When they look at each other, they still get butterflies. And when you look at them, you know they’re in it for the long haul. You catch them holding hands and stealing kisses. They finish each other’s sentences. You couldn’t be happier for them, and you can’t imagine either of them with anyone else. So, how do you tell the perfect couple you’re happy they found one another? With the perfect gift. Here are a few that those love birds are sure to love.
Our new Royal Panda and Polar Bear cases aren’t just cute and practical. Yes, they feature original art by Kelly Vivanco. Yes, they’re made of brushed stainless steel, so they help protect your “smart” credit card data. And, yes, they are the latest design from Karyn Cantor, head designer and owner of Classic Hardware. But, they’re also helping to support Born Free USA’s mission to keep wildlife in the wild.
As part of the Endangered Creatures Collection, a portion of the proceeds from the Panda and Polar Bear Cases goes to Born Free USA. According to Karyn, who founded Classic Hardware in 1995, the Born Free/Classic Hardware collaboration started with a connection through an artist.
Karyn explained: “They actually found us through one of the artists we work with, Caia Koopman. We have contributed to some of their auctions over the years and they are connected with the pop surrealist/lowbrow style art we love! I was talking with another artist about adding Endangered Creatures to the Classic Hardware collection; I knew I wanted to give a percentage of the profit to an organization that helps wildlife. I did some further research and decided they were the best match for our company on many levels. They have a great mission and they understand the modern art style and I think their donors will, too.”
Karyn then reached out to some of the artists she often collaborates with. The artist behind the Royal Panda and Polar Bear, Kelly Vivanco, was a natural choice.
“I wanted to leave it up to the artists what they wanted to draw, but I did send them all the Endangered Species official list, which is huge,” Karyn said. “With Kelly I was encouraging about adding the crowns. She often paints animals that have a lot of personality and sport cute hats, so this fell into place nicely.These animals are royal and regal and deserve a crown and caring!”
Caring for those animals that need it most is what Born Free USA is all about. “Our mission is to end the suffering of wild animals in captivity, rescue individual animals in need, protect wildlife — including highly endangered species — in their natural habitats, and encourage compassionate conservation globally,” said said Sharie Lesniak, Creative Director at Born Free USA. “We work to ‘Keep Wildlife in the Wild.'”
One way the organization helps animals is through the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. According to Sharie, the sanctuary is “home to more than 600 primates, many of whom were rescued from abusive situations in laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. We provide a life in as natural an environment as is possible, with minimal human interference, on almost 200 acres. ”
“This kind of partnership helps contribute to the funds we need to continue doing our work to save the lives of wild animals,” Sharie said. “It helps us reach people outside of our current circle of friends and engage new supporters beyond the initial purchase with information about our organization and what they can do to help wildlife. It also provides Born Free USA with an opportunity to give current members new and different ways to support the organization.”
Sharie also explained that the this collaboration helps the organization reach a new demographic, who might not be familiar with the cause. “With the Endangered Creatures Collection, we are also able to take the unique images of endangered animals out of the galleries and into the world,” she said.”So not just the people who buy the items can be inspired, but also people who see [the Wallet Case and Business Card Case]. They can be moved to ask about the species, the artist, and the two organizations behind it: Born Free USA and Classic Hardware.”
Since the cases are compact, stylish, and can be used for a variety of small personal items, it isn’t hard to imagine taking them on the go.
Karyn said she actually uses both the Wallet Case and the Business Card Case in often in her own life. “I have a large wallet in my bag, but when I go out at night or even out for a walk or bike ride, I will take my ID and some cash and a credit card and use the Card Case or Wallet Case as my wallet,” she said. “I also keep a Card Case in my bag that keeps my business cards nice and neat. I will also use it to hold other people’s business cards that I collect. There has been some concern about identity theft via new “smart” credit cards in your regular wallet. It has been advised to use a stainless steel wallet to protect against this. I’m glad that these cases are stainless steel and it’s a great to play it safe with all the new technology constantly changing, plus they look so cool and we are donating to a great cause!”
Studio tours have opened up so many new views into the lives and creative minds of our artists. In visiting with Emily Rothschild last month, I learned that her jewelry line was only the tip of the artistic iceberg. A designer who is always excited to learn, Emily constantly challenges her mind with lessons and classes, expanding her talents and perspective.
We thought her well-rounded attitude would serve well on the judging panel for the Bike Lovers Design Challenge and couldn’t wait to see inside her Fort Greene home-studio.
What are your most essential tools?
A few of my most essential tools are my camera for documenting inspiration for new work as well as completed projects, a radio for constant NPR streaming, and a pair of jeweler’s pliers which always seem to come in handy. My most loved tool is a pair of glassblowing jacks. The jacks have an excellent weight, feel, and history: it’s easy to imagine the years of hard work they endured before I owned them.
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I find inspiration from the objects around me all of which have a story: tools I inherited from my father, a workbench from RISD, design books and culled images, a kitchen spatula from the 1940s… I find it is important to be surrounded by loved objects.
Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
My two dogs remind me to step away and take a walk; they make me slow down and refresh. It’s often hard to remember to step back but it is necessary to see things from all angles: sometimes you need distance in order to get closer to a solution. I’m also settling into my new role as a mom and know that I will be spending as much time as possible with three-month-old Otto between projects. I’m often guilty of working too much but for him I’m willing to slow down and clear my head completely.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I learned that I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone, seek advice when needed, and find solutions in a variety of ways. I enjoy working in new areas of interest and with new materials which means that I have to reach out often to others. I am lucky to have found a great community of designers who work in the same way and are just as curious. Sharing information goes both ways and is key to making it on your own – it means you’re never really alone.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Love what you do. And find a community of people with similar interests and goals whom you can share ideas (and gripes) with. Community is key.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I usually have a variety of projects going on at any given time which helps me to stay focused and continue moving forward. The goals I set often seem unreachable when I first set out – I’m generally completely intimidated when starting a new project and also raring to go. The only way I can make anything happen is to dive in and take risks.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
My husband reminds me to reward myself after working hard and wrapping up a project. It’s easy to run right into the next job when you work for yourself, I’m lucky to have someone to celebrate victories with – both big and small. I try hard to remind him of the same!
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I think about something my father always said: “Why is a duck when it spins?”. I figure if I can unlock that life mystery, I can make just about anything. My father was a great source of inspiration, information, and humor and someone who had a great hunger for investigating and learning. His wide spanning interests helped to form my curiosity about people and my perspective on design.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
This past year I took rhino, wax carving, and quilt making classes at Third Ward, Fitzjerald Jewelry, and Pins and Needles respectively. There is always some new skill I want to acquire for a project; I love learning to work with different materials and getting lost in the process.
How do you recharge your creativity?
I recharge my creativity by working on a diverse range of projects at a variety of scales – both client-based and self-generated. I work on research-based design work with my team, Hello. We Are _____., and more product-based work on my own. This combination of experiences and opportunities makes for a well balanced and never boring workweek. I also try to remember to get out of my studio often and look around – studio visits, museums, jogs, a trip out of the city, anything that keeps me looking at and talking about design.
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I’m lucky to have the support of an excellent design team as well as a strong local design community and access to any number of makers and manufacturers. I have been working as part of a team of designers (helloweare.com) for the past few years and we are excited to be growing our team and outreach this year. I find it is impossible to design alone.
Each and every design challenge gives us the exciting opportunity to meet up-and-coming artists, reconnect with our favorite designers, and open our eyes to new and unique works of art. Coming off the success of the 2011 Jewelry Design Challenge, we simply could not wait to hold another call for jewelry entries. This year’s Jewelry Design Challenge brought in over 100 entries and showcased the unique designs of artists, jewelry designers, and metalworkers.
Our judges worked through designs with bold patterns, fascinating stories, and unique mediums. They decided on pieces they thought would capture America’s eye with their delicate beauty and others with their intricate detail. But there was one piece that the judges couldn’t take their eyes off of; they loved its concept as a keepsake to keep those you treasure close.
We simply can’t stop talking about the craftsmanship and attention to detail of Personalized Child Signature Necklace and are excited to introduce you to the designer, our Jewelry Design Challenge winner, Kim Jakum of Wisconsin. Kim thrives on designing one-of-a-kind pieces with her recently found love of PMC (precious metal clay) and she will soon be able to see those one-of-a-kind pieces being cherished by people all across the country. Here she is, Kim, the newest member to our Uncommon Artists family.
When and how did you discover jewelry design?
I’ve been making jewelry for over 20 years. I first started making jewelry by just stringing beads. I was drawn to all the different shapes and colors. To this day, I’m still drawn to beautiful stones and the sparkle of crystal.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry?
My favorite piece of jewelry that I have made is my Tiger Maple and Fine Silver Cuff.
How did you realize that metalworking was your passion?
My work is primarily in PMC (precious metal clay). I love that it is made from recycled silver. About 16 years ago, while taking a traditional metal smith class, PMC was first introduced in the USA. The whole class got some and played with it. I didn’t really like it at the time, and didn’t give it any thought until about five years ago when I took a workshop just using PMC. I fell in love with it, and have not looked back since! The possibilities are endless…
What are your favorite pieces to design?
Besides the children’s signatures, I also take kids artwork, shrink it down and transfer it to fine silver pendants and key chains. I love that this makes an everlasting keepsake.
I have also recently been accepted into The Artisan Group. The Artisan Group is made up of small business artisans that gift celebrities with samples of their work. I’m having a great time designing jewelry for specific celebrities.
All in all, you could say that a lot of my work is very personalized, made specifically for the person receiving it.
How do you keep yourself inspired?
I have been fortunate to take workshops from fellow jewelry artists who’s work I really admire. I find these workshops very inspiring, pushing me to continually learn a new skill and perfect what I already know.
How else do you express your creativity?
I like to pass what I know on, so I teach classes in jewelry making and PMC.
Also, if I see something I like in another medium, I usually think I can make something close to it myself, so there are a lot more projects other that jewelry making going on!
What attracted you to the UncommonGoods Jewelry Design Challenge?
I actually found out about this challenge from a fellow Artisan Group member and entered it on a whim.
What was the inspiration behind Personalized Child Signature Necklace?
The signatures on my Personalized Child Signature Necklace sample are actually my grand children’s. I have seen a lot of stamped name pendants and thought I could take that idea to a whole new level by using actual signatures! I also added a twist by texturing the back, so the necklace is reversible.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in taking part in a future challenge?
Just enter! Until this year I have NEVER entered a challenge or competition. I have entered four different challenges this year and have placed first, second or third in three of them!
A great portfolio is a must-have in the visual world of design, but what’s the best way to build an eye-catching image collection? Ceramicist Tasha McKelvey captured our judges’ attention and won our first Ceramics Design Challenge with her uncommon piece. Here’s her advice on creating content to get the attention of art show judges, buyers like ours, and others in the art world.
Last fall I entered the UncommonGoods Ceramics Design Challenge on a whim. The holiday rush was already upon me, so I decided to take a few minutes and fill out the application right then. Otherwise, I knew I would end up forgetting and not enter at all.
I already had an item to enter in mind. My Birdie Mini Dish would be a good fit for a catalog based on the size, price-point, cuteness factor, functionality and my studio’s ability to produce it both efficiently and in quantity.
Using relatively few images and words, I would need to effectively communicate all these details to the judges reviewing the applications for the Design Challenge.
With my entry decided on, I was able to pull my application together very quickly because I had already invested some time and thought into the process of portfolio presentation. The images I submitted for judging reflected the function, size and other options I offered for the mini-dish while still demonstrating the items’ consistent style.
This was the most specific mini-portfolio I have put together to date because it really only contains one piece of my work. I normally present a quite different group of images to craft show juries or gallery owners emphasizing the full scope of my work along with my particular style or voice.
Some time ago I created a Flickr portfolio of product images I had assembled for some indie craft show applications. I wanted to provide the show’s jury panel a link to a small selection of images I felt accurately represented my current ceramic work. Just sending a link to my website might have been overwhelming for a jury since it catalogs the entire diversity of my work. The smaller online portfolio I created on Flickr can also be a great resource to share with galleries, shop buyers, and the press.
Create a Cohesive Look
Additionally, the images are appropriate for uploading directly to an online craft show application that require image attachments for jurying. The individual images in my portfolio are actually composites; each jpeg consists of two images side by side. I combined the images using Photoshop, but there are lots of other programs available that can do the same thing. In order to better demonstrate the variety and relationships in my work, I chose to use two images in each “slide”. I put my bird bowls side by side with my ceramic bird necklaces, my ginkgo pottery with my ginkgo jewelry, my woodland gnome with my woodland mushroom mini-tray, etc.
Photos by Tasha McKelvey
Tell a Story
Take a look at the six “slides” that make up my portfolio. Notice the order I placed them in and the story such an arrangement tells. The first image is bold and eye-catching, while the last image references the subject matter as well as some of the colors in the first image (a little trick I also used with my UncommonGoods Design Challenge images too). Even though the backgrounds vary, each image shares the common themes of neutral colors and woodgrain — there is variety, but it is a consistent variety.
Know Your Audience
I use these images for indie craft shows and boutiques, but I do not always use these particular images for more traditional or upscale art and craft shows or galleries. For most non-indie shows I have a separate set of images with a gradient gray background. More traditional or high-end show juries have certain expectations for image presentation, and my casual woodgrain backgrounds might rub some of the more traditional art show jury members the wrong way. Also note that composite images are not recommended for non-indie shows in general.
Here are some examples of my images for non-indie art and craft shows.
Choosing new merchandise to feature on our website and in our catalog is definitely a lot of fun, but it isn’t always easy! Luckily, we have a community of design-savvy voters eager to help us out. Each week we add a fresh batch of potential products to our community voting app and watch as voters tell us what makes something unique, useful, and attractive enough to be considered an uncommon good.
Many of these voter favorites didn’t just get attention while under consideration, but also elicit fantastic feedback from actual customers now that they’re available for purchase. Here are just a few of those best-selling community picks.
During those early stages Monica told us, “This is fantastic! I also make jewelry and accessories from repurposed musical items, and this is both original and adorable.”
Now that the necklace is available for purchase, it continues to receive praise. Reviewers love the upcycled story, the craftsmanship, and the beauty of this handmade piece.
9.) Mushroom Kit We harvested a great crop of voter comments from this uncommon good. Our community was super excited about growing mushrooms at home, and now that this kit is on our shelves we hear some fantastic feedback from mushroom farmers across the country.
Mushroom Lover (an appropriate alias!) from San Diego wrote, “As a mushroom lover this is perfect, for others it is a fun and unique gift for vegetarians, gardners, and the hard to buy for person who has everything.”
8.) Quiet Courage Necklace Mary Steratore’s sterling silver necklace makes a lovely gift for a graduation or a new job or promotion. Our voters weren’t quiet when it came to sharing their opinion on this product, though. They spoke up to tell us they loved the combination of smokey quartz and garnet, the subtle yin yang charm, and, of course, the meaning behind this symbolic piece.
7.) Love is Art Kit This clever kit created a bit of controversy when we first asked our community what they thought.
“Eeek!” Amanda exclaimed along with her thumbs down vote.
Charli, on the other hand, voted thumbs up. “This is awesome for a cheeky bridal shower gift.” She continued by explaining that the kit is a great way to be creative and fun with your partner.
We’re pleased that since the product entered our assortment folks have tended to side with Charli. We continue to see great reviews for this product–though some folks are more modest than others. Juajua from Oregon explained, “We are a modest artsy couple and bought this for our wedding night. Super fun and a sweet momento. Was extremely messy and took a long time to clean off (not a bad thing). Since we are fairly modest, we are going to lie about the painting that we plan on hanging over our bed, and say that we bought it on our honeymoon.”
6.) Portable Ping Pong Set Our voters got excited about this easy way to take ping pong on the go. But one voter, Catherine, pointed out that it’s not just about portable play.
“LOVE this because I don’t have dedicated space for a ping pong table but this would be ideal,” she wrote.
5.) Himalayan Salt Tequila Glasses Our community thought these salty glasses were extra sweet. A few voters commented that, while they didn’t care for tequila, they liked the glasses enough to give it another try. Others mentioned that they could make a great gift for someone who has everything. Inspired by the enthusiasm of those who left comments, we couldn’t wait to try these out ourselves. Our customer service supervisor, Keshia, and her friends found that they met expectations when she conducted a very scientific (and, from the looks of things, quite fun) gift lab.
4.) Mother & Daughter Letterbook Many voters shared touching stories of mother-daughter relationships in their comments. Such as this story from Cherie, who said, “My mother is my best friend. These cards represent the priceless relationship that a mother has with her children, something to be cherished forever. A perfect gift for any mother — from new mommy to great-grand mommy!”
The Letter Book continues to be a success, and we’ve heard more touching stories of mothers and daughters creating memories over the last few months.
3.) Butterfly Puddler This functional piece of handmade stoneware garden art by Jo-anne and Gerald Warren received just shy of 1300 votes. Our community was excited by the beauty and purpose of this piece, but expressed some concern over whether or not it would actually draw those winged wonders. Based on feedback from customers who’ve purchased the Butterfly Puddler since it entered our assortment, the mineral-filled well does the trick when it comes to attracting butterflies.
2.) F Bomb One of our top-voted items, with over 1600 votes, this punny paperweight also received a plethora of positive comments. Several voters told us the image made them laugh out loud, a few mentioned friends with a penchant for that f word whom they’d love to buy it for, and others mentioned that they’d like to keep it next to a swear jar as a reminder not to drop the bomb at work.
And finally, our best-selling community-approved product…
1.) Corkcicle “This is the BEST IDEA EVER!!!!” wrote Debi. (Yes, she included the four exclamation points.)
“This looks great!” Kimber commented. “I run a wine cellar and know this would be a big hit. People are always looking for fun unique wine items. It would be a ‘must have’ for my collection.”
And during that voting phase Kimberly told us, “I was actually looking to buy this verses voting on it. Can’t wait to see when you carry it! I do a trial run of it and then get it for my wine drinking posse as gifts!”
Now that the Corkcicle has a place in our lineup, reviewers continue to write feedback so supportive it gives us chills. Customers confirm that it does make a great gift for wine lovers and it’s an essential to have on-hand when entertaining.
From this delightfully designed cork and ice cube in one to lovely handmade jewelry and everything in between, we’re proud to say these items landed in our lineup with the help of voters like you. Of course, these are just a few of the products that became uncommon goods through our community voting app. Remember to stop by each week for your chance to influence the future of our assortment.
Situated above a Brooklyn art gallery, in a space shared by artists of varying mediums, Aaron Ruff’s single room looked more like a museum at first glance than a jewelry studio. The creator of Digby & Iona and his four-legged friend, Nuki, took me in for the morning to chat about the creation of his new collection, how the price of commodities has impacted his business and how history plays a role in keeping him inspired.
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I’m a big collector, so the entire space is inspiration. I’m constantly rearranging and dragging in new stuff, so the space is constantly evolving.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
It’s embarrassing to say, but just the basics of running a legit business were the hardest skills to master. Terms like W9 or EIN still make my head spin a little.
Does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Does Pinterest count as downtime? We think so!
What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Invest in silver! This is my main material and it has gone crazy in the last 5 years. Then it was $13 an ounce and earlier this year it was almost $40. I definitely miss the days when I could cast absurdly huge pieces in silver without blinking and eye. It’s changed the way I design quite a bit, I don’t want to have to raise my prices significantly so I have to be a lot more conscious about designing lighter pieces.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I’m my own toughest critic, so celebration requires a pretty massive win.
What quote keeps you motivated?
I use historical quotes in my work quite a lot, most recently, ‘Don’t give up the ship’ which is a quote from Lee Hazard Perry during the War of 1812 (also the name of the collection). It’s pretty self-explanatory; it’s my version of the ‘hang in there’ kitten poster.
How do you recharge your creativity?
Travel as much as possible.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’ve just come out with an engagement band collection, so I’ve had a recent crash course on diamonds and precious gems.
Aaron will be a judge in our Jewelry Design Challenge. Call for entries ends July 12th.
Someone very important to me is getting married. Weddings are a big deal, and I’m thrilled, but I’m also a bit overwhelmed. Why am I overwhelmed when it isn’t my wedding? Because I’m now tasked with finding the PERFECT wedding gift.
Finding that gift that says it all shouldn’t be that hard, right? After all, I have known the guy his whole life. So before I get into the details of my quest to find that best-wedding-gift-ever gift, here’s a little background info.
When I was almost 3 years old, my life changed–big time. I went from being an only child to the proud owner of my very own little brother. Luckily, since I’d only been on the planet a few short years, I hadn’t gotten too used too cozy in that only child role.
Growing up with a brother not much younger than me was great. We went to the same school, share friends, have similar interests, and–on account of the whole same parents thing–can really relate to each other. Somewhere along the way, we even got another little bro to share.
Fast-forward 20-something years. Now I have a husband my own and my brother, Beau, has a smart, charismatic, funny fiance. This wedding gift has to show Beau how much I care, that I’m happy for him, and that I can’t wait for Bobbi to be a part of our family.
First I made a list of things they like, in hopes of getting gifting inspiration. They both love fishing (they’re actually having a fishing-themed wedding) and other outdoor sports. They also both love cooking. Beau loves history and archaeology and he works for the railroad. Bobbi works in financial management and she loves crafting and DIY projects.
Starting with their professions, I thought Beau might like the Railroad Date Nail Cufflinks, and I could pair them with a necklace for Bobbi, like the Cymbal of Love Pendant or the Links of Love necklace.
If I really wanted to focus on “personal” I could make them something myself. I would love to put together a scrapbook, create a quilt (if I knew how to quilt, of course), or paint their portrait (again with the “if I could do that sort of thing” thing). Unfortunately, me creating a beautiful handmade gift probably isn’t going to happen.
The next best thing is finding a lovely handmade gift handmade by someone else, but expressing what I want to say. Something that really says, “Welcome to the family.” A Wedding Wishes Vase is a great choice, because it’s a way for me to share how I feel about the happy couple and let others do the same. I also love the Personalized Tree Anniversary Plate and the tree fits nicely with their outdoorsy wedding theme. Another of my custom favorites is the Personalized Photo Wall Art. Since she’s choosing to change her last name, it would be a fun way to say “Now you’re a part of team Tweten.”
So, which of these wonderful gifts did I decide is perfect for my brother and his beautiful bride-to-be? I can’t say, because the wedding hasn’t happened yet (and because, to be honest, there’s a wee possibility that I haven’t decided). All stressing aside, though, I know they will love the gift no matter which product I choose, because it’s coming from me. (Not in a weird “I’m so great they’ll love anything I pick” way, but in the way that you hang indecipherable drawings from children on the fridge because they were made with love.)
I’m looking forward to celebrating their special day with them, wearing a fancy bridesmaid’s dress, and–like I watched my little brother grow up–watching two people in love grow old together.