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Jewelry

Gift Guides

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Classic Beauty

November 2, 2015

Vintage Inspired Gifts | UncommonGoods

Do you know someone who always looks like she just walked off the set of Mad Men? She might be the spitting image of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, or possess the timeless grace of women like Iman or Amal Clooney. You swear that her Instagram account is recorded through a rose-colored lens. Finding a gift to suit such a regal personality isn’t easy. However, one thing we’re sure of is that true vintage appeal must incorporate an element of the uncommon, something that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. (As you might imagine, we consider that our specialty). In honor of the classic beauty in your life, we’ve rounded up our favorite finds that will stun her with elegance and panache.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Andrea Panico

August 20, 2015

UncommonGoods is excited to unveil what we’re proud to call the Uncommon Collection – an assortment of some of our very favorite offerings that fully embody our core values. Each week we introduce new artists in our This Just In-spiration series, but we’re happy to give a special introduction for one of the artists helping us grow this collection of truly uncommon designs.

In meeting our five key standards, all designs featured in the collection are original and demonstrate exceptional ingenuity, while makers adhere to responsible business practices and leave a minimal footprint on our environment. What makes an artist’s design special and motivates them to have a positive impact on the world is certainly worth sharing. Meet Andrea Panico, the maker behind Jewelry in a Bottle, exclusively at UncommonGoods.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always had creativity running through me. My mom was an art teacher and my dad a biology teacher-turned school principal. So I sort of had the yin and yang of influences. I wrote poetry as a kid and played piano (by ear) starting at age 5. But I never thought I wanted to work in a creative field. I planned to be a doctor, even all the way through my undergraduate degree! It took me applying and not getting accepted to medical school to think about what I was meant to do and what was important to me. After getting a job at an architecture firm, everything clicked for me. I knew I was in the right place. At that point, I started taking foundation design classes and then eventually got my masters in Industrial Design at Pratt.

Jewelry in a Bottle | UncommonGoods

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Everyone says it’s important to do what you love and I believe that’s true. There are so many other things that influence our day – office interactions, family obligations, even the weather – so having a baseline of truly enjoying your work and your process helps provide balance. I have worked for quite a few designers, and that can be a huge challenge. So even more exciting than becoming a professional designer was starting my own business, when I finally had the opportunity to chart my own course.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Typically, I attack the “to-do” list I’ve made the night before. ( It seems like all my urgent emails come in after I leave!) I also often straighten up my space. I’m a firm believer in “everything in its place and a place for everything”. I can think more clearly when there’s not too much visual clutter around me. After that, we deal with any retail or wholesale orders, getting them ready for shipment. The rest of the day is reserved for whatever project is most pressing at the moment – whether preparing for a show, designing new products for our jewelry line, or working on the many additional design projects we do here. My day typically ends with a stop at the UPS store, where I ship our orders.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I have pictures of my kids on my computer screen. It helps to see them, to jolt me back into “full person” mode. It’s easy to get pulled strongly into whatever project is at the top of the to-do list. For the same reason, I keep a piece of Desert Jasper on my desk. It’s a beautiful rough stone believed to bring a sense of tranquility and wholeness and to balance physical, mental, and emotional bodies. It also stimulates creativity and imagination, which a designer always needs!

Pico in workspace

Did anything in particular inspire your design?
Most of my designs are inspired by architecture, or great buildings. I am a minimalist and like the objects I have in my home to be clean, simple and multifunctional. This jewelry holder was inspired by the idea that what we use to store our jewelry should be as nice as the jewelry inside! I wanted something more than a “box” that also functioned and kept the jewelry from becoming tangled.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I have a first grader and she usually says everything is “beeeeaaaaaauuuutiful.”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not”
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Why is sustainability important to you?
Having worked in architecture and design firms before starting my own design company, I learned about sustainability as it pertained to large scale multimillion dollar projects. At the scale of a building, or buildings, the choices we make as designers have such visible impact on so many levels. I think small businesses may think they are too insignificant to have an impact, but I believe every little bit counts. In my design process, I try to create pieces that will endure and that will be handed down as heirlooms. We have enough mass market companies making “throw-away” products – my goal is to have people enjoy what they buy from me for years to come.

In what ways does your design reflect social and environmental best interests?
The ecosystem of my typical design and production process involves quite a few moving parts, and I regularly review that system to see where I can do better. Whether it’s shipping logistics, material usage, or how my team is set up or costing, all the factors get reevaluated. For the most recent design I did with UncommonGoods, we used recycled bottles in combination with wood for our jewelry holder. We worked with existing bottle sizes and designed around that, fitting the lid design in with these constraints. The idea for this piece came from a design in my own line, and we were able to make it less expensive AND in a more environmentally conscious way. Superb!

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Michale Dancer

August 5, 2015

UncommonGoods is excited to unveil what we’re proud to call the Uncommon Collection – an assortment of some of our very favorite offerings that fully embody our core values. Each week we introduce new artists in our This Just In-spiration series, but we’re happy to give a special introduction for one of the artists helping us grow this collection of truly uncommon designs.

In meeting our five key standards, all designs featured in the collection are original and demonstrate exceptional ingenuity, while makers adhere to responsible business practices and leave a minimal footprint on our environment. What makes an artist’s design special and motivates them to have a positive impact on the world is certainly worth sharing. Meet Michale Dancer, the maker behind the new Gilded Branches Jewelry Tree, exclusively at UncommonGoods.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My Father was an apartment building landlord, and he brought floor plans home when I was a young child. I started walking through the spaces and learned to create my own apartment designs. I was young but it stayed with me, so I when I had a chance to study, my first love was design and architecture.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
That professional buyers were interested in my creations, enough to pay for them.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I meet with my team and create a production list that needs to be accomplished that day. Our team divides and manufactures products depending on which department will be in production. Each department has their skill set (i.e. harvesting, plating, manufacturing Still Life ornaments, jewelry, nightlights, and various custom creations). I check my office for emails and calls from clients. At the end of day, we take 15 minutes for meditation to leave calm and relaxed. It really works!

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near?
I have a collection of beautiful objects found on my hikes, such as skeletonized leaves, branches, pods, shells, pine cones, acorns, etc.

Did anything in particular inspire your design?
I was hiking one day when I saw a leaf decaying, and had noticed the delicate lacy structure of the leaf. Nature is incredibly beautiful, and at the same time, ephemeral, and wouldn’t last. I wanted to bring this beauty to people and found a technique that would allow me to do so.

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Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Wow, a real gold leaf!

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Nature is the best designer I know and therefore, my motivator. I’m self- motivated in that I can’t stop designing. My mind is always thinking of how to bring nature indoors to show people it’s true beauty.

Why is sustainability important to you?
We all live on this wonderful planet, and obviously it has become polluted from all our dirty manufacturing processes. I appreciate the beauty of nature in it’s true form, so why not create items that are made directly from nature. If we can show people how to use sustainable products, perhaps we can help our planet heal.

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In what ways does your design reflect social and environmental best interests?
Everyone that owns a Still Life product understands it comes directly from the earth. We want people to learn that we don’t have to make beautiful décor from plastics and other methods that continue to pollute our planet.

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Gift Guides

Celebrate Sisterhood – Gift Picks for Your Sis

July 31, 2015

Gifts for Sisters

Sister can mean the one who was born into your immediate family or the “sister” who is your closest friend. Sisters are the ones that nurture you, support you, and laugh and grow with you. Any way around it, you’re definitely more than a little similar, probably look a bit alike, and have definitely gotten on each other’s nerves a few times.

In honor of Sister’s Day – August 2nd – we’ve put together a collection of our favorite gifts for the world’s best sister. Sister’s Day is a day to surprise your sister with something special – or meet up with your girlfriends for a night out! But most of all, it’s a time to simply enjoy each other’s company, which doesn’t require a special day. Whether she’s younger, older, or not even officially related to you, we’re sure you’ll find something she’ll love.

 

Gifts for Women | UncommonGoods

Big Gifts For Little Sis
Your little sister is someone who looks up to you (and helped teach you to be someone to look up to), taught you how to be patient (despite driving you a little crazy), and inspires you to be responsible (and have some fun while doing it). Her oh-so dramatic entrance into your family may have changed the dynamic a bit, but she’s a gift deserving of being spoiled with a great gift of your own. She’ll love it!

 

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Because her presence in your life is simply invaluable. No matter where the next years take you and what changes occur, you’ll always have a special connection that will never break. | Connected Hearts Necklace

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No matter which one of you was icier towards the other from time to time during the occasional spat, she’ll love the cute decor! | Ice Pops

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Now that she’s old enough to appreciate some personal space, she’d appreciate the Door Harp as an added seal against pesky little intruders… even though you suffered the hard way when she was littler: “Ugh, get out of my room!”

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No matter if she’s a tea lover, coffee guzzler, or she’s still sticking with hot cocoa, the Zenguin Mugs are a cute and witty appeal to your mutual need to chill from time to time.

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Whether she’s young enough to curl up next to you as you read along or she’s been reading legal briefs for a few years (but you read author Laura Numeroff’s If Your Give a Mouse a Cookie  with her as a kid), she’s sure to appreciate the adorable sentiment of What Big Sister Does Best (customizeable with the name of big sis!).

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The Bedside Smartphone Vase celebrates the person you’ve helped her blossom into while giving her a place to dock the smartphone your parents definitely let her get at an earlier age than you.

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Even though she’s a different beast, you’ve learned to each find your niche and rely on each other for support – your relationship is, in a word, Symbiotic.

 

 Sister, Sister!
Maybe you were actually born on the same day, or maybe you’re just close enough in age that people can’t believe you’re not twins. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to let her know you’re happy to have her by your side with one of these sweet gifts. 

 

You are Beautiful | UncommonGoods

Because no one can be told too many times. | You Are Beautiful

Butterfly Puddler | UncommonGoods

You spent mornings fighting over the bathroom when you were kids. The Morning Glory Butterfly Puddler is a great way to tell her that you appreciate that time she let you have the first shower. (After all, waking up to fluttering butterflies in the garden is much more fun than waking up to find that someone’s already used all the hot water.)

Wine Pairing Towel Set | UncommonGoods

You two already make a great pairing, but this Wine Pairing Towel Set ensures that the wine and food selections you choose to enjoy during your hangout time are equally well coordinated.

Seven Sister's Necklace | UncommonGoods

This stellar necklace depicts the “seven sisters” astral collection, inspired by Greek Mythology. They’ll keep it close, so they’ll never seem light-years away. | Seven Sisters Necklace

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The macaron is pretty close to perfect. It’s colorful, sweet, and there’s nothing else quite like it. Does that sound like someone you know?  | Les Macarons II

You Help Me Grow Planter | UncommonGoods

The You Help Me Grow Planter is a great way to let her know you appreciate all of the seeds of inspiration she’s planted in your life.

 

 A Sister is a Forever Friend Necklace | UncommonGoods

Nothing beats one of those sisterly heart-to-heart talks, but if a busy life has you behind on bonding moments, you can sum up what you want to say in a single line: A Sister Is A Forever Friend.

 

She’s Got It All
Your big sister is someone to look up to. She helped you become the person you are today. Be it her graduation, a new job, an engagement, or the birth of a child, you’re looking for a way to express how proud you are of her. Restorative, elegant, and sentimental, any of these gifts are sure to do just that – and give you a leg up to make up for all those times you had to (literally) look up to her.

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An excellent way to catch the attention of your ever-reading book-lover of a sister. She’ll get her nose out of the pages at the scent of one of the Literary Candles – themed to the scent of a favorite novel – before returning afresh with new olfactory inspiration.

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Artfully crafted, these alluring, colorful coasters are made from Brazilian agate rock under a philosophy of bringing elements of nature closer to the everyday home. | Agate Coasters – Set of 4

Sisters Globe | UncommonGoods

This radiant Recycled Glass Tree Globe molds shattered glass into a timeless symbol of your relationship with your sister. Even if things have broken in the past, the tree encapsulated inside the globe voices the impervious and always-growing nature of your relationship.

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Reminiscent of memories of summer playtime, the Dandelion Paperweight captures a fleeting moment with your sister forever  in a beautiful glass sphere.

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Celebrating Matisse’s artistic adage, this print is a reminder to always look for beauty and inspiration in your life – else you won’t see it. With a sister in your life, there are always flowers to be seen. | There Are Always Flowers

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Perfect for leavening up the kitchen decor, this Baking Duo Embroidery Hoop Art is a callback to childhood memories of baking with your sister – the true baking duo.

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Spritz up your sis’ routine with this collection of therapeutic-grade essential oils, aromatic medleys, and pleasant vibes. Each scent is hand-blended and suited for a specific place in your sister’s daily routine. | Aromatherapy Deluxe Gift Set

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You’ve always put her on a pedestal. Let her put her earrings, necklaces, and more on the Pedestal Jewelry Holder.

Garden in a Can | UncommonGoods

She watched you grow up and took care of you when you needed a little help along the way. After that, watching the Garden in a Can grow into fresh herbs will be easy peasy. (Or should we say easy leaves-y?)

 

Love You Like A Sister
So, you’re not technically siblings. Big deal! She’s been there for you through thick and thin, and that makes her family in your book. Celebrate your sister from another mister with a gift that says, “thanks for sticking around, even though you totally didn’t have to.”

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For a classic brunch date, you and your de facto sis reach for the tomato juice, vodka, and horseradish to make spicy, savory Bloody Marys, made intuitive by Alyson Thomas’ graphic representation of the classic eye-opener. | Bloody Mary Diagram Glassware

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She’ll love the vibrant cherry blossoms delicately shed from the tree evoked in this beautiful spring scene. | Cherry Blossom Snow Globe

See Myself In You | UncommonGoods

They say opposites attract, but you and your “sister” see everything the same way. The I See Myself In You Pendant offers a simple, reflective expression of the affinity between both sisters and best friends – one in the same in your case. | I See Myself In You Pendant

Love Grows Here

If a relationship is a living thing, none is more vibrant and healthy than what the two of you have. The Love Grows Here Terrarium acts as a microcosmic manifestation of that relationship – lush, living greenery encapsulated in a stylish jar – complete with a customizable figure holding the sign “I <3 You.” | Love Grows Here Terrarium

Butterfly Spikes | UncommonGoods

She’s always willing to help you see the bright side of any situation. Help her see some brightly colored butterflies. | Butterfly Attracting Garden Spikes

When Life Gives You Lemons | UncommonGoods

When Life Gives You Lemons, you make lemonade, so it’s only natural that when life throws a great gal your way, she becomes an honorary inductee to your family. | When Life Gives You Lemons by Jodi Kostelnik

Four Seasons | UncommonGoods

In the yearlong cycle from Winter, to Spring, to Summer, to Fall, the only constant seems to be that you’re perennially drawn to each other’s company. The Four Seasons Necklace celebrates the unique beauty of her favorite season while embodying the spirit that keeps you as close as sisters.

 

Treat Yo Sis 
Maybe she’s always been the most industrious of the litter and she deserves an aromatic day of restorative relaxation – or maybe she’s always been the spoiled one. (And you’re fine with that. Heck, you’ve helped do the spoiling.) Either way, treat your sister to a set of scrubs and spreads or a centerpiece for quiet reflection.

 

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Perfect if a hot cup of aromatic goodness is her quickest route to serenity, the Green Tea Herbal Kit includes nine herbs and three varieties of eco-certified, organic green tea from Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. Plus, it puts the tea in sisTer.

 

Flavor Infuser Water Bottle | UncommonGoods

Show your sis that it is possible to indulge without throwing health out the window. | Flavor Infuser Water Bottle

 

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Bring the spa right to her and treat her with the works – she deserves it! The Spa Experience Tin boasts “farm fresh,” all natural approaches to revitalization with ingredients like goat’s milk, lavender, truffles, and whipped shea cream.

Check out our gift lab so see a member of our team see just how spa-worthy the tin is!

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If she’s shea obsessed, indulge her in the Shea Butter Gift Set. Each blend of soothing salve is hand blended and contains all natural ingredients – and an especially high shea content for an extra smooth finish.

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Inspired by the ancient Indian theory of acupressure, this mat and pillow supply the perfect amount of pressure that releases endorphins similar to those we receive after an intense workout. If not for providing a bit of productive pressure, what are sisters for? | Acupressure Mat and Pillow

Thumb Waterer | UncommonGoods

 

Is her garden her happy place? Let sis take tending to her flowers to another level of tranquility with the Thumb Waterer and it will be almost like her troubles are washing away in the rain.

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Sisters nurture each other as lifelong sources of inspiration and encouragement, and this attractive journal is a place to ground those feelings. The journal itself is motivating, made from  thin strips of sustainable-sourced alder wood engraved with the message “Do What You Love, Love What You Do.” | Do What You Love Wooden Journal

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This low-tech tablet allows your zen-seeking sister to peacefully reflect on thoughts before they disappear into the sands of time. | Meditation Box 

 

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Gift Guides

Elegant to Edgy: A Guide to Jewelry You’ll Love

July 30, 2015

See UncommonGoods' Jewelry Collection

As UncommonGoods’ Jewelry Buyer, I see a ton of the beautiful pieces that I bring into the assortment end up making fabulous gifts for stylish women. I love seeing my selections making people happy on birthdays and during the holidays, but I also enjoy thinking outside the gift box to find necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings that jewelry lovers will want to buy for themselves.

I hand-picked these pieces not only because they make me smile, but also because they span a variety of styles–classic, contemporary, elegant, edgy, and even eclectic.  Each design is special, unique, and totally unexpected, and I personally want them all for my own collection. (And I think you will too!)

3 Stone Sea Glass Necklace | Courtney Gillen | UncommonGoods

What is more nostalgic than sea glass? Courtney Gillen uses gorgeous real sea glass to make this necklace. It can be a wearable reminder of childhood days spent collecting rocks and shells at the beach or a tribute to a bygone seaside vacation. No matter why you wear it, it’s an easy way to keep the ocean close without going overboard with the nautical theme. | 3 Stone Sea Glass Necklace

Stalactite Slice Ring | Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoodsThis statement ring truly does make a statement. Artist Emilie Shapiro is known for her use of gorgeous raw stones, and in this case, she goes all out. The eye-catching gem is actually a stalactite, formed over millions of years. One word: WOW. | Stalactite Slice Ring

 

Sterling Silver Wings Bangle | UncommonGoodsIt can be hard to take a chance when you don’t know what the outcome will be. The artist behind this beautiful bangle, Christine Street, uses the messaging “she took the leap and built her wings on the way down” to say it’s OK to take a chance and pursue a dream. | Sterling Silver Wings Bangle 

Tibetan Bell Necklace | Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

Inspired by meditative Tibetan bells, this handcrafted necklace makes a soft, soothing sound. As if the gentle tone wasn’t enough to bring on a serene smile, artist Jen Pleasants  finishes each bell clapper with a personal touch, a hanging heart. | Tibetan Bell Necklace

 

Mixed Metal Earrings | UncommonGoods

 

Fernanda Sibilia creates a rustic feel by hand-hammering these mixed metal circles and letting oxidation add its own special touch, a unique patina. No two earrings are the same, but those intentional imperfections make each set a perfect pair. | Trio Mixed Metal Earrings

 

Personalized Birch Cuff | Nancy Nelson | UncommonGoods

 

Nancy Nelson gets her inspiration, and materials, from nature. The bark that created the cast for this brass cuff is the perfect backdrop for Nancy to carve your initials. The little heart cutout is an extra drop of  sweetness. | Personalized Love Birch Cuff

 

Sky Glimmer Necklace | UncommonGoods

The artist behind this piece, Eileen Baumeister McIntyre, captures the feel of the sky as dawn breaks by adding glossy glass enamel to fine silver. The finished “petal” has a subtle, shimmery ombre effect that’s simple and sophisticated. | Sky Glimmer Necklace 

Hydrangea Gold Dipped Lace Necklace | UncommonGoods
Inspired by pre-Columbian jewelry, Tulianna Garces, takes lovely pieces of vintage-inspired lace and transforms them into gilded necklaces. The lace is dipped in 24kt gold and then meticulously cleaned by hand so the detail comes through, creating a special piece that isn’t easily replicated. | Hydrangea Gold Dipped Lace Necklace

Precious Dipped Lace Heart Necklace | UncomonGoods

The floral motif isn’t the only style that shines in dipped lace. The delicate fabric is the perfect starting point for Tulianna’s heart-shaped creations as well. | Precious Dipped Lace Heart Necklace & Mini Gold Dipped Lace Heart Earrings.

Penny for Your Thoughts Necklace | Trudy James | UncommonGoods

This whimsical necklace features an adorable mini penny!  Trudy James creates a teeny-tiny replica of a penny with perfect detail and places it in each pendant, so you won’t have to offer your spare change to get folks to tell you they think of this charming piece. They’ll pay you compliments unprompted. | A Penny for Your Thoughts Necklace

 

Golden Slice Agate Necklace | UncommonGoodsThe raw look of this shimmering stone is earthy, yet glamorous.  The designer, Lucy Dalton, hand selects each agate and then accents the chain with little gold nuggets to create a perfectly pretty piece with just the right amount of edge. | Golden Slice Agate Necklace

Anatomical Heart Pendant | UncommonGoods

Whether you love edgy jewelry, want to show off your interested in biology or anatomy, or just want a necklace that stands out, this piece by Justine Brooks is a great way to show that you march to the beat of your own heart.   | Anatomical Heart Pendant

 

Jewelry for Every Style | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Design Challenge Winner Lindsay Locatelli Shifts Our Perception of Home and Jewelry

July 8, 2015

As a summer intern, I’m still becoming acquainted with UncommonGoods’ vast menagerie of jewelry, but I have to admit that Lindsay Locatelli’s winning entry in our Jewelry Design Challenge is especially cool. Her Tiny Village Stacking Rings depict a home-y village nestled beneath a series of mountains, all in robust sterling silver. The design is especially unique due to its kinetic aspect; unfixed, the rings can constantly shift and reorient themselves on one’s finger, “similar to driving through the mountains.”

PicMonkey Collage

Lindsay drew inspiration for her piece by a time in her life when she drifted throughout the American Southwest, exploring its extraordinary natural features and adapting to life in three different cities. Though “home” originally meant Minnesota, her newfound connection to the Southwest led her to question whether “home” was concrete – or, like the rings, constantly shifting.

Her piece compellingly evokes the perhaps dissonant feeling many of us face at some point in our life when “home” evolves in meaning, or takes on a new shape. But her design also indicates the consistency our home offers, even if the place we associate with it is dynamic.

Read on for more about Lindsay’s evolving art practice, her work space and process, and her advice for aspiring artists.

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What inspired the concept of your winning piece?
I went through a nomadic phase straight out of college and spent a good deal of time exploring the southwest. I fell in love with the region and felt like it was my true home – a very specific connectedness that I never had before. I grew up and currently live in Minnesota but this experience made me question the concept of what “home” could mean from one individual to another.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I made a nice studio upgrade and bought myself a Little Smith Oxy/Acetelyne torch and it’s completely changed how I work and made my practice much more efficient.

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When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I guess I’ve always considered myself as a creative soul ever since I can remember. I’ve gone from illustration and painting to sculpture, furniture design and on to jewelry… I was raised in a very creative environment surrounded by many artists and an amazing support system.

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
I’m a quarter Japanese, I’m a Gemini, and my best friends are two Shetland sheepdogs.

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What’s your artistic process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you? 
Well to be completely honest, I wear many hats and work many jobs so when I’m able to jump into the studio, it’s quite an intuitive and organic process. I lay all of my bits and bobs out on the table and piece them together until something feels good. When it came to the Village Stacking Rings, I began stamping out tiny little houses as well as little mountainscapes. I wanted to create a set of rings that had a kinetic aspect so that when they are being worn, the perspective is constantly shifting – similar to driving through the mountains.

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Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
I think it would be safe to say that most artists have very intriguing spaces only unique to them. Mine is fairly clean right now but because I’ve worked in so many mediums over the years, I’ve got everything from tiny little motors, electrical wires, and power tools to gemstones, silver, brass, clay, paper, textiles, and more. I also have an inspiration wall where I keep and collect strange treasures like bones, dried plant bits, old tin cans, vintage cameras, etc.

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
Visualize what you see for yourself, enjoy the ride because there’s a silver lining to everything and on each day, complete at least one thing off your to-do list. It’s easy to get swept up in life’s daily distractions but sticking to your list helps to keep you on track and focused.

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Describe your first experience as a jewelry designer.
After taking a creative hiatus, I began to work again in my studio and I was limited to a few tools and some wood. I began to carve out little rings and wore them around until one day I got picked up by a local gallery. From there on, my business has grown little-by-little.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck. How do you keep yourself inspired?
Going back to that to-do list, on days where I’m not motivated or mentally drained I will get back into the studio and force myself to knock off a couple of those items that I might not have been able to get to in the last week. I also like to spend time every week researching and looking at what other contemporary artists are doing because sometimes I get stuck in a jewelry-sized mindset and this helps me think outside the box.

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sandra Bonazoli and Jim Dowd

June 15, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Sandra Bonazoli and Jim Dowd, designers of the Make a Wish Measuring Spoon Set.

Sandra Bonazoli | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Even when I was very young, I had a love of drawing and making small things. I didn’t know it then, but I also loved beautiful old objects – I used to walk around my town and admire the architectural details on old homes. But I never really thought about being an artist or a craftsperson until I started to teach jewelry after college, and saw other people making a living with their artwork. Granted, their living may have been patched together, but they made a life for themselves being creative and doing what they loved. That had never occurred to me before that point, but that’s when I knew I wanted to be an artist/craftsperson.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

To be honest, I wouldn’t really consider myself an artist. I don’t make work for exhibitions, galleries, or museums, or any other context other than people’s homes. It’s just not my intention. My intention (and my husband’s – we work together) is to make meaningful objects with an emphasis on function, that are professionally crafted, and as affordable as possible. Those things are usually not the criteria of an artist. I would say I’m very happy to be a designer and a craftsperson, particularly a metal-smith. The most exciting thing about what I do is seeing the physical manifestation of an idea. Every time something new comes out of the mold for the first time, I remember why I love doing this.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?

Being self-employed means wearing many hats, so a typical day involves answering email, dealing with inventory, quality control, working on new designs, making inventory, and being frustrated with computers. If there is ever a dull moment, it doesn’t last long!

What are your most essential tools?

Unfortunately, the computer. Also my jeweler’s saw with 4/0 blades (they’re pretty teeny), No.4 cut half round and barrette shaped files, rubber cement, and medium silver solder.

Sandra Bonazoli and Jim Dowd | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

We make a silver pendant in the shape of an anchor. I wear mine almost every day. We made this pendant after spending a couple of weeks in the South of France, where anchor motifs are everywhere – for example, the brackets for hanging streetlights are in the shape of an anchor. They are a part of the architecture and landscape. We live in Rhode Island, and there are a lot of anchor motifs around here too. It connects me to where I live, as well as special places I’ve been. But most of all, I love the symbolism. Anchors have traditionally been a symbol of hope. I love the idea that raising anchor literally means that one of is off to a new port, a new journey, and a new adventure and symbolizes all the hope one has when going somewhere new.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?

We do make some kids products, so I happen to know they like things that they feel are made especially for them. Like spoons made for little hands. Otherwise, I still think they might say our other products are special too.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

Again, being self-employed means having to do a lot of things you don’t want to do, in order to keep doing what you love to do. Therefore it’s good to keep in mind: If you can’t get out of it – Get into it! Helps every time.

 

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Maker Stories

Lisa Wilson’s Winning Butterfly Cloud Necklace Lands in our Line-up

April 30, 2015

Lisa Wilson | UncommonGoods

I’ve always loved butterflies, so when I saw Lisa Wilson’s entry in our Jewelry Design Challenge, I’ll admit my heart was just a bit aflutter. Her Butterfly Cloud Necklace depicts a fleet of lovely Lepidoptera positioned in such a way that they almost seem to be moving their delicate wings. 

While none of the butterflies in Lisa’s piece actually flew away, the design did manage to fly through the voting process, flit about our judging round while our team admired its quality and craftsmanship, and then landed in our assortment. In fact, our buyers loved the design so much that we also decided to carry matching Butterfly Cloud Earrings.

Butterfly Cloud Necklace | UncommonGoods

I’m not sure when or where my personal fascination with butterflies started, but luckily, Lisa has a better memory than I do. She knows exactly why she chose the colorful winged creatures as the subject for her winning design. As Lisa watched the butterflies that fluttered by her Colorado garden studio, she thought of “a wanderer’s heart” and the idea of fluttering around the country until finding a place to call home. 

Read on to learn more about Lisa’s love for Colorado, her inspiration for new designs, and her advice for aspiring artists. 

 

Lisa at work | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I love getting good news first thing to start off the week, and hearing I won the design challenge definitely made my list of favorite Monday mornings ever! I literally did a little happy dance right then and there while I was on the phone with UG. Of course, my husband was just as thrilled as I was and later we went out for a lovely dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
On some level I think I always knew. Not that I’ve always wanted to be an artist professionally, but I think we all start off with at least some sense of adventurous creativity. For me, a love of tinkering, making, and just putting different things together for the sake of seeing what happens has always been a fundamental truth of the way I understand and interact with the world.

Empty Vessel by Lisa Wilson
You mentioned that this necklace reflects on your time “fluttering” around the country before landing in Colorado. How did you know you’d found your home?
I knew I’d found home because I couldn’t stay away. After finishing my MFA, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in an Artist-in-Residence program at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and teach metalsmithing and jewelry design classes at various colleges and universities around the country. Necessarily, this meant a lot of far and frequent moving around. At the time it was all one big adventure and moving on from one part to the next was always a happy experience with exciting new things ahead and good memories in the wake. When it came time to move on from Colorado though, the thrill of heading out into the world again seemed to pale in comparison to the life I had happened into. I had just spent a lovely summer enjoying the beautiful mountain landscape with my (now) husband Michael, dancing my feet off nearly every night, and working away in my studio each day. I did actually end up moving away to Indiana for a semester of teaching, and for the first time, knew what it felt like to feel homesick. So, at the end of the appointment, I packed my bags, headed home, and haven’t looked back since.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
This is a question that has always been a bit tricky for me, because really anything is fair game! Ideas for my designs come from the many people and things in my surroundings that inspire me to celebrate life. Inspiration can come from an object, a sound, or a material process. It can come from something simple and pretty to see, something complex, bittersweet or even painful. Spring is budding here in Colorado right now, so new designs are taking shape in the simple and universal delight of the landscape coming to life.

Garden - Grape Hyacinths 05
What’s your creative process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you?
Usually at the beginning, one of two things happens. Either something I see/hear/etc. strikes me, and I immediately want to start designing, or I start to feel antsy; I want to be designing and making–but I need a starting point, so I start looking for one. Usually, once that ‘restless’ feeling sinks in, it isn’t too long before something is in the works.

The two most important parts of my process are by far daydreaming and playing. I will spend hours just thinking in my head about what I might make before I even start sketching. Sometimes I’ll spend so much time just conceptualizing that by the time I get to the making part, the rest of the process flows from sketch to fabrication to finished piece in just a few hours. I also like to play though, by which I mean I like to just get my hands on some materials and see where the day takes me. This more ‘hands on’ version of my process often yields several prototypes, what I describe as ‘3d’ sketches, or even a whole mini-series of separate designs over the course of weeks.

 

Silhouette Workshop
Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
One thing is certain, and that is that there is no such thing as too much work surface! Like so many other artists and craftspeople, I tend to ‘grow to the size of my container,’ so somewhere along the line, I decided not to have one. I keep a sort of core studio space, that may not be pretty, but houses larger tools, materials storage, and more permanent fixtures, but I also will set up to work wherever the mood strikes. When the weather is nice (it is gorgeous in Colorado throughout the spring, summer, and fall!) I will pick up whatever I need to work with and set myself up outside in the garden, or for lighter work throw open all the doors and windows in the house and work right in the living room.

Studio Assistant Hazel
What’s your best advice for aspiring artists and designers?
In a sentence…Be generous with yourself. If you are passionate about what you do, afford yourself the time to do it. Make it a priority right alongside everything else that it takes to pay the bills, maintain relationships, and whatever else is a basic necessity in your life. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and enter that competition, apply for that job, and attend that professional conference, because you are your own best champion and to get that first ‘yes’ is worth however many ‘no’s it takes to find it.

See Lisa's Collection | UncommonGoods

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