There’s an exciting energy that runs through Jason Krugman’s workspace in the New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The open, industrial space fosters cross-pollination of ideas in an environment where science, technology, invention, and art meet. Nearby, an experimental collaborative of architects works on design and material concepts that seem drawn from science fiction—from mushroom bricks to human shelters made from cricket colonies. In the midst of this fantastic innovation, Jason and his partner, Scott Leinweber, created the Splyt Light, an innovative new lighting design that lets consumers build their own unique fixture from a kit of modular parts. We visited Jason’s light-filled space for a look at where Splyt was born, and a conversation about his work sculpting with light and finding ways to share that exhilarating experience with others. Continue Reading…
Every time I visit an artist’s studio, I get a completely unique experience. That’s usually because each artist’s space is filled with decor that expresses their personality, pieces handmade in their own style, and the specific tools that help tell the story of how those pieces were made. In the case of our most recent Studio Tour, the experience was special in a new way. I, along with our tabletop buying team and two photographers, actually had a hands-on creative experience led by long-time UncommonGoods artist glassblower and teacher, Jim Loewer.
Jim welcomed us into his Philadelphia studio, offered us drinks and snacks, gave us the safety rundown, and then let us each get behind the flame and actually work with molten glass as he took us through his pendant making workshop. I left Jim’s studio feeling so inspired and accomplished, knowing that I had made something beautiful under the guidance of a talented professional artist, and the whole way back to Brooklyn, I had a feeling of awe that I think might only come from knowing I just changed the physical state of glass from a solid to a liquid and back again using a shooting 3,000 degree flame.
During the visit, Jim not only walked us through the glass making process and helped us avoid singeing our arm hairs with that 3,000 degree flame, he also told us about finding a great studio space, balancing teaching and creating new work, and choosing interacting with others over being a “troll.”
UncommonGoods is a place that celebrates entrepreneurs and makers and wholeheartedly embraces creativity. If you’ve spent much time shopping with us or reading our blog, you’ve seen this celebration shine through the stories we tell about our products and the designers who make them. These stories share what really makes the pieces we sell and the artists we work with unique.
While every product we sell meets standards that make it an uncommon good, every once in awhile something comes along that is truly weird. Weird in the best sense of the word: In the way that weird, new music makes you want to listen again and again. In the way that a brilliant invention makes you ponder how in the world someone actually came up with that. In the way that an eccentric person makes you want to get in touch with your own beautiful inner weirdo.
Vedat Ulgen’s Worn Sleeve Vase and Worn Jeans Stool are perfect examples of this type of “weird” design. They are totally unexpected, look one way and feel another, and are as useful as functional products as they are intriguing as art.
These designs are made from upcycled clothing, so they should be soft, right? But they have a unique texture that’s smooth and doesn’t feel anything like you’d imagine. It seems like the sleeves shouldn’t stand upright and the stools shouldn’t hold the weight of a full-grown person, but they do.
Like his products, Vedat’s studio, Thislexik, isn’t exactly what it seems. From the street, it looks like a stack of shipping containers. Get a bit closer to the five colorful containers, and it becomes clear that the stack is actually a building with a living roof and windows perfectly placed to let in enough light. Inside, Thislexik is rooted in sustainable practices, fueled by experimentation, and filled with dozens incredible designs.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Red Hook, Brooklyn studio myself recently, and as a proud proponent of the aforementioned brand of weird, I was in paradise. It’s hard to convey how inspiring this space is to someone who hasn’t been there, how cool these designs are to someone who hasn’t interacted with them, and how innovative Vedat is to someone who hasn’t met him, but I hope these photos and this interview are at least a start.
Laurel Begley in her vintage VW Beetle. All photos by Steve Terrebonne
With all of the natural inspiration to be found around Laurel Begley’s Sonoma County studio, you might be surprised to hear that she’s more inspired by personal history than she is by natural history. From the cookie jar she inherited from her Nana to the simple celebration of family dinners at the end of the day, her family life infuses her creative life with an air of authenticity. And as an independent maker, business owner, and mother, she maintains a pragmatic but laid-back outlook to help juggle it all.
While we weren’t able to visit Laurel’s Santa Rosa, CA studio in person, she opened her doors to us through a series of beautiful photos, giving us a snapshot of her routine and some insight into the inspiration behind designs like her Personalized Faux Bois Vase.
One of the most exciting things about serving as Editor of The Goods is that there’s always a Maker Story right around the corner. I am honored to get opportunities to meet talented artists, to see what they make and how they make it, and– when I’m extra lucky– to actually step inside their creative spaces. Over the past year, I had the pleasure of visiting several artists and seeing them in action, as did a few of our blog contributors, photographers, and buyers.
From woodworking to weaving to jewelry making and beyond, we saw so much creativity last year that we couldn’t help but give our 2015 Studio Tours one more chance to shine before heading out with cameras and notepads to capture more inspirational moments in the year to come. Here are a few hand-picked highlights from those Studio Tours, complete with a few inspirational quotes, photos that made me want to drop everything and start a new creative project on the spot, and plenty of great advice.
David and Christopher Steinrueck, Photos by Emily Hodges
Brother duo, David and Christopher Steinrueck, work out of their woodshop in the heart of San Francisco. After spending just a few moments inside a space that invites noise from wood slicing tools and is spotted with patches of fallen saw dust, it’s not hard to see that sustainability, craftsmanship, and community are the values that build the very foundation of their business, Wood Thumb. David, Chris, and their team salvage reclaimed wood’s natural beauty when crafting it into everyday function and modern design. From their Wooden Beer Caddy to their Magnetic Bottle Opener – their beautiful craftsmanship is obvious and “there is no part that is unnecessary and everything is created with intention.” Read on to find out what community means to David and Chris and why you might want to pop in for one of the woodworking classes that they offer the next time you find yourself in San Francisco.
Nils Wessell is the creator of our Tablet Holding Cutting Board , an innovative design that allows cooks to easily prep ingredients with their electronic tablets ready and enabled right in front of them. While heirloom cookbooks are becoming a thing of the past, Nils’ cutting boards are beautifully-crafted and sturdily-constructed, meaning they bring a dose of tactile beauty to cooking in the electronic age.
When I first read our This Just In-spiration interview with the Brooklyn-based designer and woodworker, I got the impression that he’s not only a talented craftsman, but also someone who is truly passionate, not only about his own craft, but also about art across a broad spectrum. When I learned that his woodshop is located in nearby Industry City, I knew I had to pay him a visit to learn more about his thoughts on the pursuit of creativity and the challenges (and rewards) that come with balancing art and business.
Once in Nils’ creative space, I saw work, experimentation, knowledge, and–at the risk of sounding a little cheesy here–the magic in the sawdust all around me. Nils’ studio is a mix of books, designs in the prototype phase, power tools, and exquisitely-crafted cutting boards in different stages of production. Read on to see some of these works in progress, hand tools and heavy machinery, and our interview with Nils.
Casey Elsass in his Brooklyn kitchen, studio photos by Rachel Orlow
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Casey Elsass at his workspace in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Casey and his employees prepare and bottle Bees Knees Spicy Honey. The operation is located in a food preparation complex featuring local culinary favorites and well-known names like Roberta’s Pizza and McClure’s pickles, so it was clear that Casey’s popularly acclaimed (dare I say alternative?) condiment label – MixedMade – was in the right league. As Casey welcomed us to his facility, my eyes were immediately drawn to two things: 1) his awesome beard and 2) the tremendous stock of honey in the room, and the tremendously large vat that in the next few minutes that honey would accumulate in. It was a beautiful and captivating idea, a vessel of liquid gold large enough to bathe in. But I don’t think the FDA would consider that an OK thing to do.
When the time came for Casey to crack the seal on one of the massive, 60 lb buckets of honey, a sweet and mildly floral honey smell filled the air. I wondered how he holds back – what’s stopping him from sticking his face in that bucket Winnie the Pooh style? As he prepared to dump the bucket into the huge, silver tank where the contents would get infused with chili pepper goodness, he filled me in on his story: “I’ve always been a foodie – that’s why I started this – but I was actually making my own hot sauce way before we decided to do honey. MixedMade started as our experiment to see if we could launch a condiment in 30 days, but hot sauce is a really crowded market. We kept the hot, lost the sauce, and Spicy Honey was born.”
But – it was clear that Casey had acquired a new-found knowledge and appreciation of honey. He sources all of his honey from a family-owned and operated farm upstate a ways in the Hudson Valley, and he frequents the farm to help out with harvests and build hives. “We actually built 30 new beehives exclusive to the company on my last visit – we’re lucky to have such a close relationship with them.”
Read on to learn more about the process behind Spicy Honey – from the hive to your home – Casey’s worst honey-related accident of all time, and what’s next for MixedMade.