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Brooklyn

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Build Your Own Brooklyn

February 20, 2015

Rocky |UncommonGoods

Product: DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits

Research:
I think images of artwork are great. But I think videos of artwork being created are so much better. That must mean that GoPro videos from the perspective of the artist creating a piece are the best! At least that’s my theory… which brings us to today’s Gift Lab. I took you out to the beach in my last blog post to demo a product. This time around, you’re going inside my head to see something cool get built from the bottom up.

Hypothesis:
Our DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits offer the chance for you to craft a mini version of two signature structures in New York, the Kentile Floors sign and your ordinary rooftop water tower. It caught my eye after I saw the two shots of custom designed water towers on our product page.

DIY Watertower | UncommonGoods
DIY Brooklyn Skylines - Watertower | UncommonGoods

Perfect product to test my theory with! First off, these are hot. Nice job Zero Productivity and Atomiko. But more importantly, I can gauge how well we’re able to see something being constructed and designed, without spending hours on hours doing it. I haven’t drawn anything in years. A lot of effort would’ve been needed to produce something that gives my 5-year-old self some competition.

I was also glad to see that two different versions of the kit existed. While doing research on best practices for filming (read: watching GoPro videos on Youtube), I found it difficult to tell which GoPro dock to use for this; chest mount or head mount? So I bought both. I decided that I’d use one mount for one kit and another mount for the other.

Two DIY Brooklyn Skyline kits, two mounts, and one GoPro in hand later… the test was ready to begin.

Testing GoPro with DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits | UncommonGoods

Experiment:
I started with the Water Tower kit first, for no other reason than wanting to get closer to fantasizing about being a graffiti artist. After I laid all of the cardboard pieces on the table as instructed, I strapped the GoPro chest mount on, pressed record and got to work.

Here’s a closeup of the major pieces made for the water tower.
Build Your Own Brooklyn Watertower | UncommonGoods

Now it was time to design it. I grabbed a pack of Crayola markers and started doodling.

Finished Watertower | UncommonGoods

The first immediate takeaway – Tagging my water tower before building it would’ve been the better idea. The advantage of utilizing a flat surface didn’t cross my mind even slightly; until it was time to record myself doing it. That explains the split between the clips. I had to game plan.

The other thing was the actual video. In order to learn more about using the GoPro, I turned to Wistia.com’s #GoProWeek as a resource. Every day for that week, they shared a different pro tip (no pun intended) for getting the best shot. One of the techniques I used was the time-lapse recording feature that snaps pictures every few seconds, instead of actually recording straight through. I wasn’t a fan of the final result, because the footage came out too choppy. I think I set the timer in between shots too far apart. I decided to make sure to use the other recommended method for the next kit; shooting normally and speeding up the footage in a video editor.

Besides that, the rest of the process was smooth sailing and more fun than expected. The maker’s of the kits provided clear step-by-step assembly directions and all pieces worked as intended. Any edge that needed folding went over smoothly. The laser cut tabs and indents fit perfectly into each other. Connecting the pieces was a snap (that pun, intended). The biggest surprise was the glue; it did not leave a mess on my hands or the table I worked on. It comes already setup in drops that are separated by perforated plastic. When the instructions tell you to grab one, just rip one dot from the pack, peel off the plastic covering, and apply to the marked area. That easy.

Glue Dots

Next up was recording the Kentile Floors sign DIY kit with the GoPro attached to the head mount. You’ll notice that it begins with me filling in the letters first, and then moving on to putting it together.

The simplicity of the structure’s design made assembly much quicker. There wasn’t much of a surface to draw on but filling in the narrow letters required a little bit of time. I really like the point of view that the head cam captured. It feels like you’re actually putting it together rather than observing someone else do it.

Kentile Floors Sign Kit | UncommonGoods

Conclusion:
All in all, I’m convinced that my theory is correct. Watching art creation from a GoPro perspective is a cool experience that helps anyone appreciate the process behind the final result more. It’s amazing to see what goes into pieces, especially from our assortment, I’d imagine. We have a wide selection of uncommon goods that obviously require an uncommon approach to create.

In retrospect, I see where areas for improvement lay. In a future flick, I would:

  • Adjust the speed back to its normal rate at certain points in the video. There are some scenes where it would have made a better experience, such as when I was working on a small detail like applying the glue dots. It also would’ve been a great way to end it so you see the final product as it is just completed.
  • Angle the GoPro camera on the head mount down a few more degrees.
  • Add some background music.

DIY Skyline Kits as Desk Accessories | UncommonGoods

The Skyline Kits made for a great GoPro test run, and I’d definitely recommend them to someone looking for a fun and easy DIY.  What’s even better? I’m left with two new desk additions that visitors can stop and admire. Long overdue, since the Levitron Lamp had been retired for some time now.

 

The Uncommon Life

B is For Beer, Breweries, Brooklyn, and Beyond!

October 13, 2014

While we’d like to claim that UncommonGoods’ home borough of Brooklyn is the single epicenter of beer culture in the US, that would be a slight to hotspots like Portland, San Diego, and Denver, not to mention lesser-known enclaves like Sussex County, Delaware or Western New York. But along with its important role in the craft beer revival, New York City does have a long history of brewing, longer than some other locales synonymous with craft beer today.

Wise Beer Growler | UncommonGoods

Wise Beer Growler

Breuckelen Brewing History

The first known brewery in the New World was in lower Manhattan, where two thirsty Dutch settlers established a brewhouse in the colony of New Amsterdam in 1612. As the island became more densely settled (and was reborn as New York) brewers started to relocate to the wide-open spaces uptown and across the East River in Brooklyn (“Breuckelen” in New Amsterdam days). Just over 300 years after that brewery beachhead, Brooklyn boasted nearly 50 active breweries, many founded by German-Americans capitalizing on the booming popularity of German-style lagers.

It’s no stretch to say that daily growlers of local beer (named for the grumbling stomachs of hungry workers) helped to build many New York landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge. Schaefer, founded in 1842 on a German lager recipe, built a new state-of-the art facility in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1915, keeping Brooklynites well-supplied for 60 years. Unlike many others, Schaefer survived the dry spell of Prohibition, but succumbed to the corporate forces of big national brewers like Anheuser Busch in the 1970s, throwing in the towel in 1976.

Currier and Ives Image of Brooklyn

‘The City Of Brooklyn’ print by Currier and Ives, 1879

It’s Alive!

Brewing in New York suffered in the ’70s and early ’80s, along with many other aspects of life in the Big Apple. But by 1984, signs of life emerged when former AP correspondent Steve Hindy teamed up with his Park Slope neighbor, Tom Potter, to found Brooklyn Brewery. From humble, DIY beginnings, they led the charge for a Brooklyn beer revival. Today, with an expanding facility in Williamsburg, not far from Schaefer’s former site, Brooklyn Brewery produces an impressive array of beers enjoyed throughout the region and nationwide.

Following Brooklyn Brewery’s success, other breweries have cropped up around the borough, offering more and more variety for beer lovers in Brooklyn and beyond. From the distinctive, genre-defying beers of Sixpoint (Red Hook), to the environmentally-conscious brews of Kelso (Fort Greene), to the sideshow chutzpah of Coney Island Brewing Company, Brooklyn is re-emerging as an East Coast center for craft brewing. In the big picture, there’s even more good news for brews: the Brooklyn revival is just one wave of an American craft beer resurgence. This year marks 3,000 breweries operating in the US—most of them microbreweries or nanobreweries like Brooklyn’s brewers—a level not seen in this country since 1870. Throughout the nation, a century of lost ground has been regained!

Wooden Beer Tote | UncommonGoods

Wooden Beer Tote with Bottle Opener

Beer is Culture

Sixpoint Brewery’s motto, “Beer is Culture” may be the perfect phrase to encompass the role of beer in Brooklyn today. Beer’s role in Brooklyn life isn’t just relegated to the proliferation of craft breweries; there are scores of multiple tap beer pubs, specialty stores like Bierkraft in Park Slope, beer history tours and tastings led by Urban Oyster and others, and numerous spots where you can fill up a growler with a dizzying variety of craft beers from all points on the map. And that’s just one borough of the metropolis where beer has been part of the local culture for over 400 years.

Cheers!

Indulge in some hoppy goodness with the help of our favorite beer gifts, or learn more about the history of brewing by visiting the sources we used for this post: BeerHistory.com, Brooklyn Brewery/History,Schaefer Beer/History, The Buffalo News

Maker Resources

How To Make It: Instagram and Your Creative Business Videos

April 9, 2014

On March 25 we invited Ronen Glimer of Artists & Fleas, Ronda J Smith of In the Seam, and local members of our design community to a panel discussion about using Instagram to market your designs and build a following. The event was hosted at Union Hall in Park Slope and guests stuck around afterwards to swap business cards, meet our marketing and buying teams, and make connections.

If you’re ever in the hood you should check out one of our events, but watching the highlights are always a great back-up plan.

The Uncommon Life

A Journey Through the UncommonGoods Warehouse

December 17, 2013

So many boxes are coming and going through our warehouse right now – from Inbound where products arrive from our artists and vendors, to Outbound where your orders are carefully assembled and packaged for shipment. In this bustling time in our facility, we wanted to share the journey of a package through our space here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

We hope you enjoy!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Meghan Ellie Smith

December 13, 2013

Meghan Ellie Smith

Clutter Castle is what Meghan calls her eccentric home studio, tucked away in the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn. When I saw the odd, yet beautiful, string installation hanging from the ceiling, a collection of wooden instruments displayed on the wall, and a creepy plastic hand sitting on its own mini mantel, I fully understood how the Clutter Castle earned the honor of its name. But it’s funny, although I was like a kid in a candy shop in her vintage oasis — oohing and ahhing at every corner, I didn’t find it overwhelmingly chaotic. I felt as if the odds and ends of all the clutter were actually masterfully organized to push the use of imagination and a creative atmosphere. Which made perfect sense, because those were my exact thoughts about Meghan’s winning art piece, Chaos Mountain. The bright and earthy colors bleed into one another with no particular pattern, yet the shaped splices are meticulously placed. I love it. Perhaps the juxtaposition between the crashing watercolors and structured mountain reminds me a little of myself: a bit messy, a bit random, a bit chaotic, but in the end of the day, I know what I want to do and exactly where I want to go. “Not all who wander are lost,” a favorite quote by many free spirited individuals, resonates within the illustration of Chaos Mountain. Meghan Ellie Smith,a true free spirit herself, is not only the Queen of Clutter Castle, but officially wears the crown of our latest Art Contest. 

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Robert Blinn, Carl Collins, Peter Knocke & Daniel Stillman

October 7, 2013

the men of GothamSmith | UncommonGoodsSome designers have a creative studio, some have a company work space, but for this Studio Tour I rode my bike to the apartment of Carl Collins, the gathering-space of GothamSmith. It was early on a Tuesday morning and before they went their separate ways for the day, Pete, Daniel, and Carl got together around a handmade wooden table to meet with me and get some work done. There were few idle hands at the table; as we talked about how they all met and became GothamSmith, Carl was busy sketching new designs, Pete stamped their logo on muslin bags, and Daniel cut chain to assemble necklaces with pendants just delivered by Shapeways – a NYC-based 3D printing service that brings their designs to life.

As they reminisced about their original meeting space – a now-closed watering hole – and flipped through a book of anecdotes and inside jokes that they published for each other a couple years back, I couldn’t figure out which came first, the business or the friendship. Although Rob wasn’t able to join, I could tell these four guys are as passionate about their friendship as they are about their brand, an idea born from a lack of manly items at a handmade craft show.

Meet the guys of GothamSmith!

Continue Reading…

Design

How To Make It: Designing Your Website | Design Panel + Happy Hour

September 17, 2013

How To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsDesigning a webpage from scratch can be daunting! There are so many design decisions to be made to properly showcase your handmade designs. On Tuesday October 1, meet UncommonGoods Associate Art Director Rebecca Paull Marshall, jewelry designer Caitlin McNamara, and Wix.com Training and Support Manager Ariele Krantzow at our next event and get their advice on putting together a beautiful and effective website. Submit your website for a direct critique from our panel during the discussion.

Stick around after the talk for some drinks, snacks, and networking with the UG team and other local creatives.

Wix.com enables everyone to design, publish and host stunning HTML5 websites. No coding, no previous design skills, just log in to Wix and start creating with our easy drag-and-drop website builder! In that spirit of encouraging creativity and enabling entrepreneurship, in 2010 Wix founded the NYC Wix Lounge. The Wix Lounge is a completely free co-working, event and exhibit space for creative professionals. Grab your laptop, pop into the Lounge and enjoy a productive work day, great networking opportunities, and amazing events. The Wix Lounge provides free support to New Yorkers, giving them the tools and tips for successfully launching and managing their businesses’ online presence. To learn more about the Wix Lounge, please visit http://www.wixlounge.com.

To learn more about the panel and sign up, visit our Events page.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Kasia Wisniewski & Nicholas Foley

June 3, 2013

Living in New York City you learn very quickly not to judge a book by it’s cover – every door hides a secret in this city. Upon walking up to Kasia Wisniewski and Nicholas Foley’s building I had no idea what was in store. Only a few blocks from my own place, and on a block with manicured brownstones, Kasia and Nick’s door was gated and uninviting. But upon being greeted and swept upstairs to their apartment by Kasia, I was surprised to be standing in the treasure hidden from the street. Their home is what I imagine Marie Antoinette’s place would look like if she were a Brooklyn artist – a mix of Baroque accessories, Mid-Century furniture, antique sewing machines, dress forms. And right there, among their beautiful furniture and artifacts, was an industrial laser cutter, taking up what I imagine could be a sizable second bedroom.

That’s another thing about New York City – you have to make it happen by any means possible. For Nick and Kasia that mean taking out a wall, building a ventilation system, and giving up precious real estate to fit the laser cutter that helped Kasia leave her job in luxury fashion design and start working for herself. But nothing is wasted – they have used the cutter to create Kasia’s wall art and jewelry, to cut stencils to create other designs, and Nick even used it to cut wood to create a suspended indoor garden. Getting to tour their space and talk about their work was truly inspiring and a reminder that nothing is earned in this city without a little sacrifice.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
We are collectors! We’re surrounded constantly by reminders of things we love- from books and photographs to piles of fabric and knick-knacks from our travels. Living in Brooklyn has forced us to be creative with a limited space, so we’ve put our passions front and center. Nick is starting an indoor vegetable garden in the corner of our living room, so a lot of it is creating our own inspiration as well.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Working from home means we’re working on and off from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep – but when you’re doing stuff you like, it’s not work. I usually take an hour or so to go for a run around midday and we always watch something funny during dinner at the end of the day.

We also have a blog where we detail our food and design experiments, so working on that is sort of a treat for us as well.

What are your most essential tools?
Our most essential tool is our laser cutter- we use it not only to create products like our You Are Here map, but we also use it to create tools for our other projects, from stamps and stencils to jigs and frames. My industrial sewing machine (a birthday gift from Nick to me) is another Collected Edition MVP.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Transitioning from a full-time job in a high stress fashion company to being my own boss was terrifying. I think the hardest part was really realizing how fast time goes by when you’re working on projects by yourself. At first I would beat myself up if I didn’t have something solid and concrete at the end of the day – but mistakes and revisions are 95% of the design process.

What advice would you offer yourself of 5 years ago?
I would encourage myself to follow my instincts and believe in my vision. I think all designers suffer from insecurity, but if you focus on making good work and being true to your aesthetic, others will get onboard.

How do you set goals for yourself?
We both have a very clear idea of what we want our lives to be like in 5 years or 10 years – but the path to get there is still developing! We are both big fans of lists – both small detail and big picture. I try to set manageable goals I know I can reach, while always keeping in mind the endgame.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Every victory is celebrated by figuring out how to win the next victory.

What quote keeps you motivated?
This Samuel Beckett quote pretty much sums up creative entrepreneurship. I think there are very few designers that ever feel completely satisfied with their work – you should always be aiming to “fail better” on the next go-round.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’m starting to experiment with casting. I love using tutorials from sites like Instructables to inform my experimentation. We also have an electroforming set-up that we both worked with some in college but is now lying dormant – that’s another avenue we have been exploring and requires a lot of trial and error to perfect.

How do you recharge your creativity?
The only time I can ever really relax is when we go away – whether on a proper vacation or just a day trip. A change in scenery does wonders for the mind.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Since so much of what we do is custom, each piece is really a collaboration with the client. My favorite thing is to work closely with a customer to bring an idea to life – it’s a beautiful thing to know that what you do brings happiness to another life.

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