We’re proud of offering goods made by artists and makers from around the world. But we have a special, parental pride when a design’s DNA is 100% from the UncommonGoods “family”–like our Pet Pedigree Poem items. Unique from head to tail, these items, which are exclusive to UncommonGoods, feature an acrostic poem celebrating your breed’s special traits.
The idea to mix paintings with acrostic poems came together serendipitously, and blended the skills and talents of the UncommonGoods Product Development team, led by Carolyn Topp (Director of New Business and Product Development), and Dr. Martin Geller, a retired psychiatric physician who is the father of UncommonGoods Senior Purchasing Planner (and not incidentally, organizer of our literary book club), Louise Geller.
Carolyn tells us how pets and poems came together in the creation of these unique items.
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.
You may have seen the Paid Family Leave page in our Mother’s and Father’s Day print catalogs. What “Paid Family Leave” means is this: family members can go on leave from work to take care of a newborn or seriously ill family member for a period of time, while continuing to receive some or all of their usual pay and benefits. The United States doesn’t have a paid family leave policy–we’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t, and the only developed country–and we are for changing that. We decided we wanted to advocate for it in our catalog.
We’ve always been a socially conscious company, working to use business as a force for good. But this is the first time we’ve communicated to our customers directly about a specific issue. We’re excited about it and a little nervous. We know not everyone will agree. We’re not trying to tell people what to think. What we’re hoping to do is raise awareness and build resources to take action.
Like everyone else, I’ve been aware that kombucha is a Thing. I vaguely knew it was fermented tea, and that much like kefir, which I’ve made, it’s fermented by a SCOBY: a live, Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. “Symbiotic” because they rely on each other: the yeast eats the sugar and puts out carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol; then the bacteria eats the alcohol and puts out amino acids and trace vitamins and minerals.
Because of all those beneficial bacteria, it’s probiotic. I wanted to try making it, and as it happens, UncommonGoods sells this handy kit, which includes everything you need to make kombucha except for tea, sugar, and water.
Years ago, I came across Wild Fermentation, a book by Sandor Ellix Katz that turned me and millions of others onto the idea of home fermentation. I don’t remember how I came across it, or why I bought it. But I read the first few chapters and became enthralled with the IDEA of fermenting.
The book, published in 2003, made Katz a fermentation rockstar. (I’m not kidding, he really is.) As for myself, as I read, I was all ready to leave Brooklyn and move to the author’s organic farm commune in Tennesee to begin my new, fermention-centric lifestyle. Because I liked the IDEA.
I successfully made delicious yogurt a few times. And I’ve made a lot of bread, though not sourdough bread.
But despite feeling totally gung-ho, fermentationally speaking, that’s as far as I went. Katz made a passionate, informed case for probiotics (and this was back in 2003, before it was a thing). Almost all store-bought sauerkraut, he said, is pasteurized, which kills the probiotics.
I wanted to make my own sauerkraut and achieve Total Gut Health. But I looked into buying a stoneware crock with a weight (to weigh the cabbage down), and for a beginner, they seemed rather pricey and heavy. I didn’t feel it was wise to commit to something like that without knowing I’d use it more than once.*
And I got stuck there. For years. Until I saw our DIY Fermentation Crock.