During the first week of October, I traveled to Toronto to attend the annual B Corporation Champions Retreat. (And to celebrate our 10th anniversary as a founding B Corp!) Less than a week before I was set to leave for my first-ever trip to the Great White North, I learned that Stephen Kitras, a long-time member of our maker family, owns and operates the largest hot glass blowing studio in Canada. I immediately contacted the Kitras Art Glass team with fingers crossed, hoping to squeeze in a last minute visit while on their side of the continent. A few days later, I found myself in Fergus, Ontario, thrown into the fire of glassblowing alongside artists who have traveled from all over the world to practice their craft at Stephen’s studio. Continue Reading…
Moradabad, India, is a big city. Situated on the banks of the Ramganga River, it boasts a population of nearly 900,000 and an active handicrafts industry that accounts for a significant portion of the country’s artisan exports. Though it’s best known for its brass wares, local workers craft a wide variety of goods for international distribution, from handmade paper notebooks to mosaic vases made from discarded glass. And in the atelier of Khalil Ahmed, an ironworker stationed a mere 12 kilometers from Moradabad proper, Clarissa the Curious Cat Planter comes to life.
When you first lay eyes on Clarissa, you’re probably struck by the cuteness of her little iron nose, or the artful curve of her accompanying tail. What you likely don’t realize is that Clarissa’s cuddly (if metallic) exterior does a whole lot of good beyond the obvious act of putting a smile on your face. Her creator, Khalil, is part of a growing group of local artisans that benefit from the support of an organization known as Noah’s Ark, an international export house that’s been serving the area for nearly 30 years under the watchful eye of Moradabad native Samuel Masih.
Although we know him best for his handcrafted accessories, Colorado creator Jerry Moran is much more than just a jeweler. For much of his adult life, in fact, Jerry was a self-described “ordinary guy” working in the aerospace industry, getting up close and personal with planes—not necklaces—on an everyday basis. Now Jerry pays tribute to his beloved aircraft by crafting his goods from their disused parts, giving retired planes otherwise primed for destruction an opportunity to brighten the lives of jewelry enthusiasts and aircraft aficionados alike.
To celebrate the induction of a selection of Jerry’s wares into our growing assortment, we engaged him and his wife, Mary, in a brief back-and-forth, digging deeper into the details of what drives him to create (and how he got started on jewelry in the first place). Read on for more on Jerry’s fascinating background, including an account of the pair of earrings that started it all, plus a few words of wisdom courtesy of—surprise—rugby.
Ever looked at a pile of discarded wood and wondered at the stories hidden within? Cousins and lifelong tinkerers Marco Facciola and Stephen Washer sure have. Made in Montreal, Canada, their reclaimed wood and rope pieces—three of which have just been added to our assortment—give debris a second life, celebrating the unique colors, shapes, and tales told by pieces salvaged from household renovations and climbing gyms.
Here at UncommonGoods, we’re inspired by Marco and Stephen’s inventive, earth-friendly creations, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our family of artists. Read on for Marco’s answers to our questions about how the pair got their start, what excites kids about their work, and more.
You can never have too many books, right? Well, actually, you kinda can. With hundreds of thousands of new books published each year, and with many library shelves so overwhelmed that librarians are often forced to throw books away, even those of us who feel sentimental about the written word and the pages that hold them have to admit: we’ve got a problem.
So what to do with all of those outdated encyclopedias and forgotten math textbooks? Aren’t there any other options aside from trashing them? Recycling, of course, comes to mind. But the bindings of many books, especially hardcovers, contain adhesives that can’t be recycled. So the inside pages can go, but then what happens to the rest?
Enter Laura Bruland Shields. A long-time book-lover herself and an artist at heart, she’s taken on this wasteful problem and is making beautiful solutions every day – in the form of one-of-a-kind, laser cut accessories made directly from books that would otherwise be thrown away. On top of that, she takes a portion of the proceeds from her business and donates them to benefit literacy and girls’ education around the world.
When we learned about Laura’s story, we knew we had to feature her in our Uncommon Impact series – her values as a maker and ours as a certified B-Corp company are a perfect match. We love that she thinks ethically in the way she makes her products and uses her to success to benefit a cause she’s passionate about.
Read on to hear from Laura directly about her creative process, some of her favorite book-titles-turned-accessories, and how her business is helping to spread a love of reading worldwide.
We gave our reclaimed, recycled, and upcycled goods the infographic treatment!
Design by Nikki DeSautelle
I visited Tricia Wright, maker of the Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug, and her beautiful home studio in the heart of San Francisco. From bright pop art, mod furniture, to quirky collections – the moment I walked in I knew that I was very much in a designer’s living space. (Times two because – fun fact -her husband is a designer as well!) While her adorable dog, Major, greeted me as I admired her succulent plant collection and charming outdoor deck, she explained how her home has been a work in progress over the past few years. But now, it’s finally at the stage where she’s comfortable with it being as is – giving her a lot more time to innovate and make “stuff.”
“Rugs weren’t always my craft. I bought a loom from Craigslist and actually just learned how to weave this year, ” Tricia laughed as she described to me how she “accidentally” got into weaving. A few months back – Tricia noticed she still had a pile of unused bike tubes leftover from an art sculpture she built. And being the sustainable artist that she is – she didn’t want to throw them out. “At the time – I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to make. But I knew something great could come from them.” When she finally came up with the idea of making rugs out of the bike tubes, she suggested that her friend who knew how to loom professionally take the tubes. But her friend – who obviously knew about Tricia’s incredible crafty talents and natural DIY finesse – convinced her that she should definitely learn on her own. When she saw the listing for the wooden loom on Craigslist – Tricia took it as a sign to stop debating, sign up for local weave classes, and just do it. Six months later, the Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug design was for sale at UncommonGoods.
I was blown away by Tricia’s home and design space (I mean, who wouldn’t be impressed by a wall of beer bottle caps and an entire shelf collection of old-fashioned irons?), but I was even more inspired by her story. I left with a simple reminder: You can’t be perfect in everything, but you sure can try.
Get inside the head of Tricia Wright and see how San Francisco inspires her work, how she celebrates the little things, and why she associates herself with the Karate Kid.
Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.
What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Alexandra Ferguson, the designer behind our new handmade, eco-friendly pillows.
Photo by Gabi Porter
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My mom, who has a fashion background, was always working on crafting projects with us as kids. So I grew up in a very creative home and learned from an early age that the best way to get something really fantastic was to make it myself.
What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
I love working out of my factory. Working with an incredibly talented team to roll up your sleeves and make something is a really satisfying way to spend your day. I also love speaking with my customers – we are so lucky to have such a passionate and dedicated cult fan base. I get so much inspiration from them!
What does your typical day in the studio look like?
A lot of my day is spent managing the work flow through the room. Our factory is designed to be incredibly lean and agile, handling a large volume of custom orders with a very short lead time. Often I feel like an orchestra conductor making sure that the timing of all the moving parts is accurate. I also spend a good chunk of my day outward facing, working with customers over the phone and email, processing orders and ultimately getting boxes on the UPS truck! The best moment is watching a ton of boxes get loaded up, that’s when I can relax a little knowing that it was a job well done.
Photo by Colin Miller
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
My own pillows! I think I have 3 of our “Breathe” pillows in my office. Those are helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
They’d probably read it aloud! My 5-year-old nephew loves to practice his reading and writing with “Aunt Al’s” pillows. “Here Comes Trouble” is a favorite among the toddler set. I get lots of cheeky twinkles when they read that one.
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Um, do you have space for 80? “I work hard for the money” is a favorite. There’s no sitting back and relaxing in my factory, and I’m proud of the hustle!