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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Which British Animal is More Royal than the Rest?

February 7, 2018

Before you snatch a swan from London’s River Thames to keep as your pet, consider something first. Besides getting the graceful feathered animal through customs, you’d also be stealing from her royal highness, Queen Elizabeth II. By prerogative power, the “Seignor of Swans” (aka the Queen) owns every swan in open waters within England and Wales. It’s a peculiar statute that dates back to medieval times, when the birds were considered a delicacy and served on dinner tables of the super wealthy. They don’t eat them anymore, but being the animal lover she is, the Queen just can’t let them go. She even participates in a royal “Swan Upping.” Every third week in July, Elizabeth—or rather her team of “upping” experts—gathers all unmarked swans, tags them, and sets them free. Is your dream crushed? Don’t let this stop you! Should you become close friends with the sovereign, she might grant you ownership of your own royal swan. It may be worth sticking your neck out.

Swan Slippers | $34

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Rich McCor

July 12, 2017

Londoner Rich McCor has quite a few followersan impressive 301k at the time of this writing, in fact. Known to many as @paperboyo, Rich first began to rise in the Instagram ranks in the fall of 2015, when the online arm of UK paper the Daily Mail ran an article highlighting some of his most remarkable snapshots. The angle? Armed only with craft knives and his imagination, Rich turns sheets of paper into intricate cut-outs that he then holds before time-honored landmarks, putting a new, improved, and fleeting twist on otherwise familiar scenes.

Somewhat surprisingly, Rich started out as a tourist in his own home, trolling the streets of London with a camera and snapping photos that looked like many others in the Instagram travel community. Soon, however, Rich realized that he wanted to do something different. He began by taking a knife to some thick black paper and creating a cut-out in the shape of a wristwatch, which he then held strategically in front of Big Ben. The rest, as they say, was history.

It’s been nearly two years since Rich began his creative journey, and now five of his best-known photographs are available as prints exclusively at UncommonGoods. Always eager to give new artists a proper welcome to our family, we took the opportunity to speak with Rich about his craft. Read on for a deeper dive into his process, plus thoughts on his studio (read: his bedroom) and an inside look at which cut-out was hardest to capture.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Alex Monroe

July 14, 2016
Alex Monroe

Alex Monroe in his London shop, photos by Emily Hodges

It’s only natural to “ooh” and “aah” over Alex Monroe’s handmade jewelry, which is inspired by beautiful botanicals, woodland animals, and beloved everyday objects. He has the craftsmanship to shape precious metals into delicate designs through traditional jewelry-making techniques and the keen artist’s sixth sense to capture the smallest intricacy. Through Alex’s eyes, no detail goes unnoticed. What’s really magical, from the engagement rings showcasing whimsical twig bands to watering can necklaces with sapphire droplets dripping from their spouts, is that a different story can unfold from each of Alex’s designs depending on the individual wearing them.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Necklace by Alex Monroe | UncommonGoods

How Does Your Garden Grow? Necklace by Alex Monroe | UncommonGoods

Upon entering Alex’s London-based shop, I was pleasantly surprised to be standing in a room that mimicked The Jungle Book. Lush trees and green plant decor covered the walls and pineapples seemed to float against the windows — yet signs of old-school civilization like binoculars, globes, and magnifying glasses peeked out on top of the jewelry displays and handmade wooden cabinets. One glance around the shop and it’s obvious that the natural world and useful objects are ongoing themes in Alex’s designs.

After visiting his shop, I had the opportunity to stop by the charming Victorian cobbled yard in south London where he first started making his own jewelry in 1986. Today, he has a team of skilled jewelers recreating his designs in that very same studio.

See inside this whimsical world and learn more about Alex’s journey as a world-renowned jewelry designer who has worked to perfect his aesthetic over the past 30 years.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Ariana Ost

December 30, 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 people 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 Ariana Ost, the artist behind our gorgeous new City Garden, Earth Elements, and Paris jewelry collections.

Ariana Ost | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I grew up in Brooklyn and have always been a dreamer. The city of Paris was, is and always will be my greatest muse. I grew up accompanying my father on business trips to France and marveled at the endless creativity and history at every turn. I studied abroad in Paris, while attending Parsons School of Design, and during that time I just knew in my heart that I would be a designer. I learned so much about expression through art, language, architecture and culture. I was so taken with French design and took in the spirit and passion around me.

I came home and knew jewelry would be my focus. Parsons didn’t offer jewelry design so to supplement I took an intensive course in London at the acclaimed Central Saint Martins and learned the technical skills to interpret my vision. I adored the Old World approach that London has and how historic the art of craftsmanship is to the British heritage. I wanted to revive European ingenuity and make it accessible to the contemporary American market.

Ariana Ost - Paris Collection | UncommonGoodsWhat was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

The moments when I first saw my designs in a chain store, being worn out on the streets, posted and styled on blogs, getting press etc. was magical. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm, knowing that an idea I had had and executed in my own little world was out in the world market. Some of my old pieces made before the days of Pinterest are still being pinned, which amazes me that users uploaded images and found something special about my designs.

Ariana Ost | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I come in catch up on emails, work closely with our creative director, sample makers and metal smiths. It is such a delight to have such a creative team to manage and execute my vision. I am also so lucky to have my father as my business partner; he handles all production and makes my dreams reality. We have lunch together every day and brainstorm about the business. We have been expanding into other categories and applying our jewelry approach to new avenues, I am most eager to launch my home line very shortly.

Ariana Ost | 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 so privileged to be able to walk to my studio with my Maltipoo, London. He is such a dynamic character and the mascot of our workplace; he attends every meeting and handles client relations. I try and make our studio a haven and home away from home with various trinkets and symbolic items. So to create a warm and motivational ambiance we have essential oils handy for meetings and use the appropriate ones based on the topic. I have grounding blends, joyful blends, inspirational and creative blends, as well as de-stressing, calming blends. We have quartz to conduct strong energy and pyrite to bring success. I also light candles to set the mood and add a lovely aroma.

Ariana Ost - City Garden Collection | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

I think that a kindergartener would find my pieces to be very pretty and fun. They would definitely know the items are to be worn and would try to feel glamorous. Jewelry is luckily an eye-catching category.

Ariana Ost - Earth Elements Collection | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

Never give up, always be the best version of yourself, and failure is never an option. I have gone through many moments of reinvention in my life. I lost my mother at the age of 25 and started my own business when I was 28, I took charge of my life and knew I had to create my own destiny.

Maker Stories

A Tale of Two Studios in London

May 12, 2014

A Tale of Two Studios: London | UncommonGoods_7115

If you knew me well, you would know that my absolutely favorite thing to do in life is to travel. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my beloved Brooklyn. But anytime vacation time rolls around, I’m the first one to hail a taxi straight to JFK –wide eyed, bushy tailed, and passport in hand. There’s nothing better than experiencing a new city,  a new language, new food, and a new culture.  My most recent destination of choice was London. (Okay, I wouldn’t exactly be experiencing a new language in London, but beautiful British accents have to count for something, right?) As I was planning out my itinerary — London Bridge. Get lost in the tube. Brick Lane thrift shopping. Enjoy a cuppa. Big Ben. Borough Market. Run into Kate and William. — I realized I still had a couple of free days to burn. I was traveling alone, so why not take advantage of the situation? I decided to do my second favorite thing ever: meet creative people.

A Tale of Two Studios in London

I sent out an email to our buying team asking if we worked with any interesting artists living in London in hopes of setting up a studio tour. When I received responses, I couldn’t ignore the fact that we worked with two different graphic designers who place their designs on tea towels and lived in London. The blog team brainstormed the idea that I should meet with both versus just meeting with one. One seven hour plane ride, two near-death experiences because I didn’t know which way to look while crossing the street, three “you’re on the wrong bus” moments, and one tightly squeezed tube ride later — I was finally sitting in a cafe with the two designers: Stuart Gardiner of Stuart Gardiner Design and Lahla Smart of The Food Guide.

This was the first time they met each other, and given the fact that they produce similar products, I do have to admit I was a bit nervous about how awkwardly this coffee rendezvous could have unfolded. Yet, with our lovely stroll near Walthamstow Central Station and chatting in-between our sips of coffee inside a quaint cafe, I would have to say it was such a success that I was this close in creating the hashtag #BritishTeaTowelDesignersUnite! A bit after our coffee and chat,  I visited Stuart’s studio first, and then ended my afternoon at Lahla’s. Lucky for me, their studios weren’t too far apart from each other — I promise I only had to ask for directions once.

Read what each artist believes sets their graphic designs apart from the next, their takes on switching roles from a graphic designer to a product developer, and their thoughts about living and running a business in London.  

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