Maybe you got a jump on seasonal shopping this year and picked up presents for the family super early. Relieved, you thought you could sit back and relax until it’s time to ring in the new year. Then you realized that Secret Santa exchange is still looming. And you need something that says “thanks for your hard work” for your postal carrier. And a little surprise for the friend who’s been there for you all year. And…and…and… Your holiday list may be an unexpectedly long one, but that doesn’t mean you have to go over your budget. This collection of great gifts for $25 (or less!) is sure to help you get a handle on that holiday shopping (for real this time).
That phrase “childlike curiosity” is around for a reason. (If you’ve ever been on the answering end of an ongoing series of “Why?-s” you know what we’re talking about.) So much in the world is new and exciting for kids. They’re learning new things every day, their imaginations are limitless, and their creativity never ceases to amaze us grown-up types. With this in mind, we selected an assortment of fun gift ideas that are sure to keep kids interested, excited, and entertained while those little brains grow big and strong.
Their fridge is fully stocked with the perfect combination of craft brews and classic beers. Their wine rack is loaded with reds, whites, and maybe even a bit of the bubbly. And don’t even get them started on what it takes to mix the perfect cocktail—the glass, the garnish, whether it’s shaken or stirred—they have all of the details down. That’s right, we’re talking about the Home Bartender. Chances are, you know one of these masterful mixologists, so we’ve gathered a collection of gifts that will surely make any adult beverage connoisseur raise their glass.
“A lot of everyday products are designed with a male-centric audience in mind,” says designer Nate Barr. He admits that he hadn’t really thought about that until his wife, Bryn, challenged him to think from the perspective of people who aren’t always empowered to speak up. Bryn also inspired his latest invention, the Tulry Utility Necklace.
Bryn said she loved the functionality of Nate’s tools, like the Multi-Tool Box of Wonders, but had no way to carry them. “She pointed out that dresses don’t have pockets. Jeans pockets are too tight, and a purse is never big enough,” Nate explains. She encouraged him to create a unique way to solve this problem. The result marries an elegant jewelry design with a highly functional piece.
Last spring, we did something new and exciting. Of course, as purveyors of the uncommon, we’re always eager to try new things, but this one was EXTRA exciting, because it gave us a chance to see awesome work by talented young artists and designers from across the US. We put out a call for entries for our first-ever UncommonGoods Scholarship and more than a hundred students sent in their work. After much deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce that Lauren Waldrop, a communication design major at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, is the recipient of our $1,000 scholarship prize.
Lauren’s photography captured the attention of our scholarship team, and we were impressed by the story she included in her submission, which highlighted her dedication to her craft, artistic process, and future career goals. To announce her win, we asked Lauren to tell us a little more about each of the areas she touched on in her entry. Check out her Q&A below, and take a look at her winning work.
“Once upon a time there was a sheep named Oddy. He was a regular sheep in the grasslands with all the other sheep. Then, one day he fell in the Arctic sea, and he saw a big wave. It pushed him to shore towards a cyclops’s cave. Oddy took big steps towards the cave. The cyclops had a superpower that could turn anyone into a cyclops like him.”
Pretty intriguing first paragraph, right? It was written by Wahaaj, a young creative writing student who “likes pizza and french fries, and he loves to spell Mississippi.”
Wahaaj’s story is funny, imaginative, and might not exist without the help of our newest Better to Give partner, 826 National. Through their network of seven—soon to be eight—chapters across the US, 826 National has helped thousands of kids like Wahaaj let their imaginations run free, develop writing skills, and build confidence. The non-profit organization takes an uncommon, but extremely effective, approach to teaching writing to students age 6-18. They are passionate about their mission “to empower students with the skills to write their own paths forward, undefined by circumstance.” The 826 Network believes in the power of making learning fun, and the power that quality education can have in influencing children’s lives. All of this, along with their clever storefronts, dedicated staff and volunteers, free programs, and general ability to make every person who learns about them proclaim something along the lines of, “That is SO cool!” made us realize that we really, really wanted to join forces with them.
Now that 826 National is a part of our Better to Give program, you can select them to receive a $1 donation from us (at no cost to you) each time you shop at UncommonGoods. These donations will help 826 Network writing and tutoring centers across the country provide services to kids in under-resourced communities.
What makes a workplace great? Your knee-jerk response might focus on salary and benefits, but we all know it’s more than that. Do you feel challenged? Are you encouraged to grow? Do you have a say in your company’s direction? Do you feel like it’s your company? Do you like your co-workers? We’ve had the goal of being a great place to work for a long time, but that can mean different things to different people. We realized that in order to actually make it happen and in turn become a stronger, more impactful business, we had to figure out what “great place to work” meant to us.
Through discussions with our leadership, work with our human resources team and a trusted advisor, looking at the practices of businesses we admire, and a lot of feedback from team members across the company, we put who we want to be as an organization into words with our seven Guiding Principles.
Each of our Principles helps us define what we’re working to be as a company, and what we want to mean to the people who work here. In short, they’re a set of guidelines to keep us all moving in the same direction. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be differences of opinion expressed. In fact, the Principles are set up to empower folks around here to do just that.
When we first started doing Studio Tours back in 2012, we were pretty limited on where we could go to get our inspiration. That isn’t to say the inspiration was limited–we’ve visited a fantastic line-up of New York City artists close to home. But getting the sign-off to pack up and head to another state definitely wasn’t the goal from the start. Five years later, we’re still featuring monthly studio visits. Thanks to all of the love and support shown by our online community, makers, and the UG team for our tours, we’re able to keep growing the series. Now, we’re finding ways to stop by the studios of creators a little farther from home. Around 195 miles or so from home, in this case.
My latest trip started at Penn Station in Manhattan, eaaarly in the morning. A few hours later, I arrived at Penn Station in Baltimore, Maryland, where Kim Strassner was waiting for me and our Tabletop Buyer, NéQuana. Kim filled us in on some neighborhood history as she drove through B-more to the studio, woodshop, and office space where she and her husband, Mike Pararas, design and craft their personalized wooden cutting boards and lazy Susans. It didn’t take long before I realized how much work Kim, Mike, and their team put into each board they produce. The letters in the customized pieces are carved using tiny blades, precise hand movements, and great attention to detail.
In addition to walking me through how a slab of wood becomes a beautiful, handcrafted cutting board, the couple gave me a look at Kim’s first-ever board with words, answered a few questions about what keeps them going strong, and introduced me to their two adorable Havanese dogs. Keep reading to see inside this woodworking wonderland for yourself.