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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Seth and Kali Keaveny

September 16, 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 people 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 Seth and Kali Keaveny, creators of the Wooden Gear Lamp and the Wooden Pendulum Clock.
Keaveny Family
Seth took a few minutes to tell us about working full-time in the “corporate” world while running his own business, spending time with his newborn son, and working to make his dreams a reality.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Just the other day, while organizing my basement, I came across an exercise that was dated “1980” (puts me in first grade) saying, “When I grow up I want to be an artist or a professional baseball player.” I would like to say that being an artist was a lifelong dream, but in truth… it was not something I took an interest in until my senior year at Tulane University. In fact, I selected to sing in an all-male choir in high school to avoid having to take art classes.
Perhaps my subconscious knew what my destiny might be, but throughout my youth I had strategically led my life no different than most. Go to college… get a degree… find a job… and do what you got to do. Fortunately, my heart overpowered my brain and took control forcing me to further educate myself in my passion/calling in life. At twenty two, I took a few continued education classes at SCAD in Savannah, GA only to find myself lucky enough to be invited to the Furniture Design program and receive my MFA. In short, I was a “late bloomer” when I discovered my passion to become an artist and have not looked back since.

Wooden Pendulum Clock | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Here is my day… day in and day out. I wake up no later than 2 a.m. (yes, 2 a.m.) and get to my corporate gig by 3 a.m., organize the work flow for my employees, and begin to complete the action items I have created for myself for that day. Currently, I manage the “Creative Design & Engineering Center” for North America with a great company that appreciates my creative and professional contributions while providing me the flexibility to efficiently achieve my daily obligations for them and my personal goals at [my own business,]Kkorner. I get home by 1 p.m. and head to the studio to work until about 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Next, I eat some dinner and hang with my amazing wife, Kali, and our incredible new born son, Tennyson. My head hits the pillow around 9 p.m. or so.
This lifestyle is not an easy one. It is not a lifestyle that is recommended to those who do not have a burning drive to become successful at something they love… something they MUST do… something that they truly believe they will eventually reap the rewards putting in long hours and willing to “pay their dues.”
Once all of the pieces fall into place, Kkorner will become a fulltime gig, but I have no intentions of slowing down! Sleep is overrated and the idea of sleeping one-third of this precious thing we call life is honestly disturbing to me. And if I could spend all twenty four hours of the day designing and creating, I would be a very happy man. Unfortunately, I need about five hours of rest to reboot and to maintain a clear and sound mind.

Seth and Kali Keaveny

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Being labeled as a “professional artist” can be a very personal achievement to obtain. In my current situation, I am not there… even though we have been very successful and have grown much faster than originally planned, until Kkorner is capable of providing me with enough income to comfortably support me and my family and has become a household brand name, I do not categorize myself as a professional artist. I define a “professional artist” as someone who can generate significant revenue doing what they love and are passionate about each and every day. We project that by the first quarter of 2017 this dream will manifest itself.
To answer the question directly, all I think about every second of the day is the desire to share my creations with the world. One might define this as being obsessed. In fact, I believe one must be obsessed to achieve a dream. Being conscious that I can touch people’s lives, in some small way, even with a lamp or valet, can bring tears to my eyes and chills to my bones. To inspire… to influence… to share… and, most importantly, to put a smile on someone’s face… THAT is what it is all about! THAT is the driving force behind my desire of becoming a successful professional artist.



Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Interesting question. The only items that I make sure I acknowledge on a daily bases are photos and paintings of my loved ones who have impacted my life in a positive way and who have since passed. This collection consists of family members and even my first dog of seventeen years, Taylor.

Imagine you showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Again… another great question. When the design and function allow, I try to have my pieces be “interactive.” That being said, I believe one of the first things that a kindergartner would ask is, “How do you do that?” That is when the door opens to not only educate this young and beautiful mind, but too inspire and direct them on how important it is to live a life of passion.

Wooden Gear Lamp

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I have two quotes that I have printed large enough to be pasted on my studio walls. The first quote is one that any artist will appreciate…
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

The second quote is very personal and inspirational to me. I believe this quote to be very profound and only those individuals who live their life with the same burning passion will appreciate and understand…

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Unknown

However, the quote pasted on wall has our brand name, Kkorner, in place of the word “entrepreneurship.”

What are you most essential tools?
Not being sarcastic nor disrespectful to the question, but my most essential tool is my “brain.”

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Evan Mayfield

May 25, 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 Evan Mayfield, designer of our Darkroom Timer Lamp.

Evan Mayfield | Uncommongoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist at a very early age. My grandmother was an artist and she practically raised me. I grew up drawing and painting, and quickly developed as an artist very young.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
The most exciting thing was to finally be properly compensated for all the hard work and effort I had put into my craft. Many folks like to take advantage of young artists monetarily, and it’s kind of a shame. finally getting my first real paycheck from Sony Pictures [Evan worked on the animated film G-Force] kind of made me realize I was finally in the clear!

Assembling a Lamp

Timer

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I wouldn’t say there is such a thing as a typical day. That’s why I love my job so much. Everyday is something completely different when you own your own business. Even when I am in the studio, I mix it up quite a bit because I get uninspired easily. So, I am constantly looking for something that inspires me to work on. That is always my best work.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I think a kindergartner might be confused! Haha! I have adults who approach me all the time that need an explanation, so I cannot imagine kids would get it. My work is somewhere between fine art sculpture and lighting so it can be a bit confusing. I understand that, and am not offended by people’s quizzical expressions.

materials

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Work smarter, not harder” is my go to. I’m an efficient artist, and am always looking for the best way to complete a project. My dad always used to say this, and I guess it just stuck.

Darkroom Timer Lamp | Uncommongoods

Take Home Evan's Lamp

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Cassidy Schulz Brush

February 2, 2014

IMG_0452

No matter how much I prepare before a Studio Tour, I never know exactly what to expect when I step into a creative workspace. On the way to my most recent artist encounter I traveled up New York Avenue by bus, out of my own Brooklyn neighborhood and into a close by, but unfamiliar, area somewhere between Bed-Stuy and Willaimsburg, I wondered what I’d see when I arrived at Cassidy Schulz Brush’s studio, Urban Chandy. After getting off at my stop, I wandered down a street that seemed to be a mix of industrial and urbane. I walked past warehouses and large trucks making deliveries, but also passed several people who looked like they could be on their way to art shows or coming from trendy coffee shops.

When I entered Cassidy’s studio, I found that same juxtaposition of city chic and industry. Of course, it’s what I should have been expecting all along, considering that Cassidy and her team so beautifully combine mechanical elements (like wires, sockets, and bulbs) and gorgeous reclaimed materials (like barn wood or vintage ceiling tiles) to create her chandeliers–or chandies, as she calls them.

The space is lit by a combination of sunshine pouring in large windows and the exposed bulbs hanging from its many chandies. Stacks of wood, various tools, and spools of wire line most of the walls there, and the remaining wall is covered in chalkboard paint and filled with chalky lists and numbers. Surrounded by so many details, I felt like I could explore the studio all day examining the many combinations of old and new. Here’s a closer look inside Urban Chandy, and some great advice from Cassidy Schulz Brush.

Industrial Chandelier | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
The coffee maker, I couldn’t live without it! Seriously, it has helped make many a chandy.;) Besides coffee, my three most essential tools are wire strippers, the drill, and the belt sander.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I’m inspired by the materials we bring in, every lot of wood is different and brings new challenges and surprises. I have to make time to develop all of the ideas I have between filling orders which is difficult when also chasing after a 3 year old.

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Urban Chandy | UncommonGoods

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
There is no down time in the studio! I cherish every minute that I get to spend there so I keep very busy every second, so much to do so little time. It’s not yet a place I can bring my daughter, with all the small parts, power tools, and stain odors, so I make each day count.

Wood and Tiles

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
It’s a tough lesson to learn that others will knock off your ideas. Instead of getting angry, I try to keep looking forward and creating new and better products.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
I would tell myself to have more confidence and trust my instincts more.

How do you set goals for yourself?
My one goal is to keep making the best that I can do better. I’ve said many times over the last two years that this business just took off by itself, I’ve just been along for the ride. I feel my role is to just focus on the product and design, constantly improving it.

Getting Organized
Tools

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I try to remind myself often how lucky I am to be where I am with this business and my career. I’m very ambitious and like to challenge myself, but I try to internalize every achievement as a small victory and appreciate the hard work I’ve done that lead to it.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
There are a few quotes by Thomas Edison that I find inspirational! Edison, an inventor and businessman was quoted as saying, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” It’s one of my favorites along with another I have written on our blackboard at the studio: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Thomas Edison QuoteWhat are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Right now I’m learning about patinas and how to create different colors on copper and brass with various compounds that speed up oxidation and other chemical processes that tarnish the metal. I’ve only been fabricating for two years now, so I still feel like I learn something new everyday. I studied Business Administration in college!

How do you recharge your creativity?
I like to recharge by playing with my daughter and spending time with my family. I love building things for my daughter Lucy and with her as well. We like to build forts together, it gets pretty involved at our house. Anything is game to become part of a fort…including the dog!

Painted Sockets

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I enjoy sharing ideas with other makers and feel lucky to know a few great people who always inspire and encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing. Matt and Steve Loftice at RecycledBrooklyn, Tyagi Schwartz of Dog Tag Designs, and Chris Harth of NY Cutlery have been great friends and mentors to me the last year.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: The Levitron Lamp’s Floating Fluorescence

March 20, 2013

Rocky tests the Levitron Lamp | Uncommongoods

The Levitron Lamp in action. Read on for Rocky’s Step-By-Step floating lamp tutorial.

Research
I remember it like yesterday..

About 6-7 weeks ago I’m sitting at my desk, headphones on, Spotify playlist blasting, putting in work on the current task at hand. I get to a point where I feel like a mini break is warranted and decide to relax a bit, sinking into my chair and mentally preparing myself to go full on into daydream mode. However, right before I get the chance to picture myself on a foreign beach, drinking margaritas out of umbrella decorated coconuts, something catches my eye…

Sitting on a shelf behind the neighboring desk to mine, there is a fairly large box with “Levitron Lamp” in bold print, accompanied by a photograph of a lamp underneath … I think. Why the uncertainty? Because according to the picture I’m now staring at, the lamp’s shade that sits on top, actually doesn’t “sit” at all, but FLOATS. Yes.. I’m sure now. There is definitely a minimum of 1-1.5 inch of space between the lamp’s shade and its base, with nothing connecting the two..

W. T. F. ?

See, working at UG for about a year and a half now, I’ve grown accustomed to expecting the unexpected when it comes to the products we carry. Time and time again, I find myself floored by the level of creativity and innovation applied. So much so, that I’ve made myself a permanent resident in the Merchants’ area of our office so I can scope out the samples of potential new products as they come in. (Marketing team, I promise I love you guys.. but yes, I have something on the side with the merchants.) Needless to say, this just became another time to add to that list of ‘time and time again’ I mentioned earlier.

*Pauses music. Snatches off headphones. “KATIE.. What.. is… that?!”. *

Katie (UncommonGoods Associate Buyer and my desk neighbor) informs me more about the newly received lamp and confirms that it purportedly does have floating pieces incorporated, although no one has yet to see it with their own eyes. Then after a brief pause, she adds…

Hypothesis
I have to assume that because someone out there took the time to mass manufacture, officially name, professionally package, and ship this product to our office, there is some truth about what it claims to do. However, I’m suspicious about how well it will work and for how long. My past experiences from life teach that often, things like these don’t stick around for very long, once out of the box and put to continuous use (and of course, that doesn’t fly at UG). That said, I’m predicting ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ for a short-lived amount of time before it becomes a has been.

Experiment
Setting up the lamp is fairly simple, just pay close attention to the directions, because between the different parts to the lamp and the various laws of science at play, there’s a chance of some confusion if you do not. Take it from me–I admit, at first I quickly threw the directions right to the side and had at it.

It took 1 minute and 20 seconds for me to pick them right back up again… which brings me to

STEP ONE Use the directions to identify all the pieces.

You see that first picture on the left up there? Take a real good look at it. It identifies all the pieces you will need to put the floating lamp into play and gives you the ABCs of what goes where, when, and why. You will see later that this is very key to this whole operation.

STEP TWO Read the directions thoroughly.

By now you get the point. Directions = good.

STEP THREE Find desired location for lamp and plug it in.
You will want to do this. Trust me. You will see why.. eh, I’ll just tell you now. Once setup is complete, you will not want to A. Unplug it (unless you want to practice setting it up all over again), because the way it floats is due to electromagnetism. That’s short for ‘no electricity, no magnetism.’ B. Even if you do not need to unplug your lamp, sliding or carrying it will require very slow movement. The lamp’s magnetic field is easily thrown off balance (causing the shade to fall off) when knocked too hard.

STEP FOUR This is where you get your David Blaine on and make some magic happen.

Grab the clear plastic disc and find the side that has a tiny peg poking out from the center of it. Then look at the top of the lamp’s base and find the little hole at the center of that. Once found, place the clear plastic disc, peg side facing down, on top of base’s center and slide it around until the peg falls into the little hole, securing the disc in place.

Now grab your black cylinder/tube/thingamajig. Notice one end will have a thick border and the other end will not. Place the end that doesn’t have the thick border into your clear plastic disc. (You will know you’ve done it correctly because it also will slide securely into place.) At this point, find your little hockey-puck-looking magnet, hold it over the top of the cylinder as if you’re going to drop it in and take a trip down memory lane to junior high science class. If you feel that the magnet is trying to run away from the cylinder’s opening, that means it is repelling and you need to flip the magnet over for the side we need to work with. If there is no repelling, then we’re good to continue.

Next, drop the magnet into the center of the cylinder. The directions say to start much higher for this to work, but I found that starting right over the cylinder is fine. When dropped into the cylinder correctly, it will float on its own directly in the center. If done incorrectly, it will still float, but also rest on the walls of the cylinder. That’s a no-no. You will have to redo it.

Once you have the magnet floating in the center, you can now take the cylinder off by pulling it straight up. After that, push the plastic disc off the side. Neither of these are needed anymore.

STEP FIVE Place your lamp shade on the magnet.

So after spending some time looking at how cool the magnet looks floating there (because you’re definitely going to), you’re now ready to place your lamp shade. There is a groove in the bottom of the shade that allows it to sit perfectly on top of the magnet. Using some finesse (so to not knock the magnet out of ‘orbit’), place the shade on top.

WALLAH! Floating Lamp Goodness complete.

Conclusion
I also want to highlight that besides the floating feature, the lamp itself is pretty nice. As you can see from the pictures, it has a modern, sleek/Jetsons futuristic hybrid look to it. The light comes from the top of the base and the bottom of the base, with two separate touchpad light switches controlling the different sides.

Wherever you find yourself setting up this lamp, it will be a conversation starter for sure. My desk has easily become the coolest desk at UG (I’m accepting any challengers, what up?!) and anyone who notices it while walking by stops to take a closer look.

WARNING: With great power comes great responsibility. Like I said, this lamp will draw people in to take a closer look. They also WILL play with it, and they will knock the shade off over.. and over.. and over again. So get use to setting it up. But after the first couple of times, it’s easy as pie–Scratch that. I don’t know how to make pie, bad example. It’s easy as buying pie–and you’ll come to enjoy watching people’s expressions when they do knock it off. (Everybody’s face always look like they just broke an irreplaceable ancient artifact and are about to get hauled off to serve hard time for it.. or at least have to buy me a new one.)

At the end of the day, simply said, this is one cool lamp. And today it’s still on my desk, working as great as the day it came out of the box.

Also, that ‘lil guy basking in the lamp’s light in the picture? That’s Blocky. He makes sure my pens don’t go missing while I’m away from my desk.

Maker Stories

Old Instrument, New Tune: Jamie Cornett’s Instrumental Lighting

January 17, 2012

According to artist Jamie Cornett, there’s an ongoing joke among musicians; when they get frustrated with practicing or tired of music in general, they say they’re going to turn their instrument into a lamp. Jamie wasn’t frustrated or fed up with music, but he was intrigued by the lamp idea.

“I realized that there are so many instruments, beyond their playing years, that sit in closets and attics,” he says. “They didn’t even get to become lamps! It’s my goal to find them and turn them into displayable pieces of functional art.”

Although he calls his first attempt at lamp-making “a horrible disaster,” he still uses his first lamp in his home today. “I had no idea what I was doing. I created it using the wrong tools, and too much glue! But I love it because it reminds me of the original idea and allows me to reflect on how that idea has become something that I’m really proud of,” he says.

Jamie’s lamps are definitely something to be proud of. He has improved his technique, refined his skill, and perfected his tools since. Now, his creations are not only working lamps, but also beautiful works of art.

Of course, Jamie doesn’t always have an attic full of instruments. In fact, he works from his New York City apartment. So, he scours estate sales, pawn shops, and online auction sites for trumpets, clarinets, and flutes that have played their last notes. “I’m not ashamed to admit that at least one [instrument] has come from the streets of NYC on trash day,” he tells us.

While these woodwind wonders and brass beauties won’t be making melodies in the future, they are making people smile. “These lamps are the perfect gift because you can’t look at one without reacting in some unexpected way,” Jamie explains. “They remind people of their favorite jazz piece or hours spent in a practice room preparing for an audition. Each one has the ability to make you feel like it was made with just you in mind.”