Browsing Tag

Jewelry Design Challenge

Maker Resources

Submit Your Work to the 2018 JCK Tucson Design Challenge

January 12, 2018

For two years, we’ve partnered with jewelry industry authority JCK to honor designers whose work ticks the boxes we value most, like “out of the box” (no pun intended) and “masterfully crafted.” We’re doing it again this year, and we’re calling on you—yes, you, assuming you’re a jewelry designer!—to submit your work to the 2018 design challenge for JCK Tucson, a curated destination for emerging artists and makers of finished jewelry and loose gemstones. This year, JCK Tucson will take place from January 31–February 3 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ.

Judging of the challenge, which is open to all Arizona Ballroom exhibitors, will take place on Friday, February 2 at 1pm. Judges will include representatives from UncommonGoods (hey, that’s us) and The winner will receive a cash prize and a vendor contract with UncommonGoods.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Meet Lee Ann Jones, Winner of the 2017 JCK Tucson Design Challenge

August 9, 2017

Photo by Josh Huskin

Back in February, UncommonGoods partnered with jewelry industry authority JCK on the second annual JCK Tucson design challenge, pitting emerging jewelry designers against one another in (fun, friendly) competition. After much deliberation, our panel of judges—which included UncommonGoods Jewelry Buyer Sharon Hitchcock and Paula Lee, Accessories Editor for O, the Oprah Magazine—settled upon a winner whose designs embodied the spirit of creativity and fine craftsmanship we value here at UG. Jewelry lovers, meet Lee Ann Jones, winner of the 2017 design challenge and founder of the Lee Jones Collection.

Lee Ann’s winning design.

A former lawyer turned full-time jewelry designer based in San Antonio, Texas, Lee Ann blew us away with her Diamond Fairy Dust Necklace. (Trust us, there’s been a whole lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over her samples here at the office.) Masterfully crafted from 14k gold, Lee Ann’s winning adjustable necklace incorporates two tiny cylinders “dusted” with diamonds, one hidden discreetly at the nape of the neck. Elegant, subtle, and—best of all—sparkly, Lee Ann’s winning piece is now available for purchase at UncommonGoods, along with her equally stunning Double Heart Diamond Necklace, which features diamond-studded hearts in place of her winning work’s cylinders.

To celebrate her win and welcome her to the UncommonGoods family, we spoke with Lee Ann about her history as a jewelry designer, what inspires her, and more. Read on for her answers to our questions, and—as a bonus—some pictures of her very cute dog.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Design Challenge Winner Lindsay Locatelli Shifts Our Perception of Home and Jewelry

July 8, 2015

As a summer intern, I’m still becoming acquainted with UncommonGoods’ vast menagerie of jewelry, but I have to admit that Lindsay Locatelli’s winning entry in our Jewelry Design Challenge is especially cool. Her Tiny Village Stacking Rings depict a home-y village nestled beneath a series of mountains, all in robust sterling silver. The design is especially unique due to its kinetic aspect; unfixed, the rings can constantly shift and reorient themselves on one’s finger, “similar to driving through the mountains.”

PicMonkey Collage

Lindsay drew inspiration for her piece by a time in her life when she drifted throughout the American Southwest, exploring its extraordinary natural features and adapting to life in three different cities. Though “home” originally meant Minnesota, her newfound connection to the Southwest led her to question whether “home” was concrete – or, like the rings, constantly shifting.

Her piece compellingly evokes the perhaps dissonant feeling many of us face at some point in our life when “home” evolves in meaning, or takes on a new shape. But her design also indicates the consistency our home offers, even if the place we associate with it is dynamic.

Read on for more about Lindsay’s evolving art practice, her work space and process, and her advice for aspiring artists.


What inspired the concept of your winning piece?
I went through a nomadic phase straight out of college and spent a good deal of time exploring the southwest. I fell in love with the region and felt like it was my true home – a very specific connectedness that I never had before. I grew up and currently live in Minnesota but this experience made me question the concept of what “home” could mean from one individual to another.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I made a nice studio upgrade and bought myself a Little Smith Oxy/Acetelyne torch and it’s completely changed how I work and made my practice much more efficient.


When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I guess I’ve always considered myself as a creative soul ever since I can remember. I’ve gone from illustration and painting to sculpture, furniture design and on to jewelry… I was raised in a very creative environment surrounded by many artists and an amazing support system.

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
I’m a quarter Japanese, I’m a Gemini, and my best friends are two Shetland sheepdogs.


What’s your artistic process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you? 
Well to be completely honest, I wear many hats and work many jobs so when I’m able to jump into the studio, it’s quite an intuitive and organic process. I lay all of my bits and bobs out on the table and piece them together until something feels good. When it came to the Village Stacking Rings, I began stamping out tiny little houses as well as little mountainscapes. I wanted to create a set of rings that had a kinetic aspect so that when they are being worn, the perspective is constantly shifting – similar to driving through the mountains.


Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
I think it would be safe to say that most artists have very intriguing spaces only unique to them. Mine is fairly clean right now but because I’ve worked in so many mediums over the years, I’ve got everything from tiny little motors, electrical wires, and power tools to gemstones, silver, brass, clay, paper, textiles, and more. I also have an inspiration wall where I keep and collect strange treasures like bones, dried plant bits, old tin cans, vintage cameras, etc.

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
Visualize what you see for yourself, enjoy the ride because there’s a silver lining to everything and on each day, complete at least one thing off your to-do list. It’s easy to get swept up in life’s daily distractions but sticking to your list helps to keep you on track and focused.


Describe your first experience as a jewelry designer.
After taking a creative hiatus, I began to work again in my studio and I was limited to a few tools and some wood. I began to carve out little rings and wore them around until one day I got picked up by a local gallery. From there on, my business has grown little-by-little.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck. How do you keep yourself inspired?
Going back to that to-do list, on days where I’m not motivated or mentally drained I will get back into the studio and force myself to knock off a couple of those items that I might not have been able to get to in the last week. I also like to spend time every week researching and looking at what other contemporary artists are doing because sometimes I get stuck in a jewelry-sized mindset and this helps me think outside the box.

Maker Stories

Jewelry Winner Kristin Schwartz Stops To Mold The Roses

November 4, 2014

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

As you may have learned in our recent Uncommon Book Club Picks, I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” a novel about a female botanist who seeks to discover and explain the inner workings of the world during Darwin’s era. Alma, the story’s protagonist, is raised in her father’s renowned botanical estate, and spends much of her adulthood studying and admiring the estate’s plant collection. After further examination of the Buds Necklace, Kristin Schwartz’s winning Jewelry Design Challenge entry, I’m convinced that Kristin and Alma are kindred spirits. Like a trained taxonomist, Kristin appears to have studied every curve of the Lapsana flower before delicately molding it to metal clay. I can imagine Kristin with Alma’s microscope, calculating precisely how to add a subtle blue-green patina to her winning pendant. 

Here at UncommonGoods, our buyers love anything that has an exciting story. When Kristin’s story entered our radar, we didn’t hesitate to introduce her handmade collection into our assortment. Kristin’s fascination with her natural surroundings is beautifully illustrated in both her designs and her workspace. Meet Jewelry Design Challenge Winner Kristin Schwartz, and learn about her transition from the corporate world, why she keeps Champagne in her fridge, and how nature inspires her tiny pieces of art.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | Buds Necklace | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept for your winning design?
I take molds of plants for a lot of my work, so I am always on the hunt for tiny plants and flowers that might translate well to jewelry. I knew as soon as I saw this tiny yellow flower it was going to be good. Most of my plant-based pieces have an organic (random) shape, but I thought a round pendant would appeal to more people.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won the first Jewelry Design Challenge of 2014?
I was inspired by a friend a couple years ago to keep a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator in the event of an unexpected victory or celebration, big or small. Of course I popped it open! And then got back to work.

How did you discover our Jewelry Design Challenge?
I have received the UncommonGoods catalog for a very long time and one day I received an email from the people at Jewelry Design Manager (Bejeweled Software) that said UG was looking for entries for the challenge.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. Iʼm in my 40s and I love that my Dad still calls me Kiddo.

2. I am not athletically inclined, but I did play soccer when I was six years old. The only goal I ever made was for the other team. It did happen right after half time, so I have to give my kid-self a break.

3. I love collecting shoes, but would rather be barefoot.

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
My designs usually start with one question: is it plant-based or is it done completely by hand? Sometimes I have a very specific piece in mind and I just have to figure out how to make it happen. For the most recent series, the image was in my head for YEARS while I mentally worked out the details. It actually turned out better than I had imagined with a combination of hand work and a plant mold. Other times, I see a plant that just needs to be featured on a piece of jewelry. It usually turns out pretty well, but I do have a pile of molds that have never turned into anything. I rarely draw ideas out on paper unless there are multiple elements that require serious problem solving and test runs.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Describe your workspace.
I love my workspace! It was the number one reason for buying my house. Itʼs in my basement, but full of natural light. Through all the windows I am surrounded by trees. And I have a ringside seat to the wrestling matches between my two boxers, Lumen and Kisa (pictured below).

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Who or what are your design influences?
All my work is about growth, change and connection. It may not be totally obvious in all my work, but those are the seeds of my ideas. So, of course, nature plays a huge influential role, as do relationships.

Describe your first jewelry designing experience.
It was definitely unintentional. When I was still in the corporate world, I took a four hour metal clay class only because I had never heard of it. I made several pieces of unrelated…somethings, just to get a feel for the process. Jewelry eventually became my focus when I got great feedback on experimental pieces.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating the Buds Necklace?
I work solely in Precious Metal Clay (PMC). For those who are not familiar, metal clay is made up of microscopic particles of recycled silver [or bronze or copper]. All those particles are held together with an organic binder. It looks and acts much like modeling clay.

For this piece I took a mold of the tiny Lapsana flowers. Once the mold has cured, I roll a piece of metal clay onto it. I remove the piece of clay and turn it over onto a flat surface. While the clay is still wet I cut out individual pieces (in this case, circles) and let them dry overnight. I then try to get them as perfect as possible by sanding edges and smoothing surfaces that need it. It is much easier and less time consuming to do this with dry clay than it is with metal. When the pieces are ready, they get fired in a kiln. When the temperature reaches 1,650 [degrees Fahrenheit], the binder has burned out and all the silver particles melt together. There is an 8 to 12 percent shrink rate and the result is a fully metallic, pure silver piece. I drill a hole in it for the jump ring. When it comes out of the kiln, there is some fire scale on the surface. That is scratched or sanded off before I put the whole piece into a patina to get the green color. It is then sanded again, leaving minimal color behind. I think the color brings out the texture and design a little more. I wire-wrap a clasp onto a piece of hand-painted silk cord and add the pendant. Tah-da!

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

Whatʼs your favorite thing that someone has said about something you made?
There was a woman who recently came to my table while I was selling at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I asked how the day had been treating her so far. She sighed and said, “I am so happy to be on front of such a peaceful space with pieces of art I relate to.” She didnʼt buy anything but the compliment was worth so much more.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
Living in the Northwest is great for natural inspiration. I am still amazed at all the different plants that bloom in the spring. I sell my work where 10 million people visit every year. I get to hear a lot of stories. Talking and connecting with people is also great inspiration for me.

Design Challenge Winner | Jewelry Design Challenge | UncommonGoods

What are your hobbies outside of jewelry design and running your own business?
I donʼt really have much time for a whole lot, but I love to cook and work on my house and in my yard. Essentially, my hands are always dirty.

(Photos by Lauren Williams)

Maker Stories

Over The Moon With Natasha’s Winning Design

September 17, 2014

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

I immediately knew Natasha’s design of the Crescent Necklace would be a semi-finalist for the Jewelry Design Challenge the moment I opened up her entry. The charming piece matched perfectly with the UncommonGoods brand – not only was it a beautiful ceramic piece, but it was handmade with a unique mosaic design. The only problem we ran into, since Natasha offered multiple hues for her designs, was deciding on which color to feature!  The judges were unanimous when deciding on the winner and I was happy to make that phone call to the very excited and humbled Natasha. We wanted to bring a necklace into our assortment that was a classy statement piece, a pendant that would be hard for anyone not to notice, but not overwhelming or too showy. The Crescent Necklace was a perfect match. And because we couldn’t resist ourselves, we also threw in her matching earrings. Meet Natasha Justice, our latest Jewelry Design Challenge winner, and learn about her step-by-step process of making her Crescent Necklaces.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

How did you come up with the concept of your design for your Crescent Necklace?
I love to mix different shapes and textures.  I had some pieces from a broken necklace that sparked my curiosity.  I pushed each of the pieces into my rolled out slab of clay and really liked what I saw.  I was wanting  a bold piece, so I used my large oval to sort of frame the textured design I just created.  And the shape and design jumped out at me.  I made another cut to create the crescent shape and loved the completed piece.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our jewelry design challenge?
I immediately called my husband, I couldn’t believe it!  I was so excited!  And we went to dinner that night to celebrate.

How did you discover our jewelry design challenge?
I heard about it through another artist and looked into it on UncommonGoods. I always tell myself to just go for it, you never know, you could win.

Can you tell us 3 fun facts about yourself?
1. I am seriously addicted to crime shows and movies.  I love Criminal Minds and any type of crime thriller movie.

2. I started making jewelry when I was 10 and then [again] after getting laid off. When I found out I was pregnant with my first son (I have 3) I decided I needed a hobby to keep myself busy. So I started making more jewelry and my hobby became my business.

3. I can’t sew but I would absolutely love to learn how.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
I mostly use hand-building techniques to create my clay pieces.

What’s one piece of jewelry you own that you would never want to lose?
One of my very first ceramic pendants I made.  It reminds me why I started making ceramic pendants and my love for clay.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods
Natasha’s hometown, Cincinnati.

Can you walk us through the step by step process of creating your necklace?
I take a clump of clay and roll it out flat with a rolling pin.  I then take the broken necklace pieces and stamp out the design.  I cut the design out with my large oval cutter and then I use a small circle to complete the crescent shape.  I smooth all of the edges, make the holes in the top and sign each ceramic piece on the back.  Then each piece has to dry out completely between two weighted pieces of wood to ensure the clay pieces do not curl.  Once they are dry I put them through the first firing, which is the bisque firing.  My kiln reaches 1,940 degrees.  I let the pieces cool and then they are ready to be glazed.  I hand-glaze each piece with a paint brush.  I load my kiln again and let the kiln reach 1,830 degrees.  After the pieces cool they are ready to be made into jewelry.  I buy my chain, jump rings, and lobster claw clasps in bulk so I have to measure each piece of chain to the appropriate length and hand cut each one.  I then assemble the necklace into a completed piece.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

Other than making and promoting your jewelry, what other hobbies are you into?
I love watching movies and I recently got back into working out consistently. [These hobbies] seem to help me wind down.

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

Natasha Justice | UncommonGoods

Do you think jewelry pieces should be fashionable or timeless?
I think a girl needs a little bit of both.  I love timeless pieces, but I always have to have some fashionable ones as well.  The fashionable ones are my go-to when I go on dates with my husband or out with the girls. I also love to mix them both with layering.

Necklace up close

Maker Stories

A Zymbol is Worth a Thousand Words

April 25, 2014

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we couldn’t have picked a better time to feature mother and son duo, Sally and Dane Short, the makers of the inspiring Zymbol Necklace. The actual design of the necklace is intriguing, yet the story behind what the Zymbol represents is what really grabbed our full attention. Depending on who the wearer is, the Zymbol design can mean a million different things–from phrases, to places, to people. “Given that Zymbol contains every letter of the alphabet and every number, it can represent any and all messages; from private anecdotes to everyday affirmations.” Read about how the Short family made an accidental discovery of the Zymbol design and how they are paying it forward with children’s hospitals across America through their one-for-one program.  Meet Sally and Dane Short: mother and son, business partners, and our latest Jewelry Design Challenge winners!

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

What’s an uncommon fact about you and your hometown?
Dane: Hmmmm, most of my peers seem to think it’s uncommon that I don’t like Apple products.  Wait, are people going to get mad at me for saying that? My hometown, Durango, CO has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco!

Sally: Most people don’t know that I was a belly dancer in my 20s and performed the Arabian Dance part in the Nutcracker Suite. Los Angeles, my hometown, moves approximately one-quarter of an inch to the east every year!

How did you come up with the concept of the Zymbol Necklace?
D: A few years ago something amazing happened to our family. One night my lovely mother, Sally Short, was doodling and she wrote down the phrase ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’ stacking each letter on top of the next with a peace sign.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoodsShe loved the design and message so much that she decided to send it off to be cast as a pendant. A few months later my sister and I randomly saw the pendant sitting on its side and we noticed a ‘K’ popping out. Since there’s no ‘K’ in the phrase ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’, it got us curious and motivated us to look for other letters. That night, we ended up sitting down as a family and uncovering the entire alphabet and every number hidden within the doodle!! We decided to create a line of inspirational jewelry based on the design. We named it Zymbol as it is one symbol representing all letters A-Z.

Given that Zymbol contains every letter of the alphabet and every number, it can represent any and all messages; from private anecdotes to everyday affirmations. I personally wear mine representing daily goals and intentions.The amazing concept about the Zymbol Necklace is that it can represent so many different things to different people.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoodsZymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods
What’s the most creative story you’ve heard from someone who owns one?
D: That’s a tough question! People from all walks of life wear Zymbol containing their personal message of inspiration – from breast cancer survivors to members of the military. Of all the testimonials we’ve received, I think the following is my favorite:

“I wanted to tell you a story of how your ‘family project’ became a part of my ‘family project’. As a mother of four daughters ranging from 18-30 and a 10-year-old granddaughter I am all about family. As it happens my daughters’ birthdays are all in the spring, so this year I was looking for a gift that would mean something to all of us, a legacy of sorts. But in these financial times I needed something that didn’t cost and arm and a leg. I happened upon Zymbol at a networking event and I couldn’t get the design out of my head. I knew I found the perfect gift for a group of very distinct young women.

I took the group out to eat and talked to them about the idea of creating a ‘family crest’, one that would have a ‘secret’ meaning only to us. They liked the idea and as a group we came up with what that meaning was. (The actual meaning for us isn’t important to explain as the beauty of the symbol is that each family can give it their own special meaning.) What is important is that when we wear it, we have a connection to each other. I know personally when I’m having a bad day (or a difficult client) or just need centering, I will reach up and hold Zymbol in my hand and I find it comforting as for me it represents not only my daughters and granddaughter, but also my mom, my brothers and sisters…my family.

With my daughter’s approval to the concept of the design, I bought six pendants that each received on their birthdays.

My oldest daughter liked the idea so much that she had a tattoo of our ‘family crest’ put on the inside of her wrist. She wanted something that would be not only served as a constant reminder of family, but as a reminder of other things, like being a better mother, or better person. She says if she needs encouragement or centering or maybe even patience at any given moment, she can look at the symbol and be reminded of what is important and what she needs at that given moment.”

How cool is that! She sent me a picture of her daughter’s tattoo which I then posted on Facebook. The idea of tattooing Zymbol caught on and we now know of 22 people who have tattooed Zymbol on their bodies!

tattooS: My favorite stories come from children in the hospital. We’ve always thought of Zymbol as a gift to our family. Two years into the business we decided to pay it forward by implementing our own version of the TOMS Shoes one-for-one program. For every Zymbol sold, we gift an acrylic pendant to a child in the hospital. With the pendant, each child receives an activity sheet full of blank Zymbols.  This allows them to trace and spell out their personal message of inspiration and encouragement. That message can change and evolve each day, or remain consistent. We’ve had kids trace messages like HOPE, LOVE, NEVER GIVE UP and YOU ARE A WARRIOR.  The following video shows a recent ‘drop’ we did in Austin, TX.

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our next Jewelry Design Challenge winner?
D: We were ECSTATIC!!! Our mission statement is to ‘spread love and empowerment, one Zymbol at a time’. We knew winning the Jewelry Design Challenge would help us in fulfilling our mission.

Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
D: Our current mission is to visit children’s hospitals all over the country in the next two years. This will be a direct result of our one-for-one program. In the next two months we’ll be visiting Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Denver and Texas Children’s in Houston.

S: I’m most excited at the opportunity to become a vendor with UncommonGoods! This has always been a goal of ours.

Zymbol Necklace | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated? 
D:  My favorite quote is ‘We become what we think about’ by Earl Nightingale. I am a believer in positive thinking and the law of attraction. I’ve found that by controlling my thoughts, I’m able to control my reality.

S: Mine is more of a phrase than a quote. LOVE IS ALL U NEED. What does it mean to me?  Everything! This phrase has evolved into a business that allows me to work with my family and inspire people around the world.

What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our design challenge?
D: Don’t be afraid to relentlessly reach out to your network. You are an artist. Be proud of your work. You might be surprised at the amount of support you’ll receive.

Pin It on Pinterest