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New York

The Uncommon Life

Mixtape Mixed Drinks: Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

September 11, 2013

The Manhattan is a classic New York cocktail, so of course it inspired a playlist of classic New York songs. The Manhattan’s a sophisticated drink that evokes images of the city it’s named after during the Mad Men era. (Don Draper typically drinks an old fashioned, but we could see him drinking this as well.)

The drink can be made with Bourbon or Rye–my Manhattan is made with Bourbon.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe | UncommonGoods

Sipping a Mahattan in a Mixtape Glass can put you in a New York state of mind, no matter your location.

The Drink:
2 parts bourbon to 1 part sweet vermouth
1-2 Dash bitters
Maraschino cherry (optional)

Place ice in a cocktail shaker and then add bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters. Shake and pour (strained) into a chilled glass or pour over ice. Top with a cherry (optional).

The Playlist:
1. Incident on 57th Street-Bruce Springsteen
2. Spanish Harlem-Ben E. King
3. Positively 4th Street-Bob Dylan
4. Take the A Train-Duke Ellington
5. New York State of Mind-Billy Joel
6. New York City Serenade-Bruce Springsteen

Maker Stories

All the Love for James Gulliver Hancock

August 22, 2013

james gulliver hancock

Since I was five years old, drawing distorted family stick figures and doodling all over notebooks has been a permanent hobby of mine. I still catch myself drawing in office meetings or on those too-long subway rides. Not that I’m talented at all, I just love the way a pen feels against a blank piece of paper. It’s as natural as eating or sleeping to me. So when I got the chance to interview someone who literally makes art and drawing their living, I was beyond pumped, especially since that artist just so happened to be the inspiring  James Gulliver Hancock. He’s a passionate, quirky artist who re-imagines his world around him into an urban whimsical fairy tale and claims to be sick when he’s not holding a pencil in his hand. 

Over here at UncommonGoods, we only have tremendous love for James Gulliver Hancock. (And kind of just love saying his name.) He collaborated with us to design his “All The…” drawing series and made some pretty sWHEAT graphics for our beer steins. He juggles living in between Sydney, Australia and Brooklyn,New York and everywhere else in between that fits into his family’s career paths and hectic schedules. He says, “We sometimes feel like a creative gypsy family circus, making videos and pictures and music as we travel around the globe.”

His most current project is drawing All The Buildings in New York. I was lucky enough to be invited to his current studio, which is conveniently New York City itself, and watch the drawing mastermind work his magic. We met under the Washington Square Monument, and right away I spotted him in his bright red pants, looking up towards the sky, in full concentration holding his weapons of choice: a pen and a notebook.

James Gulliver Hancock

I love your art work, especially the products we have here at UncommonGoods. What exactly ignited the “All the…” series?

It all started with traveling, I always keep a journal when I’m traveling, and I usually draw more than I write. I often found myself drawing the objects that I obsessed over in different places, or the things that dominated my experience. When I started road tripping around America I was drawn to draw different things I found in different places. I love concentrating on certain things and learning everything you can about that thing. If you’re drawing boats, you get to know all the types of boats. If it’s cactus, you see there are so many types; drawing really makes you look deeply at things. It’s like people that collect things, I admire that kind of focused obsession… the guy that knows everything about 1950’s salt and pepper shakers is a fascination to me.

James Gulliver Hancock

 What made you realize that drawing was what you wanted to do as a career?

I knew from a very early age, from a little boy I always drew. An early memory is from pre-school when we had to rotate between activities (drawing, puzzles, napping), so when I got to drawing I devised the most complicated drawing I could think of so I wouldn’t have to do the other things any more. I’m still like that, figuring out my life so I can draw as much as possible.

James Gulliver Hancock

Can you describe the moment when you realized “Holy crap, I’m actually doing this…!”

I have this almost every day. It’s so awesome to be drawing everyday and have people around the world, appreciate and love (and pay for!) what I do. I’ve also managed to integrate travel and a family into the fold of awesomeness too. My wife is a musician and we are often on the road, me with a portable studio to keep working. We sometimes feel like a creative gypsy family circus, making videos and pictures and music as we travel around the globe!

Lenka

You  live an aspiring artist’s dream and have traveled and showcased your work everywhere in the world: New York, Australia, Japan, France, England…the list goes on! What’s your secret?

Making stuff all the time helps, and telling people about it all the time. Being an artist requires you to be pro-active in making and then showing your work. People aren’t necessarily going to ask you to do something. A lot of the time you have to just do it and show them what it could be for them to get excited. Travel is essential, too; with the internet you can get a lot of international exposure without leaving your home town, but by being in a place, your energy shifts. You might meet someone and links begin to happen. Sometimes people I’ve met for half an hour while traveling becomes a client years later.

jgh_alltheroofsinparis_2-700x466

Where was your first exhibition held? How did you feel the day of? (Were you basking in all your glory, dissecting every single problem, or heading to the toilet to re-compose yourself?)

I was definitely hiding in the toilet room. Some of the reason I’m an illustrator is so I don’t have to perform in crowds! I’m doing lots of talks now for my new book and have to get up in front of lots of people, and I find it terrifying! But it’s fun also. I do love having this solitary process that also comes out into the world and interacts with it. As for my first exhibition, it was probably when I was a kid and I filed my family into a room that I prepared with things on the walls. It felt natural to me to ‘perform’ in this way, more natural than other kids doing fake TV shows or something.

All the Buildings in NY

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?

Wandering is the best. I went for the longest walk around Manhattan yesterday and saw, heard, smelt so many things. Consequently the ideas are flowing! I also seem to get inspired when I’m going to sleep and waking up, when the constraints of the day have faded away and the brainy mush floats around with new ideas.

photo (1)

On your site, you mention that you feel sick when you’re not drawing. Other than not drawing, what else makes you sick when you’re not doing it. 

Riding my bike clears my mind for sure. I can ride and ride and ride, and feel so peaceful, even in Manhattan. It becomes like a computer game, dodging the obstacles. The rhythm of riding is so hypnotic. But drawing every day is really what keeps me happy. If I can’t draw I have to make something else, whether it be cooking, or craft or something, making stuff is what I do.

Beer Steins by James Gulliver Hancock

What’s one of your all-time favorite quotes?

“Color tells it all, black and white tells just enough to stir the imagination.” It’s by an Australian photographer, Max Dupain, who took a lot of amazing black and white photos. I love the idea of sharing just enough with the viewer to get them thinking too. To leave room for them to bring something to the image– their own associations.

Do you have any secret vices that causes immense procrastination? How do you monitor this vice?

Luckily drawing is my vice, and because it’s my work I don’t have to monitor it, the more I do the better! Other than that, I shouldn’t eat so many chocolate muesli bars and cake, but hey, that’s what the bicycle is for.

jgh_icebreaker_5-700x591

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?

I have a 1.5 year old son and have so many ideas for children’s books that I haven’t had time to do yet. I also have a new book coming out in 2014 that will be amazing. Stay tuned!

What’s one piece of advice you have for that person out there that has a creative passion and can’t seem to make a career out of it?

Keep doing it, keep making projects and publishing them somehow (print, web, whatever) and then show them to everyone you can think of.

QUIFF – redux from James Gulliver Hancock on Vimeo.

Design

El Anatsui: All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

May 14, 2013

Like most Americans, I’m pretty unaware of artists who aren’t American or European. Embarrassing but true: interpreting the art of very different cultures takes work, and I tend to approach art (as I do most things) impatiently, wanting immediate pleasure. So I’d never heard of Ghanian-born, Nigeria-based artist El Anatsui when the Brooklyn Museum opened his first solo exhibition in a New York City museum. (Which runs through Aug. 4, 2013.)

El Anatsui, Ink Splash, photo by Aaron Bunge

Ink Splash, 2010 – Photo by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

Gravity and Grace (detail), 2010, photo by Aaron Bunge

Gravity and Grace, 2010 (detail) – Photo by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

Now, thanks to Kevin Dumouchelle, Associate Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the museum, who organized the show, this lazy ethnocentrista has been gifted with a reward she didn’t deserve: a broad, deep encounter with overwhelmingly spectacular art. Totally accessible on a number of levels, El Anatsui’s work drew me in, motivating me to spend much more time learning about it than I normally do at an art show. I went twice. I watched all the videos. I never do that.

Afor, 2010

Afor, 2010 – Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

I thought this show would be of interest to the UncommonGoods community for two reasons: first, because it bridges the same fertile territory between “art” and “craft” that a number of pieces in our collection do, and second, because we love art made of recycled and upcycled materials. El Anatsui is perhaps the maestro of this practice.

Drainpipe, 2010 and Peak Project, 1999 – Photos by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

Using tools ranging from chainsaws and welding torches to improvised small crafts tools, he has marked, joined, and shaped materials ranging from yucca graters and railroad ties to driftwood, iron nails, and obituary notice printing plates. More recently, he has focused on condensed milk can tops and used aluminum liquor bottle caps, with various brand names, from a distillery in the university town and contemporary art mecca of Nsukka, Nigeria, where his studio is.

Red Block, 2010 – Photos by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

Anatsui prefers not to call what he does “recycling,” and in fact, the connotations of that word are too narrow in the context of his work. The discarded materials he uses are so miraculously transformed into beautiful, shimmering, sumptuous works of art that his preferred word, “metamorphosis,” does seem more apt. At least one critic has dubbed it “alchemy,” and I can totally see why. (They’re metamorphosed into money as well; at least one piece is rumored to have sold for about a million dollars. So UG will not be offering his stuff any time soon, unfortch.)

Earth’s Skin, 2007 – Photo by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

The show I saw (twice!) at the Brooklyn Museum consists of 30 works in metal and wood, the largest and most visually dominant of which are huge, mosaic-like, hanging tapestries made of the aforementioned bottle caps.

Earth’s Skin, 2007 (detail)- Photos by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

A tremendous amount of meticulous craftsmanship goes into every tapestry, as you can see in this short Art21 video. Each is composed of thousands and thousands of aluminum liquor bottle caps. Anatsui’s 40-odd assistants cut and fold the caps into a seemingly endless multitude of shapes. “For each new pattern or texture that I’m introducing,” explains the artist, “I have to show them how it’s done. Because I find that, as an artist, if you don’t maintain physical contact with handling the material… the work might end up not having a soul.”

Earth’s Skin, 2007 (detail) – Photos by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

They then painstakingly “sew” them together with copper wire, patchwork-style, in a dazzling variety of color and texture groupings, Many depict traditional Ghanian symbols and patterns, while also evoking the history of the African slave trade, in which liquor was a commodity that Europeans exchanged for human beings, as well as the contemporary reality of global consumption and waste. Surprisingly, Anatsui received his early education in a Presbyterian mission with a European curriculum, and was isolated from his own culture until, in his late teens, he decided to “indigenize [his] consciousness” by immersing himself in Ghanaian culture. That probably at least partly explains someone like me found his work so easy to engage with.

El Anatsui creating his wall installation, Gli (Wall), 2010 / Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas / Photo: Nash Baker © nashbaker.com

El Anatsui doesn’t like to tell curators how to hang the pieces, so they have to be strong from every angle, as there’s no way to predict what kind of stress any given area might sustain. Before uniting all the sections of a piece, his crew pulls each section this way and that, to test their strength and make sure they’ll withstand being hung and re-hung in indoor and outdoor installations around the world. Without this careful craftsmanship, Anatsui’s brilliant, painterly compositions couldn’t perform their artistic function for long.

Black Block, 2010 – Photos by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

There’s no way to adequately describe in words or photographs how stunning, and varied, his work is. Some of the hangings, pieced of solid color blocks of flattened parts of caps, are monolithic and imposing, even though they’re made of what’s easily recognizable as garbage. Some, made of cap parts shaped into circles that are loosely woven together, are semi-transparent, and hang above and around you making the room you’re in look transcendentally magical, as if dust motes had turned to gold.

Gli (Wall), 2010 – Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Brooklyn Museum photograph

Photo by Aaron Bunge of Aesthetic Perspectives

One of the most amazing things about his work, to me, was that usually in the art world, consumer items, brand names, and garbage are used to say something negative and depressing. We’re meant to be reminded of the way consumer culture and advertising infiltrates nearly every aspect of our lives, usually degrading the environment in the process. When I see this kind of work, I often think, “I didn’t need you, Mr./Ms. Art School Graduate, to tell me about this. We all already know it.”

Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

But Anatsui’s work lifts you up and inspires you in all sorts of ways: artistically, environmentally, physically, and, dare I say, metaphysically. Anatsui shows us that the possibilities of re-use to create value of all sorts are unlimited.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Melissa Bishop

April 17, 2013
Melissa Bishop, UncommonGoods Senior Buyer–Children’s, Leisure & Desktop

My hometown is…
Los Angeles, CA

My favorite product that I’ve brought into the assortment at UncommonGoods is…
Kinetic Sand.

I’m inspired by…
The amazing friends, family, and colleagues I am surrounded by. Also I’m a huge tech geek so I’m inspired by Kickstarter and TechCrunch.

My guilty pleasure is…
Goldfish crackers, sour candy, and young adult fiction novels.

An uncommon fact about me…
I play on two nationally competitive kickball teams. (Yes, really.)

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
I’m a sucker for restaurants with twinkle lights and candles – and great wine lists.

My style is…
Completely mood-based – I’m a chameleon. California casual, if I had to pick a lane. Learning how to dress for my first winter has been a comedy…

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
How to navigate the subway & survive in New York City. (I started at UG the day after I moved to NYC!)

Would you rather… Have a front row spot at any sporting event you choose for the rest of your life OR get free stuff from your favorite clothing store for the rest of your life?
Definitely front row at any sporting event! (!!!) – I’m a football and baseball fanatic. Hopefully this choice comes with transportation to get me there, too, since I’m far away from my Cali teams now!

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Candace Holloway Gregory

March 27, 2013

Candace Holloway Gregory, UncommonGoods Senior Manager – Merchandising
My hometown is…
Sherman, TX (GO BEARCATS!)

My favorite product that I’ve brought into the assortment at UncommonGoods is…
That is a hard one. I love them all! I guess I would say the MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY KIT – CUISINE. I did a gift lab on the product and had a BLAST making all the different dishes with my friends. I’m not much of a cook, but I felt fancy doing all these complex food alterations in the kitchen. (Secret: the kit makes everything super easy.)

I’m inspired by…
I’m inspired by my friends and family every day.

My guilty pleasure is…
The television show So You Think You Can Dance! And I will scream it from the mountain tops. I have been a die-hard fan from the first season, first episode. I like to think I can dance and critique like I know what I’m talking about. But my dance experience is……ummm……pretty much zero. LOVE EVERY SECOND OF THAT SHOW.

An uncommon fact about me…
I dabbled in acting. Lots of people thought that is why I moved to NYC, but I never wanted to have a career as an actress. I just wanted to live in the greatest city in the world!

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
Another hard one! Vinegar Hill House is simply delicious. We usually go for “special occasions” so every time I have gone I have left with great memories.

My style is…
Simple and comfortable…in fashion and decorating.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
I have learned a lot about sustainability and B Corps. I am very proud to be a part of a company that cares so much about their customers, employees, and community. I also learned how to ride a bike in NYC. I still hold my breath going through busy intersections but I’m getting more comfortable every day.

Would you rather… Entertain guests every night for a week OR spend a whole week all alone?
I guess I would have to go with entertain guests every night for a week. My husband can put together an amazing party platter.