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Sustainable Materials

Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Paola Delgado’s Handmade, Sustainable Tagua Jewelry

October 23, 2017

It’s a familiar story. Talented woman takes on Wall Street, only to leave four years down the line and discover her true calling: ethical jewelry design. Okay, it’s not that familiar. And besides, the tale of Paola Delgado, Peruvian banker-turned-creative, has a bit more to it, including a pilgrimage to her home country and, of course, a dash of uncommon impact.

Driven by a desire to connect with others and an ambition to find herself, Paola left her job at Goldman Sachs in 2011 in search of a more meaningful path. From New York City, where her business is now headquartered, she traveled to her native Peru, where she delved unexpectedly into a craft she’d enjoyed as a child. You guessed it: We mean jewelry-making. Following a bit of soul-searching, Paola decided to turn her hobby into her job, soliciting artisans in Ecuador and Peru to produce designs in her signature material, tagua seed. Harvested sustainably from pods that fall from local palms, tagua offers a cruelty-free alternative to ivory that minimizes damage to the environment and looks pretty darn good when carved by the artisans in Paola’s employ.

Paola, center, with two members of her all-female roster of artisans

When we first heard Paola’s story, we knew we had to talk to her one on one. Read on for more on Paola’s journey, from the difficulty associated with saying “tupananchiskama” to financial stability to the logic behind her recent choice to work with only women artists, and find out just what makes her creations so special.

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Maker Stories

Talking Purpose, Fun, and Sustainable Design with Fred Conlon

September 6, 2017

Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker/Park Record

Fun fact: Utahan Fred Conlon has been working with us here at UncommonGoods for over ten years, and in all that time, we’ve only mentioned him on the blog a teeny-tiny handful of times. But it’s 2017, and we’re saying, “No more.” It’s time to give Fred his due the best way we know how, and that’s with his very own maker story.

Raised in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Fred’s the son of two high school English teachers, which may at least help to explain how he wound up with a degree in Public Communication despite his ambition to open a pottery shop. After a brief tour as a ceramicist, Fred transformed his shop into the full-time metalworking studio where he now crafts punny paperweights and his signature Gnome-Be-Gones, both fixtures of our assortment here at UG for the better part of the past decade. Read on for a Q&A with Fred that touches on inspiration, sustainability, and what makes his job so special. (We also took a couple of moments to scour his Instagram, the evidence of which, too, lies below.)

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Cork Makes a “Comeback”

December 11, 2015

As a certified B Corporation, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green”—we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always eager to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.

A Cork Oak

A cork oak (Quercus suber)

When you think of cork, you probably think of wine stoppers and bulletin boards. But this amazing, natural material can be used for much more—from watches to umbrellas. Cork has been used for bottle stoppers for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Egypt. Frank Lloyd Wright gave cork his seal of approval by using it in the bathrooms of his famous Fallingwater. On the more personal (and affordable) side, artelusa (USA) cork company produces a growing line of cork designs crafted by Portuguese artisans from local cork. We spoke with Josh Drucker of artelusa about this fascinating, flexible material, the methods used to work with it, and the sustainable story behind it all.

How do issues of sustainability manifest in your company’s products?

Product sustainability plays a major role in our company’s vision and philosophy. Our entire collection features natural cork fashion products. Cork is the outer bark of the cork tree, a type of oak, which grows primarily in southern Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. The bark of the cork tree is peeled off to prolong the life of the tree. The bark regenerates itself every 7-9 years. We also use other natural resources in our products, such as cotton for the inner lining and vegetable dye for coloring.

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Fragments of harvested cork

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