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Photography

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: BLACK & WHITE

February 1, 2014

Instagram Challenge: Black & White

The next #UGInstaFun theme is BLACK & WHITE. I have to say, there’s something about black and white photography that calms and excites. It’s as if the photographer’s letting me in on a little secret through a timeless moment they captured. Whether the photo is happy, whimsical, mysterious, dark, simple, or fun — a black and white photo usually puts more focus on the subject. It slows down the eyeball and keeps it from jumping frantically around the picture. It reminds me to take a step back and to slow down a bit. Share with us your black and white timeless moments. On March 5th, 2014 a winner will be chosen and the prize is a $50 gift card. Be sure to hashtag #UGInstaFun on Instagram and if you want to see entries that have already joined in on the fun, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maker Stories

Piece by Piece: How Jim Golden Captures Collections in Photographs

October 12, 2013

Photographer Jim Golden | UncommonGoods

Photographer Jim Golden started his career as a retoucher in New York City’s fast-paced world of advertising, but traded in taxis and skyscrapers for scenic natural landscapes and crisp Oregon air. Now he owns his own photography studio and, when he isn’t capturing the majestic landscapes of the Pacific Northwest or creating beautiful portraits with his lens, he’s creating visual records of unique collections.

The items in each of these collections come from different times and places. Each grouping is like a history book, telling the story of a product and celebrating how the design has changed over the years and varies across its kind. Each thing in every group Jim photographs fits just right into the arrangement, creating a stunning still life.

Mixed Tape Puzzle | UncommonGoods

The subjects of each of these photographs arrive at Jim’s studio in many ways. Some are complete collections belonging to friends, some are from others working in the space, and some are “cobbled together” from thrift stores, internet auctions sites, and craigslist.

Despite the time Jim spends finding the perfect assortments of interesting things and carefully organizing them into scenes, he says he’s not one to hang on to too many objects himself. “I don’t have a lot of space these days,” he tells us. “I have 3 bikes, some die cast cars, some old cameras. Nothing amazing. I collect photos of collections! A friend recently commented that I collect through my camera, referring to my work outside of the studio (cars, houses, landscapes) which I thought was an interesting observation.”

Camera Collection | Jim Golden | UncommonGoods
Jim Golden | Photography | UncommonGoods

It’s no surprise that he learned to use the camera in this way. “My father was a serious amateur photographer,” Jim says. “[He] always had a camera in the car and would shoot this and that and every so often we’d have slide shows to see what he shot.”

After assisting his dad as a kid, Jim went on to college and began his technical training, ready to go into the field at a professional level. “I thought I wanted to be a commercial photographer, but after assisting in college I thought it wasn’t for me,” he says. “I graduated and started working for a retoucher in NYC, and he taught me that trade and I retouched for a while, then transitioned to shooting for a living in the early 2000s… I left New York City to get away from the intensity of the advertising world and to live in another part of the country. I wanted to be closer to the outdoors and especially the mountains in the winter. Portland was really affordable at the time, so it was easy to make a living and snowboard and skateboard a lot.”

The artist founded his own studio in 2006 in a converted grocery store from the 1930s. He describes it as “a free-standing building with a little parking lot and a big awning out front that the produce used to be under.” When he bought it, it was filled with cubicles, so he had to gut it to create the classic white box studio with “a 2000 square foot shooting space, a cyclorama, and about 1500 square feet of offices and a conference room in the back” that it is now. “It has great storefront windows so you never feel isolated in the dark, but it’s very functional,” he says. “It’s basically my dream studio from back when I would think about what my [future] studio would look like.”

Jim Golden Studio | UncommonGoods

All of this space is necessary, because photographing a large collection takes up what Jim calls “a pretty big footprint.” The objects are placed on the floor in a 10 foot by 8 foot formation and the camera is positioned 12 feet in the air, but that’s just set up. Space is also needed to store and sort the pieces before and after the photos are taken.

“We like to have about 2-3 times more stuff than we think we’ll need, ” Jim explains. “We spread everything out on big tables and edit it down to our favorite items. We then place our favorite stuff on the floor and move them around to see what feels right, then work off those pieces, they tend to be the larger pieces, generally. We mark the edges of the frame with tape measures and fill in the image. It’s a fine line between what works and what doesn’t; I know it when I see it. I worked with a very talented stylist, Kristin Lane, on some of the images, it’s a very collaborative process when we work together. Otherwise, I usually go in with 2-3 plans of attack and arrange the items myself.”

Set up | Jim Golden | UncommonGoods

This work may sound arduous to some, but it results in truly unique, detailed, and beautiful photos like those featured in our assortment of collection puzzles here at UncommonGoods. “I think all [photography] genres have their challenges in a way. When it comes down to it, it’s all making images, and I’m passionate about it regardless of the challenges,” Jim says.

The photographer’s advice to others willing to accept the challenges that come along with trade is to “shoot shoot shoot, every day.” He continues, “Always have a camera on you. Take the time if something catches your eye. It’s a cliché, but shoot what interests you, it shows through the work if you’re inspired…. as glamorous as this industry sounds, it can be a grind sometimes. You need to ask yourself if you can go the extra mile every time– because you need to. It’s immensely rewarding, but also hard work. ‘You’re not special, work hard’ was a quote I read recently. Very true.”

The Uncommon Life

Insta-Recap #2

August 30, 2013

Riding to the company picnic | UncommonGoods

Riding to Owl’s Head Park for our company picnic


We’ve been getting busy this summer on Instagram and here is another collection of some of our favorite photos recently!

Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn Mug! | UncommonGoods

Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn Mug showed up on our tabletop buyer’s desk and Instagram helped us decide that yes, we should most definitely carry him!


Nimbus Cloud Serving Board | UncommonGoods

Jeff Knight’s winning design from the Woodworking Design Challenge finally is available for sale!


Handmade reclaimed Shark Slippers for the whole family | UncommonGoods

Our Product Development team is beaming with excitement over our new collection of Handmade Shark Slippers in sizes for the entire family.


A Peep inside the UncommonGoods offices

Jason of our Purchasing Team crafted this diorama of his team as Peeps for his manager’s baby shower.


Check us out on Instagram!

Design

Art Crush: Audrey Heller

April 26, 2013

Miniatures fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I watched the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids a lot when I was little. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m 5’3″ and holding tiny things makes me feel like a giant… we’ll never know, but I do know this: Audrey Heller’s photographs are seriously crush-worthy.

Audrey transforms common foods and objects into exciting uncharted worlds for her tiny figurines to explore. Her playful and imaginative juxtapositions create some pretty surreal scenarios. Ordinary objects like grapes, cappuccinos, and breakfast cereal become unfamiliar – even dangerous – landscapes.

Like film stills, Audrey’s photos leave you wondering what came before the scene you’re looking at and, more importantly, what will happen to our tiny protagonists next. I’m a little worried about those scuba divers… I mean, how will they get out of that bowl? What if they get eaten? What happens when that shredded wheat gets soggy? Because you know it will…

Audrey is truly my favorite kind of artist – one who thinks outside the box and inspires us to do the same. You can’t help but use your imagination when looking at her photos. They make you think and that’s really what art should do, right?

Audrey Heller lives and works in her native San Francisco Bay Area. Since 1996, her photographs have been shown, shared, published, and collected around the world.

Get a peek inside Audrey’s studio here and learn more about the works featured above: Ripened, Cafe Society, Challenging Conditions, Bound, Fish Out of Water.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Audrey Heller

December 6, 2012

I remember the sample meeting (where each week our buyers present uncommon products they’re considering for our line-up) when Audrey Heller’s fantastical photographs were first introduced. The team was immediately captivated by the whimsical scenes, and not a buyer could wait to add her work to our collection.

Remembering the excitement around her creative pieces like End Well, Ripened, and my personal favorite, Bound, I couldn’t wait to get a tour of the studio where Audrey brings her miniature models to life. Since Audrey is in San Francisco, I couldn’t visit her workspace in person; but being a photographer and all, Audrey was happy to snap some photos of her own to provide virtual tour of her studio.

What are your most essential tools?
Eyes. Light. Focus. Patience. NPR. Coffee. And then a bunch of tech stuff.

I was a lighting designer and director for theater, and I use those skills all the time. I create and light my little scenarios, using many of the same design theories that I used on a big stage, but adjusting my tools to tiny scale. So what I would do with a 400 pound follow spot in the theater, I might do with a flashlight in my studio.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I love to be surrounded by evidence of creative thinking, reminders of unique places I have been, and objects with histories.

I’ve spent the last twelve years traveling to art shows across the country. That connects me to a huge variety of artists, people who present and support the arts, and arts educators. All of those connections, combined with the array of sublime and ridiculous experiences I have on the road, remind me that there are always new things to explore.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I’ve started to learn to play the ukulele. I have absolutely no musical training or aptitude, so I’m just dreadful. But I’m slowly getting less dreadful, and that’s really amazing. It is hard, it takes a lot of focus, progress is slow…but it is such a sweet and silly little sound that I can’t get too worked up about how bad I am. Working on a three chord song is a great way to reset my brain.

How do you set goals for yourself?
Ha. I usually set goals by committing to an external deadline. Deadlines are great for me, because without them, I would never consider anything finished. So I look for things that will stretch me, maybe scare me and then I say yes. From there, it’s the calendar and lists!

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Theater is the ultimate collaborative art, and I struggle with working alone. I really love working with people, incubating and nurturing ideas.

In this series my collaborators are silent, but essential. The figures I use are made for model train sets, and they all come from the same manufacturer. They are crafted with incredible precision and care, and have made it possible for me to create work with much more depth than if they were not, in themselves, so fascinating.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victory is its own reward, right? When it’s not, ice cream!*

* San Francisco is the home of some mighty fine purveyors of frozen treats, but I travel a lot, so I’m always interested to hear of new places to try..feel free to offer your suggestions!

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“You are here.”

It is simple, and profound. Sometimes it’s just a locational fact, sometimes it is great ponderable wisdom of the ages. It is a reminder that I often need. My curiosity can become a liability and lead to distraction. When I remind myself to be present just where I am, I get a lot more out of what is in front of me and who I’m with. It’s delightful that the phrase appears in the world, unlooked for. When I see it, even on a map in a subway station, it reminds me to stop and look around.

How do you recharge your creativity?
Serious play is the best recharger for me. Learning, experimenting, trying out new things, can put me in that childlike state of mind where I’m open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I don’t mean “childlike” to sound simple, or superficial. I mean REAL child-like: when the world is fresh and full of wonder, and a little scary and mystifying and out of control.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Don’t be so afraid of making mistakes. I don’t get better by figuring out how to do things right; I get better by doing things. Jump in.

The Uncommon Life

A Humongous Pinterest Collection of Candy Art

October 26, 2012

One of the heartbreaks of adult life is not being able to go trick-or-treating. Sure, you can go door to door on Halloween night, but only with children, and you have to let them have all the candy. Boo!

One of the joys of adult life, on the other hand, is art. Fine art, crafts, paintings, photos, street art, whatever. It’s all good. And it’s especially sweet when it’s art about… CANDY.

Most candy looks like abstract art to begin with, so it’s a natural subject and inspiration for artists, photographers, and designers.  Look at this photo of Airheads Extreme Sweet Sour Belts by Steven Depolo next to Pop artist Gene Davis’s 1964 painting, “Sour Ball Beat” (above).

Controversial contemporary artist Damien Hirst‘s  famous “dot” paintings have often been compared, sometimes derisively, to candy. The candy will cost you about a buck; one of Hirst’s dot paintings went for $3.48 million early this year. Which is treat and which is trick? (Trick question.)

I may not be able to go trick-or-treating any more, but I can “collect” candy art treats on the Internets without gaining an ounce. In honor of Halloween, I amassed a humongous amount of creative, beautiful, fun, funny, happy, sugary art onto a humongous Pinterest board.

With apologies to diabetics, here’s a sampling of candy you don’t have to say “Boo!” to. Note: because it’s my board and I’m the decider of it, I chose to include gum and soda, aka “liquid candy.”)

“Portraits” of candy

Art made of candy


Art about candy

Candy-themed tattoos


Art made of candy wrappers


Halloween candy corn art

And finally…

A candy toothbrush

(Also, because we care about your dental health, a non-cavity-inducing one.)

Happy Halloween! (If you somehow haven’t OD’d yet, check out the entire Pinterest collection.)

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