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Maker Resources

The Uncommon Life

What is Best for NYC?

September 8, 2015

The New York City Economic Development Corporation and B Lab, the non-profit organization behind the B Corporation network, are calling out New York City businesses to become Best for NYC!  The Best for NYC Challenge is a free impact assessment to help business leaders identify where their businesses excel and where their business could improve to strengthen the bottom line and New York City. Through this campaign, B Lab will provide tools for small businesses to measure, benchmark, and improve their economic and social impact like the leading B Corporations.

At the end of 2015, NYCEDC and B Lab will celebrate businesses that have taken the Best for NYC Challenge and are working to build a better business and improve quality of life for all New Yorkers.

UncommonGoods is proud to be a model for the Best for NYC qualification challenge. Check out the video below of UncommonGoods CEO David Bolotsky to learn more about UncommonGoods’ journey to socially responsible business. You can join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #BestforNYC.

Maker Resources

How to Cultivate a Positive Workspace

September 4, 2015

Editor’s note: When we visited jewelry artist Jen Pleasants for a Studio Tour earlier this year, we knew we’d found a special place we wanted to tell everyone about. “I could really feel and see the love she built within her surroundings,” said our contributor, Emily, after spending some time with the artist.

We asked Jen to share her favorite tips for turning a workspace into a place filled with creativity, happy thoughts, and positive energy.

Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

I guess something about the showtheLOVE studio feels good to people– which is why I was asked to write this article, even though I am in no way an expert on the topic.

If you walk into work and you feel good just being in that space, then you are more likely to put good energy into whatever you are working on. If you are an artist making things for others to enjoy, this becomes especially important.

Below you will find two lists of ideas for cultivating a positive workspace – one more mainstream and the other more out there. Pick and choose items as you please that might work for improving your space!

Jen Pleasants' Studio | UncommonGoods

10 Basic Ideas for Promoting a Positive Workspace

1. Hire people who are positive, happy, and kind

If for some reason you accidentally get a bad egg, don’t hesitate to let them go and skip to my second set of advice to remove bad energy.

Go into the World and Do Good

2. Hang inspirational posters on the walls

I love inspirational quotes and love to surround myself with them. Some of the ones hanging in my office are:

-Change your thoughts, change your world
-You are looking particularly good today
-Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn
-Somewhere over the rainbow
-If you work really hard and are kind amazing things will happen
-Everything will be okay
-What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
-The only zen you will find at the top of the mountain is the zen you bring up there
-Live what you love
-Give and be happy
She believed she could, so she did

Inspirational Quotes

3. Speak kind words

Try not to gossip or speak ill of people in the space you want to keep clear. One of my favorite quotes is by Hafiz, “The words you speak build the house you live in.”

Be Kind

4. Burn candles

This helps the office smells good without toxins. (Which is why I use beeswax candles with essential oils, not synthetic fragrances.) It also creates a peaceful atmosphere because something about candles is magical. Just don’t forget to blow them out before you leave!

Beeswax Candles

5. Remove clutter

It is so obvious that a clutter-free environment feels better. Having said that, this is the one that I have the hardest time with. I am a pack rat and want to turn everything into an art project and don’t have an organized bone in my body. This one is really challenging, though I always feel better when I finally pick up my messes!

Computer Space

6. Provide good healthy snacks and drinks.

Fresh organic fruits and nuts are good, though I am partial to dark chocolate and tea too.

Jen with Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn Mug

7. Hang a team mission statement or manifesto on the wall

I haven’t done this yet but I think it is good idea! Instead, I have #8 posted on my wall.

8.Keep a copy of the Desiderata–or any poem or sentiment that speaks to you–on hand

I have posted this special poem on my bulletin board and anytime I start getting upset I look at it and it brings me back to what is important “…for you are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, and whether or not it is clear to you now, the universe is unfolding as it should”.

Desiderata

9. Avoid indoor air pollution

Office space can be polluted by plastic off-gassing, asbestos, radon, mold, pesticides, etc. Be acutely aware of any products you bring into your space that might be a culprit. We use natural cleaning products and pesticides. Sick employees don’t foster a positive workplace!

Open Door

10. Surround yourself with live plants

Not only does this create a peaceful feeling of being in nature, but the plants also clean the air! Oh, and they are beautiful decorations too, making the space a happier one to be in just from a pure aesthetic level.

Indoor Plants

10 Things That Only a Half Hocus Pocus/Half Crazy Person Will Do to Create Good Ju Ju in an Office– A.K.A. How to Remove BAD ENERGY from an Office (CAUTION: The list below might not be up your alley, but it has worked for me!)

1.Keep on hand a magic selenite wand

I have one on my desk and I use it to clear negative energy from me or anyone who needs it. I just use it like the security guy at the airport uses the wand to check for metal. I slowly wave or rub it across the person or myself including my head and shoulders until I feel cleansed! Selenite works well to clear people and promotes mental flexibility. Black tourmaline is also said to clear negative energy.
Selenite Wand

2. Post sign at front of office that says “Take responsibility  for the energy you bring into this space”

I love my sign but don’t always have the nerve to put it at the front door, so sometimes it is hidden back by my desk.

You are responsible...

3. Burn white sage

When we need to remove negative energy we do what many cultures before us have done and burn dried white sage to get rid of bad energy! It smells so good and the ritual itself just puts everyone in a better mood as we are being proactive!

4. Combine salt and Saint George’s sword

Cut the leaves of the plant Saint George’s sword  (also known as snake plant) and put them in a jar of half water and half salt (maybe 7 teaspoons salt). Hide the jars behind doors and under desks. This keeps bad spirits at bay, according to my Brazilian friend Ju Ju, who has the best ju ju! We do this a couple times of year.

Change Your Thoughts-Change the World

5. Play new age music

You will feel like you are in spa and all is well. Monk chanting is good too. Both of these choices are only to be done if you are trying to rid negative vibes not if you are in regular work mode. High frequency music is recommended by some too, though it gives me a headache. Most of the time we have on a variety of top 40, reggae, or R&B, just to keep the environment fun and relaxed.

6. Spray essential oils

Take some drops of essential oils and mix with water in a spray bottle, and then spray away (not near computers). Use basil oil to stimulate the conscious mind to invoke happiness or lavender oil to calm and relieve nervous anxiety. Sometimes if I don’t have a spray bottle, I put it on my wrists and rub!

Essential Oils

7. Open windows

Fresh air can make a world of difference; especially in a small office.

Open Window

8. Plant some rue outside your office or studio

On our office deck, we have some rue. It’s supposed to purify the environment and it clears the mind of negative thoughts and energy. And  it smells good! Plant with some rosemary in the same pot for extra potency.

Rue

9. Light a Himalayan salt lamp

I love my lamp and in addition to giving off a warm peaceful light, it gives off negative ions, which supposedly are a really positive thing!

Salt Lamp

10. Wear meditative charms

Like our Tibetan Bell to remind you to think good thoughts! Wear it and do great things!™

Tibetan Bell Necklace by Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

If you have tips for making your workspace a happy place, share them in the comments!

Maker Resources

How to Tell Your Story Through Social Media

August 27, 2015

Earlier this summer, I caught an episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour titled “Amateur Hour.” The host Guy Raz interviewed past TED speakers around one common theme: how they plunged into the “I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing” experiences and emerged as experts. The last story of the hour was told by a woman named Nancy Frates, and how she became the voice and face of a little phenomenon you might remember as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Ice Bucket Challenge | Social Storytelling

Photo via marketingland.com

Before listening to this story, I knew that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was one of the biggest and fastest fundraising campaigns in history last summer. But what I didn’t know was that the challenge wasn’t even started with the intention of raising money for ALS. Rather, it was started as a campaign to raise money for any charity. Nancy had no prior social media experience before this challenge took over our Facebook feeds. In fact, she didn’t even have a Facebook account until last year! However, like many of our makers, she did have a business and merchandising background. When her family recognized the opportunity to raise money for the treatment of her son’s disease, she decided to go after it. 

Professionals in the social media world ultimately hope to discover their own “Ice Bucket Challenge.” That is, a strategic and engaging way to build a community online. Though I can’t give you a step-by-step guide on how to build an online legacy like Nancy achieved, what I can say is that, like Nancy, you don’t need to be an expert in order to tell your story through social media. It’s okay to feel like a social media amateur. What’s most important is dedication and the ability to recognize opportunities to visualize your brand. 

blue and black collection

UncommonGoods having fun on Instagram during “The Dress” controversy.

As online storytelling becomes increasingly visual, the words you write are just as important as the images you share. So instead of merely writing suggestions about social media, we thought it would be better to illustrate examples from UncommonGoods’ community. We turned to some of our socially-savvy makers for insight on their favorite storytelling networks. Whether you’re always the first person to notice something go viral, or you’re not even sure what a #hashtag means, scroll down for tips on how to elevate your story on social media.

Instagram Tip: Experiment with videos and other content that keeps the user in mind

Richard Upchurch, @brandnewnoise

“I think Instagram is great since you really have to see [our product] in order to get what it is. Since our gadgets are so interactive, a 15-second video can hopefully give our audience a creative idea, or at least a lift in their day.”

Play Date #op1 @teenageengineering #loopylou #brandnewnoise #letyourvoicebeheard

A video posted by Brandnewnoise (@brandnewnoise) on

 

Instruction manual #Brandnewnoise #letyourvoicebeheard #brooklynmade #madeinusa #letyourvoicebeheard

A video posted by Brandnewnoise (@brandnewnoise) on

 

“I think rather than just trying to sell a product, we are working to show the joy and fun we have. The Instagram should reflect who we are and what we love; music, traveling, laughing, sharing meals. At the end of the day, brandnewnoise gadgets are an extension of who we are as a community.”

 

BrandNewNoise_Instagram_screenshot3

 

Instagram Tip: If you’re mentioned, share the love

Alexandra Ferguson, @alexandrafergusonllc

“I’m really proud about a lot of the things my company is doing, and I use social media to share that excitement. That often includes images from our factory in Brooklyn, retailers around the country with creative displays, celebrities and media plugs, and customers having fun.  I especially love when people use pillows in their photos almost like captions – the pillow just kind of says it all.”

Alexandra Ferguson | How to Tell Your Story Through Social Media

“… So I try to inspire people to think a little differently about the brand by showing all the creative things people are doing with our products.  I mean, our products have been photographed with Snoop Dogg, Mindy Kaling, and Miley Cyrus. Sara Blakely, the influential founder of Spanx, has one.  Talk about range!  I love it.”

Snoop Dogg | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

Miley Cyrus | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

Instagram Tip: You don’t need a fancy camera to create Instagram-worthy photos

Emilie Shapiro, @emilieshapirojewelry

“I use my iPhone 5s for all images I share on social media. Natural sunlight is the best way to capture well-lit images. In fact, I have one spot in my studio that the lighting is perfect and I use for little photo shoots. Make a human tripod by resting your elbow on a table or something to steady your camera. Use the “grid” option on your camera to center your work and create good frames. Use an app like VSCO Cam which has easy editing options to color correct, bump up contrast and saturation.”

Emilie Shapiro | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

“I have a strong following on social media of people who admire my work, customers who purchase it, wholesale accounts and press. I get a lot of wholesale accounts from buyers who find me on Instagram. I often get press requests and have even picked up a few celebrity clients from people browsing my feed. In today’s marketplace, things move fast and consumers are flooded with images. I find customers (retail and wholesale) like to browse my work on my Instagram feed because it’s quick, easy and tells my story.”

Emilie Shapiro | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

Twitter Tip: Share lifestyle content that not only interests you, but is also relevant to your community 

Tori and Chris Tissell, @storiarts

“At Storiarts, not only do we make literary-themed apparel, but we’re true fans of books and the written word in general. So it’s natural and fun to share what we’re interested in with our customers. Of course, this has the added benefit of making new fans for us on social media who want to be part of the conversation and who are likely to be interested in Storiarts products.”

Storiarts | How to tell your story through social meida

Storiarts | How to tell your story through social meida

“…Since we became intentional about using social media, it has become the number one driver to our website. It’s also been the place where bloggers have found us and asked to feature our products. It is also the only place where stuff like this can happen.”

Storiarts | How to tell your story through social meida

 

Twitter Tip: Offer a glimpse into your process and your daily life

MG Stout, @mgstout 

“Folks that commission work are very excited to be able to see their paintings come to life. It’s also really cool to get immediate feedback. Their comments make the process collaborative in nature & ensures they will be happy with the finished product.”

MG Stout | How to tell your story through social meida

Social media has been key in introducing myself and my work to an international audience.  I’ve got followers all over the world and have connected with so many artists and collectors I would never have met otherwise. It is also a great way to keep everyone abreast of what I’m up to. I can share where my paintings are going to be on exhibit and invite them to visit my art studio.”

MG Stout | How to tell your story through social meida

 

Facebook Tip: Tell your story through different perspectives

Leigh Ann Stratakos, manager of the Facebook accounts for MudWorks Pottery and Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn

“I can’t remember when I started [Elwood’s] Facebook page, but it just seemed like a natural thing to do since he was taking on a life of his own. And people were really connecting with him in a major way. I wanted to have a place for him to connect with his fans that was not focused on selling more units.”

Elwood | Social Storytelling

“I think this social connection is important, because we are social creatures! We are more than just consumers and I think people respond to being treated as such. It’s working on the business, but from a different angle. Everything I do on social media is helping to make MudWorks a brand people respond to positively, but I enjoy not having to actually push the product 24/7. That sort of happens on its own naturally.”

 

Elwood_Facebook_ViralScreenshot

Elwood the Unicorn Cereal Bowl broke the record for most viral post on UncommonGoods’ Facebook!

 

Tumblr Tip: Do your research, set realistic goals, and engage with other communities

Kendyll Hillegas, kendyllhillegas.tumblr.com

“I started posting to Tumblr in late 2012 with the idea that I would try to post something every day. 365 projects were quite popular at that time, but I was thinking about it more at more of a day-by-day level. I had no grand plan. I just wanted to motivate myself to be more consistent with the practice of making, and to include the act of sharing what I made with others in that process.”

Kendyll Hillegas | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

“… People often refer to social media platforms as communities, but Tumblr is the only one that has actually felt like a community to me. Everyone I’ve connected with whether staff members or other users has been kind, approachable and supportive. They even invited me to come visit Tumblr HQ last summer! I’ve had almost no negative or mean-spirited interactions or comments. On a basic level, I also just find it easy to use, and I love the multiple post formats.”

Kendyll Hillegas | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

“Broadly, I would say to post regularly – it can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly (just be sure it’s consistent). Use hashtags – do some research to find the main curated tags for your area (i.e. #crafts, #artistsontumblr, #illustration). Submit to some of the big curated Tumblrs in your field, and, of course, be nice. Engage with other people, say hi, answer questions, be thankful (you know, decent human stuff). If you photograph your work, taking good pictures is also important.”

 

Kendyll Hillegas | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

Do you have any social media tips for makers? Share your storytelling advice in the comments below!

 

The Uncommon Life

Behind the Scenes at Our Holiday Showcase

August 26, 2015

Holiday Showcase | UncommonGoods

In the wild world of Public Relations, or PR, “Christmas in July” lasts all summer long.

Print magazines start curating their holiday gift guides well in advance of December. For our PR team, this means that there are endless opportunities to secure exciting holiday placements throughout the summer!

Setting Up | Holiday Showcase

Lucky for us, it only takes a short trip over the Brooklyn Bridge to reach the offices of today’s most popular publications. Every year, we invite magazine editors from all over the New York City metro area to preview products from across our assortment. This summer’s event was hosted at the beautiful Rogue Space Gallery in Chelsea, complete with happy hour hors d’oeuvres and free samples to take home.

All in the Details | UncommonGoodsChildrens | Holiday Showcase Gallery Corner | Holiday Showcase

Not only do we love the chance the meet our media partners face-to-face, but we’re also grateful for the amazing opportunity to personally show editors what makes UncommonGoods’ assortment so special.

editorsday2015_05

PR Manager Elise welcoming the Home Market Assistant for VOGUE.

editorsday2015_02

UncommonGoods’ CEO Dave Bolotsky chatting with editors from Martha Stewart Living.

editorsday2015_03

Our Home Decor and Garden Buyer Jamie sharing her expertise with Family Circle

 Vogue | Holiday Showcase

The Home and Market Editor for Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine checking off products to sample from the PR team!

The Holiday Showcase didn’t just stop with happy hour. In addition to mailing gift bags and print lookbooks, we also shared a digital lookbook with those who couldn’t make it to the gallery.

Garden Close-Up 2 | UncommonGoods Imbibe | Holiday Showcase

The Holiday Showcase was made possible by the hard work of multiple departments throughout UncommonGoods, including marketing, creative, merchandising and operations.

Buyers | Holiday Showcase | UncommonGoods

The buyers of UncommonGoods!

Make sure to check out the hashtag #UGHoliday on Instagram and Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at our past editor’s events!

The Uncommon Life

12 More Quotes that Keep Makers Motivated

August 14, 2015

A while back, we rounded up a series of inspirational quotes that we gathered along our adventures through artists’ studios. Those 8 Quotes that Keep Makers Motivated are enough to give most creative types a little get-up-and-go, but why stop there? We’ve since visited more studios, interviewed a ton of talented artists, and collected even more quotes that help keep our makers going strong.  Here are a few that we hope you’ll enjoy!

CassidyBrush

Considering that Cassidy Schulz Brush deals with lighting all day, it’s no surprise that she’s a fan of Edison. “There are a few quotes by Thomas Edison that I find inspirational,” she told us when we visited her Brooklyn studio. She wrote this quote out on her chalkboard wall and snapped a shot for us.

 

AnnaTalukder

We’re proud to feature a wide assortment of Ana Talukder’s Jewelry and our Jewelry Buyer, Sharon, was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out Ana’s studio in Seattle. Ana wrote out this mantra that reminds her, “You always have to be looking to be better, you always have to be working at being better, and you always have to put all your heart in it. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

BarryRosenthal

Photographer Barry Rosenthal happens to have a creative space in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the same building that UncommonGoods calls home! Of course, we couldn’t wait to work with him to develop new products, but we also couldn’t wait to check out his studio. Barry explained that this Burroughs quote makes him think about his own creative process: “I don’t know what I will find in the field, and I may not know what I will do with what I find, but somehow fully formed themes are sparked just by the simple act of ‘seeing’ what is out there.”

DaveMarcoullier

Dave Marcoullier’s San Francisco woodworking studio is in a building that’s also home to the studios of more than 250 other creators, or “mad scientists,” as Dave likes to say. His quote from architect Daniel H. Burnham reminds him that he got where he is today by thinking big. “It’s good to get riled up and make bold plans,” he said.

JenPleasants

Jewelry Designer Jen Pleasants not only imprints “She believed she could, so she did” on some of her designs, she also truly believes in the power of those words. She even has them proudly displayed in her Portola Valley, CA studio.

JoAnnStratakos

Our Tabletop Buyer, NéQuana, traveled to rural Pennsylvania to meet JoAnn Stratakos, the maker of everyone’s favorite rainbow unicorn, Elwood. One of JoAnn’s favorite quotes, which was inspired by a quote from Richard Bach, is a reminder to keep the good things that could be in mind, instead of thinking about what might be holding you back.

LahlaSmart

We were lucky to get a look inside Lahla Smart’s London studio when our contributor, Emily, visited England. Lahla said that this Walt Disney quote reminds her of her early days of a designer. She took a leap, created her Food Guide Towel, and the rest is history.

StuartGardiner

On the same trip, Emily had a chance to check out Stuart Gardiner’s studio. Stuart shared a quote by Saul Bass, not only because Bass is one of his favorite designers, but also because: “it’s quite a broad and vague statement which is similar to the way I go about my work. I have a very organic unstructured approach to design: the opposite of methodical.”

MatthewHoffman

Matthew Hoffman’s work is full of inspiring quotes and words of wisdom, so it was hard to pick just one statement from our recent interview with the Chicago-based artist. We figured that “Anything is possible” pretty much says it all.

PhilThompson

Also based in Chicago, Phil Thompson creates art inspired by architecture. He keeps this Winston Churchill quote on the bulletin board in front of his drawing board to keep him motivated.

SarahGarcia

Design Challenge Winner Sarah Janece Garcia sent us a painting of her favorite quote from Coco Chanel when we interviewed her about her winning painting, First Light

RondaJSmith

We carry quite a few of Ronda J Smith’s photographic pillows, so we loved seeing her favorite quote printed and plush! “This quote means anything and everything you want it to mean,” she said when we visited her Brooklyn studio. “Your thoughts and mindset are more powerful than you could ever imagine.”

We love getting these looks inside our artists’ creative processes, and can’t wait to share more interviews and Studio Tours with through our Maker Stories. Share your favorite quotes in the comments below to get in on the conversation. 

Maker Resources

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Handmade Jewelry

November 13, 2014

Handmade jewelry has been all the rage lately. The personal attention and love that makers and artisans infuse into their work is evident in the masterpieces that they create. What most people don’t understand is why handmade jewelry is more of an investment than its mass produced counterparts. There are many reasons why handmade jewelry is more of an investment than pieces that are mass produced, so I thought I would break it down for you!  Below are 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Handmade Jewelry.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods-548x421

1. No Mass Production Machinery Involved: By definition, handmade jewelry is literally just that, made by the “hands” of the artisan or maker.  The pieces are soldered, sawed, carved and shaped without the use of mass produced manufacturing machinery. A machine can crank out hundreds of units per hour while an individual can only make a finite quantity or fraction of the number of pieces in the same amount of time.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods

2. The Value of Time: As previously mentioned, since there are no machines involved, handmade jewelry takes an incredible amount of time to produce just a single piece. As a designer myself, I know I often spend hours designing a single piece of jewelry for a client. The time to make the piece often can take weeks.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods

3. The Maker’s Process: The maker has a very intimate relationship with each piece or design they create. The design process is key to the value that is inherent in each piece. Emilie Shapiro talks about her process and says, “While creating jewelry, there is a very intimate relationship with my work. I know every curve and line (is) put there with intention. As a maker your energy goes into the piece.”

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods

4. Materials: In almost every case, the value of the materials involved in a handmade piece are of stellar quality. It’s difficult to regulate or even know exactly what alloys are used in mass produced factories where dirty metals are blended together to create costume pieces. Handmade materials are generally sourced from highly reputable suppliers.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods-548x421

5. Sustainability: Jewelry Makers are often dedicated to sustainability and ethically sourced materials. By nature, being ethical can be much more costly than taking the easy route and purchasing from the refiner or dealer with low prices and shady sourcing. Once again, Emilie Shapiro always uses the highest quality materials sourced from suppliers who share her ethos about sustainability whenever possible. Smaller scale production is almost always higher quality.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods

6. Quality: Smaller scale production is almost always higher quality because the ability to track and control the process from start to finish is inherent in the making process. Makers and artisans are extremely proud of the work they produce. They aren’t going to let something of inferior quality leave their studio with their name on it.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods

7. Locally Made with Love: There is a lot of buzz with “buying local” these days. Reducing your carbon footprint and supporting local artisans is good for the environment and good for everyone. Artisans and makers infuse love and energy into each piece of work. There is HUGE value in supporting local from a sustainability and energetic standpoint. Along with the extra value inherent in handmade jewelry you are also buying a truly one-of-a-kind product. Even if the handmade piece is part of an edition – no maker creates two pieces that are exactly identical. You are the only person with that specific piece of jewelry which says a lot.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods

The next time you consider purchasing a handmade piece of jewelry, remember that even though the piece may be an investment, you are supporting something even bigger. You should feel really good about your purchase knowing that you have a special piece of the artist in your jewelry collection.

Handmade | UncommonGoodsKeep an eye out for this blue hand icon while shopping at UncommonGoods for handmade products!

7 Things You Didn't Know About Handmade Jewelry | UncommonGoods-548x421

Maker Resources

How to Take the Leap from Maker to Entrepreneur

October 15, 2014

Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoods

Where do I sell my work? Is retail or wholesale better? How do I make work that will sell?

These are the questions I hear all of the time as a jewelry instructor. My students at Liloveve Jewelry School, 92Y, and Brooklyn Museum range from making their first piece to running successful businesses, but all have one thing in common–the need to create something tangible that didn’t exist before.

During my time as the production manager at Pamela Love Jewelry and Allforthemountain, I learned how the jewelry industry works inside and out from handmade one-of-a-kind pieces, small scale in-house production and outsourcing work with United States based factories. Through the years of designing my own collection which is sold at over 50 boutiques Worldwide, I’ve found what works for me.

Emerald Mosaic Ring | UncommonGoods

Where will I Sell My Work?

  • Directly from your studio. The Holidays are a great time of year to have a sample sale in person and/or online to get rid of some inventory to make room for new work.
  • Have a jewelry (or other item) party! Ask a friend or family member to host you and your work at their home or office. Bring snacks and wine and gift your host a piece for having the party.
  • Online – Etsy, bigcartel, your own Squarespace, site and so many more! There are tons of ways to make an inexpensive online presence or website that someone can shop from.
  • Retail Shows – Retailing is selling your goods directly to the public from a fixed location or online. Check out local craft shows in your area. The Holidays are great because people are looking for gifts. Be sure to ask the what the median price point is and what other vendors will be there to make sure you’re a good fit. Also, make sure to have a sign and a cohesive display for your work. Good lighting is a must, especially for jewelry, so make sure to ask about electricity. Don’t forget your business cards or postcards and packaging. (Some of these Trade Show Tips go for retail shows as well.)
  • Wholesale – Wholesaling is selling your goods in large quantities to be resold by other retailers. Set a minimum price or piece order to make it worth your time and so a retailer has a good selection of your work represented. Check out local stores you think your work would fit in with. Who else do they sell and for what prices? Would your work look good next to them? Walk in wearing your work (or pictures of your objects), be very friendly and ask who is the buyer and get in touch. Don’t waste your time or buyers time if it’s not a good fit or price point.

Production

How Can I Streamline My Production?

  • Focus on efficiency of creativity while you’re producing. Perfect your first piece (your model) on design and craftsmanship and then break down each step. Work in an assembly line fashion instead of making one piece start to finish, even if you’re by yourself. You work faster while your body gets in the rhythm.
  • Buy in bulk when possible. Stock up on supplies and materials like chains and findings. Go in with other artists to get the best prices possible.

Materials

  • Develop a clear track for your orders from the second you receive it from when it ships out your door. I use a production schedule which I find really helpful. This helps me keep track of the items I have to make for stores and clients, what I have in stock, and what I have to make.

Production Schedule

  • Think about what you’re great at, and what someone else can do for you. As an artist you want to follow your heart on how you make something, but as a business owner you need to use your brain on the most cost effective way. Try to find the balance and make your work efficiently without lowering your quality.

Jewelry Assembly

What are the Best Tips for Success?

  • Make your own decisions; you’re the boss! Whether you’re hiring an employee, deciding whether a new store is a good (or bad) fit, telling the owner of a store they can’t change your designs (this happens to me once a week – you are the designer), there are tons of big and day-to-day decisions with running a craft business.
  • Find a middle ground. As an artist, you will have the tendency to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. As a successful businessperson, you will need to make decisions based on rational calculation. I like to find a happy medium between the two.
  • When you need help, ask for it. Use the resources of friends, family, and local businesses around you. No one can do everything! Know when to delegate.
  • Be thoroughly professional.
  • Accept nothing less than the highest standards of your work. Never cut corners to make a deadline; your work will suffer and people will notice. Customers buy handmade for good quality products. The goodwill of your customers if your most valuable possession! Don’t jeopardize it by delivering late or shipping work that’s not high quality.
  • Never stop learning!
Maker Resources

5 Tips On How To Conquer Trade Shows

September 19, 2014

Whether you’re planning to go to your first trade show soon or you’re a trade show pro – check out the five detailed tips below on how to take advantage of these events to help your business prosper!

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

1. Make connections with other vendors: Networking at a trade show is no big secret. Essentially, that’s the whole point of trade shows! But be sure to not only get the attention from prospective companies you’d like to see your products represented by, but also that of other vendors. It’s important to make connections with like-minded small businesses, and yes, even your competitors. Many vendors are happy to tip others off about interesting events, great contacts, or must-see websites to check out — and it’s always beneficial to see how other businesses work and to take a peek at their products in person.  You might even be inspired to collaborate in some way or join forces together!

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

During downtime, make an effort to introduce yourself to the booths and tables next to you – and if you can – venture to other category areas to spark different ideas. If you do make a great connection with another vendor, show appreciation by letting them know about the great tips that you have hidden up your sleeve! #SharingIsCaring

2. Join social events before and/or after the trade show: Being present at the big trade show is, of course, crucial. But sometimes you can make stronger and more natural connections with others in a more intimate setting. (Mix and mingle parties, lunch or dinner dates, or networking events/conferences.) People tend to open up more when there’s food and drinks involved and when a more carefree vibe has settled in. You can find interesting events by asking other contacts, actually reading the newsletters you’re subscribed to, checking out meetup.com, or using the power of Google.

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

5 Tradeshow Tips | UncommonGoods

Extra tip: If you think you have a pretty promising contact list – maybe you can even throw a small gathering yourself! This would illustrate authority on your part and will strengthen the important relationships you already have. Don’t be scared to mix your vendor contacts with your merchant contacts, this will only encourage your invited guests to join.

5 Tradeshow Tips | UncommonGoods

3. Be sure you and anyone helping you knows your collection:   Nothing is worse than asking questions at a booth and having someone who can’t talk about their own line! One thing I’ve learned here at UncommonGoods is that buyers tend to stray away from unorganized or flighty vendors, no matter how great the product is. Know the product name, pricing, materials, and any other important information that someone might ask you right on the spot. If you have any friends or family helping you at your booth, prep them with information about your designs and provide them a cheat sheet if you can. Even if the potential merchant knows that the person helping you isn’t the direct designer, they are still a reflection of your business.

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

Extra tip: Be sure to give out information beyond pricing to beef up anyone’s interest.  What makes your product special? Is it where it was made, how it was made, or who made it? Does it give a cut of its proceeds to a certain charity? Are there multiple uses of your designs? Think outside the box, because this is how a buyer will pitch any of their potential items to their team. The more powerful and interesting the story is, the better. Sure, the buyer can dig through your website to find this information you’ve probably already beautifully explained in detail. But I still suggest to hook them on the spot when you can, because there’s no guarantee they’ll visit your website once they float off to the next booth. (Even if you give them a business card!)

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

4. Show appreciation and send follow-ups on social media platforms: The reality of trade shows is that merchants, buyers, and companies are looking at hundreds of booths for hours, days, and for some – the entire week! Your goal? Have them remember yours! Even if your product is amazing, it’s hard to stand out against hundreds of other innovative products. Besides following this display advice, you have to do more than just depend on your great products and hope that you’ll receive an email in the next few days. Take charge of the contacts you’ve made not only with a follow-up email, but also with giving them a shout out on social media a few days later, something short and sweet with a bit of personality will do.

Example: @prospectivebuyer – It was great meeting you and I’m so happy you enjoyed our new line. Let me know if you’d like me to send a sample! 

When you and the potential contact are saying your goodbyes at your booth, ask if they are on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn and write down their personal handle name so you know the message will go directly to them. If you’re feeling bold, ask to snap a photo with them (or them wearing/holding your designs) and share that photo when you send your tweet or post. Not only will this jog their memory of who you are, but that prospective buyer will feel extra special.

5 Tradeshow Tips | UncommonGoods

Extra tip: Be sure that your feed has some type of recent activity before contacting anyone. Post a few photos, retweet/post a couple of articles, and write out personable comments. A “dead” social media platform won’t exactly work in your favor.

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

5. Project energy and be positive: We all know trade show days are long! A constant smile on your face and an upbeat personality at all times might not be super realistic, but keep in mind that carrying positive energy is vital. It’ll make your day a lot more bearable and you’ll be more on your toes and alert. Think of it like you’re hosting a party – invite the buyers and your contacts, welcome them into your space, and keep them engaged! Also, remember to be supportive of your fellow artists and designers. Buyers love it when designers suggest other booths to check out, it shows a collaborative spirit and buyers have told me that it makes them love you even more. (And it’s good Karma!)

5 Trade Show Tips | UncommonGoods

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