One of the joys of working at UncommonGoods is collaborating with talented and skillful artists to create original creative designs. Our Product Development team recently teamed up with longtime UncommonGoods artists Kathleen Plate and Margaret Taylor to invent a new and exclusive work of functional art: our new “It’s a Date” Wine Bottle Glass Calendar; a sculptural glass and wood calendar made from recycled materials.
“Kathleen had the idea to create a glass calendar that would be a piece of art,” says Assistant Production Manager Rebekah Krikke. “She originally saw it as wall art, but we thought it would be good to design it so that it could go on the wall or on a desk, shelf, or table. We worked through the design with her using insights that we have from other products to create something that we thought our customers would like–a beautiful and fun interactive art object-meets-home décor item.”
We’re fans of designs that give a new slant on time–how it passes, how to commemorate important times in life, etc. Our exclusive On the Other Hand Clock, part of the Uncommon Collection, is half kinetic sculpture, half poetic timekeeper that opens up concepts of time to one’s individual interpretation. So we were psyched when Kathleen approached us with her innovative calendar idea.
“She came to us with the idea of three rods, the top for the month, the middle for the first digit of the day, and the bottom for the second digit of the day,” says Rebekah.
“When we were trying to figure out what we should use for the marker, she says, “we were talking on the phone brainstorming different ideas. Jamie Hoffman, our Home Decor Buyer had the idea of using the concept of tying string around your finger so that you don’t forget to do something. Kathleen took that inspiration and her experience in jewelry making to create the gold wire-wrapped marker that we ended up using for the calendar.”
The way the team designed it, you can use it as a daily calendar, or you can set it at a particular day, in order to remember a special date and all the memories of what makes it special.
“The steel rods and markers are from salvaged metal from a furniture shop,” Rebekah explains. “The frame is from salvaged floorboards from old homes in the South. So all of these reclaimed materials are coming together to create a piece of art and a calendar that can tell time forever.”
To indicate the month, you move the appropriate number of rings [1=January] on the top row from right to left. The middle row represents the date’s first digit, and the bottom the second digit.
Kathleen Plate has been working artistically with glass since her childhood in Cathlamet, a small fishing and logging town in Washington. She used to work on projects with her mother, who taught her how to solder and work with stained glass.
Once, while Kathleen was in graduate school at Georgia State University working on her Master’s in American Literature, she needed a gift for a friend’s birthday, so she made a pair of earrings out of stained glass. Her friends raved, so she decided to take her product to local festivals and craft shows. That was the start of her career as a glass artist. She started selling to small boutiques in the 1990s, and since then, has created everything from huge corporate commissions to jewel-like little earrings. Her method of making delicate glass rings from recycled wine bottles is so special that she received a patent for it.
Like Kathleen, Margaret Taylor was introduced to her craft by a parent. Working beside her father on house projects, she gained both know-how and creative confidence. She began turning salvaged wood into quirky home and garden decor as a hobby, which evolved into a solid business more than 15 years ago.
Along with her skilled team, Margaret uses salvaged wood and metal from old Southern homes, barns and commercial buildings. The beautiful textures and colors and evocative patina of age these materials possess inspire their colorful, rustic, eco-friendly and affordable works of art. Each one embodies the history of its materials: “It was the barn for the square dance on Saturday Night. It was the front porch to rock on. It was the trim that said the hard work paid off…” as Margaret poetically puts it.
Kathleen and Margaret go way back together. “When I started my business all those years ago,” Kathleen tells us, “I shared a space at my first trade show with Margaret. For the past 20 years, she has been the closest thing I’ve had to a business partner, even though we both have our own businesses. We’ve traveled to shows together, celebrated big orders together, complained over the struggles of entrepreneurship together (with a beer or two or three of course). We have 11,000 square feet where she does the wood and I do the glass. After working around her wood I think I was inspired to do something that incorporated the wood with my glass.”
Margaret continues, “We were some of the first to use recycled materials. After so many years of encouraging each other in business it’s been a natural progression to collaborate.”
We asked Kathleen about the inspiration for the Wine Bottle Glass Calendar. Turns out it came more or less out of the blue. “I’ve never seen a calendar like this one,” she says.
“I was inspired by the idea of an abacus. I am a bit of a math nerd. I’m probably the most analytical artist you will ever meet,” she says, “and the most punctual–I love dates, times, maps. I’m highly philosophical (did I mention I’m getting a 2nd Master’s degree in Consciousness studies?), so I think a lot about the metaphysical like the passing of time. The calendar I suppose is a merging of those two aspects of myself.
“I am also so dang visual, I still use a physical calendar where I write things in the squares. If I see it in that grid form I can remember a whole month’s worth of things in my head. If I put things into my phone or digital land I never remember them. I want to see it. I came up with the idea, and drew the original sketch on a napkin. Then I pitched it to Margaret.
“UncommonGoods’ Product Development team came up with the idea of the date marker tabs which I think was a brilliant addition to the basic idea. They sent us a few inspiration photos and we came up with something that met their vision but was with our materials.”
“Having a piece that is made with materials that have history helps ground the calendar and gives the dates more significance,” Margaret adds.
Rebekah explains how the materials dictated part of the design. “The rings are made of recycled wine bottles. We originally wanted to make it smaller, but had to keep it the current size because of the diameter of the wine bottle rings.”
“It takes about two and half bottles to make one calendar,” Kathleen tells us. She describes how she collects them. “As glamorous as it might sound to be a full-time glass artist, for me it includes a lot of dumpster diving and rooting around behind bars and restaurants on the weekends. Everything we do is post-consumer. The good thing is that even if I consume the wine myself, it still counts as post-consumer!”
The two artists love their latest creation and are excited about customers discovering and incorporating it into their lives. Margaret says, “I picture people using it to commemorate special events in their lives. The concept of the calendar is such a heartwarming combination of old wood and glass, it lends itself to sentimental moments.”
Adds Kathleen, “For some reason I picture people using it in community. Either a couple marking days and special occasions, or a conversation piece on a desk. I picture it as something that makes people slow down and commune, if only for a moment.”