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Studio Tours

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Brian Giniewski

March 6, 2018

Brian in his studio; photos by Royce Brown

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—home of the cheesesteak (and its vegan offshoots), the Liberty Bell, and fellow marketing team member Morgan. I’d only been once, in middle school, when all I cared about was seeing the house where “The Real World: Philadelphia” was filmed, before my trip down in December to tour the studio of ceramic artist Brian Giniewski. In a far-off corner of the city once known as a center for textile production, Brian makes delightfully drippy vessels perfect for housing fully-loaded scoops of ice cream, each glazed in tantalizing shades like “pop rox,” “creamsicle,” “saffron,” and “peach.” I know they’re made of clay, but I’ve gotta be honest: they made me hungry—and actually, they still do. But I digress.

Drippy Ice Cream Bowls | UncommonGoods

 Accompanied by my trusty companion, Royce, I followed Brian through the halls of Globe Dye Works, a yarn-dying factory-turned-artistic community that houses tenants like the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, Rival Bros. Coffee (I had some, and it was quite good), and, of course, the artist himself. Remnants of the building’s industrial days lined the path to Brian’s workspace, where a seemingly endless supply of shiny, textured mugs, plates, and planters mingled with tools of the trade. After a tour of his sunny studio, Brian threw a quick piece for us—an act that may as well have been magic to me—and invited us both to indulge in “Cake Time,” a staff tradition that pretty much speaks for itself. One slice of chocolaty cheesecake and a good old-fashioned sit-down later, Royce and I took our leave, equipped with a handwritten list of must-try Philly lunch spots (tehina milkshake, anyone?) and a directive to stop by Field, a plant-centric pop-up in Philly’s hip Fishtown neighborhood, for First Friday.

Itching to know more about the guy behind our Drippy Ice Cream Bowls? Read on for our Q&A with Brian, plus a selection of photos from our visit to his space.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Carolyn Gavin

February 6, 2018

Artist Carolyn Gavin and her puppy Eggroll, photos by Jen Coleman

If you deconstruct the most inspiring quotes throughout history, you’ll find that they all have a few things in common: great wordsmithing, flawless pacing, memorable messaging. So when I asked artist Carolyn Gavin what inspires her to illustrate quotes, I thought she might say she enjoyed experimenting with fonts in watercolor, or that wanted her art to honor influential leaders or her favorite musicians. I quickly learned that these assumptions were too surface level for an artist who uses color like Carolyn. When describing her design process for our “World is Full of Magic” print, she simply said, “it’s just a feeling. I knew that quote would need flowers.”

After visiting Carolyn’s home studio in downtown Toronto, it is evident that this beautiful, gentle approach to her art manifests in every aspect of her life. Where the average person sees words or objects, Carolyn envisions bouquets, nature, and exotic shapes. Every corner inside of the 120-year-old Victorian house that she shares with her husband, her daughter Lily, and their English Bulldog Eggroll, is drenched in her signature color palette. From the quaint garden that she maintains in her off time, to the walls decorated with bright patterns that would make Justina Blakeney pause, every detail embodies the same joy that we find so captivating about her prints.

Carolyn is an artist who truly lives the words penned by writer Khalil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.” As I made my way around her sun-drenched studio, it was hard to distinguish which of her projects would be defined as work or “play.” She approaches every opportunity to create as a chance to learn and explore. Whether it’s sharing watercolors with her enthusiastic Instagram followers, or experimenting with new graphic design techniques for a commissioned project. Her creative perspective is always evolving.  

Read on to discover how Carolyn finds inspiration in her travels, how she maintains balance between her family’s business and her own artistic goals, and why she believes that the world is always full of magic. 

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Michale Dancer

January 5, 2018

Michale Dancer in her Bay Area studio, photos by Emily Hodges

From fallen leaves found during nature hikes to pasta bow ties that just so happened to be dinner for the night, there’s nothing that Michale Dancer can’t dip in 24-karat gold… or copper, or silver! Michale is a creative director, product developer, and jewelry designer extraordinaire based in the Bay Area of Northern California, and the one question she’s constantly asking herself is, “Can I dip this in gold?” Usually the answer to that question is, “Why, of course.”

When I visited Michale’s studio, I was shocked to see so many random items, objects we usually take for granted, carefully tucked away or patiently waiting for their gold/silver/copper makeover. Four leaf clovers, coffee beans, peanuts, sand dollars, maple leaves, dog biscuits, and pieces of kale are just a few items Michale has learned to perfect transforming over the years into stunning jewelry pieces or soon-to-be heirloom ornaments. Michale says, “Truthfully, we can’t stop designing. We have to control ourselves as we already have so many [designs]!”

Prior to my visit, I knew that Michale dipped the actual items and didn’t replicate shapes through a molding process. But seeing the pieces right there in front of me—a peanut’s natural “before” state and then its glamorous “after”—I definitely started to feel skeptical. “So, every single piece you work with… it really is the actual item behind the gold?” I asked. Michale smiled and nodded her head. “Every single piece! It’s real. Shake the gold peanut necklace you’re holding right now.” I followed Michale’s directions and, sure enough, I heard the little peanuts inside bounce around the walls of the shell. From that moment, I truly understood that Michale’s inspiration is literally… everywhere, which can be a blessing and a curse. “I’m always stopping. Whether I’m hiking right outside my house or going to the market or cooking with natural spices, I always find something that I know I can potentially use as a design.”

We’re used to nature decaying throughout the seasons or eating and throwing away food every day, yet Michale gives a second life to certain items and elevates their beauty for others to treasure as a keepsake for years to come. Read our Q&A below and find out how many hours it takes Michale to complete just one design from start to finish, plus why Steve Jobs keeps her motivated every single day.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: Visiting 12 Maker Spaces in 2017

December 31, 2017

February 2017 marked five years of UncommonGoods Studio Tours. A lot has happened here at UG since that first visit (with Anna Rabinowicz, whose Agate Coasters are still a customer favorite), but one thing hasn’t changed. Every time I enter a maker’s creative space, I learn something I didn’t know before and gain a new appreciation for their craft. Sometimes I get to physically travel to a studio, sit down and chat with an artist, and watch them work. Every now and then I even get to try my hand at making something. Other times, my experience is like yours. I get to see inside an artist’s studio through the eyes of another excited visitor, who’s taking in a new experience and sharing their own thoughts and feelings.

Our 2017 Studio Tour round-up features the experiences of several team members, including my own visits to New Hampshire, Ohio, and Maryland; our graphic designer’s look inside a Rhode Island jewelry studio; a jewelry buyer’s trip to Boston; our PR & social media manager’s serendipitous stay in Canada; the blog team’s soap making lesson in Newburgh, New York;  and even an adventure across the Atlantic, where our contributing writer met Greek sculptor George Roumanas. And that’s just a start. This year, we traveled more than ever and visited the widest variety of studios yet. It’s always tricky to pick just a few highlights from our Studio Tours, but here’s a shot at it. (Along with links to the full posts, if you’re looking for a serious infusion of inspiration!)

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Holly Daniels Christensen

November 3, 2017

Holly Daniels Christensen lounges in her studio outside of Boston, Massachussetts; photos by Christa Smith

There is something very nostalgic about Holly Daniels Christensen’s jewelry. Holly has collected sands from around the world, and her super talented team of artists sets them into jewelry, bottle stoppers, and snowflake ornaments, creating personalized keepsakes.

I was beyond excited to see Holly’s studio, meet her team, and see her sandbank in person. In the time we’ve been working together, her bank has grown from about 1,200 sands to over 3,000—and it’s still growing! I wanted take a peek at granules that hold a special place in my heart—Stone Harbor, New Jersey and Santorini, Greece were two that I especially was excited to see—and the sandbank definitely did not disappoint. A collection of samples from around the world, each with a distinct texture and color, her collection encompasses beach sand, sports sands (think golf courses and baseball infields), and crushed power stones.

Sharon & Mekah

Holly and her team work in a converted manufacturing building outside of Boston. The space is a designer’s dream—hardwood floors, sky high ceilings, and lots of light. Her team was warm and welcoming, and the studio buzzes with creative energy. Besides her sandbank, a highlight of the tour was seeing the very table Holly launched her business from—formerly her dining room table, now in use in her conference room.

After a tour of her space, I wanted to take a crack at creating my very own piece of jewelry. It was a tough choice deciding which sand to use, but I finally settled on Santorini, a gorgeously grainy volcanic sand with bits of white and terracotta. One of Holly’s sand artists, Mekah, led the way, showing me how to carefully place the sand within the pendant. It’s an exacting process which requires a fair bit of precision. Mekah was a super patient instructor, and within about an hour, I had made a piece of jewelry!

It was a magical day, and I’m so grateful to Holly and her entire team. Read on for a Q&A with Holly and a sneak peek into her sandbank and studio, complete with mentions of lunchtime excitement and dance parties.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with KaKyung Cho

October 4, 2017

KaKyung Cho gets pumped about soaps in her cozy workspace in Newburgh, New York; photos by Rachel Orlow

Some 60 miles north of New York City, Newburgh, New York, sits quietly on the western bank of the Hudson River. To some, the name of the city is synonymous with a rough history. For others, it evokes vistas of riverside streets lined with 19th-century mansions, many mere blocks from abandoned homes. To a growing group, however, it’s become a refuge—a place that celebrates local creators, welcoming artists and entrepreneurs into a vibrant community of like-minded folks.

Enter KaKyung Cho, one of many makers who’s forging a home for her business in a newly renovated space in Newburgh. Like the duo behind design firm and longtime Brooklyn fixture Atlas Industries, KaKyung is a recent transplant, still transferring operations from her kitchen in Williamsburg, where she first began crafting soaps with the aid of a rather unlikely household tool—her slow cooker.

As we saw when we visited KaKyung back in July, she does everything herself, from selecting suitable loofahs for her three-piece soap sets to assembling the boxes she uses to package her equilateral soaps, and she does it all in a beautiful space a stone’s throw from Newburgh’s notable historic homes. In her workshop, antique furnishings mingle with massive ferns, delicate crystals, and piles of snacks just begging to be eaten. (Whether said snacks are always there or KaKyung just happens to be a great hostess, we’re not totally sure.) Buoyed by calming vibes and friendly conversation, we munched on burritos, watched KaKyung hand-cut and package her soaps, and asked her a select few questions about what life as a maker in Newburgh looks like. Read on for more.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Christine Schmidt

September 7, 2017

Christine Schmidt soaking up the San Francisco sun, photos by Emily Hodges

Colorful. That describes the running theme inside Christine Schmidt’s home, and also sums up the very core of the artist’s personality. (What type of artist you might ask? Oh, just a printmaker, jewelry designer, illustrator, author, painter, and home decor extraordinaire.)

I was invited into Christine’s home to go behind the scenes of her quirky and offbeat jewelry pieces, like the Color Wheel Pendant and the Taco and Hot Sauce Mismatched Earrings (my personal favorite for obvious and delicious reasons). I knew the visit would be a success the moment Christine uttered the words, “Alexa, play 2 Dope Queens.”  The studio tour quickly unfolded into us playing with paints like art school girls and exchanging love-hate stories about New York City. We drank tea from mugs (that Christine designed herself) while listening to Jessica and Phoebe chuckling in the background. In my head, I’d basically found my new best friend in San Francisco.

Christine’s illustrations definitely bring out the playfulness in me and fill the Lisa Frank void I never even knew existed. Yet, what I admire even more is that Christine herself is super relatable and isn’t afraid to be different — very much like her jewelry designs. As an unapologetic feminist who naturally marches to the beat of her own drum, it’s no surprise that her company, Yellow Owl Workshop, has been a success for almost a decade. She also recently published her third crafting book, Make It Yours. Discover how Christine entered the world of design, what she loves most about San Francisco, and why she thinks you should never apologize.


Christine Schmidt’s Color Wheel Pendant


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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl

August 2, 2017

Sam and Derek outside the industrial brick building that’s home to the Nordeast Maker Space and their studio. Photos by Marisa Bowe (unless otherwise noted)

Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl, friends since they were in their teens, make original games in Nordeast Minneapolis, one of my favorite neighborhoods in my hometown city.

Last time I was there, I took a bus on a warm, sunny day to the brick factory building-turned-maker-space they share with other interesting firms and artists. “It’s a maze,” they warned me, “so call us when you get here.” But a friendly co-tenant told me how to find the underground, windowless space.

Given the nature of their games, all of which (so far) involve beer drinking, I expected boisterous frat types (they did meet in a frat while attending the University of Minnesota). What I found, though, was a couple of low-key, thoughtful guys.

As they talked about their history as friends and business partners, I realized what courage it took for them to quit good jobs and throw themselves into being entrepreneurs. Neither of them had any prior business experience, so their road has been full of learning experiences. A few of those— early game prototypes—are on display in their studio.

They demo’d a couple of fancy machines for me: a huge CNC (“Computer Numerical Control”) router, which precision-mills their specially-shaped game boards; and a laser cutter, which emits a little red dot—just like the one my cat likes to chase—except it can cut and engrave wood. The Nordeast Maker Space makes these otherwise-unaffordable specialized machines available to small, independent makers like them. 

It was exciting to hear how the duo are able to realize their ideas, forge their own path, and have some fun along the way. Read on to learn (and see) more.

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