Browsing Tag

nature

Maker Stories

Watercolors of the United States: Renee Leone’s Paintings

July 8, 2016

Renee Leone at work

Renee Leone’s perfect world is a natural one. “I love landscapes and vast panoramic views and being able to see to the horizon,” the Chicago-based painter says. “Being outside with nature invigorates me and truly inspires me.”

Happily for the rest of us, Renee translates that inspiration into vibrant watercolors. Her geometric yet playful renderings of everything from redwood forests to desert cacti to urban seasides delight viewers — which is exactly why Renee creates. “I love hearing from people who have purchased or admire my work, and having them tell me they enjoy it,” she says. “When I see art that moves me, it’s a very cool feeling. I love knowing that my work does that for other people.” She colors in the rest of her story for us.

Drawing file collage

Desert Cacti of the Southwest (left) and  Renee’s filing drawers (right)

When did you first realize you were an artist?
I’ve loved art since I was a child and won awards in elementary school for my art. I always had this feeling inside I was very creative and artistic, although I didn’t really think I was good enough to be an artist. My self doubt kept me from pursuing a creative field. But I couldn’t shake the fact that I needed to do something more creative, and I wanted to learn to “really” draw. [After earning my bachelor’s in communications], I enrolled in design school. When I finally did learn to draw technically, I realized this is truly what I should be doing and I couldn’t believe it took me so long to realize I was an artist and needed to follow this path.

PicMonkey Collage

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Maker Stories

Beach Glass Beauties: Jeanne Kollecker’s Marvelous Marble Pendants

February 11, 2016

It was a magazine article that drew Jeanne Kollecker to the arts. “About five years ago, I read an article on beach glass in Lake Erie Living,” she explains. Intrigued, the Chardon, Ohio resident decided to search for some herself on the shores of Lake Erie near her house. “I started hunting and it became an addiction. I knew right away I wanted to turn it into jewelry. You can find a piece and just say, ‘Wow, this would make a great pendant, or an earring,’” she says. She took classes on silversmithing at the local community college, and kept looking for beach glass (so named when it comes from fresh water; sea glass comes from salt water). “Then,” she says, “I found my first marble.”

The beach marble, to the uninitiated, is more or less the holy grail of lakeside treasures — made all the more desirable by the many legends of the object’s origins (more on that below). “They’re such a rare find that when you find one, you do a happy dance,” says Jeanne, who manages a veterinary office by day. “The mystery of them is so much fun.”

As a proud member of The North American Sea Glass Association, she never alters the state of the marbles she finds. “I just wash them with warm soap and water.” The various colors, sizes and finishes of the baubles make each of her pieces unique. “Everything is one-of-a-kind” she says. “No one else in the world is wearing the same piece.”

She takes us through her process — and behind the mystery of the marbles.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Do Blondes Have More Fun When They’re Lions?

December 14, 2015

Lion Booties | UncommonGoods

Unfortunately, no. Blonde lions don’t have much fun at all. For a long time, biologists were stumped about the subtle nuances in a lion’s mane. They knew they could factor in to mating, but other than vanity, what message did they send? Turns out the color and length of a lion’s mane can alter dramatically in a short time, depending on nourishment, habitat, and testosterone levels. When a male lion is going through a rough patch, his mane will be lighter. This sends a message to potential mates that now might not be the best time. To see how this manifested itself, researchers set up lion dummies in a habitat, each outfitted with a different mane—from the healthy and long darker manes to short and light. They then blasted the sounds of hyenas at a kill to act as a dinner bell to the lions. Nine times out of ten, the female lions gathered around the long, dark-maned lion. Yet another win for tall, dark, and handsome.

Lion Booties | $25

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Teri Stratford

October 19, 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 Teri Stratford, the artist behind our vibrant new botanical prints, A Visual Poem, Twilight, and Firefly Festival Fireworks.

Teri Stratford

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I always knew I was an artist so there never was a “when.”

What’s been the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

The sheer joy of doing something that just makes me giggle with delight on a regular basis. Seeing people’s delightful reaction to my work and what miracle happens next!

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I might research photos online for reference of animals such as horses, turtles, geese, cats, fish in different positions; underwater or mountain landscapes.  Go over orders to fill.  Do some printing to replenish my inventory.  Or, much more fun….go collect leaves in my yard or go for a walk with a backpack to fill up.  Or pull interesting leaves from my stash and play with arrangements on my illustration board and see what happens.

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 a puja in my studio, a place for meditation.  The room vibrates with spiritual energy, the source of joy and creativity.  I am happy in this room!

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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…. Mom!  Look at this?  Can I take this home?  This is really cool… ” (I actually had this happen with a 7 year old boy!)

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“I am the vibrational energy that creates WORLDS!!!  My creativity is endless….”

Firefly Festival Fireworks by Teri Stratford | UncommonGoods

See Teri's Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inspirational Jewelry Artist Kathy Bransfield: Moved by Words Every Day of Her Life

October 6, 2015

Kathy Bransfield | UncommonGoods

When it comes to creating jewelry, Kathy Bransfield can’t stop, won’t stop. “My main drive is the fact that each piece has so many different meanings for its owner,” she says. “Whether it’s a piece with humor, a piece that can be a talisman of inner strength, a reminder of a precious friend or lover or a necklace that brings healing after a loss — this is what touches me the most and keeps my heart on fire.”

Bransfield, who works out of a studio three blocks from her home in Culver City, California — with her husband Eric and mother-in-law Rochelle — shared her off-the-chain story with us in a series of email exchanges.

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

As far back as I can remember! I loved to draw and do any type of craft project I could get my hands on. My dad told me I couldn’t refer to myself as an “artist” until I sold something. So when I was about 9 or 10, I would go door-to-door selling handmade Christmas tree ornaments. Later, I had the pleasure of painting alongside the ever so lovely Bob Ross (on his PBS show The Joy of Painting). I sold the oil paintings I did for $50 each — mainly to family, of course. I was 13 years old and felt I had proven dad wrong. Oddly, I still never refer to myself as an artist. Ha!

Nature is so integral to your work — and words, too. Why do you think that is?

As a kid I loved climbing trees so much that I would often sit on a specific high limb like a recliner and eat my lunch. I have always felt more connected to my own soul by being in nature. I’m also an avid scuba diver so a lot of my inspiration comes from under the sea as well as above. Seeing the shapes of the coral and the different types of grasses waving in the water is like being in a dream.

As for language, quotes have helped me through some of the most challenging times in my life. And they continue to aid me on a daily basis to keep things in perspective. They remind me about love, possibility and what’s important in life — how we should never give up on our dreams, never forget that dear loved one and, most importantly, never forget who we are.

KathySpace

What are your most essential tools?

By far, my vintage sets of letter stamps, my heart and my husband, Eric, who runs the business!

Is there a talisman you keep around you when you work?

Mostly, other artists’ work surrounds me in my studio — it reminds me of how much I want to strive to be more profound in my creative process. But I do display one thing I made in 1989 while living in Lake Tahoe. It hangs on the light of my bench and is made from an old pair of pants I had at the time, wooden and glass seed beads, vintage glass beads from the 1800s and amber teardrops. It’s filled with tiny treasures that have held meaning to me over my lifetime. The feather that sticks out represents my loving relationship with my husband.

Where do you typically draw inspiration for your pieces?

The obvious things make the list: hearing my children’s infectious laughter, traveling to beautiful places and engaging with great minds. I’m always trying to absorb the world around me with eyes wide open. I’ve found great quotes everywhere from a bathroom in a bar in Mexico to an inscription on a gravestone and everywhere in between. I love being moved by words every single day of my life.

Do you wear the pieces you make?

Never! I’ll be in conversation with someone that I’ve just met and they’ll ask me what I do. I tell them I make jewelry, and, immediately, they scan my empty neck and ears in confusion!

I'll Be There Necklace | UncommonGoods

Because sayings are so important in your jewelry, is there a quote or mantra that keeps you motivated?

There are probably too many, but I will try to restrain myself:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” —Oscar Wilde
“Wherever you go… there you are.”  (That’s me running in circles!)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” —Marianne Williamson

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten on one of your pieces?

Someone came to my booth at an arts and crafts show I did about 15 years ago. She showed me her necklace that she had bought from me years prior. It looked like it had been in a grease fire, and sat on by an elephant. A third of it consisted of her hair wound through it! I immediately offered to take it and clean it. She said absolutely not — she never ever took it off and never would. The story she told me of what it meant to her had me bowled over. She had only stopped by my booth to let me know and say thank you. It helped me to see my work and its meaning for others in a whole new light.

Best yet, Eric and I were up in the wine country in Northern California once. While standing in line to buy champagne, I noticed the couple behind us were wearing the matching Missing Piece Puzzle Necklaces. I awkwardly chatted them up asking where they had bought them. Their answer? UncommonGoods!

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See the Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Quirky Birds and Tin Can Telephones: The Work of Spring Hofeldt

September 25, 2015

When asked to define the type of work she does, Spring Hofeldt usually responds by saying “realism.” But she’s quick to add that the term fits the look of her paintings, but not the messages that they convey. Still, there’s a wealth of common ground to be found in her quirky portraits of ostriches, fostered fish, and romantic vegetable duos. She observes that her paintings “immerse the viewer in a metaphor of day-to-day life. Whether you’re a cynic of a sunshine, we can all relate to making light of such trials and tribulations.”

Our recent conversation with Spring sheds some more light on her spunky slices of life, the inspiration that can be found in excavators, and her love of words that include “oo.”

Spring Hofeldt

 Untitled (Self Portrait) by Spring Hofeldt

 What artists have influenced your work?

I went to school for illustration, so naturally I’ve been captivated by the work of C.F. Payne and Norman Rockwell. They made me realize how important it is to me that I capture a humorous or quirky moment. These artists illustrate the true character and essence of a person/object in such a light and wonderful way.

And more specifically, Edward Ruscha‘s large-scale painting of the word “OOF” get’s me every time.

What are other personal influences on your work?

There are so many human experiences that can be annoying, awkward, or awful. Retelling the story to others and seeing the humor in it is a great way to cope.

Your work is characterized by a certain naturalism or realism. How do you define realism?

I don’t think of myself as someone who is chasing photorealism, but rather the character of the feeling I’m after. To those few who ask me, “why put all the effort into painting a photograph you took? Why not just print the photo and call it a day?” Paint has a way of making the image extra yummy. I like being able to alter the colors or patterns with paint rather than a computer saturation. And simply, I like the challenge of painting something so real.

Squawk |UncommonGoodsSquawk

What’s your favorite thing about your studio—how does the space or its contents inspire you?

My corner studio overlooks Brooklyn’s BQE and the F/G subway lines, which provide a constant sense of movement and an overall positive hum. The best aspect of the movement outside is the large, mustard yellow, claw excavators tossing metal from one pile to another at the scrap yard. It’s like a dance of mechanical dinosaurs all day long.

I also share the studio with two other artists, and although their art is very different than mine, just seeing how productive they are encourages me to get to work.

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

I had a good hunch when asked at age 6 or 7, but never really took it too seriously until I took an art class my last year of high school, only because I had an extra spot to fill. With spit wads flying over my head, my nose deep in graphite and colored pencils, I realized by the end of school that it was a true passion I wanted to pursue.

How do you balance creativity—painting for it’s own sake—with the business side of being a professional artist?

At this point, I’d say that I only create paintings I’m truly inspired to produce and am confident about the subject matter. Even if I take on commissions, I make sure they’re filled with character that I would normally add. This is initially why they are coming to me.

What inspired you to create your ostrich paintings?

I’m drawn to bizarre and quirky animals. Ostriches have a very powerful presence… From their towering size and quick step, to their large, bold, deep black eyes that have a lock on your every move.

Francine | Spring Hofeldt | UncommonGoodsFrancine

What was your favorite part of that process?

Adding the fine details that really capture the animal’s character and seeing them come to life.

How do you hope people react when they receive your creation?

I hope it makes them chuckle, giggle, snort, laugh out loud, or smile on the inside.

Do you have any memorable customer feedback you’d like to share?

I have this one repeat customer that visits during every annual open studio. I love hearing her boisterous laugh filling the hallway, announcing her presence in the building. The first time I heard it was when I had hung up the set of four ostriches outside my door and she just couldn’t stop laughing. I, along with the visitors in the room at that time, couldn’t help but start laughing with her because the sound coming from the hall was so contagious. We had absolutely no idea what she was laughing at, but it didn’t matter. Moments like those are too great.

Tell us three uncommon facts about yourself.

I love to meticulously peel pomegranates by hand in my lap, sometimes taking over an hour.

I’m tickled by double o words: oof (as previously mentioned), bazooka, cooties, doozie, floozie, goober, vamoose, etc.

I chose to be married in a rowboat.

Let Me Tell You | Spring Hofeldt

 Let Me Tell You 

In the copy for the Contact section of her website and in a few of her paintings, Spring employs the DIY telephone metaphor of two tin cans and a length of string. That feels like an apt metaphor for painting: communicating through imperfect means and media, but celebrating their alluring, endearing quirks in the process.

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

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.

Blink-CorteMadera-color-2015-07-31-22-51-51-670-464637-full

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.

blogcta-uncommon

Maker Stories

Jewelry Winner Kristin Schwartz Stops To Mold The Roses

November 4, 2014

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

As you may have learned in our recent Uncommon Book Club Picks, I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” a novel about a female botanist who seeks to discover and explain the inner workings of the world during Darwin’s era. Alma, the story’s protagonist, is raised in her father’s renowned botanical estate, and spends much of her adulthood studying and admiring the estate’s plant collection. After further examination of the Buds Necklace, Kristin Schwartz’s winning Jewelry Design Challenge entry, I’m convinced that Kristin and Alma are kindred spirits. Like a trained taxonomist, Kristin appears to have studied every curve of the Lapsana flower before delicately molding it to metal clay. I can imagine Kristin with Alma’s microscope, calculating precisely how to add a subtle blue-green patina to her winning pendant. 

Here at UncommonGoods, our buyers love anything that has an exciting story. When Kristin’s story entered our radar, we didn’t hesitate to introduce her handmade collection into our assortment. Kristin’s fascination with her natural surroundings is beautifully illustrated in both her designs and her workspace. Meet Jewelry Design Challenge Winner Kristin Schwartz, and learn about her transition from the corporate world, why she keeps Champagne in her fridge, and how nature inspires her tiny pieces of art.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | Buds Necklace | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept for your winning design?
I take molds of plants for a lot of my work, so I am always on the hunt for tiny plants and flowers that might translate well to jewelry. I knew as soon as I saw this tiny yellow flower it was going to be good. Most of my plant-based pieces have an organic (random) shape, but I thought a round pendant would appeal to more people.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won the first Jewelry Design Challenge of 2014?
I was inspired by a friend a couple years ago to keep a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator in the event of an unexpected victory or celebration, big or small. Of course I popped it open! And then got back to work.

How did you discover our Jewelry Design Challenge?
I have received the UncommonGoods catalog for a very long time and one day I received an email from the people at Jewelry Design Manager (Bejeweled Software) that said UG was looking for entries for the challenge.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. Iʼm in my 40s and I love that my Dad still calls me Kiddo.

2. I am not athletically inclined, but I did play soccer when I was six years old. The only goal I ever made was for the other team. It did happen right after half time, so I have to give my kid-self a break.

3. I love collecting shoes, but would rather be barefoot.

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
My designs usually start with one question: is it plant-based or is it done completely by hand? Sometimes I have a very specific piece in mind and I just have to figure out how to make it happen. For the most recent series, the image was in my head for YEARS while I mentally worked out the details. It actually turned out better than I had imagined with a combination of hand work and a plant mold. Other times, I see a plant that just needs to be featured on a piece of jewelry. It usually turns out pretty well, but I do have a pile of molds that have never turned into anything. I rarely draw ideas out on paper unless there are multiple elements that require serious problem solving and test runs.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Describe your workspace.
I love my workspace! It was the number one reason for buying my house. Itʼs in my basement, but full of natural light. Through all the windows I am surrounded by trees. And I have a ringside seat to the wrestling matches between my two boxers, Lumen and Kisa (pictured below).

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Who or what are your design influences?
All my work is about growth, change and connection. It may not be totally obvious in all my work, but those are the seeds of my ideas. So, of course, nature plays a huge influential role, as do relationships.

Describe your first jewelry designing experience.
It was definitely unintentional. When I was still in the corporate world, I took a four hour metal clay class only because I had never heard of it. I made several pieces of unrelated…somethings, just to get a feel for the process. Jewelry eventually became my focus when I got great feedback on experimental pieces.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating the Buds Necklace?
I work solely in Precious Metal Clay (PMC). For those who are not familiar, metal clay is made up of microscopic particles of recycled silver [or bronze or copper]. All those particles are held together with an organic binder. It looks and acts much like modeling clay.

For this piece I took a mold of the tiny Lapsana flowers. Once the mold has cured, I roll a piece of metal clay onto it. I remove the piece of clay and turn it over onto a flat surface. While the clay is still wet I cut out individual pieces (in this case, circles) and let them dry overnight. I then try to get them as perfect as possible by sanding edges and smoothing surfaces that need it. It is much easier and less time consuming to do this with dry clay than it is with metal. When the pieces are ready, they get fired in a kiln. When the temperature reaches 1,650 [degrees Fahrenheit], the binder has burned out and all the silver particles melt together. There is an 8 to 12 percent shrink rate and the result is a fully metallic, pure silver piece. I drill a hole in it for the jump ring. When it comes out of the kiln, there is some fire scale on the surface. That is scratched or sanded off before I put the whole piece into a patina to get the green color. It is then sanded again, leaving minimal color behind. I think the color brings out the texture and design a little more. I wire-wrap a clasp onto a piece of hand-painted silk cord and add the pendant. Tah-da!

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Whatʼs your favorite thing that someone has said about something you made?
There was a woman who recently came to my table while I was selling at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I asked how the day had been treating her so far. She sighed and said, “I am so happy to be on front of such a peaceful space with pieces of art I relate to.” She didnʼt buy anything but the compliment was worth so much more.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
Living in the Northwest is great for natural inspiration. I am still amazed at all the different plants that bloom in the spring. I sell my work where 10 million people visit every year. I get to hear a lot of stories. Talking and connecting with people is also great inspiration for me.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

What are your hobbies outside of jewelry design and running your own business?
I donʼt really have much time for a whole lot, but I love to cook and work on my house and in my yard. Essentially, my hands are always dirty.

(Photos by Lauren Williams)

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