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Maker Stories

Her Own Two Feet: Dylan Kendall’s Design Story

January 20, 2012

Dylan Kendall says that she’s always anthropomorphized objects. Take a look at her footed bowls, with their round “bellies,” comical legs, and cartoonish feet, and you’ll see exactly what she means.

“I’m stuck in a visual wonderland, ” She explains. “I’m an adult who grew up begrudgingly. I like to think about that world where we don’t leave behind our childhood games, our imaginations, our wonder and awe. My work occupies that space that respects we are adults but doesn’t forget that we need to play!”

Dylan didn’t give up her appreciation for whimsy or childlike sense of wonder, but she did learn many life lessons on her road to adulthood. Dylan’s journey to becoming a designer started with a trip to Europe, and included starting her own ceramics studio and founding a non-profit organization.

It started when she was 17. After graduating from high school early, she went to London to study at Richmond College. She says that didn’t last long and a few months later she was traveling around Europe. Eventually she ended up in Paris, where she “unofficially” attended Parsons School of Design.

Dylan says, “I wasn’t a student at the school but I hung around in the studios…working with my hands felt good, motivated me.” A few years later, when she was back in Los Angeles, she started her first ceramics studio in her apartment.

Her work was a success, and as galleries started carrying her pieces, she realized she could make art a career. She decided to give it her all and headed to Oakland to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts.

During her time in Oakland she lived near a low-income area, and was saddened by the poverty and despair she saw every day driving through rundown neighborhoods on her way to school. She ended up moving back to Los Angeles to finish her degree (and earn a Masters Degree) at UCLA, but the memories of the Oakland neighborhoods stuck with her.

In 2005 she founded Hollywood Arts, an organization that helps at-risk youths and young adults through art–giving them the opportunity to work with their hands, experience the feeling of creating something, and even participate in performance art.

A Hollywood Arts drawing class.

“[Hollywood Arts] was a success,” she says. “We were proving that we were able to reach kids who had checked out of other efforts.” The organization now offers 22 theater, art, and music classes a week at no cost and works to help students find internships and jobs in the creative sector.

Although Dylan has passed the Hollywood Arts torch on to a new executive director , she says the organization will always have a special place in her heart and is the designated charity for her design company.

Through helping kids to get involved in the arts, supporting nonprofits and the arts in her Huffington Post articles, and creating designs that make us feel like kids again, Dylan is definitely doing her part to inspire creativity and encourage active imaginations.


Uncommon New Designs: Foodie Favorites

January 9, 2012

Whether you’re a great cook, a self-proclaimed foodie, or a competitive eater in training, you’ll love these epicurean-friendly new designs.

In fact, our community voting app contains a medley of tools to get you baking, broiling, chopping, and whipping.

The Twisk Whisk is just one of these clever kitchen inventions.

The Twisk transforms from a robust round mixer to a slim flat mixer with a simple twist, and it’s easy to store in flat form. This whipping wonder is pretty impressive, but a few other new products up for voting are just as innovative.

The Cut and Collect cleans up the prep process a bit, while Nesting Utensils and this collapsible Cookbook Stand help you stay organized.

Now, you may want to share your home-cooked creations with your family, but this can be a chore if you’re serving picky eaters. Fortunately, one of the newest additions to our assortment can help.

My Food Passport encourages kids to take tasty travels through trying new foods. Once the journey is complete, they can stamp their passport with a sticker to prove their culinary courage.

We have something new for those who are already quite adventurous and love to try a variety of flavors, too.

These Stoneware TV Dinner Trays are perfect for portioning your favorite main courses, veggies, and desserts.

Would you love to get cooking with new foodie favorites? Visit our community voting app to add your comments to the mix, or stop by our this just in page to see more uncommon new designs!


Germaphobes Rejoice! Cleaner Kitchens, One Sponge at a Time

January 5, 2012

Some people aren’t too picky about their cleaning supplies. For those less-than-germ-conscious types, any old sponge will do. Engineer Michael Frank was one of those folks, but his roommate was far from it. Although Michael now admits that kitchens can be pretty gross, when he first designed his innovative two-teared sponge rack, the Spongester, he did it with the germaphobia of others in mind.

Of course, those germaphobes aren’t scrubbing up the wrong sink. According to WebMD, your kitchen sink can actually contain more germs than your toilet bowl. Fortunately, cross-contamination may have met it’s worst enemy. Spongester is made of industrial-grade stainless steel, is slanted just right to prevent water from pooling up, and features semi-perforated shelves for extra drainage.

Here at UncommonGoods we think the idea is pretty ingenious, but Michael faced a few hurdles before his clever system made it big. The designer took a moment to tell us about how Spongester came to be, describe what makes a Sponge evil, and make us laugh.

Q.In your video, you explain that the product was created to keep the good sponge and the evil sponge from getting mixed up. What makes a sponge angelic or evil?

The original prototype, and the one in the video I made while I was living in Singapore, said “Dish” and “Misc”. I didn’t come up with “Good” and “Evil” until I was back in NYC. Something about this city. But in reality, I always thought the counter and sink were a bit “grosser” than dishes, especially my counter and sink.

Mike sent us this cartoon by Tony Murphy, which he says “proved to me I was not alone.”

Q. You said that your former roommate is a germaphobe. Any other examples of the lengths you would have to go to keep things clean/prevent cross-contamination?

I’m actually pretty bad about this, and I have to admit I sometimes clean the counter with the good sponge, then feel bad about it. I’m a biomedical engineer by training, so I do spend a lot of time wondering how much mold I’m ingesting when I use a smelly sponge on a drinking glass.

He also passed along this image from his alleged germaphobic friend Sean’s Facebook. He assures us his ol’ roomie was just kidding.

Q.Spongester has been a big hit among germaphobes and those who like to stay organized. Did you expect such a great response?

The idea to actually sell them outside of my friends was formed during business school last year in NYC. My professor said it was the stupidest thing he ever saw, and I also got rejected from the entrepreneurship funding program because no one understood why anyone would want one. Despite this, I always thought there were at least 100 other people out there who shared this problem, so I kept pushing it despite the skepticism.

Q. Be honest-would you rather lick a used sponge, dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink overnight, or the kitchen floor?

For me that is an easy question; I have a niche brand of OCD which requires me to lick the kitchen floor three times whenever I open the fridge and microwave. The sink I only have to lick on Thursdays. And I don’t use dishes, just ice-cube trays to partition food by color and type of animal.

Not coincidentally, I live alone with my cat, Eki, in Soho.

We’re pretty sure he’s joking about the last one, but we know that there are some interesting cleaning quirks out there. What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to avoid germs?

The Uncommon Life

Holiday Party Hosting Perfected

December 7, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  We’ve got gift-giving covered, but we’re leaving the party planning to other experts.  Take a look at some ideas we’re building on and borrowing from in order to host the perfect holiday get-together.

Set the scene for your party with DIY decorating ideas from interior designer and stylist Matthew Mead, who shared his tips with blogger Centsational Girl.  His number one piece of advice?  Keep it simple, which will help both you and your guests feel at home.

(Image courtesy of Centsational Girl)

Once the table is set, fill it with delicious dishes to impress your guests.  Food blog 101 Cookbooks has a comprehensive collection of holiday recipes to draw inspiration from, including hearty dishes like this Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad and festive snacks such as these Butter-toasted Hazelnuts.

(Image courtesy of Heidi Swanson)

Don’t let your dinner table take all the attention – just because you’re staying in doesn’t mean you can’t dress up!  Refinery29 has a variety of outfit ideas, ranging from celebrity-inspired looks to key bold red pieces.  Just don’t fall prey to any of these common holiday faux pas pitfalls!

(Image courtesy of J. Crew)

For a comprehensive guide to hosting a holiday cocktail party, the Drinks team at Serious Eats has compiled a complete how-to for hosting.  Michael Dietsch suggests crafting and creating signature cocktails in advance, anticipating 1-2 drinks per guest per hour, and stocking up on bagged ice.

(Image courtesy of Jennifer Hess from Serious Eats)

Close out the night with a variety of Christmas cookies to serve as dessert or to give as parting gifts.  Bree Hester of Baked Bree is sharing 12 weeks of Christmas cookies, including these unique Hot Chocolate Cookies and the Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

(Image courtesy of Bree Hester)

And if you can’t share the joy of the holidays with friends and family in person, make sure to send along season’s greetings with an uncommon card, stocking stuffer, or personalized gift.

The Uncommon Life

An Uncommon Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

November 22, 2011

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year or attending a potluck, consider taking inspiration for uncommon foods from a few of our favorite blogs. Who knows, you might end up creating a new tradition by cooking up one of the following dishes!

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s unique city-to-country transformation and trademark style have landed her a book deal, Food Network show, and even a movie (to be released next year). Give your guests a taste of pioneer goodness with this unique pumpkin soup, and save yourself from dirty dish duty too!
 (Image courtesy of The Pioneer Woman)

For another stuffed squash dish (and potential main substitute for any vegetarians at the table), Honest Cooking presents a Winter Squash With Stuffing and Goat Cheese that’s just as flavorful as any typical turkey.
 (Image courtesy of Honest Cooking)

Finally, if you’re seeking an alternative to pumpkin or plain apple pie, Jenna of Eat, Live, Run suggests a Chocolate Angel Nut Pie that’s unique and uncommon, but still evokes all the flavors of fall.
(Image courtesy of Eat, Live, Run)

Whether you’re sticking to the classics or making something new, we wish you all an equally Happy Thanksgiving from UncommonGoods!

Maker Stories

Udon Noodles and Buddha Bowls

September 30, 2011

Our first ever Uncommon Ceramics Design Challenge is underway! You can enter your unique creations by Oct. 31 for a chance to win $500 and a vendor contract with UncommonGoods.

Since we’re so excited to see all of your entries, we couldn’t wait to start talking ceramics! Copywriter Nina Mozes got the conversation going with Élan McPherson to learn more about how the designer develops her sleek, functional pieces.

It’s immediately apparent to anyone who encounters Élan McPherson that she is an inspired artist who looks at lemons and sees lemonade. And if you’ve ever held one of her bowls and felt how perfectly it fits in your hands, you know that Élan’s artistic goal is to take ordinary objects and bring out the beauty and utility in them.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Terra-bly Delightful Design

September 22, 2011

Ed. note: Next month we’re hosting a ceramics design challenge here at UncommonGoods, and we can’t wait to see all your beautiful, clever and unique creations. But ceramics can be a somewhat broad category. If you’re wondering what sorts of product entries we’re looking for– well, would it be fair to say everything? We love pottery and ceramics– plates, cups, vases, decorative objects, all of it. Especially pieces that make you start talking. And there’s no doubt that Michael Terra’s designs are conversation starters.

If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, check out our product stories, or subscribe to our emails, you’ve probably noticed that we don’t shy away from wordplay. So, when we heard that ceramicist Michael Terra’s new products were taking puns to the another level–the third dimension–we couldn’t resist.

“I like looking at what everyone else is doing and then look in another direction and look at what no one else is looking at,” Michael explains. “I love puns at any time, and as I was thinking about word conversions I realized that there was a multiple way of seeing/hearing the sounds of language that we use everyday.”

His Writer’s Block and Ceramic “Reading” Glasses play on the multiple ways we see and hear language.

Continue Reading…

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