Design

How To Make It: Scaling Up Event Videos

September 21, 2012

Last month we hosted our 4th How To Make It panel event and networking happy hour in Brooklyn, NY. Over 100 guests showed up to powerHouse Arena to hear our panelists, Rachel Rheingold of Maptote, Jesse James and Gus Anangopolous of Aesthetic Movement and artist Jenny Krauss of SAFEFA, talk about their experiences in scaling up their business. But a lot of you couldn’t make it so we wanted to share some of our favorite moments of the night. Check out these videos of the panelists sharing their advice and anecdotes.

Rachel describes how Maptote is run and who takes on what tasks.

The group talks about the best way to bring your designs to a trade show for the first time.

Does size matter? Jenny talks about the effects of press placements in big magazines and small newsletters on her sales.

Rachel shares ways of figuring out where your designs fit in the marketplace and keeping your eyes (and ears) open to new opportunities.

The panel discusses the measures that should, and shouldn’t, be taken to protect your intellectual property.

Or watch the whole discussion in its entirety!

The Uncommon Life

Meet Pasqualina Azzarello of Recycle-A-Bicycle

September 19, 2012

Meet Pasqualina, Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle and one of our judges the Bike Lovers Design Challenge.

What is one uncommon fact about yourself?
I’ve traveled to 47 of the USA’s 50 states

What is Recycle-A-Bicycle? Recycle-A-Bicycle is a community based bike shop and grassroots non-profit organization that utilizes the bicycle as a resource to foster youth development, environmental education, community engagement, and healthy living. Through retail storefronts, social entrepreneurship, innovative programs, and an annual Youth Bike Summit, Recycle-A-Bicycle empowers the youth of New York City and beyond.

What kind of bike do you ride?
I ride a Fuji touring bike that fits like a glove. From the mountains in California to the city streets of NYC, this bike is both speedy and solid, good for distance riding and strolls.

Where is your favorite place to ride?
The Rockaways!

How do you define good design?
When every part informs the whole.

Cast a vote for your favorite Bike Lovers Design Challenge design and leave a comment to help Pasqualina and Emily decide the winner.

Design

Bike Lovers Design Challenge Call for Entries

September 12, 2012


We are hosting a call for entries for our newest and most exciting design challenge, the Bike Lovers Design Challenge, until September 15th at midnight. Send us your jewelry, accessories, gadgets, doo-dads and gizmos that could make their way into the hearts of any cycling enthusiast or weekend cruiser.

If you have a product that is geared towards our latest challenge, check out the full contest rules and submit your designs here!

Gift Guides

Melissa’s Game Night: ZinZig

September 10, 2012

Hello! My name is Melissa and I am a new buyer over here at UncommonGoods. I look for product for a number of categories, including and especially games and toys. Obviously, for these types of items, the question “is it fun?” comes up every time in our decision-making process. The thing about games is that the ideal way to determine how fun a game is going to be is not in reading instructions and checking it out alone at my desk at work – but rather with friends at home. Shocking and insightful observation, I know.

So, in an effort to do my job better (take note, boss!), make new friends (I just moved out to New York City to join UncommonGoods from sunny California – or, in my case, foggy San Francisco), and generally have fun, I decided to start hosting game nights to test the new product that I’m considering. When we were chatting about this in one of our sample review meetings, someone threw out the idea of sharing the experience with our UncommonGoods community, and Melissa’s Game Night was born.

Up first was ZinZig ™:
“ZinZig is the wine tasting and trivia game that will challenge your mind and palate. So sit back, relax, and sip your wine. You’re in for a Zin-ful good time ™!”

I bribed my friends over with offers of pasta & sautéed Brussels sprouts, convinced them that yes, it is a great idea to play a wine tasting board game on a weekday, and raced out of the office to get set up.
[Disclaimer: since I just moved to NY, my living room looks pretty sparse, I know — hopefully it will continue to get more interesting as these blog posts continue!]

Once I cooked dinner for the boys (note to self: make more female friends), I asked/told one of my friends to read out the instructions and help us get set up. Luckily for him, it was fairly straight-forward and user-friendly: the beginning of the game opens with drinking and testing all of the wines. We also each picked a winery as well as a figure to represent us on the board. We each started on the space of the Winery that we chose – since the board is circular, the location that you are on is not really important (until the end) – it is all about the squares that you land on. On each turn, you get a trivia card and have to try to answer correctly – once you answer, the square you are on determines whether you “Swap”, “Trade”, etc. There are a few wild squares (ie: Corked: Wine spoilage detected. Answer wrong and lose one bottle card), as well as my personal favorite – Sip and Savor – in which you “Sit back, relax, and enjoy your wine” while earning a free card.

Each trivia card has a ‘resource’ printed on the back; the point of the game is to collect one of each resource (barrel, grape, bottle, cork) to start production. Once you do that, you move to the middle of the board and go through the stages of production (crushing, fermenting, aging, bottling) by answering a trivia Card. The first player to complete production is the winner of the game. Even though I am overly competitive, I did not manage to win. The shout-out of victory goes to my friend Mike who came in from last to crush us all.

In terms of game play, I thought the range of the level of difficulty of the trivia questions was well-balanced and on the intelligent side. I am a fairly big wine geek, my friend Alex claimed to know nothing, and everyone else fell somewhere in between. All of us got answers right and wrong, which made it a fun learning experience as well. The game lasted roughly 2 hours, and a good time was had by all. This game was approved and is available now HERE.

Thanks to Barry, Matt, Alex, Gabe, Colin, Erik, and Mike for playing!

The Uncommon Life

Environmental ABC’s: 26 Ways to Go Back to School Green

September 6, 2012

It’s back-to-school time, giving us an excuse to get all educational on you, with tips and ideas about how you and your family can live green this fall. Parenting–and teaching–innately imply thinking about the future, and eco-sensitive lifestyles help ensure that the years ahead will be bright for today’s children. In that spirit, we present to you our ABCs of going back to school in sustainable style.

A

Art. Let’s start with something wondrous: Fabulous art–made from garbage. Some of the best art in the world today is being made out of trash. Check these out:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/101674993/trash-bird-sculpture-three

Inspiring, right? Talk to your school’s art teacher to see if they’d be into working on a trash art project. (There’s a good chance they already are.)
For art-making at home, keep a scrap paper bin of paper that’s printed on only one side. Kids can doodle, or do multiple drafts of drawings or paintings on the scrap paper. When they want to make a keeper version, that’s the time for the “good” paper.

At UncommonGoods, we love unique and beautiful works of art made from recycled and reclaimed materials that would otherwise have ended up as plain old garbage.

B

children-riding-a-horse-to-school-glass-house-mountains-queensland-1928-small
Bike, walk, skateboard, scooter or ride the bus (or a horse!) to school instead of driving or even carpooling. Kid energy is a renewable resource. UncommonGoods employees are encouraged to use bikes as transportation, and we offer several convenient, effective and cool bike safety items.

C

Copy machines: Do you really, truly need to make a hard copy of that document? If you absolutely must, use both sides of the–ideally, recycled–paper. In fact, how about making double-sided printing and minimal ink use the default settings?

You could also buy refillable cartridges containing bio based, sustainable inks (like soy). If for whatever reason that’s impossible at school or work, at least try to recycle your used ink cartridges.

D

Disposable items are uncool. Whenever possible, buy re-useable items. Tossing disposables into a recycling bin is at best, a very pale green: It takes energy to recycle and re-manufacture things, and if you throw them away after only one use, a lot of that energy has been wasted.
Prime culprits of back-to-school disposability crimes include:

  • Pens. The ballpoint pen was invented in 1938. In 2005, Bic celebrating selling its 100 billionth pen. 14,000,000 BIC Cristals are sold a day. And that’s just one brand. Six billion pens are thrown away every year in the US! 

Buy a refillable pen. Metal ink refills can be recycled. Vintage advertising pens are nostalgic, super stylin’, and the sins of their manufacturing are in the past. UncommonGoods’ selection of refillable pens ranges from funky to girly to sporty to arty.

  • Coffee cups. Americans buy 14.4 billion cups a year of coffee in disposable cups, which take energy, trees and water to make and transport. It’s not only styrofoam cups that are an environmental disaster; because the paper kind are lined with plastic, they can’t be recycled either. Get a mug.

You could go crazy upscale and get a cup decorated with  24 karat gold, blue cobalt, and diamonds. 

Or get an equally covetable but rather more sensible one.

  • Razors. Cut out (yep, we went there) disposable razors. Each year, Americans buy, use, and toss two billion razors and the packaging they come in. Instead, how about trying a solar-charged electric shaver, or at least, an Energy Star model? Electric shavers do use energy, but not water. A recycled razor is another possibility; one brand is made of recycled yogurt containers. The blades in the (disposable) cartridges can be kept sharp much longer by using a razor-saver gizmo.

If you’re feeling a luxe goth vibe, we’re pretty sure that our skull razor is the coolest thing going.

 

Opt for Don Draper’s safety razor (they use recycleable metal blades) and you’ve got an excuse to buy a retro-hip shaving brush. (The gratuitous photo of shirtless Jon Hamm is here for strictly educational purposes only, honest!) But whatever you do, don’t shave in the shower–especially women, who have the most acreage to denude. As this Slate article informs us, “Shaving for 10 minutes with a typical 2.5 gallons-per-minute shower head, you’d waste more than 24 gallons of hot water, 4.1 kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 5.3 pounds of carbon dioxide in your warm, misty tub. It would take less than three days of shaving to account for the energy you’d use by shaving in the sink for an entire year.”

E-waste. Americans junk 30 million computers every year (those are circuit boards in the photo above). Add phones, TVs, DVD players, etc. to that list and you’ve got about 3 million tons of dumped electronics a year in the US alone. Not only does this waste reuseable materials, but 70% of the dangerous heavy metals in landfills come from all that e-junk. But it’s becoming easier and easier to reycycle old electronics, as governments require manufacturers to take them back. Here are some links to help you find e-waste collection sites.

A protective sleeve or case will help keep your mobile phone, laptop, tablet or e-reader from getting broken or wet and then sent to an early grave.

F

Food. There are so many good, green food habits to teach your kids. Perhaps the primary lesson should be about wasted food.

Just kidding. Not that kind of wasted.

We Americans waste around 40 percent of our food. The average American throws away 33 pounds–about $40 worth–of edible food each month, according to a report the Natural Resources Defense Council put out in August. That’s about 50% more than in 1974. (And we know it’s not because we’ve gotten better at portion control.)

When people talk about becoming less dependent on petro-fuels, they don’t usually think of food as part of that. But growing, transporting, packaging, selling and buying what we eat uses a ginormous amount of oil. (And fertilizer, pesticides, and water.) The NRDC estimates that approximately 25 percent of the freshwater and 4 percent of the oil Americans consume goes to edible food that’s thrown away. On top of all that, a whole lot of greenhouse gases are produced during the food cycle.

There’s also all that food packaging to consider: Every year, the average American child generates 67 pounds of trash from their school lunches. That’s 18,670 pounds per year from the average elementary school. (NY State Dept of Environmental Conservation).

As Dana Gunder, agricultural environmental specialist at the NRDC put it, “No matter how sustainable the farming is, if the food’s not getting eaten, it’s not sustainable and it’s not a good use of our resources.”

It’s very possible to quickly change this for the better. A public awareness campaign in the United Kingdom called “Love Food Hate Waste” has reduced household food waste by 18% in only five years.

A simple way to do your part to reduce waste while also ensuring that your child is eating healthy, is packing their lunches yourself in an appealing lunch bag made of recycled materials. You can also use cloth napkins and refillable beverage containers–lightweight, collapsible, BPA-free models might be best for kids’ lunches.

Whenever possible, eschew (see what we did there?) single-serve portions: ugh, all that disposable packaging! And don’t forget that in addition to their nutritional benefits, fruits like bananas, apples and oranges come with all the packaging they need.

G

Green(er) tools for school.

Avoid backpacks and school binders made of nylon or new plastics, especially PVC vinyl. Not only is it not recycleable, but some of the most dangerous environmental contaminants, including dioxins (known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, and the most toxic synthetic chemicals) are released during its manufacture and disposal. It’s worth searching for non-toxic binders, and easy to find bags made from recycled or natural materials.

Personalized backpack patches,  painted backpack,  homemade drawstring backpack

Better yet, find a gently used vintage one. I’m a lifelong thrift store cruiser, and those places always have plenty of new-looking backpacks and messenger-type bags for sale, just begging to be creatively personalized. If you’re artsy, it’d be a snap to paint a great-looking, unique backpack; sewers of even modest skill could make one from the fabric of another vintage item, like a skirt.

If you use “office” machines at home, choose Energy-star rated ones, and be sure to schedule regular maintenance for maximum energy efficiency. And it’s now possible to buy folders and binders, pushpins, rulers, scissors, paper clips, crayons, correction fluid, glue, pen and pencil holders and cases, desk organizers, and laptop sleeves made of recycled/recycleable/biodegradable/nontoxic materials.

H

Habits, like recycling, or searching for green alternatives, are easy once they become automatic. Teach kids (and pets, if you can…) to turn out the lights when you’re the last one out of the room; turn off their computer when they’re done using it; turn off the tap while they brush their teeth.

I

Inventory. Know what you already have before you go shopping for school supplies, clothes, backpacks, etc. It’s so tempting to buy scads of new, shiny pens and notebooks when they’re on sale, and parents tend to over-buy at back-to-school time. Pull out last year’s extras to save money and waste less.

J

Jobs. Green ones. Meaningful employment is one of the main reasons people go to school and get an education in the first place, right? Lots of interesting and fulfilling jobs are popping up in the fields of sustainability and environmentalism. Inspire your kids by talking with them about the possibilities. For teenagers and college students, there are internships galore.
Many colleges and universities throughout the U.S. now have an “Office of Sustainability” or a less formal task force, through which students can become involved in greening their campus. A geographically diverse sampling:

A few resources to help find green/environmental/sustainability internships:

K

Kvetch. And vote. It’s never too early to teach your kids that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. (OK, we take that back. It is sometimes too early.) Help them understand what democracy is and the effectiveness of action within it. Teach them about the history of environmentalism (maybe brush up on it yourself, first) and how people got together to push for societal change.

L

Laundry. Living green sometimes takes a little extra effort, but occasionally it’s less work, rather than more. Here’s an example: don’t wash your clothes and bedding so often. You can tell when fabric needs cleaning: it’s either dirty or…fragrant. If neither is true, skip the wash.

Set a family laundry schedule and stick to it. Getting the whole family on board could avoid unnecessary runs of your machines for a basketball uniform or dance costume. When you do wash, use natural and non-toxic soaps, and line-dry whenever possible. In the summertime, use the great solar dryer in the sky. In the wintertime, damp articles of clothing hanging indoors are electricity-free humidifiers.

UncommonGoods offers a nicely designed indoor clothesline, as well as this aroma-tastic natural laundry soap. It’s packaged as a manly item, but who doesn’t like “rich smelling sunflower, coconut and rosemary oils”?

Stunningly beautiful clothesline photos to inspire you, collected by Pinterest-poster Mei-Mei:

M

Meat. Eat less of it.

Issues of morality and health aside, meat is simply far less energy-efficient and far more polluting than non-animal sources of protein. Audubon magazine: “The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that livestock production worldwide is responsible for a whopping 18 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases–more than all the cars, buses, planes, and trains in the world combined.” Nathan Fiala, a doctoral candidate in environmental economics at the University of California-Irvine, estimates that to produce 1 pound of beef, 15 pounds of carbon dioxide are created.

According to Department of Agriculture estimates, it takes about 15 pounds of feed to make 1 pound of beef, 6 pounds of feed for 1 pound of pork and 5 pounds of feed for 1 pound of chicken. Even farmed fish eat up to 5 lbs of wild-caught fish per pound that we can eat.

That doesn’t even take into account the energy and other costs of raising, butchering, packaging, refrigerating and transporting. For instance, according to the Worldwatch Institute, producing one pound of beef can use up 50,000 liters of water.

Children will love the following info-tidbits about the inevitable noxious “output” of so many animals: Massive amounts of #s 1 and 2 from pig factory farms leak into nearby water supplies. Burping and farting livestock produce 16 percent of the world’s annual production of methane, which is 23 times more powerful as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). So. You can start small by participating in Meat Free Monday, the worldwide campaign of the cute Beatle. Or start big and do the opposite: eat meat only on Mondays.

N

New. Old is the new new. If vintage clothes are cool enough for super-rich and fashionable movie and pop stars, it’s possible that your kids (and you) could deem them adequately fabulous. They require zero energy and resources to make, because they’re, y’know, already made. We did a little searching and found these adorable clothes that we thought were perfect for back-to-school.

1960s snap-front western shirt,  vintage dress and sweater,  Garfield brand vintage polo shirt,  1960s plaid skort / culottes

Then there are clothes made from recycled or salvaged fabric and fibers. They’re green no matter what color they are.

UncommonGoods Recycled Bridesmaid Dress Skirt and Recycled Cat and Owl Scarves

O

Organic foods don’t pollute our environment with toxic pesticides or petroleum-derived fertilizers. They usually (but not always) take a lot less energy to grow, too. You’ve probably had your fill of info about eating organic, but perhaps your kids are interested in growing it!

It’s tough to make a living as a small organic farmer, but the non-financial rewards are inspiring more and more young people to give it a whack. If your teens or college students would like to taste life on the chemical-free farm, here are some resources to help them find a volunteer or paid position–maybe next summer?

P

Paper. You already know that paper requires the death of innocent trees (and destruction of animal habitat). But you may not know about the rest of paper’s massive environmental impacts.

Paper milling is one of the most energy and pollution-intensive industries in the world, emitting lethal chemicals into the air, water, and when the 12 million tons a year of paper solid waste are disposed of, the earth. Some of them stick around for a very long time and gradually enter the food chain. Others deplete the ozone layer. As if that’s not bad enough, its manufacture uses more water per ton of product than any other industry.

The good news is that making new paper out of old is energy-efficient, cost-effective, uses far fewer resources, and obviously, reduces the amount of waste. While it takes from 2 to 3.5 tons of trees to make 1 ton of virgin paper, a ton of recycled paper can make nearly equivalent amount of new, while using only 10 to 40 percent of the energy, less water, and far fewer chemicals. Buying recycled paper is voting for more recycling.

The most toxic chemicals involved in paper making – the various types of seriously carcinogenic chlorine used for bleaching, which produce, among other things, deadly dioxin (as we mentioned in letter “G,” above, the most potent carcinogen known)–aren’t necessary. There are plenty of non-toxic chemicals that can whiten paper, including the same stuff that’s in Oxy-Clean.

Not all paper has to be white, anyway–paper towels, and toilet paper, for instance. Avoid using bleached paper products whenever possible. Buy non-bleached brands instead.Processed Chlorine-Free

When you do buy bleached paper, choose chlorine-free brands; specifically TCF (Totally Chlorine-Free) or, best of all, PCF (“Processed Chlorine-Free”). The latter is a lousy name for a good product; it refers to papers that contain a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled fiber, have not been re-bleached with chlorine-containing compounds, are made in mills without outstanding environmental violations, and use TCF virgin pulp (when virgin fiber is included in the paper) that did not come from old growth forests. (Don’t be confused by ECF, “Elementally Chlorine-Free, which uses other types of chlorine, just not its “elemental” form.)

The Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA) certifies all of this. You can use the Paper Calculator to figure out the environmental impact of various kinds of paper, and look up every possible sort of paper on Conservatree, in order to find green paper brands. You can even buy recycled sticky notes!

Q

Questions are the starting point of changes. Moms and dads, encourage your children to ask questions about the family’s new habits and ask them if they can think of new ways to decrease the family’s ecological impact. You might be surprised by their answers.

R

Read. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s magazine, Conservationist for Kids, covers a wide range of topics that are fascinating to kids, written just for them, and accompanied by great photos. All past and current issues are available online.

S

Statistics. We know we’ve flooded you with facts here. But they’re meant to inform, not overwhelm. Negative statistics can make one feel powerless and discouraged. But you yourself, reading and practicing a few (or a lot) of these green ABCs and sharing them with friends, who share them with their friends, and so on, could start generating statistics we all like a lot better. Yes, really.

T

Think (it only takes a moment) before you buy or use anything and everything. That’ll give your mind a chance to recall some of the tips and factoids you’re reading here (and elsewhere).

U

Unplug electronic gadgets and appliances when not in use, due to…

V

Vampire power. Also known as “standby power,” this is the electricity used by many electronic devices, chargers, appliances, and equipment when they’re switched off, but not unplugged. The name comes from those black power supply cubes; their metal plugs are like fangs, sucking power out of your walls.

Depending on how much electricity costs where you live and how many devices you have plugged in, trickles of vampire power can really add up. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy’s joint Energy Star program estimates that “the average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode). On a national basis, standby power accounts for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.”

As you can imagine, the billions and billions of devices sucking electrical “blood” out of the world’s power grids collectively waste a tremendous amount of electricity. And because most energy plants emit a great deal of carbon dioxide (one of the major culprits of global warming) and sulpher dioxide (which causes acid rain), plus various other pollutants, eliminating vampire power with smart power strips, etc. is a no-brainer.

W

Water. Most Americans have never had to give water a second’s worth of thought. This summer’s drought, however, has caused many of us to begin waking up to the reality that water is a limited resource. How about trying to use less? It’s painless, once you start paying attention.

Some simple ways to conserve water: If you’re a gardener, grow plants that thrive in dry environments. Notice when you’re using running water’s physical force to push food off plates or dirt off of whatever, and begin using elbow grease instead, cleaning with a brush or rag–with the tap turned off. In fact, start paying attention every time you turn on a tap or shower. How long does the water really need to be running? During the hectic morning rush, setting a timer for morning showers will limit bathroom time per family member while saving many gallons of water.

X

Xx.  We hope you don’t think we’re fresh, but…here’s a smooch, for getting your green on.

YRecycling symbol tattoo,  glitter green platform disco shoes,  eco-mack daddy vegan fur hat and vest, recycling symbol nail art

You’re a shining star
No matter who you are
Shining bright to see
What you could truly be

–Earth, Wind, and Fire

(Set a good example!)

Z

Zzzzz. It’s easy to drift away from the great schedule that you started at the beginning of the school year, but keeping bedtimes early means fewer lightbulbs burning in the night. Besides, Benjamin Franklin says it will make you healthy, wealthy and wise–and he was not only one of our Founding Fathers, he’s also the Father of Electricity!

He also said the words we’d like to close with:

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.

Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio with Emily Rothschild

September 4, 2012

Studio tours have opened up so many new views into the lives and creative minds of our artists. In visiting with Emily Rothschild last month, I learned that her jewelry line was only the tip of the artistic iceberg. A designer who is always excited to learn, Emily constantly challenges her mind with lessons and classes, expanding her talents and perspective.

We thought her well-rounded attitude would serve well on the judging panel for the Bike Lovers Design Challenge and couldn’t wait to see inside her Fort Greene home-studio.

What are your most essential tools?
A few of my most essential tools are my camera for documenting inspiration for new work as well as completed projects, a radio for constant NPR streaming, and a pair of jeweler’s pliers which always seem to come in handy. My most loved tool is a pair of glassblowing jacks. The jacks have an excellent weight, feel, and history: it’s easy to imagine the years of hard work they endured before I owned them.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I find inspiration from the objects around me all of which have a story: tools I inherited from my father, a workbench from RISD, design books and culled images, a kitchen spatula from the 1940s… I find it is important to be surrounded by loved objects.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
My two dogs remind me to step away and take a walk; they make me slow down and refresh. It’s often hard to remember to step back but it is necessary to see things from all angles: sometimes you need distance in order to get closer to a solution. I’m also settling into my new role as a mom and know that I will be spending as much time as possible with three-month-old Otto between projects. I’m often guilty of working too much but for him I’m willing to slow down and clear my head completely.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I learned that I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone, seek advice when needed, and find solutions in a variety of ways. I enjoy working in new areas of interest and with new materials which means that I have to reach out often to others. I am lucky to have found a great community of designers who work in the same way and are just as curious. Sharing information goes both ways and is key to making it on your own – it means you’re never really alone.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Love what you do. And find a community of people with similar interests and goals whom you can share ideas (and gripes) with. Community is key.


How do you set goals for yourself?
I usually have a variety of projects going on at any given time which helps me to stay focused and continue moving forward. The goals I set often seem unreachable when I first set out – I’m generally completely intimidated when starting a new project and also raring to go. The only way I can make anything happen is to dive in and take risks.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
My husband reminds me to reward myself after working hard and wrapping up a project. It’s easy to run right into the next job when you work for yourself, I’m lucky to have someone to celebrate victories with – both big and small. I try hard to remind him of the same!


What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I think about something my father always said: “Why is a duck when it spins?”. I figure if I can unlock that life mystery, I can make just about anything. My father was a great source of inspiration, information, and humor and someone who had a great hunger for investigating and learning. His wide spanning interests helped to form my curiosity about people and my perspective on design.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
This past year I took rhino, wax carving, and quilt making classes at Third Ward, Fitzjerald Jewelry, and Pins and Needles respectively. There is always some new skill I want to acquire for a project; I love learning to work with different materials and getting lost in the process.


How do you recharge your creativity?
I recharge my creativity by working on a diverse range of projects at a variety of scales – both client-based and self-generated. I work on research-based design work with my team, Hello. We Are _____., and more product-based work on my own. This combination of experiences and opportunities makes for a well balanced and never boring workweek. I also try to remember to get out of my studio often and look around – studio visits, museums, jogs, a trip out of the city, anything that keeps me looking at and talking about design.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I’m lucky to have the support of an excellent design team as well as a strong local design community and access to any number of makers and manufacturers. I have been working as part of a team of designers (helloweare.com) for the past few years and we are excited to be growing our team and outreach this year. I find it is impossible to design alone.

The Uncommon Life

A Rockin’ Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Rice) Recipe

August 31, 2012

I had a bunch of leftover cooked jasmine rice in the fridge and a new UncommonGoods gadget I wanted to try, the Garlic Rocker. So I did the math and came up with Garlic + Rice = Garlic Rice. Clever, eh?
Googling “garlic rice” in search of a recipe led me to the discovery that in the Phillippines, it’s a breakfast staple called “sinangag” in Tagalog. Garlic for breakfast?! I was on it like white on rice.
Because fried rice doesn’t require exact measurements–you can judge just by looking how much of each ingredient you want to add to it–I looked at several recipes and more or less winged it from there. (The recipe links are at the bottom of this page.) I also consulted UncommonGoods’ two Filipino software developers, Albert Tingson and Orlando Geronimo.
Orlando (right, in photo) said, “How about if you bring the sinangag to work and we’ll have a good breakfast with some tapa and fried egg. We call it ‘Tapsilog.'” All three of us were enthused about this idea until we remembered that we have no way to cook fried eggs at work.
With any kind of fried rice, you want to get all the elements (except herbs, if you’re using them) cooked and chopped before the “frying” begins (actually, sautéeing in my case, as I used a flat pan instead of a wok).
I put some “fancy” generic store brand frozen peas in a bowl and defrosted/cooked them in the microwave. When they were done, I set them aside.I started scrambling a couple of eggs. The secret to good scrambled eggs is low heat, minimal scrambling, and removing the eggs when they’re still slightly underdone, because they’ll cook a little more from their internal heat. That way, the eggs turn out soft and delicious rather than rubbery and tasteless.
When the eggs were done, I sort of stab/chopped them into irregular, bite-size chunks with the plastic spatula I was using in the non-stick pan. Then I set them aside.I took my leftover rice out of the fridge and broke up the stuck-together hunks so that it’d be ready to be scattered into the pan when the time came. I set that aside, too.Then I cut each garlic clove in half lengthwise so that it would lay flat and stable.Now I was ready to ROCK. I pressed the rocker down onto a nice, fat garlic clove and rocked it back and forth to cut through the whole clove.Oh, how beautiful the results were. Perfect little bullets of garlic that resembled part of a honeycomb. Without bothering to scrape off the “bullets,” I put another couple of cloves underneath the tool and pressed/rocked them, too.Because I’m a garlic glutton, I rocked a few more cloves. Then it was time to sauté the garlic bullets.
I used peanut oil. Chinese cooks normally use it because it has a high “smoke point” – meaning it can get a lot hotter than, say, canola oil, corn oil, or butter, before it starts smoking and burning. Also, its flavor goes better with Asian food than olive oil’s does. (If you live near an Asian grocery, buy it there. It’s a lot more expensive at typical American groceries.)I put maybe three tablespoons more into the pan than I needed for sautéeing the garlic, so that there’d be plenty of gloriously garlicky oil left over to fry the rice with.
I’m an impatient cook and I hate to watch over things, which is why I very often overcook my hamburgers and burn my garlic. Burning garlic ruins it. It tastes really acrid and bad. So I made myself pay attention and kept the heat low-ish. I didn’t ruin it! OK, actually a few pieces were overcooked, but I deleted them.One of the recipes I’d found said to add the rice to the garlic in the pan, but I didn’t want to risk cooking the garlic any longer. Instead, I set it aside with the other prepped ingredients, leaving as much as possible of the now-flavored oil in the pan.
It was time to put together the sinangag. I raised the heat to high and added the rice, stirring it in order to make sure it all got some oil on it. I cooked it for maybe three minutes, not enough to brown it, but sufficient to get it hot and give it some of the character of the hot oil. You can smell when it’s right — it’ll remind you a little bit of popcorn cooking in oil.
I added the peas and eggs and stirred to more or less evenly distribute them in the rice and to get all three elements to flavor-kiss a bit. Then I turned off the heat, added the garlic, and stirred some more. A wave of garlic bliss came over me while putting so much into what was only a couple of servings of rice.And there you have it. In imitation of the photo accompanying one of the recipes I’d found, I pressed it into a little bowl-type thingy (I don’t know what to call it because it isn’t round like a bowl — mini-crock?) and made it look all nice and photogenic.
I served some of it into a bowl that I know is an actual bowl because it’s rounded, added a couple of dashes of soy sauce, and dug in. It was a beautiful, heavenly, garlic symphony, much more than the sum of its humble parts.

Recipe: Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Rice)

Ingredients
(I’m not giving amounts because it’s up to you and how much leftover rice you have.)

Leftover cooked rice (it should be at least one day old)
Frozen green peas
Eggs
Garlic cloves (lots)
Peanut oil
Salt or soy sauce

Preparation steps
1. Break up the rice if it’s sticking together; set aside.
2. Defrost and cook the peas. Set them aside.
3. Gently scramble the eggs; then break them up into small pieces. Set them aside.
4. Peel and cube (or “rock” – but do not use garlic press) the garlic into quarter-inch-size chunks and saute until golden–not dark–brown.
5. Set frying pan or wok on a burner and set heat to high.
6. As soon as oil has a subtle, shimmery sheen (but before it smokes), add rice and cook for about 3 minutes, until the rice is hot and perhaps very slightly browned in a few places, but no more. Turn heat down to medium.
7. Add the peas and eggs and stir to mix; cook for about a minute.
8. Turn off heat; add garlic and stir.
9. Add salt or soy sauce to taste.

Recipe links
Sinangag – Filipino Garlic Fried Rice
Garlic Fried Rice
Sinangag – Eggs and Peas Fried Rice
How to cook fried rice (Sinangag na Kanin)

Design

Meet the Design Panel – Jenny Krauss

August 22, 2012

Is it time for you to take your business to the next level? Get tips, advice, and your questions answered at UncommonGoods’ third design panel and happy hour – How To Make It: Scaling Up Your Creative Business – taking place in Brooklyn, NY on August 28th. The panelists have experience advising businesses and personal experience with scaling up, like panelist, Jenny Krauss.

Jenny’s business started in 2008 with a love of Peruvian traditional embroidery. Today, her business employs 1600 artisans, who make anything from pillows to belts, while earning a steady income and preserving their local culture.
Without further ado… meet Jenny!

What is an uncommon fact about yourself?

In college and grad school, I never took a business, accounting, or economics class and I knew nothing about starting a company. I did a lot of research, picked people’s brains and realized it’s mostly common sense. Now I enjoy advising start-ups as best I can.

What products are you responsible for?

Belts, bags, pillows, shoes, luggage tags and whatever else I decide to produce; all hand woven and hand embroidered in wool or cotton.

What advice would you give to designers who think they are ready to take their business to the next level?

Take it one step at a time and don’t get deep into debt. I’ve read in business books that a common mistake for new companies is to overestimate sales. Having to manufacture more is better than getting stuck with too much inventory. Depending on your product, research your market and consider possibilities in addition to manufacturing, such as selling or licensing your designs.

What tools do you use to manage your time and stay productive?

I keep a to-do list that is with me at all times. Everything, important or trivial, is written down so it won’t be forgotten. Don’t spend work time on non-work activities like tweeting with friends, surfing the web, etc.

What advice would you give yourself when you were first starting out?

I funded my business with my own savings so if I failed I wouldn’t owe anyone money. If this is an option, I suggest using it. Or, go to family, friends, and funding sites such as Kickstarter before going to a bank. And be prepared to work long hours.

What does a typical workday look like?

I start out thinking I know what’s ahead for the day and then, almost always, something comes up, either from a customer or a supplier, and I have to stop everything and deal with it. Today is a perfect example; e-mails to one of my producer’s in rural Peru keep bouncing back. I did some research online and it turns out her domain name has expired. I’m sure she has no idea about how to fix this so I’m trying to track her down and not having much luck. There is no typical day!

What does scaling up mean for you?

My business only scaled up when there was revenue to do so. Meaning, strong sales propelled it forward, and earned money provided the funds. I added more products to the line but didn’t have to add more employees here in the US. The group of artisans in Peru swelled from 300 to 1600 which puts pressure on me to keep sales up.

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