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Maker Stories

P is for Personalization – and Patricia Carlin, and Product Development!

October 31, 2016

We’ve long been fans of artist Patricia Carlin. We feature many of her beloved products in our assortment, and they’ve delighted so many people with their whimsy and personal feel. We (and our customers) just couldn’t get enough of Patricia, so our product development team worked with her to create this extra special Personalized My Alphabet Book.

Personalized My Alphabet Book

The book is tailor-made from start to finish. The cover features your child’s name and a charming illustration of an animal that starts with the same letter (Liam gets a lion, Wyatt a wallaby, Everett an elephant, etc). Inside, they’ll find a little note from the same animal pal explaining why they love their shared first letter — “L is also for lollipops! And library! And leapfrog!”

A is for Alligator, B is for Bear

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Danielle Kroll

October 7, 2016
Danielle Kroll | UncommonGoods

Danielle Kroll in her Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, photos by Rachel Orlow

One thing I’ve learned in my years of visiting artists’ studios is that they’re rarely what I expect. Danielle Kroll’s was no exception. Sure, I expected it to be full of beautiful art and hoped to see a plethora of paints and piles of paper, but I had no idea just how fun, colorful, and full of creativity-sparking treasures her space would be.

I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical when I arrived at what looked like a warehouse in a seemingly industrial part of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (But, in actuality, I shouldn’t have been. By now I should know that many interesting and inspiring places are hidden away in former factories and warehouse buildings.)

Artist Danielle Kroll's Studio | UncommonGoods

Danielle invited our small group–myself, a photographer, and our content intern–into the old building and we followed her up a steep staircase into a beautiful communal area used by several artists. While I was impressed by the art in the halls, the eclectic combination of furniture, and the relaxed feel of the whole space, Danielle’s own studio really blew me away. Flooded with natural light, decorated with her own art and art she’s collected, and filled with books, it was the kind of space where I felt right at home.

That welcomed feeling was only enhanced by the artist’s openness and enthusiasm. She not only showed us some of her paintings, but also opened her sketchbooks, showed off some of her favorite objects she’s collected as a self-proclaimed “pack rat,” and shared about a few of her creative projects.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Year of Creativity

January 8, 2016

Inside the Artists' Studios | UncommonGoods

One of the most exciting things about serving as Editor of The Goods is that there’s always a Maker Story right around the corner. I am honored to get opportunities to meet talented artists, to see what they make and how they make it, and– when I’m extra lucky– to actually step inside their creative spaces. Over the past year, I had the pleasure of visiting several artists and seeing them in action, as did a few of our blog contributors, photographers, and buyers.  

From woodworking to weaving to jewelry making and beyond, we saw so much creativity last year that we couldn’t help but give our 2015 Studio Tours one more chance to shine before heading out with cameras and notepads to capture more inspirational moments in the year to come. Here are a few hand-picked highlights from those Studio Tours, complete with a few inspirational quotes, photos that made me want to drop everything and start a new creative project on the spot, and plenty of great advice. 

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The Uncommon Life

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kimberly Hall

August 3, 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 Kimberly Hall, the artist behind the There Are Always Flowers Print.

PicMonkey Collage

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
It took me a long time to think of myself as an artist. I have had a very varied career with lots of different titles, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that having a kind of crazy career was really because I had the point of view of an artist.


What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
This year I think it will be showing my print and pattern work in Paris this fall! I love how I never quite know where this path will lead…I love the surprises, the wonderful ones and even the losses are still so exciting.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

They always seem to be a little different. I have two daughters and I usually drop them off at school in the morning which is the only real consistent part of my day. After that it could be anything from research & collecting inspiration for a job, or working on the continually growing collection of patterns I show twice a year at Premiere Vision Designs in New York, or prepping to teach a class in either fashion or illustration. I love to meet other freelance and artist friends for a coffee during the day and hear what people are up to. Philly has a great sense of community that I love.

NOTTENE selling cards

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 lot of trinkets and talismans! I love to draw them… right now I’m starting a series on my blog where I post many of the interesting postcards I have collected over the years. It’s something I always pick up wherever I go. Check them out here>>

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I have a kindergartner and she ALWAYS has an opinion when she sees my work!! Her favorite is one of my postcards that says “Join Our Club”, she likes to hand it out to friends and get people in the Nottene club!

NOTTENE join our club

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I always think of the Voltaire quote “I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” I illustrated it for Design Milk last year & you can see it on my site. It reminds me that being happy is a state of mind I can put myself in… and it’s good for me to do that!


What are your most essential tools?
Hands, mind, and heart. Everything else is cake!


Maker Stories

Alyson Thomas’ Creative Cocktail Illustrations & Other Adventures in Art

June 18, 2015

Alyson Thomas | UncommonGoods

Attorney-turned-illustrator Alyson Thomas has always loved drawing, painting, and making things, but says she “didn’t think anything of it” until she was voted “most creative” in her college dorm. She didn’t exactly leap from law school to illustrating designs like the ones featured on our Cocktail Diagram Glasses, either.

Alyson’s career started in a very different place–the Department of Homeland Security. From doodling on sticky notes in meetings, to turning in her badge and spending a year on a drawing project, Alyson’s love of illustration grew and eventually blossomed into a full-time business. 

She took a break from diagramming delicious things, visiting “nerdy cocktail bars,” and generally being awesome, to answer a few questions about quitting her day job and the creative endeavors that followed.

Bloody Mary Diagram Glasses | UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phil Thompson

January 14, 2015

Phil Thompson | UncommonGoods

Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, Jeanne Gang—some of the greatest, most renowned names in architecture–have marked their space on the Chicago skyline. Their skyscrapers, public buildings, and homes in the Windy City have shaped modern design over the centuries. It is no wonder, then, why illustrator Phil Thompson finds inspiration in Chicago’s Prairie Style bungalows, classic six-flat brick Craftsman buildings, and skyscraping architectural landmarks. As a recently departed Chicagoan, I can attest that Phil and his wife and studio mate, Katie, live in one of those architecturally remarkable apartments that most of us dream of finding. Built in 1912, the Craftsman flat has many of its original Deco fixtures and warm, comforting wood detailing.
A colleague here at UncommonGoods tipped me off to Phil’s intricate custom home portraits. The cleanliness of his structured, blueprint-like approach suitably matches the sparseness of his studio. He surrounds himself just with what he needs: drawing paper, a basket full of trusty micro-pens, and drafting tools. There are a few exceptions to the sparseness—all of which are largely contained within a small bulletin board—a calendar, the usual lists of to-dos, and some inspirational quotations. Phil also prominently displays a beautiful postcard-size watercolor by his grandmother to remind him of his artistic roots.
I am always thoroughly impressed and warmed by artists that are able to seamlessly and successfully blend their passions and skills. Phil and Katie are two of those artists. He pairs his discerning eye and exacting hand with a passion for accurately rendering architectural styles and the home. Phil’s Classic Home Portraits honor those places where we build memories, families, and community.

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Maker Stories

All the Love for James Gulliver Hancock

August 22, 2013

james gulliver hancock

Since I was five years old, drawing distorted family stick figures and doodling all over notebooks has been a permanent hobby of mine. I still catch myself drawing in office meetings or on those too-long subway rides. Not that I’m talented at all, I just love the way a pen feels against a blank piece of paper. It’s as natural as eating or sleeping to me. So when I got the chance to interview someone who literally makes art and drawing their living, I was beyond pumped, especially since that artist just so happened to be the inspiring  James Gulliver Hancock. He’s a passionate, quirky artist who re-imagines his world around him into an urban whimsical fairy tale and claims to be sick when he’s not holding a pencil in his hand. 

Over here at UncommonGoods, we only have tremendous love for James Gulliver Hancock. (And kind of just love saying his name.) He collaborated with us to design his “All The…” drawing series and made some pretty sWHEAT graphics for our beer steins. He juggles living in between Sydney, Australia and Brooklyn,New York and everywhere else in between that fits into his family’s career paths and hectic schedules. He says, “We sometimes feel like a creative gypsy family circus, making videos and pictures and music as we travel around the globe.”

His most current project is drawing All The Buildings in New York. I was lucky enough to be invited to his current studio, which is conveniently New York City itself, and watch the drawing mastermind work his magic. We met under the Washington Square Monument, and right away I spotted him in his bright red pants, looking up towards the sky, in full concentration holding his weapons of choice: a pen and a notebook.

James Gulliver Hancock

I love your art work, especially the products we have here at UncommonGoods. What exactly ignited the “All the…” series?

It all started with traveling, I always keep a journal when I’m traveling, and I usually draw more than I write. I often found myself drawing the objects that I obsessed over in different places, or the things that dominated my experience. When I started road tripping around America I was drawn to draw different things I found in different places. I love concentrating on certain things and learning everything you can about that thing. If you’re drawing boats, you get to know all the types of boats. If it’s cactus, you see there are so many types; drawing really makes you look deeply at things. It’s like people that collect things, I admire that kind of focused obsession… the guy that knows everything about 1950’s salt and pepper shakers is a fascination to me.

James Gulliver Hancock

 What made you realize that drawing was what you wanted to do as a career?

I knew from a very early age, from a little boy I always drew. An early memory is from pre-school when we had to rotate between activities (drawing, puzzles, napping), so when I got to drawing I devised the most complicated drawing I could think of so I wouldn’t have to do the other things any more. I’m still like that, figuring out my life so I can draw as much as possible.

James Gulliver Hancock

Can you describe the moment when you realized “Holy crap, I’m actually doing this…!”

I have this almost every day. It’s so awesome to be drawing everyday and have people around the world, appreciate and love (and pay for!) what I do. I’ve also managed to integrate travel and a family into the fold of awesomeness too. My wife is a musician and we are often on the road, me with a portable studio to keep working. We sometimes feel like a creative gypsy family circus, making videos and pictures and music as we travel around the globe!


You  live an aspiring artist’s dream and have traveled and showcased your work everywhere in the world: New York, Australia, Japan, France, England…the list goes on! What’s your secret?

Making stuff all the time helps, and telling people about it all the time. Being an artist requires you to be pro-active in making and then showing your work. People aren’t necessarily going to ask you to do something. A lot of the time you have to just do it and show them what it could be for them to get excited. Travel is essential, too; with the internet you can get a lot of international exposure without leaving your home town, but by being in a place, your energy shifts. You might meet someone and links begin to happen. Sometimes people I’ve met for half an hour while traveling becomes a client years later.


Where was your first exhibition held? How did you feel the day of? (Were you basking in all your glory, dissecting every single problem, or heading to the toilet to re-compose yourself?)

I was definitely hiding in the toilet room. Some of the reason I’m an illustrator is so I don’t have to perform in crowds! I’m doing lots of talks now for my new book and have to get up in front of lots of people, and I find it terrifying! But it’s fun also. I do love having this solitary process that also comes out into the world and interacts with it. As for my first exhibition, it was probably when I was a kid and I filed my family into a room that I prepared with things on the walls. It felt natural to me to ‘perform’ in this way, more natural than other kids doing fake TV shows or something.

All the Buildings in NY

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?

Wandering is the best. I went for the longest walk around Manhattan yesterday and saw, heard, smelt so many things. Consequently the ideas are flowing! I also seem to get inspired when I’m going to sleep and waking up, when the constraints of the day have faded away and the brainy mush floats around with new ideas.

photo (1)

On your site, you mention that you feel sick when you’re not drawing. Other than not drawing, what else makes you sick when you’re not doing it. 

Riding my bike clears my mind for sure. I can ride and ride and ride, and feel so peaceful, even in Manhattan. It becomes like a computer game, dodging the obstacles. The rhythm of riding is so hypnotic. But drawing every day is really what keeps me happy. If I can’t draw I have to make something else, whether it be cooking, or craft or something, making stuff is what I do.

Beer Steins by James Gulliver Hancock

What’s one of your all-time favorite quotes?

“Color tells it all, black and white tells just enough to stir the imagination.” It’s by an Australian photographer, Max Dupain, who took a lot of amazing black and white photos. I love the idea of sharing just enough with the viewer to get them thinking too. To leave room for them to bring something to the image– their own associations.

Do you have any secret vices that causes immense procrastination? How do you monitor this vice?

Luckily drawing is my vice, and because it’s my work I don’t have to monitor it, the more I do the better! Other than that, I shouldn’t eat so many chocolate muesli bars and cake, but hey, that’s what the bicycle is for.


Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?

I have a 1.5 year old son and have so many ideas for children’s books that I haven’t had time to do yet. I also have a new book coming out in 2014 that will be amazing. Stay tuned!

What’s one piece of advice you have for that person out there that has a creative passion and can’t seem to make a career out of it?

Keep doing it, keep making projects and publishing them somehow (print, web, whatever) and then show them to everyone you can think of.

QUIFF – redux from James Gulliver Hancock on Vimeo.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Matthew Amey

April 2, 2013

It feels a little silly when we throw around the word “uncommon” so frequently here around the UG headquarters, but sometimes there just isn’t a better way to express how we feel. I first interviewed Matthew Amey when he won last year’s Art Contest. Being inked myself, I was overjoyed to learn his winning piece was a tattoo-turned-print. I was also completely baffled – was there a better word to describe the newest member of our artist family?

This time, take a look inside the Maryland studio of this design challenge alum to see how he transitions from painting on skin to paper.

What are your most essential tools?
I work primarily with tattoo machines but I also paint in oils quite a bit. I am fortunate to have a career (tattooing) that allows me to also work in other artistic mediums when time permits.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I work in my studio five days a week, eight hours per day. I find time between tattoo appointments to explore new ideas, mediums, do research for new projects and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My studio is jammed with materials that I have collected throughout my travels. Much of my inspiration comes through interacting with other artists and discussing new ideas with prospective clients.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Being an artist is great but running a business, as an artist, is a daunting task. The creative mind is not one that worries about deadlines, bills, advertising. As an artist all I want to do is create work. Once I figured out how to shift gears from artist/creator to businessman/manager things got a lot easier. Once I found a ‘business manager’ it made my work much more enjoyable.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Trust your instincts; you’re making the right choices. Stay positive.

How do you set goals for yourself?
Much of my time is spent just thinking about projects. Once I decide on a project that I want to complete I am pretty adamant about following it through to completion. Some long-term projects get worked on little by little until completion. Ultimately I have to determine which projects are of utmost importance and work on those first. UncommonGoods has become one of my main goals this past year and I’ve been focusing much of my ‘free’ time on that work.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victory is fleeting. If/When I’m able to take time to reflect on my accomplishments chances are I’m thinking about what to do next. I’m not sure where I’ve heard this statement but it is very true that, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
My efforts flow through these three simple statements. Imagine; think outside the box, allow yourself to wonder. Create; make work, be creative and productive. Inspire; make work that inspires others to think, contemplate or produce work of their own. Repeat….

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am constantly challenging myself to experiment with new materials, techniques and styles both in tattooing and within my other artistic endeavors.

How do you recharge your creativity?
My artwork develops in cycles. During the warmer summer months I try to get outside and experience nature as often as possible. I live near the ocean and in the Summer I am very busy tattooing the tourists who frequent my town. In the Fall I start putting non-tattoo related projects together and in the Winter and Spring much of my time is spent working on completing those projects. I am currently getting ready for the summer season so I’m trying to wrap up some larger art projects that I started last Fall.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Much of my tattoo work is collaboration between myself and my clients. They come to me with an idea and I attempt to help them visualize their ideas in the most concise way possible. Occasionally I will collaborate with other artists in my studio to produce paintings.

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