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Wall Art

Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Kasia Wisniewski & Nicholas Foley

June 3, 2013

Living in New York City you learn very quickly not to judge a book by it’s cover – every door hides a secret in this city. Upon walking up to Kasia Wisniewski and Nicholas Foley’s building I had no idea what was in store. Only a few blocks from my own place, and on a block with manicured brownstones, Kasia and Nick’s door was gated and uninviting. But upon being greeted and swept upstairs to their apartment by Kasia, I was surprised to be standing in the treasure hidden from the street. Their home is what I imagine Marie Antoinette’s place would look like if she were a Brooklyn artist – a mix of Baroque accessories, Mid-Century furniture, antique sewing machines, dress forms. And right there, among their beautiful furniture and artifacts, was an industrial laser cutter, taking up what I imagine could be a sizable second bedroom.

That’s another thing about New York City – you have to make it happen by any means possible. For Nick and Kasia that mean taking out a wall, building a ventilation system, and giving up precious real estate to fit the laser cutter that helped Kasia leave her job in luxury fashion design and start working for herself. But nothing is wasted – they have used the cutter to create Kasia’s wall art and jewelry, to cut stencils to create other designs, and Nick even used it to cut wood to create a suspended indoor garden. Getting to tour their space and talk about their work was truly inspiring and a reminder that nothing is earned in this city without a little sacrifice.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
We are collectors! We’re surrounded constantly by reminders of things we love- from books and photographs to piles of fabric and knick-knacks from our travels. Living in Brooklyn has forced us to be creative with a limited space, so we’ve put our passions front and center. Nick is starting an indoor vegetable garden in the corner of our living room, so a lot of it is creating our own inspiration as well.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Working from home means we’re working on and off from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep – but when you’re doing stuff you like, it’s not work. I usually take an hour or so to go for a run around midday and we always watch something funny during dinner at the end of the day.

We also have a blog where we detail our food and design experiments, so working on that is sort of a treat for us as well.

What are your most essential tools?
Our most essential tool is our laser cutter- we use it not only to create products like our You Are Here map, but we also use it to create tools for our other projects, from stamps and stencils to jigs and frames. My industrial sewing machine (a birthday gift from Nick to me) is another Collected Edition MVP.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Transitioning from a full-time job in a high stress fashion company to being my own boss was terrifying. I think the hardest part was really realizing how fast time goes by when you’re working on projects by yourself. At first I would beat myself up if I didn’t have something solid and concrete at the end of the day – but mistakes and revisions are 95% of the design process.

What advice would you offer yourself of 5 years ago?
I would encourage myself to follow my instincts and believe in my vision. I think all designers suffer from insecurity, but if you focus on making good work and being true to your aesthetic, others will get onboard.

How do you set goals for yourself?
We both have a very clear idea of what we want our lives to be like in 5 years or 10 years – but the path to get there is still developing! We are both big fans of lists – both small detail and big picture. I try to set manageable goals I know I can reach, while always keeping in mind the endgame.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Every victory is celebrated by figuring out how to win the next victory.

What quote keeps you motivated?
This Samuel Beckett quote pretty much sums up creative entrepreneurship. I think there are very few designers that ever feel completely satisfied with their work – you should always be aiming to “fail better” on the next go-round.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m starting to experiment with casting. I love using tutorials from sites like Instructables to inform my experimentation. We also have an electroforming set-up that we both worked with some in college but is now lying dormant – that’s another avenue we have been exploring and requires a lot of trial and error to perfect.

How do you recharge your creativity?
The only time I can ever really relax is when we go away – whether on a proper vacation or just a day trip. A change in scenery does wonders for the mind.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Since so much of what we do is custom, each piece is really a collaboration with the client. My favorite thing is to work closely with a customer to bring an idea to life – it’s a beautiful thing to know that what you do brings happiness to another life.

Maker Stories

Finding Security in Reclaimed Art – Meet Sarah Nicole Phillips

May 30, 2013

After an overwhelming response in March, we decided to keep our Art Contest running all year round. With twelve months to send in artwork, I was worried that the well might run dry with new ideas and exciting designs. Our first month proved me wrong with a collection of amazing submissions.

Our interim art buyer Melissa chose Security Blue Grass from the top voted semifinalists for its aesthetic, originality, and use of reclaimed materials. Those three elements make its designer, Sarah Nicole Phillips, the ideal Uncommon artist. Meet our newest artist and help us welcome her to our vendor family!

What is one uncommon fact about you?
After high school, I traveled for two and a half years straight, during which all my possessions fit into a backpack.

When did you first realize you’re an artist?
I knew I had become an artist when I purchased a used 54” 5-Drawer Steel Flat File from a guy on Craig’s List, to store my art. In New York City, space is a precious resource so my bed is lofted on top of the flat files. I do not believe this sleeping arrangement has affected my dreams.

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
I draw inspiration from observing the tensions, conflicts and contradictions of contemporary life. I spend a lot of time consuming news media, but just as important is placing myself in situations where lives are smashing up against each other like crowded subways and commercial streetscapes at rush hour. I always carry a small notebook with me to jot down something I see, or draw something that catches my eye. I am conscious of the waste we create and how we manage it.

I have attended several artist residencies in bucolic, rural settings. These quiet places allow for ideas simmering on the back burner to boil over, but I need the background hum of a city to stimulate ideas for new bodies of work.

Describe your artistic process.
The process begins with me scribbling sketches in my notebook. Most of these sketches are fragments of ideas blurted onto paper and are never realized into final pieces. Once I hone in on an image I’d like to create into a collage, I make a full scale drawing that serves as an image template. I search through my supply of patterned security envelopes and select which ones I will use to construct the collage. I have several bankers’ boxes full of envelopes to choose from, sorted into categories according to imagery, color, tone, and other characteristics. The envelopes come from myriad sources; friends and family and sometimes strangers bring me discarded envelopes generated from their workplace or home office. I arrange a “dry assemble” before using adhesive to stick all the pieces down. The final step is to run the collage through an etching press to ensure the thousands of individual pieces are never going to become unstuck.

Describe your work space.
I have a bright, airy, live-work space on the edge of the industrial neighborhood of Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. Source photographs and sketches are tacked onto the walls. I work sitting at a long table, and pin works-in-progress onto a big white wall that I can stare at, or glance at passively as I walk by to refill my coffee mug. My indispensable tools are a self-healing cutting mat, metal rulers and various cutting blades. The windows are open, as long as the wind isn’t strong enough to blow apart works-in-progress. Public radio or podcasts are always playing.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
Submit work that you not only know is strong, but that you are genuinely proud of. If selected as a finalist, you’ll be discussing the design challenge with your with friends and colleagues; it’s much easier to talk about your work with enthusiasm when you feel truly engaged with the work.

Maker Stories

Cloudy Mountainscape for the Win

May 9, 2013

I actually couldn’t wait to sit down to this year’s Art Contest judging-and not because I’m an uber fan of the Jealous Curator. I knew it was going to be a really close contest with every one of the top five voted pieces being so special and so unique.

And I was right. It came down to two paintings but eventually Katie, Danielle and Matthew arrived at a consensus–Elise Wehle’s Cloudy Mountainscape was too exceptional to pass up and its paper cut texture would make an incredible print. So meet Elise, the winner of our latest design challenge and help us welcome her into our artist family!

What is one uncommon fact about you?
I’m still an avid Mario Kart racer for the Nintendo 64.

When did you first realize you’re an artist?
As a kid I used to love to draw animals. Everyone, including myself, thought I was going to grow up to be a zoologist. It wasn’t until middle school that I branched out and started drawing Star Wars characters (yeah, I was pretty nerdy). However, my nerdiness worked towards my benefit, and I realized I just loved drawing and making art more than even the subject matter. Soon after I decided I wanted to be an artist.

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
I definitely find inspiration from city walls covered in old and new posters. I can almost see the history of the wall when I tear off one poster only to discover another one underneath. I love when all the different layers of posters turns into one giant collage. I think the way time weathers and tears the paper is very beautiful. I try to copy that look in a lot of my work.

Describe your artistic process.
I usually start an artwork by finding an image or a photograph that I really love online. I like the idea of taking something that only exists as bits and pixels and turning it into something real and tangible again. I materialize the image by creating a transfer of the photo. Sometimes this is done through intaglio, a printmaking process I learned while in college, or sometimes I use gel medium and transfer the photo directly to paper. I then try to incorporate some type of hand-intensive technique into the artwork, usually in the form of weaving, paper cutting, or embroidery.

Describe your work space.
Oh boy, my work space is nothing fancy. Right now my studio is a small corner of my bedroom. In that corner I have a desk, a lamp, and a little stool, all three of which are covered in art supplies. Usually and inevitably, my creative process begins to spread all across the bedroom until the bed and floor are covered. Luckily, my husband has the patience of a saint and hasn’t complained about all the little pieces of paper we end up tracking across the house.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
My first bit of advice would simply be to enter the competition. Don’t prevent yourself from taking advantage of such an awesome opportunity by worrying about whether your art is good enough. Just enter it and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Those circumstances are not very common and should always be ventured.

My second piece of advice goes hand in hand with my first. I think Andy Warhol summed it up perfectly. He said, “Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Whatever the outcome of this competition or any other artistic venture you attempt, don’t worry too much about the results. Just keep making more art. If you’re consistent, you’ll eventually stumble upon a great artistic breakthrough that someone will notice and adore.

Check out The Jealous Curator‘s post about Elise’s art!


Art Crush: Denise Fiedler

May 3, 2013

I think I have spring and summer fever. The lingering cold and snow here in Colorado has me daydreaming of warmer temperatures… and crushing on Denise Fiedler’s collages. They capture that easygoing charm of summertime so perfectly.

Denise started making collages in 2009 after one serendipitous bout of spring cleaning. While going through her attic, she stumbled upon a box of vintage books and newsprint, which she’d collected over the years from flea markets. Inspired by her forgotten treasures, she decided to transform these ephemeral materials into works of art. She calls this unique artistic endeavor paste.

The yellowing pages and iconic subject matter give her work a wonderful sense of nostalgia. It’s like we’re looking into the past at a simpler time of bicycle rides, ice cream cones, and family road trips in the ol’ station wagon.

To construct these delicate outlines, she carefully carves silhouettes from the vintage pages and assembles the cutouts to adeptly capture the design and essence of her subjects. Denise draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including architecture, animals, food, and people who have caught her eye.

Which one is your favorite? I think I need the ice cream collage. Just imagine, it would be summer on my wall all year round… that sounds pretty great.

See more from Denise in the Uncommon Artist Gallery and read more about the works featured above: Ice Cream, Sunglasses, Woody, Hydrangeas, Dogs.


Art Crush: Valerie Galloway

April 19, 2013

Happy Friday! Erin from artsocial here to talk about another uh-mazing artist from the Uncommon Artist Gallery, Valerie Galloway.

Guys, Valerie is speaking my language. I’m such a fan of interesting patterns and graphic elements like stripes and polka dots. Plus I studied French in college, so I’m definitely digging the Parisian je ne sais quoi in all of Valerie’s work.

Valerie finds inspiration from post-war Paris and old family photos, especially those of her French mother and aunt with fabulous hairdos from the 1960s. She’s also inspired by French New Wave cinema, old American TV shows from the ’60s and ’70s, and the movie Amadeus, which she says had a huge impact on her creative life.

Her inspiration is without a doubt captured in each work. The blushing maidens and femme fatales, the characteristically French sense of fashion, and the mile-high patterned bouffants all carry the spirit of her influences… and that pink polka dot afro is just plain AWESOME, don’t you think? I can’t get over it.

And guess what? These prints of Valerie’s original watercolors are available exclusively at UncommonGoods. So check ’em out, mes amis! That empty wall in your living room? Yep, these prints would look so great there.

See more from Valerie in the Uncommon Artist Gallery and read more about the works featured above: Polka Dot Parisienne, Hello Gorgeous, Shocking Pink Afro, Lost at Sea


Art Crush: Kate Lewis

April 12, 2013

Hello there! I’m so excited to be guest posting on The Goods. On artsocial I talk a lot about my art crushes. Well, let me tell you, the Uncommon Artist Gallery has some seriously crush-worthy artists. Like whoa. They need to be discussed. First up is Chicago artist, Kate Lewis.

Kate creates still-lifes of her sunny Victorian home using vibrant acrylics and watercolors. Like intimate portraits, her work captures the thoughtfully designed corners of her home and daily life. From bold patterns to vases overflowing with flowers to stacks of colorful books, Kate’s work proves beauty really is in the details.

Kate finds inspiration from design and fashion magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and from decorating her own home. Her beautifully constructed and colorful paintings mirror the trends in interior design we love so much. Unexpected colors and patterns? Yes, please.

Twinkle Twinkle (above) is definitely my favorite. It’s as if we’re guests at her effortlessly charming backyard party. I can almost hear the music and taste that watermelon! Delicious.

Kate captures the essence of what life at home should be. Calm and inviting spaces filled with fragrant bouquets, good books, and big comfy chairs. She makes me want to redecorate! I should at least start buying more fresh flowers… OR I could get one of Kate’s paintings. Art is way better than flowers, don’t you think?


Call for Entries: Art Contest

March 8, 2013

From now until the end of March, we are hosting a call for entries for our Art Contest. This is a call for all original, 2 dimensional art work that UncommonGoods will print, frame and sell on our site in a limited run. The grand prize winner will win $500 and 5% royalties from the sales of their piece.

To learn the official rules of the contest, meet our talented judges and submit your work, visit the Art Contest page.

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for The Runaway

December 5, 2012

There’s no cure for The Runaway’s serious case of wanderlust. No matter how many roads they trek, sights they see, and adventures they embark upon, their craving to see lands unknown cannot be sated. With a longing to observe the places, meet the people, and delight in the nuances of the world, this curious voyager is happiest when discovering a new destination. Given the joy they take from the journey, we can’t guarantee they’ll be home for the holidays; but we do have a good feeling they’ll love these travel-inspired gifts.

Single Wine Tote–Regions / QR Code Luggage Tag / Buildings–Denise Fiedler–Eiffel Tower / Places in America–Oliver Jeffers / Crumpled City Map / San Francisco Neighborhood Map Wooden Routing / Portable iPhone Charger / Scratch Travel Journal

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