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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Andrea Panico

August 20, 2015

UncommonGoods is excited to unveil what we’re proud to call the Uncommon Collection – an assortment of some of our very favorite offerings that fully embody our core values. Each week we introduce new artists in our This Just In-spiration series, but we’re happy to give a special introduction for one of the artists helping us grow this collection of truly uncommon designs.

In meeting our five key standards, all designs featured in the collection are original and demonstrate exceptional ingenuity, while makers adhere to responsible business practices and leave a minimal footprint on our environment. What makes an artist’s design special and motivates them to have a positive impact on the world is certainly worth sharing. Meet Andrea Panico, the maker behind Jewelry in a Bottle, exclusively at UncommonGoods.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always had creativity running through me. My mom was an art teacher and my dad a biology teacher-turned school principal. So I sort of had the yin and yang of influences. I wrote poetry as a kid and played piano (by ear) starting at age 5. But I never thought I wanted to work in a creative field. I planned to be a doctor, even all the way through my undergraduate degree! It took me applying and not getting accepted to medical school to think about what I was meant to do and what was important to me. After getting a job at an architecture firm, everything clicked for me. I knew I was in the right place. At that point, I started taking foundation design classes and then eventually got my masters in Industrial Design at Pratt.

Jewelry in a Bottle | UncommonGoods

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Everyone says it’s important to do what you love and I believe that’s true. There are so many other things that influence our day – office interactions, family obligations, even the weather – so having a baseline of truly enjoying your work and your process helps provide balance. I have worked for quite a few designers, and that can be a huge challenge. So even more exciting than becoming a professional designer was starting my own business, when I finally had the opportunity to chart my own course.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Typically, I attack the “to-do” list I’ve made the night before. ( It seems like all my urgent emails come in after I leave!) I also often straighten up my space. I’m a firm believer in “everything in its place and a place for everything”. I can think more clearly when there’s not too much visual clutter around me. After that, we deal with any retail or wholesale orders, getting them ready for shipment. The rest of the day is reserved for whatever project is most pressing at the moment – whether preparing for a show, designing new products for our jewelry line, or working on the many additional design projects we do here. My day typically ends with a stop at the UPS store, where I ship our orders.

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 pictures of my kids on my computer screen. It helps to see them, to jolt me back into “full person” mode. It’s easy to get pulled strongly into whatever project is at the top of the to-do list. For the same reason, I keep a piece of Desert Jasper on my desk. It’s a beautiful rough stone believed to bring a sense of tranquility and wholeness and to balance physical, mental, and emotional bodies. It also stimulates creativity and imagination, which a designer always needs!

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Did anything in particular inspire your design?
Most of my designs are inspired by architecture, or great buildings. I am a minimalist and like the objects I have in my home to be clean, simple and multifunctional. This jewelry holder was inspired by the idea that what we use to store our jewelry should be as nice as the jewelry inside! I wanted something more than a “box” that also functioned and kept the jewelry from becoming tangled.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I have a first grader and she usually says everything is “beeeeaaaaaauuuutiful.”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not”
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Why is sustainability important to you?
Having worked in architecture and design firms before starting my own design company, I learned about sustainability as it pertained to large scale multimillion dollar projects. At the scale of a building, or buildings, the choices we make as designers have such visible impact on so many levels. I think small businesses may think they are too insignificant to have an impact, but I believe every little bit counts. In my design process, I try to create pieces that will endure and that will be handed down as heirlooms. We have enough mass market companies making “throw-away” products – my goal is to have people enjoy what they buy from me for years to come.

In what ways does your design reflect social and environmental best interests?
The ecosystem of my typical design and production process involves quite a few moving parts, and I regularly review that system to see where I can do better. Whether it’s shipping logistics, material usage, or how my team is set up or costing, all the factors get reevaluated. For the most recent design I did with UncommonGoods, we used recycled bottles in combination with wood for our jewelry holder. We worked with existing bottle sizes and designed around that, fitting the lid design in with these constraints. The idea for this piece came from a design in my own line, and we were able to make it less expensive AND in a more environmentally conscious way. Superb!

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The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: FOUND OBJECTS

August 20, 2015

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The next Instagram Challenge is taking a turn towards the curious with the theme FOUND OBJECTS. You’re walking down the street and a strange piece of rusty scrap catches your eye; you uncover a collection of taxidermied birds in your grandmother’s attic; you find an arrowhead embedded in a bottle cap on a stroll along the creek; you reach into the crawlspace to find… (?). Whatever it is, we want to see what sorts of peculiar or beautiful things you find in the flea markets, garage sales, and forgotten places of the world. While sharing your new found treasures or bizarre curios, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Visit here to see the entries we’ve received so far.

Congratulations to @vanessa_wamc for topping off our Brunch Instagram Challenge with this yummy shot of a sunny summer egg!

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How To Produce a Peppery Pickle

August 19, 2015

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Product: Global Peppercorn Sampler and Pickling Jar Set

Research:
I’d like to speak about something really important to me and millions of other Americans like me: my personal relationship with the dill pickle. Consider this a Pickle Monologue.

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The first batch of pickles I ever made was bittersweet –and I’m not talking bread & butter: those are nasty. No, I’m talking about a metaphorical kind of flavor, one that you can’t actually taste over the vinegary brine, fresh dill, or zesty peppercorns, but is nonetheless real. It was the summer before I would be moving to Brooklyn for my last year of high school, and I made pickles late into the night for a pickle-party where I would be parting with several friends. The secret ingredient that made the brine so good? Tears.

No – I really decided to make pickles as a selfish and misinformed act of appropriation. I had this idea that Brooklyn was full of bearded men making sun tea (see below), and I wanted to make sure I would fit into place.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Wyatt Little

August 17, 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 Wyatt Little, the artist behind the Terracotta Shoe Planter.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
For as long as I can remember, I would draw non-stop as a kid and when I was 7. I started sculpting sand stone and making unfired clay pots. I would get a lot of support and positive feedback so I just kept doing it and now its just totally stuck. I feel weird if I’m not always creating something.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
That moment when you see your creation in its physical form for the first time, after thinking it through and planning every little step.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I try to knock out quick emails in the morning then jump into production of whatever piece I need that week. I will get lunch with a friend and make sure to have some time to think and maybe ideate on some new ideas or develop current ones a bit further.  Then for the rest of the day I am either developing new stuff or working on orders.

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Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? 
I have a Buddha that presides over my studio space. He just reminds me to stay chill and pay attention to the things that matter.

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Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I think they would have a lot of questions like …”why would you make a shoe out of clay?” “Can I wear it?” Then after I tell them its a planter my hope is that they would want to immediately get some clay and start making something of their own.

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What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Happiness is knowing the right things to want more of.”

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What are your most essential tools?
My my scale and my kiln. Those two tools are pillars of my entire creative process. The scale allows me to make precise mixtures of anything. In ceramics, consistency is key. You are always mixing things; be it clay, glazes or plaster, if your consistency is off its really hard to scale up and deliver on big orders. The kiln is just like a magic machine. When I first learned how to use and program it, I became addicted. Every morning you open the kiln its like Christmas morning. You get to see all of the little things you made in their full glory.

Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Clean Water and a Cleaner Earth – One Drop At A Time

August 13, 2015

As a B Corp certified company, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green” – we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best-interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always excited to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.

While many of our makers rely on sustainable practices at one point or another in their process, we’re especially excited about those who place the wider world at the forefront of their craft – those who are making an uncommon impact. Continuing the water theme from our interview with Margaret Dorfman, we spoke with Vince Purino – the Vice President of Aquaovo – about the sustainability implications surrounding the new Adventure Filter Water Bottle.

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Vince Purino – Vice President of Aquaovo – with the Alter Ego Adventure Filter Water Bottle

“Sustainability to us is simply being accountable for the well-being of the Earth’s limited resources… in our case water.”

The Adventure Bottle was designed by Aquaovo cofounder Manuel Desrochers as an eco-chic solution to replacing bottled water. “Our goal is to enhance the experience of drinking water with beautifully designed objects that pay homage to this precious resource,” said Vince.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Bud Scheffel

August 10, 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 Bud Scheffel, the maker behind our new Hummingbird Garden Mobile.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was about 5 years old. I had a sketchbook in my back pocket for my entire childhood.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
The most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist was to be able to raise a family on my income earned doing what I love to do more then anything else in the world.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?
It’s chaotic but organized. I often have several sculptures that I’m working on simultaneously.

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 book of Alexander Calder from 1956, that I am constantly inspired by. He championed the mobile concept decades earlier, and I am proud to be one of the very few experts in my field.

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Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
“Oh, that’s cool that it balances like that. How do you make something so beautiful? I love the colors.”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Keep reinventing yourself. You are able to become a much better artist if you constantly push yourself to go further. I have made over 20,000 designs over 25 years.

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What are your most essential tools?
Hand-held lasers, water jets, welders, shears, pliers, and grinders.

How has international travel influenced your artwork over the years?
While traveling around the world, my art has been influenced and reflective of the cultural differences of the native peoples including their fashion, color choices, architecture, infrastructure, landscape, and natural surroundings. For example, while living in Japan, I chose to create a line of metal mobiles that reflected the pagoda style architecture.

What are your other interests, and how have they been incorporated into your artwork?
I was interested all my life in math and physics, and have created work from the 1980s to current – very technical, complex structures incorporating these disciplines into true marvels of engineering that nobody has ever seen before.

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Michale Dancer

August 5, 2015

UncommonGoods is excited to unveil what we’re proud to call the Uncommon Collection – an assortment of some of our very favorite offerings that fully embody our core values. Each week we introduce new artists in our This Just In-spiration series, but we’re happy to give a special introduction for one of the artists helping us grow this collection of truly uncommon designs.

In meeting our five key standards, all designs featured in the collection are original and demonstrate exceptional ingenuity, while makers adhere to responsible business practices and leave a minimal footprint on our environment. What makes an artist’s design special and motivates them to have a positive impact on the world is certainly worth sharing. Meet Michale Dancer, the maker behind the new Gilded Branches Jewelry Tree, exclusively at UncommonGoods.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My Father was an apartment building landlord, and he brought floor plans home when I was a young child. I started walking through the spaces and learned to create my own apartment designs. I was young but it stayed with me, so I when I had a chance to study, my first love was design and architecture.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
That professional buyers were interested in my creations, enough to pay for them.

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I meet with my team and create a production list that needs to be accomplished that day. Our team divides and manufactures products depending on which department will be in production. Each department has their skill set (i.e. harvesting, plating, manufacturing Still Life ornaments, jewelry, nightlights, and various custom creations). I check my office for emails and calls from clients. At the end of day, we take 15 minutes for meditation to leave calm and relaxed. It really works!

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near?
I have a collection of beautiful objects found on my hikes, such as skeletonized leaves, branches, pods, shells, pine cones, acorns, etc.

Did anything in particular inspire your design?
I was hiking one day when I saw a leaf decaying, and had noticed the delicate lacy structure of the leaf. Nature is incredibly beautiful, and at the same time, ephemeral, and wouldn’t last. I wanted to bring this beauty to people and found a technique that would allow me to do so.

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Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Wow, a real gold leaf!

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Nature is the best designer I know and therefore, my motivator. I’m self- motivated in that I can’t stop designing. My mind is always thinking of how to bring nature indoors to show people it’s true beauty.

Why is sustainability important to you?
We all live on this wonderful planet, and obviously it has become polluted from all our dirty manufacturing processes. I appreciate the beauty of nature in it’s true form, so why not create items that are made directly from nature. If we can show people how to use sustainable products, perhaps we can help our planet heal.

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In what ways does your design reflect social and environmental best interests?
Everyone that owns a Still Life product understands it comes directly from the earth. We want people to learn that we don’t have to make beautiful décor from plastics and other methods that continue to pollute our planet.

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Maker Stories

Jen Fox’s Winning Scarf Wraps Us Up In Chaco Canyon

August 4, 2015

I’ve always ascribed to the philosophy that “the easiest way to turn a small task into a big deal is to put it off.” Though I’m admittedly a procrastinator most of the time, when I see something I need to get done, or something that excites me, I jump right on it. Same goes for Art Scarves Design Challenge Winner Jen Fox — but we’re not talking about getting calculus homework done here; Jen has creativity in her DNA, so when she’s struck with inspiration she lets her ideas flow immediately, creating beautiful designs like the Chaco Canyon Art Scarf in the process. 

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After having lived in New Mexico for several years, Jen’s inspiration for the scarf’s design struck when she visited the Pueblo Bonito Ruins in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. The ruins consist of asymmetrical clusters of low-to-the-ground structures arranged in simple yet captivating patterns, structures so antiquated that they would appear to recede completely into the clay-rich soil and dusty sagebrush around them if not for their strong geometric forms. Above them, the blue sky is accented by a dynamic flow of clouds, juxtaposing with the stillness of the ruins.

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Jen successfully captures these dualities – natural and human-made form, stillness and motion – in her winning piece. The asymmetrical, geometric layout of the ruins is evoked on breezy modal fabric in colors that evoke both the deep red-orange earth tones of the ruins and the light blues and whites of the desert sky. 

Read on for more about Jen’s inspiration, her artistic process, and her advice for aspiring artists.

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What inspired the concept of your winning piece? How do the ruins of Chaco Canyon or the natural world in general manifest in your design?
The artwork was inspired by the Pueblo Bonito ruins in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park located in northwestern New Mexico. It’s truly an awe-inspiring part of the country, and it’s difficult to avoid being impacted by the beauty of the place and the mystery of the people who once inhabited the area. I try to be outdoors as much as possible, whether that means camping in the nearby mountains or making time for an evening walk by the river. I find calm and stillness in the motion of the ever shifting landscape and weather, and it’s a constant source of inspiration for me.

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
Uncorked a bottle of champagne with friends, of course!

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I have always been a very creative person, and was always making things as a kid and beyond. I think it’s part of my DNA to create, and there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with having a tangible outcome of an idea that once just existed inside my own head.

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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?
I honestly don’t have much of a set process. I do find that when I am inspired by something, it’s wise to take advantage of the freshness and initial enthusiasm of that feeling and make the time to act and create immediately. If nothing else, I jot down a few words or a quick sketch to catalog my thoughts until I have an opportunity to revisit them.

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Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
My work space is a 4′ x 8′ sliver of a room that’s connected to the entryway and the living space of my small home. And frankly, when I’m working on a project (mostly textile based projects), my work space spills over onto my dining table, my living room floor, and any other available surface.

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
Always take the time to slow down and notice what is around you — inspiration can strike in the most mundane of moments, but you must keep a sense of awareness of your surroundings. Take the time to create for yourself and no one else to really find your own point of view.

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Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck. How do you keep yourself inspired?
Sometimes the only thing to do is just start. Even if you are feeling uninspired and unmotivated, the simple step of starting something can get the momentum going and lead to the release of a creative block. Otherwise, taking a break and being active outside is one of my favorite ways to get out of a funk.

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