Browsing Tag


Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Mia Weiner

May 11, 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 Mia Weiner, the artist behind our new Zodiac Embroidery Hoop Art.

Mia Weiner | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always been an artist and have always felt a need to make and work creatively! I believe in everything embroidered and became drawn to working with textiles because of their ubiquity in our everyday lives, and because of the loaded history of the medium.

Mia Weiner | UncommonGoods

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
The most exciting thing about being a professional artist is being able to share my work with the world. I want to add beauty to everyday life with unique and handmade works, which is why I created HOW COULD YOU? clothing. You can see some of my work from my fine art practice here:

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I love to work in natural light, so after coffee and a little breakfast, I put on some music or Radiolab and start stitching as early in the day as possible. Embroidery and lace making are incredibly slow, so I like to nest with a pot of tea, my embroidery, and maybe some Netflix or an audio book if I can’t listen to any more music that day. On days that I am working on the sewing machine, I like to work in bursts. Every day in the studio is a little different depending on what projects I am working on!

Mia Weiner | UncommonGoods

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 am extremely nostalgic and have a large collection of small objects, letters, drawings, notes, and gifts that travel with me. Above my bed, no matter where I am, I hang one of my favorite embroideries, a drawing from my best friend from when I was 16, and a picture my mother gave me. When it comes to inspiration, I find that it is the people I meet and the relationships I have that impact and influence my work the most. Human interaction is incredibly important to me and is a major theme in my work. Unlike some artists who need to work in solitude, it is when I am surrounded by people I feel the greatest urge to make. In turn, the objects I collect are so important to me because of the people and memories that are connected to them.

Mia Weiner | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
I actually have a few kindergarten-aged cousins, and when they see my constellation embroideries they tell me all about the solar system (which they have just started learning about) and, of course, their birthdays. The large nudes that are part of my fine art practice usually elicit giggling and questions about why the bodies are connected (and why they don’t have any clothes on…?).

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
While it is not a work mantra, I have always love Anais Nin’s quote:
“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”


“Has the pen or pencil dipped so deep in the blood of the human race as the needle?” – Olive Schreiner


Mia Weiner | UncommonGoods


Mia Weiner | UncommonGoods


Constellation Collaboration: Creating the Zodiac Pillows

April 15, 2013

All great designs start out as great ideas, and while we often think of great ideas as masterpieces that burst forth from the minds of individuals, in reality, many are actually the product of collaboration.

For our product development team, collaboration has a major part in creating dynamic new goods. Sometimes the idea for a new exclusive designed-by-us product is conceived in a brainstorming session, sometimes it’s the result of discussions with our buyers, and, as in the case of our colorful Zodiac Pillows, sometimes the idea is built around existing artwork.

Senior Product Development Associate Sarah Stenseng, Product Development Associate Tiffany Jyang and their zodiac characters

Before our product development associates Sarah and Tiffany got to work designing these plush pillows, the adorable astrological characters featured on them started out as illustrations by artist Mark Poulin.

“Mark’s artwork informed the materials,” said Tiffany. “The characters are bright, fun, and colorful, so we knew the product had to be huggable.”

Mark agreed that UncommonGoods had to take his designs in the “huggable” direction. “It was all about the cute,” he said when asked what (besides the zodiac symbols themselves, of course) inspired him. He continued, “My goal was to make cartoon characters that would appeal to anyone with a heart and with a sense of goodwill. After all, you do have to feel comfortable snuggling up on the couch with these guys!”

Since there are 12 original zodiac signs, the team knew they had to create a product that could be consistent across several styles, while letting each character’s personality shine through. They decided that pillows were the perfect way to display Mark’s creations, because they are soft, squeezable, and fit into a variety of home decor styles.

“Part of what makes these zodiacs uncommon is that they are lovable, which isn’t something you usually think of when you think astrology,” said Sarah.

Mark himself jokes about his own feelings about astrology. “Secretly I’m a zodiac fanatic,” he said. “Not the reading the columns kind of guy, but the always trying to guess peoples signs based on their behaviors kind of guy. There’s nothing wrong with a little astrology mixed with numerology and maybe a dash of tarot, as long as you don’t talk about it in interviews…whoops!”

Artist Mark Poulin

That idea of blending the symbolism of the zodiac characters into everyday life was also a factor in creating these pillows. The team wanted the youthful series to appeal to fun-loving folks of all ages. And, since they really are functional pieces, that look lovely on your bed our couch, but are also soft and comfy when you rest your head on them or snuggle up with them, they had to be durable.

Fortunately, Tiffany and Sarah didn’t have to look far to find a vendor who could produce quality plush products. UncommonGoods has worked with Green 3 for years, and knew they were a great choice to help take the zodiac pillows from a concept to an uncommon good.

This next level of collaboration started with Jim Martin, who co-founded Green 3 with his wife, Sandy. “Our reaction to the designs was positive as soon as we saw them,” Said Jim. “We liked the icons and felt that had a very modern feel. We also really loved the saturation of colors.”

It was important to Jim and the team at Green 3 that the artwork was reproduced faithfully, without limiting the usefulness of the pillow or making the price point too high.

Zodiac Pillows in production, photos courtesy of Green 3

Since these factors are also important to our product development team, Tiffany and Sarah worked closely with the other collaborators creating mock-ups, working out kinks, making needed tweaks, and striving to hit a deadline–motivated to get the product perfect in time to appear in our next catalog.

The team also reached out to our online community, through the community voting app, to get feedback before releasing the final version of the product.

“We saw a fair amount of positive comments, ” said Tiffany, “which helped us gauge customer reaction to the product.”

Our product developers were encouraged by kind words from our voters, and couldn’t wait to see the finished pillows, and when the first shipment came in, they were both relieved to see that the product was finally here and excited to be able to start getting the cuddly characters out to customers.

Although seeing a product like the Zodiac Pillows through from an idea inspired by charming artwork to a tactile piece does involve a lot of moving parts and collaboration, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to see the end result–a design that can’t be found anywhere else!


This Just In: Astrology Jewelry

August 31, 2011

We love Julie Nolan’s astrology necklaces and bracelets, but we just weren’t quite sure which our customers would like more. Luckily, we have our handy community voting app for predicaments such as these.

We asked our voters to share their thoughts on these stellar cuffs and pendants.

Jennifer said: “Both are great! Love the idea & would make a great gift if it came with something explaining it. Will have to have the necklace for sure!”

Heather said: “Love them both, but especially the bracelet.”

Susie said: “The cuff style would be nice for a guy. I would prefer it in a necklace form.”

The verdict? You loved them both! Based on your fabulous feedback, the necklace and the cuff are now available for purchase. What else is in the stars for UncommonGoods? You decide!