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Maker Stories

Maker Stories

Meet Hannah and Nemo: Moving Mosaic Artists & #Vanlife Extraordinaires

November 7, 2018

Skillfully cutting found aluminum cans into sequin-like disks and positioning them in beautiful art doesn’t sound easy. Make that art about four feet wide and construct it in the back of a van, and you’ve got yourself a whole new challenge. That’s what Hannah Dreiss and Nemo do when they create their Recycled Aluminum Moving Mosaics. When they’re not using their van as a studio, they’re literally taking the show on the road. They travel with their pieces from art show to art show, calling their van/studio home sweet home along the way. Read on to find out how cans became their main medium, how cancer brought them closer together, and how their favorite things about #vanlife.

Recycled Aluminum Moving Mosaic | UncommonGoods

Recycled Aluminum Moving Mosaic | UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Luke Hobbs Sheds Light on Industrial Design

October 5, 2018

Industrial designer Luke Hobbs in his Hollywood, California, studio, photos by Emily Hodges

Knowing that Luke Hobbs’ handcrafted lamps carry a mix of industrial-vintage flair, it wasn’t a surprise that his space held the same allure. Luke’s Hollywood studio is the perfect spot for a scavenger hunt if marquee signs, tiny brass animals, and posed mannequins are on your list. A corner display mimicking an old-timey parlor—charming bookshelf wallpaper, steel cocktail shakers, and antique encyclopedias—was revealed right when I walked through the garage entrance.

A few steps away from what Luke calls “the whiskey lounge,” lamps were placed in sections that were in different stages of production: wooden block bases being cut, bases ready-to-be stained, and tiny sculptures about to get polished. “How did you come up with this hand-touch concept?” I asked as I placed my index finger on and off the Mr. Owl Touch Lamp, watching the light bulb flicker. “It’s honestly not a brand new concept, it’s the design that makes it different.”

When I continued to check out the rest of Luke’s garage space, alongside several of his tools and machinery, dozens of spray paint cans and paint buckets were lined up against the wall shelves. In the very back, I noticed piles and piles of sculptures ranging from airplanes to cats—waiting to be selected for his next lamp design. In awe of Luke’s organized chaos, I decided to challenge him a bit by asking if he had my favorite animal, a whale, swimming in these piles. Challenge accepted! He disappeared and returned in two minutes with a little brass whale sitting on his palm. He went on to tell me why he can’t complete one lamp in one day, how Mack Trucks inspired his first design, and why a getaway car might be needed when it’s time recharge his creative juices.

 

What are your most essential tools?

Hands. My hands definitely qualify for the most essential. Nothing would get done without them.

Where do you find inspiration within your space?

I’ve created different areas within my workspace, including the “whiskey lounge” which is generally used as a finished display of product staging, but also for inspiration. And maybe some whiskey.

Mr. Owl Touch Lamp, photo by UncommonGoods’ creative team

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Candle Queen Tamara Mayne

September 10, 2018

Tamara sneaks a sniff in her Brooklyn, New York, studio; photos by Theresa Hensley

Some 20 blocks from our own offices in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Tamara Mayne and her staff of candle experts toil in Industry City. Tamara’s studio is filled with smells: pear, bergamot, jasmine, gardenia, lemongrass—the list goes on. She’s a new mom, and it’s a rare treat to catch her at work in her Sunset Park outpost. “My home studio [is] where I do most of my work,” she tells us, adding, “in true New York fashion, it’s half of our bedroom.” But if her apartment’s where much of the behind-the-scenes, creative-director-y magic happens, Industry City is where it all comes together. After all, that’s where her Sunday Morning and Love Potion candles come to life—where soy wax is heated, mixed with fragrance, and poured into sleek, stylish tins and jars, topped off with stickers Tamara designs herself.

It’s no surprise that a candle-making studio might be a relaxing place, but Tamara’s workspace, with its vast wall of windows and tiny “shop” where you can smell every candle she makes, is especially calming. Dressed in jeans and a casually knotted button-up, she’s nothing if not approachable. That unstuffiness makes its way into her creations, too: they’re well crafted, beautifully designed, and smell great, but they’re not too self-serious. Made from soy wax, a sustainable, clean-burning alternative to traditional paraffin wax, each is perfumed and packaged with a care that shows… and they’re usually named something fun. You know, like “Love Potion.”

Watch our video to learn how Tamara bottles that “lazy Sunday” mood

We visited Tamara’s studio to see her goods crafted in the flesh—er, wax?—and spoke with her about where inspiration strikes (the subway), how long it takes to develop a new candle (longer than you’d think), and more. Read on for our Q&A.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Visiting Brooklyn’s Largest Rooftop Farm

August 6, 2018

Brooklyn Grange Co-Founder Ben Flanner in their Brooklyn rooftop farm, photos by Theresa Hensley

What do you expect to see when you step foot on an urban rooftop? “A farm” probably isn’t high on the list, but if you make your way to the top of Building 3 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, you will, in fact, find yourself surrounded by edible greenery. That’s due in no small part to the work of Ben Flanner, President & Director of Agriculture at Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, where the peppers and herbs that give our Rooftop Garden Hot Sauce its unique flavor are grown. Getting hungry?

The Brooklyn Grange fields atop a building in the Brooklyn Navy yard make up the world’s largest rooftop soil farm.

As if “President & Director of Agriculture” weren’t impressive enough, Ben’s also one of Brooklyn Grange’s co-founders; he started the venture with Vice President Anastasia Cole Plakias and Chief Operating Officer Gwen Schantz in 2010. Armed with a background in management consulting and financial marketing—neither of which, you may notice, are farming—Ben took quickly to his new line of work. “Creating more green spaces in cities is ecologically, socially, and economically valuable on so many levels,” he says. “Personally, though, the idea to start farming was spurred by my love of agriculture, vegetables, and all of the many challenges and hats worn by a farmer.”

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Jewelry Makers Cameron and Rebecca Stern

July 10, 2018

Rebecca and Cameron Stern in their Red Hook, Brooklyn, studio

I’ve talked to several creative people who have distinct memories of watching Mr. Rogers show us how crayons are made, so it didn’t surprise me when jewelry designer Rebecca Stern mentioned being inspired by the great Fred Rogers’ televised visits to interesting factories, where he gave curious kids a look behind the scenes. I even felt a little like I was in one of those videos when I visited Rebecca and her husband (and business partner) in their Red Hook, Brooklyn, studio. Their space is filled with tiny bits of inspiration, interesting models and miniatures, and plans to make their next imaginative designs.

If you’re one of those folks who remembers feeling a sense of wonder as you watched wax pour into metal molds as a kid, I think you’d feel the same way within the walls of the Sterns’ space. From watching images on Cameron’s computer screen materialize in the 3D printer, to trying to figure out how they get their detailed dioramas so darn small, to listening to stories of family explorations and adventures, every moment in the studio left me a little more intrigued than the last. Rebecca even made a few pieces while we were there. Watch our video below to see our own version of How It’s Made, then keep reading to learn how science influences the couple’s work, why they’ll never stop experimenting, and what it looks like when you put two very tiny giraffes in an Erlenmeyer flask.

Check out our video to see how the Sterns make their Sprinkles Heart Necklace and  Sprinkle Heart Stud Earrings

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Mushroom Lamp Creator
Danielle Trofe

June 4, 2018
Inside the Artist's Studio with Danielle Trofe | UncommonGoods

Danielle in her studio, photos by Theresa Hensley

Industry City is a strange place. Just one stop north of our headquarters in the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal, it’s the closest thing New York has to an office park: a 40-acre expanse of old warehouses filled with artists’ studios, chocolate factories, and cafes where a cup of coffee could set you back a cool $14.75 (yes, really). Somewhere in those six million square feet of space, designer Danielle Trofe is hard at work. Or at least we imagine she is. She certainly was when we arrived to tour her studio, a sunlit space filled with pothos and other plants and objects made from her signature material, mycelium.

Inside the Artist's Studio with Danielle Trofe | UncommonGoods

If you’re browsing our blog and you’ve heard the word “mycelium” before, chances are you already know that Danielle is the creator of the Mushroom Lamp, an eco-friendly answer to high-end lighting. If you haven’t, you might be interested to know that Danielle’s lamp is made with a shade grown—yes, grown—from mushrooms’ roots and a base handcrafted with salvaged ash wood. It’s sleek, sophisticated, and makes planet Earth happy, too. But of course, it’s not the only thing Danielle makes. In her studio, you’ll find everything from hanging lamps shaped by hand over time to a large sign that says “grow” in playful cursive script. And that one word kinda sums it up, doesn’t it? Danielle’s a designer whose objects really, truly grow, changing shape, size, and texture over time until they’re juuuust right.

The Mushroom Lamp | UncommonGoods

The Mushroom Lamp | UncommonGoods

On a gorgeous, unseasonably balmy May day, we visited Danielle in Industry City and asked all about the stuff she makes—whether it’s safe for folks with mushroom allergies (yes), whether it’ll fall apart if you get water on it (not right away, but don’t pour water on a lamp, please), whether you can eat it (technically you could, but again, please don’t), and more. Read on for our full Q&A, plus more photos of Danielle’s stunning space.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Gardening Gurus Nathan Littlewood & Robert Elliott

May 25, 2018

Robert, left, and Nathan, pictured here with the fruits of their labor

Apartment-dwellers—especially those of us in large cities—know all too well how difficult it can be to bring a little bit of greenery indoors. After all, plants are mysterious creatures that seem to get mad when you care about ’em too much, and starting something from seed can be a real rollercoaster. Can you tell I’m a helicopter parent to my houseplants? Anyway, growing your own stuff with minimal space is now much, much easier thanks to Nathan Littlewood and Robert Elliott, creators of our foolproof Bottle Stopper Garden Kit. With only a wine bottle, seeds, and Nathan and Robert’s expertly engineered “smart soil” capsules, you’ll be harvesting buckets of sweet basil, purple basil, and lemon balm in no time. (OK, maybe not buckets, but trust us: you’ll be seeing a lot of happy little leaves.)

After meeting at NYC’s own Columbia University back in 2016, Nathan and Robert bonded over shared interests in food and sustainability—and when they started a business together, they, like us, vowed to use it as a force for good. To find out what that means to them, we spoke with Nathan and Robert about their product, the ethos behind it, and cool stuff they’ve got lying around in the office… like, you know, a betta fish. Read on for more.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Master of Babysuits (& Puns) Maggie Kleinfeld

May 8, 2018

Maggie Kleinfeld | UncommonGoods

We love many things here at UncommonGoods. As you may have learned from our interview with artist Meghan Cochran, do(ugh)nuts rank pretty high on the list. A close second? Babysuits. Lucky for us, Brooklyn-based designer Maggie Kleinfeld combined the two with a garment that tells it like it is—because sometimes, you simply donut care. But if you’re feeling more affectionate than sassy, don’t worry: she’s got a babysuit for you and yours, too.

Maggie’s I Donut Care & Rainbow Love Babysuits | UncommonGoods

We adored Maggie’s designs as soon as we saw them, and it certainly didn’t hurt to learn that she crafts her appliqués from eco-friendly felt. (It’s made of recycled bottles, which we think is pretty cool.) So we asked her a handful of questions about her inspiration, sustainability, and the ever-elusive “typical day” in an entrepreneurial maker’s life. Read on for more.

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