seattle. Ana wrote out this mantra that reminds her, “You always have to be looking to be better, you always have to be working at being better, and you always have to put all your heart in it. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
Photographer Barry Rosenthal happens to have a creative space in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the same building that UncommonGoods calls home! Of course, we couldn’t wait to work with him to develop new products, but we also couldn’t wait to check out his studio. Barry explained that this Burroughs quote makes him think about his own creative process: “I don’t know what I will find in the field, and I may not know what I will do with what I find, but somehow fully formed themes are sparked just by the simple act of ‘seeing’ what is out there.”
Dave Marcoullier’s San Francisco woodworking studio is in a building that’s also home to the studios of more than 250 other creators, or “mad scientists,” as Dave likes to say. His quote from architect Daniel H. Burnham reminds him that he got where he is today by thinking big. “It’s good to get riled up and make bold plans,” he said.
Jewelry Designer Jen Pleasants not only imprints “She believed she could, so she did” on some of her designs, she also truly believes in the power of those words. She even has them proudly displayed in her Portola Valley, CA studio.
Our Tabletop Buyer, NéQuana, traveled to rural Pennsylvania to meet JoAnn Stratakos, the maker of everyone’s favorite rainbow unicorn, Elwood. One of JoAnn’s favorite quotes, which was inspired by a quote from Richard Bach, is a reminder to keep the good things that could be in mind, instead of thinking about what might be holding you back.
We were lucky to get a look inside Lahla Smart’s London studio when our contributor, Emily, visited England. Lahla said that this Walt Disney quote reminds her of her early days of a designer. She took a leap, created her Food Guide Towel, and the rest is history.
On the same trip, Emily had a chance to check out Stuart Gardiner’s studio. Stuart shared a quote by Saul Bass, not only because Bass is one of his favorite designers, but also because: “it’s quite a broad and vague statement which is similar to the way I go about my work. I have a very organic unstructured approach to design: the opposite of methodical.”
Matthew Hoffman’s work is full of inspiring quotes and words of wisdom, so it was hard to pick just one statement from our recent interview with the Chicago-based artist. We figured that “Anything is possible” pretty much says it all.
We carry quite a few of Ronda J Smith’s photographic pillows, so we loved seeing her favorite quote printed and plush! “This quote means anything and everything you want it to mean,” she said when we visited her Brooklyn studio. “Your thoughts and mindset are more powerful than you could ever imagine.”
We love getting these looks inside our artists’ creative processes, and can’t wait to share more interviews and Studio Tours with through our Maker Stories. Share your favorite quotes in the comments below to get in on the conversation.
Ed Morales – UncommonGoods Operations Associate
I’m inspired by…
Anyone with a disability. They still get up to do what they have to do like going to work, driving, exercising, living life, etc.
My favorite process in the UncommonGoods warehouse is…
Learning everything I can about the warehouse operation.
When I’m not working, I’m probably…
Enjoying the day off with my family and friends.
I’m stubborn about…
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is…
Becoming a good father and a good man.
An uncommon fact about me…
I was shot in the leg when I was fifteen. Till this day I don’t know who did it. I have the scar to remind me of that day. P.s. I wasn’t a bad kid, if you’re wondering.
Jill Davis always knew she wanted to be in the business of creativity. Growing up just outside of Boston, MA, she was immediately drawn to the rich arts and culture resources the city had to offer. Visits to the Museum of Fine Arts in her stroller gave way to a summer internship in high school. “In retrospect, I can’t believe the museum staff hired me,” says Jill, “I was the only high school student—all the others were graduate students!” Despite her young age, Jill began working on a project to organize all of the exhibition photos in the museum archive. Her favorite part of the job, however, was exploring the decorative arts and period furniture sections.
This sparked a lifelong passion in three-dimensional art. Before finding her way to glass, Jill worked with a variety of techniques and materials. From clay and metal to jewelry and paper, Jill eventually settled on fashion, making all of her own clothes. “It was the early ’80s and I wanted to look like I was in a rock and roll band, preferably Van Halen or KISS.” Jill went on to sell those clothes at small stores in Boston and Cambridge before enrolling at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.
During her freshman year studying fashion, Jill realized her clothes were more akin to wearable “sculptures” than they were “fashion.” She knew she wanted to stay at Parsons so she began exploring their different departments. The day she walked into the glass studio and saw molten glass for the first time, her search was over. “Glass is the most challenging and rewarding material I have ever encountered,” says Jill. “You can’t bully it—you are perpetually persuading and coaxing the glass into shape. Even the best living master glass blowers cannot always get the glass to do what they want! It’s this feisty streak that keeps me enchanted.”
Jill began working with the New York Experimental Glass Workshop, spending the next 15 years creating one-of-a-kind fine art sculptures. “It was absolutely great, and I didn’t mean to stop doing it—starting my company was a happy accident,” says Jill. After leaving New York and moving to rural Washington State, Jill realized that Washington was a bit lacking in terms of 24/7 public transportation. She needed a car and she didn’t want to take out a big loan to get one. Thus began her Car Project. “Glassblowers are lucky,” says Jill, “instead of waiting tables, we can blow Christmas ornaments, go set up a card table at a craft fair, and at the end of the day, you can generally count on having sold most of them.” She designed a small collection of affordably priced items and by the end of the year was able to buy a brand new car—in cash. She was also able to start her company, Henrietta Glass. Her innovative Wishing Ball followed shortly.
The Wishing Ball was inspired by an NPR story Jill was listening to while she blew some bud vases. A woman told a story about wishing on pennies as a way to heal a broken heart. Realizing that a penny couldn’t buy a wish these days, she began saving her wishes in a jar. Her wish came true at $4.73. Inflation much? This story inspired Jill to create a container for lucky pennies, though a container for pennies ended up amounting to a classic piggybank. Jill realized she was more interested in wishes than pennies, and so began to create a vessel that echoed both crystal balls and snow globes—“two other glass traditions that encourage us to gaze both inward and outward to explore new possibilities.”
The ball itself is hand blown from a blob of 2000 degree molten glass. The clear glass is rolled in bits of copper and cobalt glass called frit in order to produce an ethereal turquoise color. “It’s just like putting sprinkles on ice cream, only screaming hot,” says Jill. The glass is then carefully shaped with a bubble inflated within it. A separate bit of molten glass is affixed to the ball to form the foot. Once assembled, the whole piece slowly cooled in an oven over twelve hours.
The perfect spot to stow wishes, give thanks, or make a resolution for the New Year, the Wishing Ball presents an inspirational opportunity to put your hopes where you can see them. What’s Jill’s wish for the Wishing Ball? “I’d like people to see their Wishing Ball as a little bit of help or inspiration toward a positive future. Deciding what to write on each piece of paper may be an opportunity to focus and clarify your thoughts.” Her resolution for the New Year? To make sure she keeps doing things that make her uncomfortable, things that challenge her.
“The wonderful American furniture artist Wendell Castle, a hero of mine, has a list of 10 ‘rules’ to live and make art by,” says Jill. “One of those rules is that if you hit the bull’s eye every time, you are standing too close to the target.” This inspiration to constantly push herself lends perfectly to the idea behind the Wishing Ball. Set goals, make a wish, and make changes.
People often ask Jill why the wishes can’t come back out, and her explanation can be summed up with birthday candles. “When you blow out you candles, you don’t tell the wish you made, otherwise it won’t come true.” Says Jill. “But more importantly, memories are always more beautiful than photographs, and the same is true of wishes. When you look at the little slips of paper accumulating in your Wishing Ball, I want you to think about the Big Picture those messages convey. Rereading the notes would be like looking backwards, or trying to step in the same river twice.”
Words and art are two extremely powerful forces. Both can make us recall certain memories, impact our emotions, and even influence our decisions. That’s why Alena Hennessy only found it natural to combine these two important elements to create vibrant drawings, paintings, and mixed-media pieces featuring positive mantras, which she calls “intentions.”
One of these inspirational affirmations, “Don’t Quit Your Daydream,” is exceptionally fitting, because she never has. She’s been doing what she loves, creating art full time, for nearly 10 years.
“For many years now I have viewed art-making as a kind of therapy or healing, one that brings us to quieter and more meditative states of being,” said Alena, who explained that writing positive intentions into her art is a way to capture those words and keep them as daily reminders.
“Writing intentions (or mantras) into my art feels beautifully affirming and became a natural part of my creative process,” she said. “I believe that words hold a certain power and when I am making art, the words or script that I place into my art sets an affirming tone for my life. I [also] think script is rather beautiful and artful in itself.”
Although Alena spends hours working in her Asheville, NC studio, art is just one of the therapeutic practices she embraces. Drawn to “the healing arts and natural forms of well-being,” Alena is also a certified flower essence practitioner, herbalist, and Reiki master.
She said that synthesizing the visual and healing arts in her work “seems inevitable and more reflective of my innate passions.” This comes through not only in her dynamic illustrations, but also in her many other creative endeavors. As an author, she encourages others to experiment with art and use it as a means for self-awareness and personal wellness. She also spreads inspiration through her blog, and facilitates several e-courses.
While Alena always has many projects in the works, she makes sure to take her own advice and puts herself first, before business. However, in making her own wellness a priority, she finds that she is also better able to produce her art. “I become inspired by making sure I have enough rest and self-care of my body, mind, and spirit,” she said. “I find that the more I am in balance, the better my creative output.”
Just as Alena finds inspiration in nurturing her mind, body, and spirit, the cycle of creativity continues through the artistic process and on to those that bring her work home. The quotes and mantras working in harmony with Alena’s visual art encourage the new owner, and all that see the piece, to live each day to the fullest in a positive light.
Graduation is a special time in one’s life, so I’m excited to answer a few questions finding the perfect gifts for students who are about to accomplish this important achievement.
I’ve gained quite a bit of experience dealing with creatively designed gifts over the years—from my time as a strategy consultant overseeing a global internet retail research study (that’s when I met UncommonGoods founder Dave Bolotsky), to working in Customer Service (and reporting on company operations) for a holiday season at UncommonGoods in 2002, to joining the team full time (as opposed to consulting) as the head of Merchandising in 2006.
Somewhat out of necessity for creatively designed products that didn’t exist elsewhere, we began creating our own products in-house. As someone with a naturally questioning mind, an imagination for possibilities, a product instinct, and understanding of the creative design attributes that define an uncommon good, my responsibilities changed in the fall of 2011 when I become the Director of New Business and Product Development.
Many of the goods we develop here, as well as many of the items from the talented artists and designers we work with, make great gifts for graduation. Here’s my personal take on grad gifting and some suggestions for special gifts your grads are sure to love.
How is choosing a graduation gift different than picking out a gift for another occasion?
Unlike any other occasion, graduation, whether it is high school, college or a graduate degree, is a one-time event in any individual’s life—it is a specific accomplishment and also a milestone marking the end of one stage in a life and the beginning of the next.
What are some personal graduation gifts you’ve given in the past? What made them special?
I try to give gifts that have some meaning to the person—it may be something with an inspirational message, or a personal connection to the individual–and something I hope the person will want to keep.
My “go-to” item is often an inspirational paperweight—some of the ones that I’ve given more than once have been in our assortment for many years, like the What Would You Attempt Paperweight and the Be the Change Paperweight.
When my oldest nephew, a die-hard Yankee fan, graduated from college, he received a pair of Authentic Stadium Seat Cufflinks.
For the daughter of a close friend who graduated from high school I chose the Growth Necklace by Mary Steratore. It got a rave review!
What could I give to my graduate’s good friends/classmates who are also graduating that is meaningful, but won’t break the bank? (From our Facebook friend Lora Frye Ross)
My suggestion is the 5: Life Playbook. Because it is a book, you have the option to inscribe a personal note on the inside. This is something that can be given for either high school or college graduation, with thought-provoking quotations and real-life examples that are both a spark and a road map for the next chapter.
Do you have a favorite new product (or products) that you think would make a great grad gift? What do you choose and why is it a great gift?
The Road to Success Paperweight is my favorite new paperweight we created–the combination of the road imagery as part of the design is inspiring and understanding of what life is about.
The Home Plate Paperweight is another great choice, for the same reasons, for someone who is also a baseball fan.
The most recent grad gift I’ve given was actually one of our newer products. I gave the She Believed She Could Bangle to the daughter of one of my best friends, who I’ve known all her life when she graduated from college. I felt that a bangle bracelet with this empowering quote was truly a keepsake for her.
For more inspiring goods to congratulate grads, visit our entire Graduation Gifts Collection.