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Studio Tours

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Alexandra Ferguson

July 9, 2015

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When I was getting ready to head over to Alexandra Ferguson’s pillow factory in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with a few other members of the UncommonGoods team, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Not only was this my first studio tour – it was my first day of work, and the word ‘factory’ was emboldened in my head. The automatic image of a dingy, windowless environment I had cultivated growing up clashed with the sense of handmade authenticity and vibrancy I associated with UncommonGoods. Visiting Alexandra’s studio factory was initially an incredibly dissonant experience – but we’re talking a good kind of dissonance: one that adhered to none of my preconceived notions of what a factory was, and rather showed me what a factory could be.

Photo by Colin Miller

Just a few blocks away from the UncommonGoods office in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Alexandra’s studio is lofted high up on the 6th floor of the massive Industry City complex. We made our way into the building, dodging a slurry of outbound shipments that left us frazzled by the time we reached the elevator. Yet when the doors opened, Alexandra’s head popped into view, and we were immediately greeted by her distinctive brand of inviting pep. She welcomed us in and led us down a short hallway lined with pillow fills towards her main assembly floor.

The space that unfolded around us was – in two words – collected and comfortable. Sewing machines and pinning tables stretched from end to end of the long, bright space, one side of which was almost entirely lined with windows boasting inviting views of the Statue of Liberty and the NY Harbor. The room was warmly decorated but economical, with little (literal) fluff for a pillow factory. As Alexandra walked us along the sunny assembly floor, she gestured towards the colorful walls and washed away the monochromatic filter I was still half-clinging to, saying: “My goal is for my factory to be a colorful place, where we make colorful things, and ultimately to change the way people think about factories.” Not only is this idea sustainable – so too are her exclusively recycled and eco-friendly materials.

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Alexandra is a self-described “factory girl;” having toured assemblies all over the world, she emanated an almost infectious sense of pride as she talked excitedly about her set-up. We moved into her office – open and connected to the main floor – where she energetically floated over stacks of ‘I’ll-get-to-this-later’ mail atop tables and chairs, and decommissioned sewing machines encouraged closer exploration. After she showed us her camera and photo shoot area, she explained that, since locating in Industry City two years ago, she and her six full-time employees have been conducting every aspect of her business in-house.

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Read on for more on Alexandra’s impactful ideals for industry, the story of her six-and-a-half-year-old startup, and that time that Snoop Dogg endorsed her custom pillows.

Studio Tour | Alexandra Ferguson

What are your most essential tools and materials?
Our favorite material is our 100 percent recycled felt. It’s made from PET containers (i.e. plastic bottles). Felt is a matted fiber that cuts clean without fraying. This versatility is what allows us to cut out the letters and stitch them down in our signature applique technique. Of course, my favorite tools would have to be our hundreds of custom-made dies. They are like cookie-cutters for the fabric. We have the whole alphabet in several different fonts, as well as some very special scripted phrases like the Namaste Pillow.

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What inspired you to become an artist, and where does this inspiration come from?
My mom was a patternmaker in London during the swinging 60s, and is an overall craft maven. Growing up, she made lots of our clothes, and some of my favorite memories are days when we would dream something up and spend the day bringing it to life.

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How did you first develop the concept for your product?
I made my first felt pillows as a gift for a friend. The first pillows were all botanical-themed, and I cut the shapes of the flowers and leaves freehand, layering them on top of each other and using my sewing machine to add details such as the veins in a petal. I got carried away over the holidays and made about 40 more so I started selling the extras on the craft circuits. Which, of course, then meant I had an excuse to make more. I liked to have cable news on as background noise, and in January 2009 when I was just starting, Obama was being inaugurated. It was such an exciting and inspiring time that I thought to capture “yes we can” on a pillow. Turned out it was a hit and I was in business. I consider it to be my own little economic stimulus package.

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What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a young designer starting a business?
Scaling up our operations from a small 800-square-foot studio space with one sewer to our current 4,000-square-foot factory with a team of seven was a pretty big deal. It was really important to me that we held onto the artisanal handcrafted manufacturing methods and nimbleness to make custom products in a short time frame even as we more than tripled our annual output. I’m happy to say that two years later, we have an awesome team and a really efficient production flow, but we certainly had our fair share of growing pains along the way.

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Where does down time fit into your day? Is it ever tempting to take a nap on your own product?
I’m really disciplined about ending the work day by 6 or 7, which I can get away with by being hyper-focused when I am on the clock. I’m a big believer that even the busiest person can make time for the things that are important, and for me it’s having evenings at home with my husband.

Ha – I get asked all the time if my factory full of pillows ever tempt me for a nap, but for me when I see that I just think how much work has to be done!

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You’ve mentioned before that you hope to redefine how people perceive factories. Can you elaborate more on how your factory deviates from this stereotype?
I love factories. I love watching all the different machines in action, and listening to the sounds they make. And I love the pride that I see in a workers face when you admire their craftsmanship. There is something so innately satisfying about the visual of a pile of product at the end of the day and knowing that you produced that – a real sense of purpose. Over the last 10 years, I have worked with factories of nearly every scale and specialty, from managing sample rooms for top designers and local NYC garment center work rooms to some of the largest mass production factories in southern China. I’ve seen cut and sew lines, fabric mills, metal stamping, plastic injection molding.

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So you can imagine that opening my own factory two years ago was a dream come true. I remember being so struck though at the visceral reaction I got from some people when I used this word, “factory.” It evoked dark and dingy spaces, overcrowding, mindless work, and child labor. Yes, in my career I have certainly made a bee-line out of some foul spaces with questionable work ethics, but in my experience it was by no means the norm and the opposite of what I intended to build in Brooklyn.

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As a response, I set out to build a factory as beautiful and exciting as I believe it can be. Our loft space in Industry City is lined in wall to wall windows and overlooks NY harbor and the Statue of Liberty. I installed 150 feet of custom turquoise industrial shelving, and painted accent walls with chartreuse and fuchsia. And obviously we are in full legal compliance with all local laws and labor practices! But more than that, I want to show how the economics of domestic manufacturing CAN work. Yes, our labor and overhead is more expensive than our overseas competitors, but we have many other advantages such as no minimum order quantities, fast turn around time and no risk of my goods getting held in customs indefinitely. All in, this means that we don’t tie up our cash in materials and inventory, and can capture a ton of business making custom items such as the Zip Code and Family Name Pillows on UncommonGoods. Not to mention, of course, creating jobs for our local community and supporting the national economy. So we’ve got some big advantages. Not to mention that I get to listen to sewing machines click away all day long. Music to my ears.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
The best thing for me was to just take it one day at a time. Otherwise it can get pretty overwhelming.

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Where does collaboration fit into your day and your craft?
I love working on custom pieces with our customers. Maybe it’s a nickname you have for your significant other, or the punch line of an inside joke. I love knowing what huge smiles will be on the recipients face when they open that perfect present made just for them.

Please elaborate on the sustainable materials you’ve incorporated into your product.
We work with all eco-friendly materials. Our felt and pillow inserts are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles (PET containers). Our cream canvas is a hemp and linen blend, and our other canvas bases are all 100 percent organic cotton.

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What inspires you to keep designing?
My customers. I do a lot of listening to their needs, and then try to design into it.

What do you think people appreciate most about your product?
We make an effort to curate phrases that are part of our common lexicon – things we collectively are saying and thinking all day long – boil them down to their absolute essence, and write that on a pillow. When we’ve done it right, it’s something that you can immediately relate to, almost like we’ve lifted your thoughts right out of your head! Or maybe it reminds you exactly of your sister-in-law who is always saying that thing. Either way, our products tend to create this very intense emotional connection with the buyer. It’s not just a pillow anymore, it’s a piece of you.

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What is your favorite product design (pillow), and why is it special to you?
It changes all the time depending on my mood. Right now it’s “I Love This Place” – it lives on the set of the TODAY Show, and they recently posted a photo to Instagram of Snoop Dogg posing with it. We have it taped to our refrigerator at the factory. Totally epic.

Instagram photo from @alexandrafergusonllc via @todayshow

 

Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Seth and Maddy Lucas

June 10, 2015

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Instagram photo taken by @ellothereprintco

One of my favorite meetings at the UncommonGoods headquarters is something we like to call grown up “show-and-tell,” where the marketing  team previews the products that will soon join our This Just In assortment. I was immediately intrigued by the story behind the National  Parks Sticker Map. Assistant Merchandising Coordinator Jillian described Seth and Maddy Lucas as a young married couple who had a goal  of visiting all of the national parks in their lifetime. It might have been because I was in the middle of reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” but I immediately thought “I wanna do that, too!” I started daydreaming about where I would thru-hike one day, imagining myself rolling out a sleeping bag next to a serene lake in [insert middle of America location]. But when Jillian mentioned that the designers were based in Brooklyn, I swiped the serene lake away like an email on my iPhone and thought “Oh, I wanna go there too.”

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

I had never been to a home studio before visiting Seth and Maddy. Upon entering their light-drenched apartment, I think the phrase  “bring your work home” took a whole new meaning. From the nostalgic American pillows on the couch, to the colorful shelves in their kitchen, it was easy to tell that their artistic aesthetic is consistent throughout every detail in their daily lives. When I stumbled  upon their copy of the “Wes Anderson Collection,” everything clicked. I realized that Seth and Maddy had the ability to create an all encompassing visual language similar to what Anderson fans feel when they are lost in any one of his famous films. The  ability to live life with such a distinct style seems to come naturally to Seth and Maddy, whether they are backpacking around another park, or just listening to a record on their couch. Meet travelers and designers Seth and Maddy Lucas, and learn more about their colorful inspirations, their collaborative process, and the delicious way they celebrate a victory.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where do you find inspiration within this space?

Seth: The lighting is my favorite part about it. We have two big glass doors that bring in lots of light, and I think that’s key with any workspace.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?

Seth: I do my sketching in Paper [by FiftyThree] or Adobe [Illustrator] Draw on the iPad with the Pencil [by FiftyThree]. I love being able to draw and then send my files directly to Adobe Illustrator.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where does down time fit into a day in a home studio?

Seth and Maddy: It’s never scheduled, but we have lots of really amazing coffee shops nearby in Bushwick. We like to take a break at random times throughout the day and grab bite or a drink.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young couple starting a business?

Seth: I think giving each other our own defined roles was the hardest part to figure out together. There’s just parts of the business that I know Maddy will be better at, not only in organizing our workspace, but in organizing and putting together our online shop. Know that we’ve become comfortable with what we do and how we split up work, our day-to-day process runs much more smoothly.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?

Seth: Mostly in the idea stage. We come up with a lot of ideas together, and if we’re excited enough about an idea I’ll start working on it right away and Maddy will give me suggestions. We really try to only put out products that we love and feel like we have to get it made right now because we want to have that product in our lives.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your product?

Seth: The National Parks [Sticker Map] came about when Maddy suggest we make a lifetime goal of visiting all 59 national parks, and she wanted me to make a map to mark our journey. We had a hunch that others would want to use this map and sticker design as well, and we’ve been blown away at how many others share our passion for visiting the national parks.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What advice would you (both) offer the you of 5 years ago?

Seth and Maddy: Relax, you’ll figure it out. Freaking out over our lack of business knowledge has always made us feel underqualified, and we’ve had to make some mistakes to figure out what we’re doing. But moving forward and learning from mistakes has been the best way for us to improve.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you celebrate a victory?

Seth and Maddy: Dominique Ansel is our favorite bakery and they make these really cool chocolate chip cookies in the shape of a shot glass and fill them with vanilla infused milk. As soon as we finished our first trade show, we made our way to Dominique Ansel and had cookie shots. It’s sort of become our unofficial celebration when we’ve finished a big project.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you recharge your creativity?

Seth and Maddy: We take a lot of weekend trips. We’re not messing around with our national parks goal. We’ve been to 20 now, and they make for a great chance for us to get work stuff out of our minds and just enjoy the outdoors.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?

Seth: “Show up every day.” This is a quote from one of my favorite podcasters, Seanwes. I love how it’s only three words, but it says everything you need to know. Just show up, be there, every single day. If I want to see progress, I need to make new products and come up with new ideas, this process is never ending and to make it work we have to show up every day.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

How do you set goals for yourself?

Seth and Maddy: Getting ready for trade shows has become a great way for us to get out new projects. It gives us a deadline, and we can set up smaller deadlines so we know when we need to be done coming up with new ideas, when we need to design those ideas, and how much time it will take to get those ideas printed.

Seth and Maddy Lucas | Studio Tour | UncommonGoods

 

National Parks Sticker Map | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jen Pleasants

May 12, 2015

Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

On my right hand, I wear a ring every day on my index finger that reads “She believed she could, so she did.” This is my daily reminder that I’ve climbed mountains – and if I wanted to – I could climb 1,000 more. I was eager to visit Jen Pleasants’ studio, not only to tour her space, but to also personally thank her for designing something that I never take off and imprinting a mantra in my head that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Before walking into her jewelry studio, Jen waved long crystals around me to take away any negative energy I might bring in. Although it was all in jest, I think this explained my time with Jen in a nutshell – quirky, positive, and radiating ultra hippie vibes.

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Jen’s studio sits on a hill in Portola Valley, about 45 minute drive outside of San Francisco. It’s tucked in a quaint corner behind her home. Keeping it company is the beautiful backdrop of a classic Northern California view – trees, hills, more trees, and blue skies. My immediate thought was that Jen had the ultimate oasis that most designers would crave for to work on their craft. Although I was there professionally, I couldn’t help but feel like I was on a mini getaway retreat.

If Jen’s pink-streaked hair and infectious positive spirit weren’t already enough of an excuse for me to sign up for a year’s worth of yoga classes, her studio space was. From the luscious hanging succulents, to her children’s precious painted hand prints on the walls, to the many inspirational printed quotes displayed – I could really feel and see the love she built within her surroundings. This is quite fitting to her company’s name, Show the Love. Show the Love’s recycled precious metal jewelry is hand sculpted by Jen herself and invokes beauty, magic, and girl power. Meet Jen Pleasants, jewelry designer, mother of three, and self-proclaimed hippie.

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What are your most essential tools?

My hands, my mind, my team, and precious metal clay!

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I find inspiration just thinking of the people I meet who are doing great things or overcoming hardships.

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Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Between taking care of my three kids and running the actual business, I don’t get nearly as much time creating or resting as I would like.

Jen and Her Daughter

Jen's Dog

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
It is really hard to sell your own artwork. It is embarrassing and tiring to put yourself out there, but you just have to do it. Otherwise, you don’t have a business, you just have a hobby.

How did you come up with the concept of your product?
I just combined my love of sculpting with my love of inspirational quotes and voila! Show The Love was born!

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Make time for more long walks.

Do Good | UncommonGoods

How do you set goals for yourself?
I just got a ‘Passion Planner’ as a gift (check them out on Kickstarter) and the first page was enormously helpful! You pretend the paper is magic and anything you write on it about your life will come true! I did the exercise with my kids too. It was awesome and insightful.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Very interesting question, because I tend to gloss over what should be victory celebrations, like being funded on Kickstarter in just four days. Instead, I quickly set a new goal that I immediately started working toward. I think it is a better quality to be able to celebrate and really soak up every big milestone. I am working to be more like that because I do like to celebrate, especially if it involves a dance party!

Jen Pleasants' Studio with Living Roof

Studio Space

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“She Believed She Could, So She Did” is one of my favorites as I honestly believe that if you are persistent and don’t give up, you can visualize your end goal, then you can attain it. So that leads to another one of my favorite quotes, from Dory in the movie Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

She Believed She Could | UncommonGoods

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I really want to create huge Rodin-like sculptures and right now I make figures on a smaller scale. It is an art in itself just taking a small figure and making it at scale. I would love to learn to do that.

How do you recharge your creativity?
I like to lay on a hot rock in the sunshine like a turtle and take a nap. That will definitely recharge me!

Jen Pleasants Crafting Her Designs | UncommonGoods

I Speak Up Rose Gold Necklace | UncommonGoods

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
We like to collaborate with charities and make pieces that honor the work they are doing. They act as vehicles to help promote and raise money for causes. Show The Love exists to uplift the lives of millions through our inspirational messages and through donations to causes we believe in.

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See Jen Pleasants' Collection at UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Molly McGrath

March 27, 2015

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

Molly McGrath is a laser-cutting artist who marries her architecture training with her love for geometric shapes and bright hues. Molly’s statement art pieces are known for intricacy and precision, yet words like “lively” and ”fun” still come to mind when you see them. I visited Molly’s lovely studio in the heart of The Mission in San Francisco and it wasn’t a surprise that her open space mimicked her artwork’s aesthetic – flashing lots of playfulness with even more color. Her studio held lots of character, from her personable knick-knacks to her hand painted geometric doors, I simply couldn’t focus on just one thing. Natural light flooded in, her laser cut designs peeked out from drawers and vignettes, and her desktops were scattered with signs of production. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a real life Pinterest board titled “Interior Eye Candy.” It was clear that Molly built a home away from home – a space that was truly hers to the very core.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

Creatives often try their best to limit distractions in order to stay focused on their craft. Yet it was procrastination for Molly that ignited the initial spark for her small business. As Molly told me, “I used a laser cutter extensively in architecture school – making models mostly out of birch plywood. I have always made jewelry and one day, while procrastinating, I decided to make some earrings on the laser cutter. That was the beginning!” Read about Molly’s friends Larry and Lola, what quote keeps her inspired, and her current obsession to perfect her craft!

Atlas 1 | UncommonGoods

Atlas 1 by Molly McGrath.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My studio is definitely my laboratory. I have painted a wall with a sharpie, color blocked my doors, and constantly rearrange and review my collection of objects, textiles, furniture, and books for inspiration.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods
Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
My laser cutters (Larry and Lola) are definitely my most essential tools. Everything that comes out of my studio has been cut by one of them! I’m also completely reliant on AutoCad and the Adobe Creative suite to generate my designs.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Since there are just two of us here, there isn’t a lot of downtime. We run a pretty efficient shop. Daily trips to the post office accompanied by a coffee break are probably the closest thing to down time we have at our studio!

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
The most difficult part of my work has been figuring out how to grow and being strategic of the direction of the business.

How did you come up with the concept of your product?
I used a laser cutter extensively in architecture school – making models mostly out of birch plywood. I have always made jewelry and one day while procrastinating I decided to make some earrings on the laser cutter. At that time in 2006, there was not a lot of laser cut jewelry, and people really responded to it. That was the beginning!

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoodsMolly McGrath | UncommonGoods

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
The same advice as I offer myself now – hire more people to help with production to allow for more time for product development.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

How do you set goals for yourself?
My goals are simple – to continue to evolve as a designer, and to grow as a business.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Usually when I get a new design opportunity that I couldn’t have foreseen. For example, I am working on a collaboration with Chronicle Books, which I have celebrated quite a bit!

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” – Jerry Garcia

This quote is from a song called “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead. I listened to this song incessantly starting around age of 16, a time when everything is exciting and the possibilities of life are endless. I love the sentiment, and it also is a great approach to design.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am always on the hunt for a new material to use with the laser cutters. My current obsession is ceramics, so I am trying to learn everything I can about that medium at the moment.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods
Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

How do you recharge your creativity?
Travel, reading Vogue, hiking, and going to museums.

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Often! My employee Qiana has been an amazing collaborative partner, as have many of my wholesale accounts. I also love doing custom work. It often results in a completely different approach!

 

Molly McGrath | UncommonGoods

 

Molly Mcgrath | See the Collection

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Richard Upchurch

March 12, 2015

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

As UncommonGoods photographer Emily and I made our way to visit Richard Upchurch’s studio, our cab driver quizzed us on some of the local neighborhood acronyms. “Do you know what Tribeca stands for?” he stared at us in his rear-view mirror. “Triangle below Canal Street,” we laughed. “What about Dumbo?” “Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” we said in unison. “Do you know why this neighborhood is called Red Hook?” he mused as we turned down a one-way street lined with rugged facades. We were stumped. “Because of all these brick buildings?” I guessed. “I don’t think so!” he teased. “But seriously, I’m not sure. Do you know?” he peered back in the mirror.

Out of guesses, I stared out the window at the jumble of modern and old-fashioned storefronts. With its scattered cobblestone streets and uncanny industrial vibe (a holdover from when it was a busy shipping center), I felt like I was back in my old Pittsburgh neighborhood. That is, until I saw the beautiful view of New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty directly across from the studio’s dome shaped doors. 

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

Richard introduced himself with a comforting flair of southern hospitality. As soon as he learned about Emily’s Georgia roots, he started describing his favorite Georgia venues where he had previously performed as a touring musician, setting the stage for an afternoon with one of the best storytellers either of us had met in a long time. He walked us around his studio and described how Lil’ MibZoots, and Loopy Lou grew from blocks of wood into sound recording gadgets. He related the first days of his business brandnewnoise, and how it’s grown to become an influential internship provider for inner-city students. He gave us the inside scoop behind the bright green frog in the center of his workstation. (A project that involved a crazy collaboration with Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips!) We pointed to his old wooden thumb piano, among other oddities, and he elaborated with charming, sentimental tales. He pointed toward his favorite barbecue joint across the street, distinguishing all of the clandestine spots that make Red Hook so special. With each new story, he built the kind of environment that made us want to settle into rocking chairs, crack open beers, and chat about life. After meeting Richard, I am not surprised that he decided to set up shop in a neighborhood that’s so full of history, character, and unexpected treasures.

Whether you’re looking for creative inspiration, or just hoping to get a sneak peek into an artist’s everyday life, you’re in good company. Pull up your favorite chair, sit back, and enjoy our tour of Richard’s Brooklyn Studio.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

What are your most essential tools?
My Weller soldering iron, table saw, drill presses, hot glue guns, needle nose pliers, hand sanders, 320 grit sandpaper, and my bike.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Mason jars filled with electronics, wood working equipment, found oddities, tools, workspace to build, and an espresso maker. I’m lucky this is what I call work.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoodsRichard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

How did you develop the concept of your product?
I wanted my nephew to have the experience of an old tape machine. I couldn’t find one for cheap, so I just built him something that would simulate the experience. I ended up building him a simple voice recorder made out of wood where he could change the sound of his voice. He took it to show and tell, where his teachers inquired about purchasing some. So I made five for his teachers. I made 10 for my first online store at the insistence of my sister-in-law and, well, here I am still building them today.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

How do you believe that your past experiences have helped you develop your current business?
Everything we do is built on previous days and our ability to move forward into something positive. Those days add up. I studied art in college. I got out of college and toured playing music for 10 years. Now here I am at the intersection of art and music making sound gadgets.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
“Workflow”, “margins”, and the jargon can easily outweigh time spent doing what I do best, making art. It’s quite difficult to constantly step away from the business part and get back to that which I love: the process of creating, building and seeing a physical object materialize from inception. One must create time to create.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Walk through every open door. If you find yourself in a room that doesn’t seem to hold your attention then look for the open door. There is no dead end.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
A victory lap might include a good cappuccino, a movie while we work, cookies (always cookies), and some robot dancing. When? The goal is to find reason to do the robot every day.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I think this changes as events in our world change and certainly in my own personal life. So recently, I followed the story of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, the two guys who climbed Dawn Wall in Yosemite:

“I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.” – Kevin Jorgeson

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

How do you recharge your creativity?
Travel. Live music. Dinner parties with interesting storytellers. Bike rides. Laughing really hard with friends. Looking at art. Taking things apart.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Collaboration is at the heart of my process. I am surrounded by talented, positive people who have different ways of seeing and are always ready to create positive change. I love throwing something into the universe and seeing it evolve.

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am surrounded by other artists, woodworkers, electronics wizards, and musicians that constantly challenge me to be better. I try not to get overwhelmed and just keep honing my skills in lots of different areas. We are all here to encourage each other, so I keep my eyes open and my hands always ready to build something.