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This Just In

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Mike Whitehead

October 26, 2015

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 people 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 Mike Whitehead, the artisan behind our gorgeous new handmade Cast Iron Pans with Coil Handles.

Mike Whitehead with pan

When did you know you wanted to be a maker?

I’ve just always been happiest making, growing, or fixing something. In kindergarten I would bring scrap wood to school every day and build clunky wooden models with it in our little shop corner (can you believe they gave hammers and nails to 6 year olds?). In high school I took every art class they would let me. In college I was both the newspaper and yearbook photographer.


3 stacked cast iron pans - Mike Whitehead
What’s been the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artisan?

Easily the most exciting thing is being able to really collaborate with others and dedicate myself to it full time. Making cast iron cookware is incredibly complex and labor intensive. It takes so many additional people and skills that you get exposed to along the way. I am always learning something new whether its pattern making, graphic design, or machining.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I haven’t had a typical day yet! I spend most of my time surrounded by vintage cast iron cookware while developing and testing new designs. If I’m not doing that I’m in the workshop obsessing over tiny manufacturing details. Our team works in an old WW2 machine shop with high wooden ceilings, natural light and a tiny view of Portland’s Willamette River.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

Yes, I keep an old Kennedy silver half-dollar that my 95-year-old godfather specifically gave me as a pocket piece when he was still alive. It’s one of the early heavy silver ones and even in the middle of winter it feels like a smooth river stone in the sun. I absolutely love how metal ages. It reminds me to slow down and take care in whatever I’m doing.

Cast Iron Grill Pan

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

They would get very excited and say, “This is where pancakes come from!”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

See Mike's Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Teri Stratford

October 19, 2015

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 people 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 Teri Stratford, the artist behind our vibrant new botanical prints, A Visual Poem, Twilight, and Firefly Festival Fireworks.

Teri Stratford

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I always knew I was an artist so there never was a “when.”

What’s been the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

The sheer joy of doing something that just makes me giggle with delight on a regular basis. Seeing people’s delightful reaction to my work and what miracle happens next!

IMG_2562

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I might research photos online for reference of animals such as horses, turtles, geese, cats, fish in different positions; underwater or mountain landscapes.  Go over orders to fill.  Do some printing to replenish my inventory.  Or, much more fun….go collect leaves in my yard or go for a walk with a backpack to fill up.  Or pull interesting leaves from my stash and play with arrangements on my illustration board and see what happens.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

I have a puja in my studio, a place for meditation.  The room vibrates with spiritual energy, the source of joy and creativity.  I am happy in this room!

IMG_2589

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

“Wow…. Mom!  Look at this?  Can I take this home?  This is really cool… ” (I actually had this happen with a 7 year old boy!)

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“I am the vibrational energy that creates WORLDS!!!  My creativity is endless….”

Firefly Festival Fireworks by Teri Stratford | UncommonGoods

See Teri's Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Chris Dimino

October 12, 2015

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 people 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 Chris Dimino, the artist behind our new Keyboard Waffle Iron.

Keyboard Waffle Iron | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist/artisan/maker?

I’ve been drawing since I was 3 and I started making additions and scenery for my existing toys that would enhance the world I was creating during play. I made things for years and had more fun doing this than anything else.

I found a great home for my skill set at the School of Visual Arts where I was able to create some of my best work, including the original Typewriter Waffle Iron. After graduation, I worked in virtually every field of design which has provided me with a valuable skill set for creating in 2D, 3D, and motion/animation. I am now circling back to what I’ve always enjoyed the most: making things. After receiving countless requests over the years from people asking if my original Typewriter Waffle Iron was real and for sale, I decided to further develop the idea and make it a real, functioning thing. The Keyboard Waffle Iron is the start of what I hope will be many creative products to come.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional maker?

The idea for The Keyboard Waffle Iron has been with me for over a decade. I actually didn’t expect this, but when I held my first sample in my hands and used it, I really loved it! So the most exciting part for me is seeing that feeling translate to customers and reading their comments/emails saying that they love their KWI.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

Each day is different with new inquires, new business opportunities, new fires to put out, and new relationships to build. Around these things I work on existing opportunities, fires, relationships, and development of the brand and future of the product. I definitely keep busy.

Keyboard Waffle Iron | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

I have an old drafting table that was given to me by a close family friend when I was 10 years old. It’s the place I’ve created my best work and sitting at it brings me to that younger version of myself when playing and creating were my only concerns.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

My guess is they would say, “Cool!” or “What’s that?” They would likely recognize the keyboard pattern for sure but maybe not know its purpose as a waffle iron. I’m going to go with “Cool!”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

I have two of them, both Latin:

Ut sementem feceris ita metes — “As you sow so will you reap.” (Cicero)
and
Audaces fortuna iuvat — “Fortune favors the bold.” (Virgil, The Aeneid)

Chris Dimino | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kristin Hinrichs

October 8, 2015

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 people 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 Kristin Hinrichs, the artist behind our new Crackling Candles.

Kristin

When did you know you wanted to be an artisan?

I’ve always loved creating, but I never dreamed it would be something I would do as a career. I’m an equal right brain/left brain person.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artisan?

It’s exciting to know that others love something that I’ve spent so much time thinking about and creating. Every time I read a positive feedback, it’s like a rush of motivation. Some days it’s easy to get caught up in “Why am I overthinking this to death, what does it matter?” Then you hear someone say they love your product and it all makes sense.

Wax

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

Actually, I rarely spend full days in the studio. It’s mostly at night after my day job, or during my son’s naps on the weekends. I just renovated my space so I’m really excited to be able to spend more time in there. My wax is always turned on so I can just pop in and make batches of candles as I get time.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

The common theme to my work areas are photos of my son. I started making candles the year he was born so he was really the reason I started on this path. It also keeps me focused to work hard, but also remember not to get too tied up and forget to put the wax away and go play. It’s important for me to show him what it looks like to work hard to achieve your goals.

40014 Crackling Candles

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

Mmmmm – smells yummy! Can I eat it?

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

Work hard, play hard.

Crackling Candles

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Pauline Stevens

September 28, 2015

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 people 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 Pauline Stevens, the artist behind our new Recipe Towels.

Pauline Stevens | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

When my head was with full with ideas and no place to put them.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

Realizing that others besides my family and friends like my work, and were willing to pay for it!

Pauline Stevens Colletionl | UncommnoGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like? 

Opening windows and blinds, making coffee, a little music, playing around  with props and light, taking pictures, playing around some more, clicking my camera once again.  Choosing images. A little lightroom, some Photoshop, and testing.

Inside Pauline Stevens Studio | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

Not really. I love music, light, and color and feel really in spirit when I am outdoors.

Outside Pauline Stevens Studio | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?

“I’m hungry!”

Pauline Stevens Studio | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

Let the world know you are here and do it with passion.

What are your most essential tools?

My camera, my love for light and admiration for food.

 

UncommonGoods Tea Gifts

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sarah Grange

May 18, 2015

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 Sarah Grange, the artist behind our new embroidery hoop art collection.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up my parents always encouraged me to be creative and gave me the freedom (and the craft supplies) to do so. Around 8 years old, I decided that when I grew up my best friend and I would open an art studio/veterinary office.  While my life goals have become a little more realistic over the years (i.e. I’m probably not going to veterinary school anytime soon/ever), I’m basically that same girl.  I’m still dreaming/working towards that goal of having the perfect studio where I spend every day supporting myself by doing what I love.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Graduating college and starting my small business, Kitsch & Stitch, has been one of my greatest and most exciting accomplishments.  To look back on the past two years and see the growth that has come out of the long days and nights spent designing and embroidering is incredibly motivating.  But most of all, seeing that people appreciate my creativity and work enough that they want it in their homes is one of the most exciting and motivating aspects of what I do!  Hearing that someone loves their new embroidery hoop or that it made the perfect gift for their loved one makes my day.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Caffeine, good music, lots of thread and fabric, and two adorable kitties (even when they’re biting at my ankles while I work).

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
The walls and shelves in my studio are filled with art and objects that are inspiring and important to me.  I’m a bit of a collector and I love to have all sorts of art, heirlooms, and vintage knick-knacks in my space.  My antique embroidery book that belonged to my great-grandmother is one of my most treasured items.  It’s inspiring and motivating to think that women in my family have been embroidering/sewing for centuries, and here I am continuing the craft tradition (but in a very different way).

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
 “Ooo what does it do?” or “Why?”
It’s been a while since I talked to a kindergartner, but I feel like these are pretty popular questions among 3-5-year-olds.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
It’s a toss up between “Fake it till you make it” and “If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end,” but both essentially serve the same purpose for me. I’ve found that at times when I’m feeling intimidated or having trouble believing in myself, the best plan of action is to push those thoughts aside and keep moving forward, even if I’m not totally sure of where I’m headed.  At times when I’m doubting myself or my work, these mantras get me going again.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

 

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Matthew Hoffman

April 27, 2015

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 Matthew Hoffman, the artist behind the You Are Beautiful project.

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I was always a tinkerer – taking things a part, modifying things, or building my own things from scratch. So, I guess making has always been in my blood. It was always low-fi woodworking and junk making. It wasn’t until a class in high school that really turned up the heat on making art and design.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
I think it’d be sharing with others. Knowing that you’re making things that people want to have in their lives is really rewarding. It fun to make the work, and to realize it’s being interacted with at home or work. I really like the idea of sneaking positive messages into the world.

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Never a dull day! And, for better or worse, there’s never a typical day. It keeps things interesting. It might be designing a new piece and making files, or it might be off site on a huge build. One thing we keep in check is really trying to enjoy what we’re doing each day. Because if we’re not having fun (and adding value to the world), what’s the point?

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I can’t really say that there is one. Though I wish it would be a tape measure. I own at least 20 of them, but can never find one when I need it!

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
Well, I have a first grader, so I have a pretty good idea. I try to make public work, that is accessible to everyone – no matter who you are. So the fact that kids can “get it” is pretty awesome. Much of my work is cursive, which isn’t taught in schools anymore, so I’m happy to help keep the youngsters sharp.

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Anything is possible.”

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

Go for it.”

Video by Ben Derico

 Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

This Just In: Our Top 5 Most Creative and Head-Turning Greener Materials

April 22, 2015

Back in February, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver opened his show with a hilarious segment of reporters who all agreed that “infrastructure is important, but not sexy.” As crucial as infrastructure improvements are, Oliver proclaimed that “most people actually think it’s boring!” (Unless, of course, the infrastructure is blowing up in an action movie.) But in reality, Oliver admitted that he thinks infrastructure is quite fascinating.

Greener Materials | UncommonGoods

Photo via Collectively.org

I would argue that the same holds true for manufacturing. It’s not a word that typically riles up the masses. It’s never trending on Twitter, and there isn’t an app that would make manufacturing any more sexy (with the exception of 3D Printing). Yet, the manufacturing industry touches almost everything we use. As you may have read in our latest Uncommon Design School post, in the decades preceding the first Earth Day “the manufacturing industry was more interested in making green than going green: factories belched out clouds of black smoke; toxic chemicals were dumped carelessly, polluting the soil and groundwater; and bottles, cans, and paper were all destined for the landfill after just one use.” Well, could that sound any less sexy?

Greener Materials | UncommonGoods

Photo courtesy of Barry Rosenthal’s Studio Tour

Lucky for us, this 20th century model of capitalism is becoming less and less acceptable. According to B Lab Co-Founder Jay Coen Gilbert, we are moving toward a stakeholder capitalism, where business is not only concerned about creating value for shareholders, but also concerned about creating value for society, the workforce, the community and the environment. Organizations like B Corporations are making sustainable business more important and attractive to consumers. In this way, I would argue that sustainability is one of the main factors that make manufacturing a really cool topic. Green design is only becoming more innovative and valuable than it’s ever been.

This realization got us thinking: What are some of the most surprising, head-turning green materials in our assortment this Earth Day? What are some of our newest items that make us excited to talk all things materials and manufacturing?

Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug

Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug | UncommonGoods

The Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug immediately caught my eye the day it entered our assortment. As I was reading the product description, I was particularly impressed that this artist uses the discarded bicycle tire tubes, gathered from bike shops in her area, and yarn scraps reclaimed from industrial production. I was even more intrigued how this hand woven rug seamlessly combines Old and New World techniques. But it was one concept in particular that made my head tilt sideways: this item is “waste negative,” meaning it removes waste from the environment, rather than adding to it. Brilliant!

Recycled Plastic Duck Family

Recycled Plastic Duck Family | UncommonGoods

Whereas reuse is the reinstallation of materials in their original form, recycling is the collection and remanufacture of materials into a new material or product, typically different from the original material. Handmade from recycled newspaper, recycled water bottles and clay, this Duck Family is a very creative example of attractive recycling.

Fire Hose Products

Fire Hose Products | UncommonGoods

Here at UncommonGoods, we are huge fans of upcycling, the process of converting old materials into something useful. When you upcycle an item, you aren’t breaking down the materials, but refashioning them. As the Upcycling Fashionista puts it, “upcycling only requires your own creativity and elbow grease.” Micah Landworth’s line of fire hose products is a really unique way to transform discarded materials into something beautiful and true to its original character.

Pride & Prejudice Throw

Pride and Prejudice Throw | UncommonGoods

I immediately loved this throw because P&P is one of my favorite novels and movie adaptations. What makes this throw truly special, though, is how it’s made. The makers repurpose, or adapt, pre-consumer cotton scraps, and shred and spin them into new yarn. How cool is that?

Vegetable Parchment Platter

Vegetable Parchment Platter | UncommonGoods

Artist Margaret Dorfman has been part of the UncommonGoods family for more than 15 years. She has an extensive jewelry collection that’s made by hand from over 40 different varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that are cured, dried, pressed and aged in a 10-14 day process. She calls this Vegetable Parchment, because the texture and translucency calls to mind the vellum parchments of medieval Europe. I was really excited to see that she is expanding this technique into other products besides jewelry. Even more awesome, her new Vegetable Parchment Platters are made with recycled glass.

 

See More Recycled Gifts | UncommonGoods

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