Browsing Tag



What Does Photography Mean to These 3 Photographers?

September 18, 2014

Photography Challenge | UncommonGoods

We’re excited to say that the eight semifinalists are chosen for our very first Photography Challenge! Cast in your votes and comment on the photos you think deserves to win $500 and should be added into our uncommon assortment! Keep in mind that you’re able to vote for more than one photo.  The four top voted photographs will be judged by our four wonderful guest judges, and they will decide on the grand prize winner!

Because this is a new type of contest for us, we wanted to get inside the heads of our guest judges and speak about the exciting world of photography. The guest judging panel are three professional photographers and our art buyer: Ashley Davis, Mark Weinberg, Emily Dryden, and Katy Loeb. We decided to throw a few questions at them and, and with no surprise, they threw some amazing responses right back! Check out the Q+A below and let us know what photography means to you in the comments section.


Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

Ashley Davis | Photographer  

“I love that I can get behind my lens, take a photograph, and turn it into something magical for people to love and want to have for their own.”

If money was no object, what type of photography project would you like to organize?
I work with physically and mentally disabled children, so I would love to run a program where we’d be able to purchase a few cameras for these kids and teach them the beauty of photography. Although these children have faced a lot of adversity in their young lives, they mostly have such an incredible outlook on life and I know that would show through in their artwork.

Which website should every photographer know about? It is run by creatives, for creatives. Whether you want to sell your stock images on the site for a little extra cash, or browse and purchase their immense photography resources such as overlays, presets, WordPress and website templates, and fonts – they have got what you need!

What do you love about photography?
I love that I can get behind my lens, take a photograph, and turn it into something magical for people to love and want to have for their own. What I love about photography in general is that there is the freedom to express oneself in so many different ways, and that there is such a broad definition of “photography” these days and the genres continue to expand. I am constantly finding new artists that I am falling in love with, and although the market is somewhat saturated, I don’t see that as a necessarily bad thing, but as a blessing that there is more talent to find and an occasion to rise to the challenge of standing out among the crowd of many as one of the greats.


Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

Mark Weinberg | Photographer

What makes a powerful photo? “Light.”

Who is your all-time favorite photographer?
I don’t have one. Here are a few: Michael Kenna for his ability to capture ordinary environments in a surreal way, Edward Burtynsky for his ability to find patterns in both man-made as well as natural environments, Henri Cartier-Bresson for his ability to capture a moment on film.

 If money was no object, what type of photography project would you like to organize?
I would love to do a large scale documentation of the US Postal System. Both the buildings and the employees. The architecture in post offices ranges from some of the most beautiful structures every completed in the USA to some of the most utilitarian. I’d love to interview employees and photograph them as well. I’d love hear what everyday life is like as well as the craziest thing they have ever seen in the mail.

What makes a powerful photo?

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

 Emily Dryden | Photographer at UncommonGoods

   “[Images] should be able to draw the viewer into a different world or into a new story or emotion.”

What makes a powerful photo?
A powerful image is one that can keep you engaged the longest. The image should be able to draw the viewer into a different world or into a new story or emotion.

Which website should every photographer know about? is a great website to discover new work and the learn about the business.

If you were able to take a photo of anything or anyone anywhere– what would you decide on?
I would like to shoot David Lynch have coffee in an old diner.

Katy Loeb | Art Buyer for UncommonGoods

“[Photography] plays with memory, reality, and technology in a way that other mediums do not.”

What’s your favorite photograph?
This is a tough question! One of my very favorites would have to be Carrie Mae Weems’s series The Kitchen Table (1990), in which the artist records a fraction of the many activities, conversations, and emotions that make their way across her kitchen table.  Weems captures the complexity and nostalgia of such an ordinary space with reverence.

 What type of photographs are you hoping to add into your assortment?
My goal is to bring in a range of photography that will be both aesthetically pleasing in a home, but also evoke strong emotions from a viewer. I’m always attracted to works that could be conversation starters!

What does photography mean to you?
Photography, I believe, is perhaps the most nuanced form of visual art.  It plays with memory, reality, and technology in a way that other mediums do not. In that vein, photography for me has the power to evoke more powerful emotions and ideas than most other art forms.

Be sure to cast in your votes here for your favorite photographs that made it as semifinalists! The deadline for voting is at 11:59pm on September 23, 2014. The top 4 voted photos will move onto the next round and the guest judges will decide on one grand prize winner.  The winner will earn $500 and have a chance to be added into our assortment!

Photography Voting | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio With Deborah Stotzky and Erwin List Sanchez

August 15, 2014

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Erwin List Sanchez and Deborah Stotzky are exactly who you would imagine when you think of partners who design Yoga Jewel Pendants for a living : peaceful, positive, and calm. After only five minutes of chatting with the couple and exploring their home, they were no longer just the “Yoga Jewels” designers in my mind, but simply Erwin and Deborah.

I knew the moment I walked down their quiet East Village street that I was about to be welcomed into one of the most charming home studios I’ve ever seen. Their street is the kind of street I wished to move to when I first thought about moving to New York City ten years ago based on all of the NYC-based movies I watched. (Just to name a few: Manhattan, You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally.) And by no surprise, my assumption was proven correct when I stepped into their apartment and found myself gawking around as if it were a quaint museum that I just so happened to run into on a Sunday stroll.

I immediately could tell everything that they hung on their walls or displayed on their shelves carried a personal story. “We brought that back from Mexico,” “Erwin designed this, actually,” “We took that photo,” and “We found those on the ground. Can you believe it?” were some of the comments Deborah would say when I inquired on an interesting piece. I loved that their studio had a memory tucked behind every corner– with their work table stationed in the middle of their home —  inspiration was always just at an arm’s length.

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your Yoga Pose Pendants’ design?

Erwin: I’m a sculptor and work with various materials.  Although I’ve always made jewelry, in terms of pure sculptures I was more accustomed to working on a much larger scale.  I’m from Mexico and always had outdoor space to make art.  But when I first moved to NYC and into our small, Chelsea apartment, I quickly realized that if  I wanted to make art, I would have to work on a much smaller scale!  That’s how the jewelry idea was born. Deborah practices yoga a lot, so I got the opportunity to see a lot of yoga positions.  I started to sculpt the poses I observed.

Deborah: A friend of ours, Saya Hibino, who is a beautiful jewelry designer saw some pieces and really encouraged us to make a collection.

You were a semi-finalist for one of our Jewelry Design Challenges. How did you discover our contest?

D: Another friend and extremely talented artist named Jennifer Mahlman is a fan of UncommonGoods and saw the Jewelry Design Challenge advertised.  She emailed it to me the day of the entry deadline and we dropped everything to make sure we got our entry in on time!

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Tell us about your journey towards becoming an artist.

E: I’ve always made art, since I was a kid.  And invented things too.  I would come up with new ideas and try to figure out how to make them.

D: Like a magnetic race car set, at age 5!  Art was around him and it became a way for him to express himself.  He made clay animals.  He loved to walk along the railroad tracks and there he collected hundreds of huge nails from which he made an amazing collection of life size animals. He studied art in Toluca, Mexico and then moved to Cozumel, Mexico to scuba dive.  There he made art with found materials like coral, beach wood, horseshoe crab shells – beautiful work.  Nature and animals are subjects that constantly come up in his work.  I remember the first piece of jewelry he made for me was a piece of round coral dipped in sterling silver.  It was inspired by a full moon. That’s when I fell in love with the guy!

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What freedoms do you experience as artists?

E: You have the freedom of your mind.

What does yoga mean to you?

D: Yoga is like the foundation of my life.  From there everything else grows.  It hasn’t always been that way, but for about the last 12 years it has.  I do yoga as often as I can, daily if possible.  And I teach yoga weekly, give yoga retreats in Mexico, and I’m a part of a huge yoga community.  Yoga helps me live my life more in the way I want to live it.  When I fall, it helps me get back up.  It’s a powerful way to spend some time daily. Also, I am not a huge technology lover but surprisingly to me, social media influences me a lot too – between Yoga Jewels and teaching yoga I am connected to so many yogis around the world.  It is  mostly a pretty inspiring community of people, with insightful things to say and amazing photos to share.

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What different techniques and tools do you use when creating your designs at your studio?

E: I use the Lost Wax Process when creating Yoga Pose Pendants.  We’re always thinking about different finishes for the pieces and we are starting to set gem stones in our designs as well.

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating your Yoga Pose Pendants?

D: Sure.  We usually discuss which poses we think would make a beautiful necklace.  Then I ”strike the pose” for Erwin to see it in the flesh. We also look online for photos of beautiful examples of the pose, done correctly with proper alignment and from different angles.  Our Lotus Pose was based on a lovely photo of Christie Turlington and our Bow Pose was based on a photo of yoga teacher Baron Baptiste, who was the very first person I trained with to become a Yoga Instructor.

Once we have the pose selected and great photos to work from, Erwin begins to sculpt it in wax.  We then create a mold and ultimately cast it in various metals.  We normally use sterling silver, 14k yellow, and rose gold.  Then the pieces are polished or finished in some other way.

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Were you first attempts of making these jewels a success? 

D:  They were a success from the beginning.  The first two pieces Erwin made were the Wheel and Bow poses.  When I first saw them completed, I was very moved. They truly capture the grace and strength it takes to do these poses.  They have spirit and movement, it is so cool to see people try them on, because when someone finds “their pose” it just comes alive on them!

Where do you find inspiration within your home studio?

D: I find inspiration when I teach and practice yoga at home.  Both Erwin and I are inspired by nature; I think it helps us return to our natural knowing. It’s very uncomplicated.  It’s hard to connect to nature in NYC – but not impossible.  We try hard to have a super calm environment and we try to surround ourselves with pretty things that feel organic in some way – shape, tone, texture.  We love skulls and bones and flowers and pottery.  And we are both really neat and clean, which goes a long way when you live and work together in a small space!

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you create a work-life balance, not just as a couple and as business partners, but also individually?

D: That’s probably the biggest challenge for us, both as partners and individually. Erwin teaches scuba diving and is a photographer.  I am studying herbs, particularly those that grow in the Northeast of the US.

The pros of being a couple and business partners is that it’s really fun and rewarding and we are an excellent team. The con is that we work a lot!  Which I guess really isn’t a con, because we feel really lucky about it all. I thought technology was supposed to make things easier! And it does in some ways, but  it also makes us reachable at all times.  And our minds are constantly going – new ideas,  looking at art, receiving new orders – there’s a lot of mind stimulation!  And that is what we want, of course, but sometimes we need to stop, be present and just be. This area of life, the balance between work and the rest of life is really challenging for us.

So we go out with our dog, Ella (who fell in love with the UncommonGoods crew when you all met!), and walk along the Hudson River everyday. We try to see the sunset as often as possible. We love to be in the country with Ella as well. And Erwin and I love to travel together.  We first met in Mexico and go there often, as Erwin’s family is there.  But we are going to Thailand in the fall and I cannot wait!  And because it’s summer, if we are in the country on Saturdays, we wake up early and drive around to all the yard sales!  We get great stuff!

If you’re not a yoga fan – would you recommend Yoga Pose Pendants to someone?

D: Certain poses I would!  From a distance, the Bow Pose appears to be a beautifully sculpted circle until you get up close and see it’s a person doing a Bow Pose!  And that pose is really about opening our hearts so it is a great message for everyone.  A non-yogi once told me that she wore Bow Pose over her heart to remind herself to live life with an open heart.  I thought – YES!  She has totally gotten the deeper meaning of yoga and what we are thinking about with Yoga Jewels!

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?

E: We are constantly working on new ideas for jewelry and sculpture and ways we can use our work to raise money for causes that are important to us like animal conservation.

Yoga Jewels Studio Tour | UncommonGoods


Maker Stories

A Tale of Two Studios in London

May 12, 2014

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods_7115

If you knew me well, you would know that my absolutely favorite thing to do in life is to travel. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my beloved Brooklyn. But anytime vacation time rolls around, I’m the first one to hail a taxi straight to JFK –wide eyed, bushy tailed, and passport in hand. There’s nothing better than experiencing a new city,  a new language, new food, and a new culture.  My most recent destination of choice was London. (Okay, I wouldn’t exactly be experiencing a new language in London, but beautiful British accents have to count for something, right?) As I was planning out my itinerary — London Bridge. Get lost in the tube. Brick Lane thrift shopping. Enjoy a cuppa. Big Ben. Borough Market. Run into Kate and William. — I realized I still had a couple of free days to burn. I was traveling alone, so why not take advantage of the situation? I decided to do my second favorite thing ever: meet creative people.

A Tale of Two Studios in London

I sent out an email to our buying team asking if we worked with any interesting artists living in London in hopes of setting up a studio tour. When I received responses, I couldn’t ignore the fact that we worked with two different graphic designers who place their designs on tea towels and lived in London. The blog team brainstormed the idea that I should meet with both versus just meeting with one. One seven hour plane ride, two near-death experiences because I didn’t know which way to look while crossing the street, three “you’re on the wrong bus” moments, and one tightly squeezed tube ride later — I was finally sitting in a cafe with the two designers: Stuart Gardiner of Stuart Gardiner Design and Lahla Smart of The Food Guide.

This was the first time they met each other, and given the fact that they produce similar products, I do have to admit I was a bit nervous about how awkwardly this coffee rendezvous could have unfolded. Yet, with our lovely stroll near Walthamstow Central Station and chatting in-between our sips of coffee inside a quaint cafe, I would have to say it was such a success that I was this close in creating the hashtag #BritishTeaTowelDesignersUnite! A bit after our coffee and chat,  I visited Stuart’s studio first, and then ended my afternoon at Lahla’s. Lucky for me, their studios weren’t too far apart from each other — I promise I only had to ask for directions once.

Read what each artist believes sets their graphic designs apart from the next, their takes on switching roles from a graphic designer to a product developer, and their thoughts about living and running a business in London.  

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

What’s the biggest challenge you had to conquer with your business running in London while UncommonGoods is located in Brooklyn?

Stuart: It’s not been a big challenge at all really, just that there’s larger order volumes (which is great!), and the boxes travel further. I’m not a very numerate person, so fluctuating exchange rates confuse the hell out of me when I’m working out costings. Also the American way of writing the date (month/day/year) as opposed to the UK’s (day/month/year) causes mild confusion on purchase orders. Other than that, it’s no big deal.

Lahla: Working with UncommonGoods has been surprisingly easy, considering we are 4000 miles apart! I guess the hardest thing has been making sure I use the right grammar in my designs. Us Brits eat ‘yoghurt’, whilst Brooklyn folk eat ‘yogurt’.

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

One of my favorite things about Stuart’s studio is that it’s tucked away inside a garden-esque courtyard, only welcoming those who are lucky enough to know about it.

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

From a designer’s perspective, what are the advantages of living in London?

S: Inspiration is everywhere. It has so much history, culture, and ethnic diversity that just walking around gets ideas flowing. Even though I’ve lived here 15 years, I’m still discovering surprises all the time. If I ever need to recharge creativity, then some of the world’s best galleries and museums are on my doorstep. Not that I ever get time to.

L: In my opinion it’s the best city in the world! (Sorry NY, a close second). London is always changing, areas can morph surprising quickly – which means fresh faces and new ventures are always popping up. It’s an inspiring place for a designer – everything seems accessible, on a very practical level. London is so much smaller than NY, I can cycle to just about everywhere I want to visit.  If there is a new exhibition going on it’s ‘just down the road’ !

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Are there any other cities that you feel can give you more creative freedom?

S: Having never lived in any other cities I can’t really say, though I love visiting NYC, and would imagine it would be just as inspiring as London.

L: Umm yes, NY would be a great place to live and work for a while. I’ve visited a couple of times over the past few years and love the buzz of the city. Like bits of London, but scaled up! As a self-confessed foodie, I was in complete heaven in Brooklyn. The US has such a love for ‘good’ food and ingredients in a way that you just don’t see so much in the UK. I had a seriously good time at the taco competition at Smorgasburg last month!

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Stuart, your studio is great! What’s your favorite aspect about it?

S: The fact that it’s a 3 minute walk from my home, it’s light, spacious, airy and has character – it was once a stone mason’s workshop. There’s also some very talented other creatives I share [the space]with, an architect, two silversmiths, and a fine artist.

If there was one thing you could change about it, what would it be?

S: A table tennis table or skate park within. It would be bad for business though.

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoodsA Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Not only are you graphic designers, but you work heavily on placing your designs on everyday, convenient products. Do you mind speaking about switching roles from a graphic designer to a product developer?

S: It’s been a very liberating experience. My background was that of a client-facing graphic designer. In that role you are constantly compromising your work in one way or another to the client’s whim – just ask any graphic designer and they’ll emphatically concur. This is all just part of the job, but can be frustrating as your initial concept gets watered-down, tampered with and often designed by committee. Now I get to design my own products, just as I want them. They either sell well, or not so well, so I learn from my mistakes.

L: Having the freedom to do several roles is what I love most about running my own business. I have always been really interested in the geekier side of business (AKA: spreadsheet queen.) as well as hands on making and the creative process. I’ve spent the last 5 years , since graduating, working with other small businesses, picking up marketing skills, and learning the ins and outs of actually running a business and getting products made. I try to use a different material or manufacturing process in each product I make, this way I learn a little more each time.

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Stuart, one of your favorite quotes is “Design is thinking made visual.” What does this quote mean to you?

S: It’s by Saul Bass – one of my all-time favorite designers – so that’s reason alone. Also 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. I design visually as I think, working with color, type, image, and form in no particular order, until I’m happy with a final design. Or tired of looking at it, and need to move on.

A Tale of Two London Studios | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Lahla, how did the birth of The Food Guide come about?

L: I still blame (thank) my housemates for the birth of The Food Guide. I love to cook and they would always ask me questions about nutrition so, one day, I put together the Vitamins & Minerals design to hang in our kitchen. After that friends and family asked for copies so I put caution to the wind and ordered 100 printed towels – that was 14 months ago. Last week I sold my 2000th towel. Hurray!

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Compared to many of the home studios I’m used to seeing in Brooklyn, Lahla’s space was spacious, airy, and very much a creative haven for any artist to walk into and be immediately inspired. 

You’re living in an apartment that is also your studio. What’s the biggest setback about this?

L: Space is the biggest problem. The lounge is usually full of overflowing boxes, especially before Christmas. Luckily my boyfriend is forever understanding (so far)! We live in an old print warehouse so the rooms are large and bright, it’s a nice place to work and there is always tea on tap. We were recently given a rather large and fancy looking coffee machine too – a massive highlight in my day. I have several friends that also run their own businesses, so we often meet to work or chat in a local coffee shop. This holds off the cabin fever!

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

What sets your graphic designs apart from other designs?

L: Am I the right person the answer that!? I hope that my designs inspire people to take an active interest in the foods they eat and where their food comes from – everything I make has to carry information or encourage playfulness, not just look good. My degree in Sustainable Product Design made me realize that the key to a lot of good designs, products and services is communication. As a designer, I try to tell a good story – to make complicated things appear simple. Hopefully my designs embody a little of this thinking.

S: In terms of my commercial info graphic pieces, I think that the depth of research and detail involved in creating them makes them stand out from other products on the shelf. They just simply aren’t be economically viable for a high street brand or chain to churn out for their quarterly collection, as the hours of work put into them would be too much for a profit-driven business plan. I also believe that people enjoy the fact that they’re gaining knowledge and insight on a subject matter that they’re passionate about on product that looks appealing.

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Lahla, are there any big projects or ideas you want to speak about?

L: There have been a lot of new developments this year – I’m very excited about the launch of my new ceramic collection. The Pot & Shovel collection includes three unique pieces. Pot & Shovel is flowerpot shaped bowl perfect for summer desserts or serving up an impressive soufflé, Eggpot & Shovel is to delight egg-lovers, and our Salt ‘n’ Pepper Pots  are for table-proud friends. I started hand making the miniature shovel teaspoons for the collection in my bathroom last November, borrowing my friends kiln and spending many sleepless nights getting up to check the temperature was right (at 4am).  Since then (and for an easier life) I now work with a family-run pottery in Stoke-On-Trent, the town where traditional English bone china is made. As you can imagine, they are experts in what they do!

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

What’s always at an arm’s reach while you’re working?

L: A cup of tea and my wonderful Apple Magic Mouse.

S: My visual reference books. I’ve been collecting them since art school – nearly 20 years. They’re rather neglected these days though, what with the internet at hand.

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Lahla, One of your favorite quotes is “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” What does this quote mean to you?

L: A few years ago, I was pondering what to do next, I couldn’t decided whether to start up The Food Guide now or wait, find a ‘proper’ job in the city or study first. A friend then told me to ‘just get started’ – she said I should start small and just see what happens, but just start. The Food Guide was born a week later. For any designer, it’s the ago old problem, nothing is ever finished or quite ready. The advice I’d give to anyone with the same dilemma is start, and learn the rest as you go.

A Tale of Two London Studios | UncommonGoods

A big thank you to Stuart and Lahla for meeting with me and making my London trip that much more special! I hope I’m able to see you sooner than later, knowing that New York is your second city of choice. Cheers!

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods

Stuart Gardiner Collection
Lahla Smart's Food Guide | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Scott’s Flower Power Wins the Art Contest

March 14, 2014

ScottSilvey_portraitScott Silvey literally understands the power of flowers. Scott’s nature-inspired art pieces resonates from living on an Indiana farm and caring for a garden when he was a child. Various plants and flowers have always carried a bit of a magical spirit to him. In his winning art piece, Aphrodisiac Bath, he illustrates a vibrant botanical scene that celebrates not only the beauty, but medicinal properties of flowers and herbs. The backdrop of where the plants sit are scrolling scripts, detailing the ingredients for a stimulating bath. Many of Scott’s work celebrate the healing power that nature possesses. “I create paintings and other art that investigates the manifold ways in which plants can positively effect human life. In a world that is becoming increasingly artificial, my work is a reminder of the healing potential that lies in the roots, stems and leaves growing all around us.” Scott has also been inspired through living, studying, and working abroad in Japan, South Korea, England, and now back to the United States. Meet Scott Silvey, our latest Art Contest Winner, and our ultimate Flower Power King.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsHow did you come up with the concept of Aphrodisiac Bath?
All of the pieces in my Invocations series are in effect portraits of various herbal remedies. The plants in each painting could be combined in reality to make traditional medicine to treat various afflictions. While working on this series my best friend gave me the news that he would be getting married. I wanted to do a painting as a wedding gift for my friend Sam and his wife Jackie, but creating an image of medicine just didn’t seem appropriate. So when I ran across this recipe for a stimulating bath I got really excited. What could possibly be a better image for newlyweds than one which increases their desire for each other?

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsTell us about the moment when you realized “I want to be an artist.”
In undergraduate school I studied psychology. During my final year of undergrad at Earlham College I decided to take a photography class just to fill a requirement. It was that decision that changed my life’s direction. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I began by just shooting what was around me but my image making soon turned to creating almost allegorical sets to pose myself and others in. I actually didn’t get such a good grade in the class though because my interests often diverged from the assignments.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat different techniques do you use when creating your art?
With the painting I use primarily water-based paints and a carbon transfer process that I’ve developed through the years. Much of the primary imagery comes from the internet and then I just assemble and compose the individual pieces into finished work. When I make sculptures or installation the techniques depend on what is required for the concept. I weld, do woodworking, casting, forging, sewing or whatever is needed for the piece. In the next few years I hope to expand my technical repertoire. I want to do some performance and film work in addition to what I currently do.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsYou once lived in Japan. What exactly led you there?
When I was a child my father always collected National Geographic magazine. The images of beautifully attired geishas, exotic temples, and snow monkeys found from time to time in its pages always fascinated me. Then, when I was in university I spent a lot of time looking at ukio-e and other Japanese image making and design. I liked all of the seeming dissonance in the work. The density of imagery in the kimono design versus the remaining abundant negative space in a print. Or the intense violence of a battle scene juxtaposed with someone arranging flowers in a quiet room in the corner of the painting. I never really thought I’d have an opportunity to live in Japan but when the opportunity to move to Tokyo arose, I jumped at it.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsCan you describe how living in Japan influenced your art work?
I think the biggest influence Japan had on me while living there was on my composition sense. In the last place that I lived before moving back to the States, my local train station had a small display area for ikebana (flower arrangements). Every day as I walked to or from the train I was treated with a constantly shifting array of mini sculptures. That moment of stillness among the bustle of commuters always made me pause and take note.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsAre there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
Yes, I have five notebooks full of ideas for installation and large-scale painting projects I’m eager to put into the world. As you might imagine, there were certain spatial constraints in Japan that limited the kind of work I could do. Now that I’m back in the U.S. I really want to work big again. My first solo exhibition in America will involve three large installations, 365 live plants, about 4 tons of raw soil sculpted into the form of an Ohio River Valley culture ceremonial mound and some glowing neon among other things.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhich artist(s) do you look up to?
There are many artists that I admire. As Newton said, we stand on the shoulders of giants and to not be aware of your predecessors or acknowledge their contributions to your work/ field is just ignorant and delusional. Generally I love the work of outsiders, folk artists, the mentally ill and children. The themes, material usage and compositional sense of those who haven’t been ‘educated’ is just fantastic. Probably Henry Darger is one of the names many people may recognize in that category. In addition I love the drawings of Hans Bellmer, work by Morris Louis, Edward Hopper, Albert Bierstadt, Jessica Stockholder, Marc Quinn, Petah Coyne, Tom Sachs, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Shana Robbins and my wife Mio Silvey among many others.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
It takes a lot of persistence and faith in yourself and your ideas to have any success in the ‘art world.’

 What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Try to get more sleep because raising a child and making art is going to make you very tired.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoodsWhat quote keeps you motivated? 
Last year, at the announcement of his retirement from an illustrious career in animation, Hayao Miyazaki was quoted as saying, “Never stop trying to achieve more universal and profound expressions of humanity.” I think those words best express my drive as an artist. There are as many ways to live a human life as there are, have been or will be humans in existence. There is beauty in the fact however that on the most fundamental level we are all the same. The deepest personal expressions can also be the most universal. The more that I can come to understand who I am, the closer I can get to comprehending what it means to be human. My work is an attempt to find those factors which unite us all.


Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
I usually try to pick up a new book, watch a documentary or just go for a walk alone.

Do you have any secret vices?
It’s always easier to not work than work. For me the most interesting part of the art-making process is coming up with the ideas and doing the research. I don’t have any particular vices that prevent me from doing work, I just have to stay focused on making the actual artifact and not just swim in the ideas.

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Art Contests?
Do your work, follow the leads that life gives you and always try to do your best. Push yourself to find a different angle on what you know and you may find an entrance into a whole new thematic world. Then, gather up your friends, fill out the application form and send it in. A seat at the table is waiting for you!

Scott Silvey | Art Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

Click here if you want to add Scott’s beautiful artwork into your home or gift it to someone who would appreciate his masterpieces!


Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Kasia Wisniewski & Nicholas Foley

June 3, 2013

Living in New York City you learn very quickly not to judge a book by it’s cover – every door hides a secret in this city. Upon walking up to Kasia Wisniewski and Nicholas Foley’s building I had no idea what was in store. Only a few blocks from my own place, and on a block with manicured brownstones, Kasia and Nick’s door was gated and uninviting. But upon being greeted and swept upstairs to their apartment by Kasia, I was surprised to be standing in the treasure hidden from the street. Their home is what I imagine Marie Antoinette’s place would look like if she were a Brooklyn artist – a mix of Baroque accessories, Mid-Century furniture, antique sewing machines, dress forms. And right there, among their beautiful furniture and artifacts, was an industrial laser cutter, taking up what I imagine could be a sizable second bedroom.

That’s another thing about New York City – you have to make it happen by any means possible. For Nick and Kasia that mean taking out a wall, building a ventilation system, and giving up precious real estate to fit the laser cutter that helped Kasia leave her job in luxury fashion design and start working for herself. But nothing is wasted – they have used the cutter to create Kasia’s wall art and jewelry, to cut stencils to create other designs, and Nick even used it to cut wood to create a suspended indoor garden. Getting to tour their space and talk about their work was truly inspiring and a reminder that nothing is earned in this city without a little sacrifice.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
We are collectors! We’re surrounded constantly by reminders of things we love- from books and photographs to piles of fabric and knick-knacks from our travels. Living in Brooklyn has forced us to be creative with a limited space, so we’ve put our passions front and center. Nick is starting an indoor vegetable garden in the corner of our living room, so a lot of it is creating our own inspiration as well.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Working from home means we’re working on and off from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep – but when you’re doing stuff you like, it’s not work. I usually take an hour or so to go for a run around midday and we always watch something funny during dinner at the end of the day.

We also have a blog where we detail our food and design experiments, so working on that is sort of a treat for us as well.

What are your most essential tools?
Our most essential tool is our laser cutter- we use it not only to create products like our You Are Here map, but we also use it to create tools for our other projects, from stamps and stencils to jigs and frames. My industrial sewing machine (a birthday gift from Nick to me) is another Collected Edition MVP.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Transitioning from a full-time job in a high stress fashion company to being my own boss was terrifying. I think the hardest part was really realizing how fast time goes by when you’re working on projects by yourself. At first I would beat myself up if I didn’t have something solid and concrete at the end of the day – but mistakes and revisions are 95% of the design process.

What advice would you offer yourself of 5 years ago?
I would encourage myself to follow my instincts and believe in my vision. I think all designers suffer from insecurity, but if you focus on making good work and being true to your aesthetic, others will get onboard.

How do you set goals for yourself?
We both have a very clear idea of what we want our lives to be like in 5 years or 10 years – but the path to get there is still developing! We are both big fans of lists – both small detail and big picture. I try to set manageable goals I know I can reach, while always keeping in mind the endgame.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Every victory is celebrated by figuring out how to win the next victory.

What quote keeps you motivated?
This Samuel Beckett quote pretty much sums up creative entrepreneurship. I think there are very few designers that ever feel completely satisfied with their work – you should always be aiming to “fail better” on the next go-round.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m starting to experiment with casting. I love using tutorials from sites like Instructables to inform my experimentation. We also have an electroforming set-up that we both worked with some in college but is now lying dormant – that’s another avenue we have been exploring and requires a lot of trial and error to perfect.

How do you recharge your creativity?
The only time I can ever really relax is when we go away – whether on a proper vacation or just a day trip. A change in scenery does wonders for the mind.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Since so much of what we do is custom, each piece is really a collaboration with the client. My favorite thing is to work closely with a customer to bring an idea to life – it’s a beautiful thing to know that what you do brings happiness to another life.