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Jewelry

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Etta Kostick

July 1, 2013

Stained glass is often associated with large-scale pieces; sprawling mosaics, iconic cathedral windows, and ancient works of art. This meticulous craft doesn’t have to be reserved for the grandiose, though. As Etta Kostick proves, stained glass provides an illustrious splash of color to handmade jewelry.

Etta combines the techniques that were passed to her from her family of glassblowers and her talent for sculpting jewelry from silver and other metals to create her bold hexagon bracelets and the rings and bracelets in her collection.

The artist creates her pieces in her Chicago studio–a bright, inviting work space within her own apartment. Although we didn’t catch her hula hooping in her living room (see “How do you recharge your creativity?”), we did convince her to take us on a virtual tour of the place where she captures light and luster with glass and solder.

Continue Reading…

Design

Our 3rd Annual Jewelry Design Challenge

June 12, 2013

It’s that time of year again! Our buyers are itching to find the newest original jewelry design.

Send us your necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bangles, rings, cufflinks, and tiaras. Well maybe not the tiaras. Actually, throw them in too!

To submit your jewelry designs and read complete contest rules, visit the Jewelry Design Challenge page.

Maker Stories

Tavia Brown’s “Industrial Delicate” Rings to Last a Lifetime

May 20, 2013

“I very clearly remember being six years old and knowing I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. And it never changed,” said jewelry artist Tavia Brown. “I ventured down my artistic journey in my childhood and ended up in college discovering metalsmithing.”

That drive, discovery, and dedication lead Tavia to found taviametal in 2001, and stay true to her craft through business ventures, marriage, and motherhood. Fittingly, her latest collection celebrates one of those special occasions in life–saying “I do.”

Tavia incorporates metals not traditionally used in wedding jewelry, like titanium and rose gold, and textural elements into her original designs to create unique rings for men and women. She calls her style “industrial delicate,” referring to the juxtaposition of tenacious metals with elegant design, and although her pieces are a bit bolder than some wedding bands, they are perfect for making the statement, “our love is solid.”

“In my first jewelry class I found my match in this small-scale, three-dimensional medium,” Tavia said. “I knew then that this was what I was going to do.”

The artist now creates her pieces in her own Charlottesville, VA studio, but before setting out on her own she worked as a bench jeweler for a high-end jewelry designer. “I worked in the jewelry studio and daydreamed about having my own studio business,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it; I didn’t have a concrete plan. I just knew I was going to do it.”

Taviametal started out as a part-time endeavor, but grew over time as Tavia transitioned from exhibiting her own work at small shows while still working full-time at her bench job. Over the next few years, she got married, cut back her day job hours, and started planning for her future while helping her husband, who is an entrepreneur himself, with his business.

“Eventually, I knew kids would be the next step and I quit my job for the jewelry designer to get accustomed to not having that paycheck,” Tavia said. “I wanted to ensure that I would still follow my dream and take that big leap after having kids. So I worked part-time for my husband and part-time for taviametal, nurturing both businesses. I eventually switched and made taviametal my full-time commitment in 2007. Since then, my husband and I have continued to support each other in our individual business adventures, helping each other grow.”

Along the way, Tavia also discovered the joy of working with titanium–which is now her signature metal.”I had a very close-knit group of metalsmithing/blacksmithing friends and we would have these Monster Metal weekends during which we would take turns at each other’s studios learning a new technique or trying out a new material,” she explained. “Well, one weekend we tried our hand at titanium. I found that I really liked the color and the weight; and I loved the industrial feel and look to it, which fell right in line with my aesthetics.”

“I discovered that I could use the titanium for my rings, taking advantage of that natural gray color to contrast with other materials and continue the layering of textures that I like to create in these rings,” she continued. “I also found I could apply a heat patina which adds even more color – blue, purple, bronze – to the recesses of the designs. Titanium definitely has its challenges. Some basic metalsmithing techniques cannot be used with it, such as soldering – which is a main practice. So I fabricate my titanium jewelry by cold joining contrasting materials and friction fitting the layers, with an emphasis on textures and design. I really love these challenges about titanium. It keeps me creating in ways that take me outside the box. It pushes me to come up with new and interesting designs, and I am constantly exploring.”

“There are times where I get inspiration simply from the material… its challenges, limitations, and look intrigue me,” said Tavia. “Other times it’s just texture, the juxtaposition and tactility of different textures together, and the manipulation of the materials into amazing surfaces… Another impetus for me is family. This is a recurring theme in my work since college.”

Now, as a mother of two, Tavia is inspired by her children and says that over the years she’s been lucky to be able to mold her schedule around what’s best for her whole family.

“I want my kids to see that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to,” she said. “I want them to know that they can dream as big as they want… On days where I must work longer than the usual I take my kids to the studio with me after school. I have carved out a kid area in my office, complete with easel, art supplies, toys, TV, movies, hula hoops, snacks, and more. Even though I am working, it is fun to be together at the studio.”

Tavia says that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned so far is “to breathe and be kind to myself and know that it will all work out.” She explained, “If I do my best, my kids will be their best. That’s not to say the ride hasn’t had its moments of difficulty; some days just have tears and other days are full of laughter. Each day is a new day of parenting with new challenges, so I am constantly learning – not just as a mom but also as a metalsmith and business owner.”

Design

TPC Sawgrass Golf Ball Cufflinks Tee’d Up for Tournament Time

May 9, 2013

With THE PLAYERS Championship underway we’re quietly and quite politely clapping in celebration of one the newest additions to our men’s accessories assortment, PGA TOUR licensed TPC Sawgrass Golf Ball Cufflinks.

These sterling silver cufflinks feature material reclaimed from actual golf balls collected from Sawgrass’ iconic 137 yard 17th hole. While a few pro balls are sure to find their way into the water surrounding the hole during the week-long tournament, the rest of the year the course, located in Ponte Vedra, Florida, is open to the public, helping to create quite a bounty of sunken ball treasure.

As you’ll see in the video below, these balls aren’t exactly easy to recover. It takes a little hunting and some scuba gear to get them back to the green.

Milan Micich, Designer and Sales Manager at Tokens and Icons feels that sterling silver is the perfect complement to these carefully recovered golf balls. “Sterling silver, like TPC Sawgrass itself, is a rich experience,” he said. “There is only one Sawgrass, only one 17th hole island green, designed by Pete and Alice Dye, themselves icons in golf course design. It’s on every weekend golfer’s bucket list, and if a diver is going to evade alligators to scoop mishit balls off of the lake bed, the balls deserve being set in sterling silver.” (After seeing Mr. Gator show his head in that video, we definitely agree!)

“This is a gift [you] can give to a guy that connects to his emotions of having played or wanting to play this famous course and try his luck at 17,” said Milan. “Golf is a place you’ll see men laugh, shout, bicker, cry (ok, whine) and hug all in the space of an afternoon and talk about it for a lifetime…especially should a few go into the drink.”

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Sharon Hitchcock

April 30, 2013
Sharon Hitchcock, UncommonGoods Buyer – Jewelry & Accessories

My hometown is…
Hmmm….well, let’s see, I was born in Manhattan so I guess I am a New Yorker, but I lived in Austin, Texas for 9 years (Hook ‘em Horns!), and have also resided in Seattle, Washington, DC, and London. Now I call Brooklyn home.

I’m on the lookout for… 

Jewelry and accessories that are beautifully made with thought and care. Pieces and collections that use materials in a distinctly different way, and have a strong point of view.

I’m inspired by…
People-watching in NYC.

My guilty pleasure is…
Can I have two guilty pleasures? ’80s music is a definite. And, flea markets! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a good flea market.

An uncommon fact about me…
Although I have never considered myself to be very musically inclined, I have taught myself to play the ukulele, which I think is the happiest of all instruments.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
For fancy-pants food I love Balthazar. I always feel French glam when I go there. To get my Mexican food fix, I head to La Esquina.

My style is…
Hard to define! After a phase of wearing all black every day, I now embrace colors and patterns. Anything with stripes has been a recent favorite. I also collect vintage jewelry and try to wear something from my collection each day.

Since working at UncommonGoods I’ve learned…
So much! I truly do learn something new each day. I love the collaborative environment here, and how supportive the team is of different ideas and points of view.

With a pile of stuff in front of me I would make…
(You’re given paperclips, yarn, cheesecloth, markers, and plastic beads.)

I would make a mini, colorful, and fabulous Eiffel Tower sculpture.

Maker Stories

Meet Susan, Winner of the Upcycling Design Challenge

December 11, 2012

Earlier this month, our Upcycling Design Challenge judges met at UncommonGoods headquarters, some in person and others via Skype, to pick a winner from the top five voted designs. After and hour of discussing five unique designs made of reclaimed materials, the judges decided Susan Harbourt’s Forget Me Not Necklace made of recycled copper was the best choice to join our collection of upcycled goods. Meet Susan and help us welcome her to the UncommonGoods artist family.

How did you first get into designing?
As fate would have it, my husband had an amazing opportunity to move half way across the county. This meant leaving my engineering career behind and beginning what I thought was a new chapter in my life, little did I realize it was actually a whole new book!

We moved to Illinois and purchased a large Edwardian Era home out in the country that had not been maintained since the 1950s. It was a lovely home full of grace and charm and was in need of reviving. One fateful night, I was helping my husband update the original electrical system installed during the 1930s as a part of the Rural Electrification Act. Scattered all over the floor were piles of lovely aged copper wire that we had just removed from the walls of the old house. In an absent-minded gesture, to pass the time while waiting for the next instruction on how to help, I picked up a few scraps and wove them into a bracelet. A spark was ignited and a new passion was born in that very moment. Little did I know how much that moment would redefine the rest of my life.

What was the inspiration for the Forget Me Not Necklace?
The inspiration for my Forget-Me-Not line of jewelry actually stems from a mishap that occurred on the first Valentine’s Day my husband (then boyfriend) celebrated 20 years ago. He tried so hard to be romantic and surprise me by buying a special bouquet of flowers that were to be delivered to my dorm room. The flowers arrived, but they were three days late. He was so traumatized from that single event that he swore off buying flowers forever, so he switched to buying me jewelry instead. Now that I make jewelry, my husband no longer enjoys buying it for me. I do miss getting flowers and jewelry as gifts, so I had to do something about it! So I must admit, I designed the Forget-Me-Not jewelry line to fulfill my desire to receive flowers and jewelry again.

What is your favorite upcycling tip?
Don’t let what something was limit your mind to what something can become…

What do you enjoy about designing with materials that would otherwise be discarded?
I enjoy showing others, through my art, that there is more than one way to view the world around them and to not take things for granted because of how they seem at first or the labels placed upon them. It’s like a metaphor for life that applies both to objects and for relationships.

Is designing a full-time job or a hobby?
My official full-time job is being mommy to two very creative and inquisitive little boys. Designing jewelry started out as an accidental hobby for me. It then became something that allowed me to earn enough money to pay for the occasional babysitter and date night with the hubby. After a few years of teetering on that edge of hobby versus business I decided it was time to commit to taking my passion to the next level. I have spent the past year redefining and refining my business and vision. It is amazing to look at where I am now versus a few years ago. I am proud to tell people that I am now a full time work-at-home entrepreneur and mom!

Describe your work space.
My studio is a work space dream come true! It is a large well lit space that I set up with a great flow that allows me to be organized, efficient, creative and productive. As you enter there is an office area and bookcase full of books and items to inspire me. From there it continues into my material storage and metal prep area that is filled with some amazing tools with great history. I have a large chest of drawers that once housed geological samples in a museum at the University of Illinois and there is a variety of large industrial tools that are from the 1940s. Beside that area I have my soldering and metal forming stations followed by the area where I do my finishing and assembly work. The last stop in my studio is my shipping station that makes me feel like every day is a holiday – it’s full of ribbons and boxes and items I made that are ready to start their journey out into the world and begin their new life with someone new.

The thing I love most about my studio is that I have a well-stocked creative play area set up where both of my boys can explore their artistic minds along side of me as I work. I enjoy watching them have the freedom to create and express their individuality. My husband also has a wonderful metal and wood shop set up on the other side of the wall which has a large window in it so we can feel more like we are working together.

What challenges do you face as an artist who designs with reclaimed materials?
The big challenge that I face [is running] out of my unique materials. Fortunately for me, I have a lot of copper wire that I removed from my house. I feel like I have hardly put a dent into it. I have also found that once people realize that I like to create with reclaimed materials, they become very generous in bringing over there project scraps. That is how I came across the copper roofing materials I have started to incorporate into my work.

The other big challenge I have with my work is that some people just don’t get it. I feel that I often have to educate people about the significance of using recycled and reclaimed materials. There are always the people that feel that copper is a low end metal and don’t understand why I don’t work with gold and other designer metals. Not that I am opposed to using the other metals, and at times I do use them, it is just that I love my old copper wire!

What advice would you offer someone interested in entering an UncommonGoods Design Challenge?
The best piece of advice I can offer someone interested in entering an UncommonGoods Design Challenge is to find your own voice and perspective first and have confidence in it. It does not have to be exotic and elaborate; it just has to be uniquely yours and fresh.

Maker Stories

Natural Beauty: Nancy Nelson’s Forest-Inspired Jewelry

December 10, 2012

Take one look at Nancy Nelson’s jewelry and it’s obvious that she’s deeply inspired by nature. The organic shapes, earthy feel, and, in some cases, the actual natural elements used—such as the raw semi-precious stones in her Aquamarine Branch Ring –all celebrate Nancy’s love of the outdoors.

The ring, and her beautiful Blue Pinecone Necklace, were both featured in our community voting app, where they received some fantastic feedback from our online community. But before the designs made their way to our buying team, and even before the first pieces of brass and silver used were cast, these creations started as found objects in the forests near Nancy’s West Virginia home.

“I live in a small town 2.5 hours west of Washington DC,” Nancy told us. “It is an area filled with nature trails, state parks, and adventurous outdoor activities. Our family spends much of our time exploring the outdoors. It was during one of our adventures in the Appalachian Mountains that I spotted the twig for the Aquamarine Branch Ring.”

While the ring doesn’t actually contain this original twig, it does feature the exact likeness of it, because the sterling silver band is hand-cast by Nancy from a mold made of that very piece of wood.

Like that perfect twig, the pine cone that became the model for the Blue Pinecone Necklace was also selected on a family outing, while visiting the place Nancy’s children like to call the “Magic Forest,” Swallow Falls.

“We collected tiny pine cones from the forest floor as we hiked,” said Nancy. “With our pockets full, we took the pine cones back to my studio where we examined each one. I then selected the one I felt was the most beautiful in form, shape, and texture. When choosing the perfect pine cone, I took into consideration [its] size and weight. Since all my castings are solid, this is one of the most important aspects in choosing a good model. The pine cone had to be lightweight enough to hang comfortably from a necklace.”

Once cast, the brass incarnation of the pine cone is given a blue patina, which Nancy hand-paints. Nancy explained why she chose to add this hint of blue, “It stems from my love of lichen that grows on the trees, rocks, and fallen pine cones throughout the moist forest which is dominated by tall Hemlocks. I wanted to transform the pine cone and add color but I wanted it to be a little more controlled, which is why I decided to patina the edges.”


While these majestic hemlocks, fallen pine cones, and the other wonders of nature that surround her definitely influence Nancy’s work, she does have other muses. “Being a mom, I usually do not have to look far for inspiration,” she said. “My young children’s growing imagination and quest for exploration inspires me to think outside of the box and challenge myself to create something timeless yet interesting in form—something uncommon.”

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Vinylphile

November 16, 2012

There’s a certain breed of music lover who, when given the choice, always takes the slightly gritty sound of vinyl on a turntable over a digitally remastered CD or a quick-and-clean download. Whether they love hard, fast rock or soft, soulful sounds, the vinylphile prefers their tunes straight from the grooves of an LP. They may have specific taste when it comes to their favorite recordings, but finding the perfect present for the owner of those particular ears doesn’t have to be a pressing problem. For the record, one of these gifts for vinylphiles might just be the chart-topper they’re looking for.


Cymbal of Peace Pendant / A Vinyl Collection Puzzle / Record Star Clock / Record Tie / Guitar Glasses and Coasters / Personalized LP Record / Record Cuff Bracelet / Recycled Record Book Ends

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