A Ceramics Story

Posted on April 23rd, 2015 by Alicia

This season, we are launching a striking variety of standout ceramics. Each piece makes a bold enough statement to stand on its own, but the collection still made us want to know more. So we cornered founding designer (and my husband) Robert Segal for some insight into choosing, using, and loving this new selection of offerings.

Modern Ceramics Pieces

Alicia: Why are you introducing a new ceramic line?

Robert: We feel ceramics complement our core line of bedding, throw pillows, and table linens. They merge in any room of the home, and we want to offer a selection from planters to dinner plates, to capture the unique perspective of our modern aesthetic.  Having done one-of-a-kind and smaller runs with designers abroad and local, we’ve come to love what can be created with the material.

Orbit Vases 2

Alicia: What is it about ceramic(s) that draws you in general?

Robert: The sculptural quality and material. And the fact that glazes are so similar to printing, yet more variation can occur.  I also find the contrast between ceramics and textiles appealing: hard and soft, cold and warm. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

Luna Plates

Alicia: What about the factories you worked with to make these? Why Portugal?

Robert: We have been producing our bedding collection in Portugal since 2006, so it was very accessible for us and easy to meet in person. Having known the quality from Portugal, I was excited to find various ceramic factories offering different ranges and technique. The collection reflects this, with some vases and plates hand made with reactive glazes, while others have been done with slip casting – more minimal and industrial. As we became familiar with new materials and design processes, I was taken back to the excitement of working through this process with textiles.

Alicia: The line is a mix of dinnerware, vases, and centerpieces. Is there one from the collection that you like best?

Strata Black Centerpiece Bowl

Robert: Perhaps the Strata Black Centerpiece Bowl. I love the contrast between interior and exterior, along with the dimension the material creates. It feels very solid and industrial, even tough it’s created from such a fragile material.

Alicia: What’s next in new products that you helped design and develop?

Robert: I’m looking to expand our range of ceramics for the Fall collection, with more texture and pattern involved. I’m also excited about using new colors with existing shapes, playing with the ways color can change the feel of an object.

Mothers & Daughters

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by Alicia

We have had the pleasure of working with artist Hillery Sproatt in the last couple of years on collaborations with Unison. Last fall we hosted a launch party at our Chicago store featuring the Harvest pattern (as table linens, knit blankets and pillows and hand printed cotton pillows) and were pleasantly surprised that Hillery’s mom, Debra Weiss, was there too. We knew that Debra is not only Hillery’s mom, but that the two have worked closely together since Hillery was a teen on her women’s apparel brand, Rebe. Currently Hillery helps with marketing for Rebe and curating their online shop, but it is evident their relationship is exceptional so we thought it nice to give a little tribute to their success and find out: what’s their secret?

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Hillery, we love that you have had such an amazing relationship with your mom and textile artist, Debra. Weiss. Can you tell us about your professional and personal life together?

H: My mom and I are very close, she is one of my dearest friends. For as long as I can remember we have shared a love of art, textiles, hand work, laughing and exploring new cities.

Starting Rebe 15 years ago seemed like a natural progression. My mom valued my creative sensibilities and Rebe was a platform for us to put our skills to work. Although I was only 15 years old when we launched our first collection of handbags and women’s apparel, my mom treated me like a partner. We worked closely designing the collections and learning how to market and sell our wares. Within a few years Rebe handbags and women’s apparel were in hundreds of stores all over the country.

Since then, much has changed. I went off to school where I earned my BFA in fine art and I began my own art practice. I no longer have a hand in any of the designing for Rebe, but I do help market and sell her beautiful wearables. Together we run a curated online shop that specializes in fine handmade goods called, Specks & Keepings and we travel to craft markets throughout the country selling our goods.

What is the one thing that you love most when it comes to working together on Rebe? 

D: I love the excitement Hillery and I bring to our work individually and together. We inspire each other. It brings us great joy to work together in part because we love each other, but also because we have been doing it for so long that we make a great team. We both enjoy wearing my designs daily and we love working closely with our customers so they feel beautiful and comfortable in their everyday wear. There is great joy and ease for me in being able to present my designs to the world with Hillery by my side.

H: I love the freedom our work affords us, the freedom to be creative, travel and to affect the lives of our many wonderful customers. It is amazing to watch people light up when they feel beautiful in their clothing or stumble upon an artwork that resonates with them.

Do you have a favorite story or sentiment to share about a product or product line that you were involved with at Rebe or Specks and Keepings?

H: I look forward to the new Rebe collection every season. I feel most beautiful in my mom’s clothing and I wear it nearly everyday. Perhaps this is why I enjoy selling her work. It is wonderful to share with others that which you love yourself. I especially love living with my patchwork quilt she made me. Every season she completes a few of these blankets using her cutting room scraps. Some are simple and others more complex, but each is so beautiful with her sampling of past season fabrics side by side.

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Rebe Maggie Blue Dress

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Rebe Rose Garden Dress

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Rebe Lena Wrap Dress

D: There isn’t one particular story that comes to mind. I think one of the things I love most about our work is all our wonderful customers. Many visit us each year at our craft shows. Through them I hear the stories of my clothing. I design with beauty, functionality and durability in mind and I am always overjoyed to know that customers get stopped when wearing my designs and they have pieces they love and wear that are now many years old.

What do you love about working with your mom? What might be certain knowledge that you feel she has given to you and really helped. 

H: My mom is very hard working. She raised myself and my two sisters on her own. She inspires me to follow my heart, even when things appear tough and she is a wonderful example of the joy that comes with being a kind person.   

Tell us about your recent works, whether it’s on paper or fiber, and what you love about both media.

H: I have been enjoying painting very much. It is a quiet practice and the immediacy of mark making excites me- in this way it is very different from embroidery.

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Paintings by Hillery Sproatt

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Hillery working in her studio

D: I got my degree in textile design in 1977, but for many years I have struggled to find the time to cultivate a fine art practice while running Rebe. Just recently I have begun to carve out time to sit and work on my textiles. It is slow work, so I have to be patient with myself and the medium, which is challenging and wonderful.

I began a series of Fabric Works last year, which are fabric collages that I treat almost like painted compositions. I use my fabric scraps, careful not to cut them in order to keep the integrity of their found shape. Like much of my other work, this is an exercise in responding to material. Most recently, I have been enjoying working on larger latch hook pieces as well as my small macrame wall hangings.

Fabric Work 16 by Debra Weiss

Fabric Work 16 by Debra Weiss

Flower Fields by Debora Weiss

Flower Fields by Debora Weiss

You are also a master at nail art and have developed a loyal following. What brought you into this area? Do you have a favorite style, color or fun story to share? 

My dear friend and wonderful artist, Annika Blomberg inspired me to paint nails. At the time, she was inspired by friends who painted nails long before I. For years we just painted each others nails for fun, but it has increasingly become a part of my art practice. I find painting nails gratifying in large part because I consider them to be small artworks that are the result of an intimate exchange and intuitive process that is sensitive to material, surface and scale.

So far we have collaborated on several projects with you – My Lady and Gentelmen dolls, Dolls of the World, and the Harvest pattern which came out as several products. What collaboration so far has been your favorite and why?

I loved our textile collaboration, the Harvest Print. It was fantastic to see my work large, graphic and functional. I have wanted to translate my paintings to textiles for many years and this was my first experience seeing the impact they have as cloth- I was very pleased. 

Harvest Acorn Pillow

Unison Harvest Acorn Pillow

Harvest Denim Pillow

Unison Harvest Denim Pillow

What are you working on now that you really love? 

H: I continue to paint daily and I just started taking my very first hand-building ceramics class, which I love.   

Do you have wise words for anyone else who might have a great mother-daughter relationship – be it just personal or also professional?

H: To remember to be grateful and good to each other. It is a very special gift to be able to work closely with a parent.

D: I have been given the amazing gift of Hillery as a daughter. It is such a pleasure to be able to work together. I think we both learned early on the importance of allowing for space and time to cultivate our own work, as this is one of the most fulfilling things you can do for yourself as an artist or designer.  From there, we were able to come together to showcase both of our work beautifully side by side. I have always tried to encourage all my daughters to go after their passion in life and to nourish each of their talents.

To see more of Hillery Sproatt and Debra Weiss’ work visit:

rebebydebraweiss.com

hillerysproatt.com

specksandkeepings.com

@hillerysproatt and @mayhieu

Mother’s Day Tea Event

Posted on April 16th, 2015 by Caitlin Ragan

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Tea tasting and samples will be available during the event. Teapots, cups and mugs will be 15% off all day at our store. And if your mom isn’t a tea drinker, have a look at our Mother’s Day Gift Guide for other stylish treats.

Harvest Your Winning Pillow!

Posted on April 14th, 2015 by Libby Cortez

It’s time to cash in the bounty of your vote: our springtime pillow contest is complete! And the winner is…our gorgeous Harvest Denim Throw Pillow, designed by artist and print maker Hillery Sproatt and destined for your favorite lounging space.

If you participated in the vote, we’ve already e-mailed you a 50% off promo code. So get shopping!

Harvest Denim Pillow

Holy Holidays, Batman! Recipes for Celebration.

Posted on March 31st, 2015 by Libby Cortez

With Spring, we welcome the beloved festivities of Passover and Easter. Do these religious holidays feel refreshing because of their profound historical and spiritual significance? Or because of the budding of warmer weather, the familiar pastel palettes, and the fact that they’re happily less commercially exploited than their December counterparts?

No matter. What’s important is that Passover and Easter represent important reasons to celebrate. To gather family, tap into traditions, and enjoy the beauty of simple pleasures.

Allow us offer some sweet tastes & tidbits for the occasions:

An Andalusian Passover Dish

Dare to be great? Try the Santiago Cake recipe from Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s wonderful cookbook, The Family Meal. With this recipe, Adrià – who is widely considered one of the best chefs in the world – has modernized an original Andalusian Passover dish named for a cathedral to which pilgrims travel: tarta de Santiago de Compostela. Translation: delicious.

The Family Meal 1

To reflect your clean taste alongside this tasty dessert, serve the sugar-dusted squares on crisp Circa White Platters, with a mix of striking blue napkins in a Nippon, Harvest, or Tiles pattern.

Blue Napkin with Gold Utensils

 

Santiago Cake

– 3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
– ¾ cup (170 g) granulated sugar
– 2½ cups (250 g) ground almonds
– 1 pinch ground cinnamon
– zest of ½ lemon
– confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease the bottom and sides on a 9″ x 13″ (minimum) or 12″ x 20″ (maximum) rectangular pan with butter. Add the flour and tap it around the pan. Tip out the excess. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

Break the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Using a free-standing mixer with wire attachement or an electric hand whisk, beat until thick and foamy, about 5 minutes.

Mix in the ground almonds (almond meall) and the cinnamon.

Finely grate the lemon zest and stir into the dry ingredients.

Gently add the ground almond mixture to the egg and sugar mixture. Fold in carefully with a spatula to retain as much air as possible. Immediately stop mixing when the batter is smooth. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. The cake batter should be about ⅝-inch deep.

Bake in the oven for 17 minutes, or until evenly risen, golden, and shrinking away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.

Remove the cake from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Cut into portions with a knife or a cookie cutter / mold.

Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top using a fine-mesh strainer before serving.

From The Family Meal

A Cake for the Easter Bunny

What fluffy little egg-toting rabbit wouldn’t love his Easter festivities to include a cake made of carrots? It seems the perfect sweet treat for the day. And the incomparable Rose Carrarini offers up the perfect carrot cake recipe in her make-us-want-to-move-to-Paris cookbook, Breakfast, Lunch, Tea.

Breakfast Lunch Tea Cookbook Side

The perfect backdrop for sweet-veggie decadence? A Tiles Mauve Tablecloth with a mix of same-hued napkins in a gingham or tiles pattern, plus our beloved Teema White Dinnerware, on sale for 20% off during our Iittala sale.

Tiles-Easter-Table

Carrot Cake

– Unsalted butter, for greasing
– 4 eggs
– generous 1 cup superfine sugar
– 1 ¼ cups sunflower oil
– 9 medium carrots, finely grated
– 2 cups plain all-purpose flour, sifted
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
– ½ teaspoon baking soda
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 ½ cups finely chopped walnuts

For the icing

– generous ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
– generous 1 cup cream cheese
– ½ teaspoon natural vanilla extract
– ½ – ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, depending on how sweet you like your icing

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Butter a 9-inch cake tin and line its base with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs and superfine sugar until they are light and fluffy but not too white and meringue-like.

Pour in the oil and beat for a few more minutes.

Fold in the carrots and then the flour with the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Finally fold in the walnuts.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin before taking it out.

To make the icing, beat the butter with the cream cheese for a few minutes till the mixture is smooth.

Add the vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar.

When the cake is cold, ice the top with the icing – it can be as smooth or rough as you like.

From Breakfast, Lunch, Tea

A Satisfying Seder Finale

Toward the end of Passover Seder, many families dig into a welcome helping of macaroons – delicious, flour-free treats that are as fun as they are easy to make. Enter Ginette Mathiot’s time-honored bible of traditional French home cooking, I Know How to Cook – and, more specifically, the recipe for delectable almond macaroons found therein.

I Know How to Cook Cookbook

Once you’ve mastered the macaroons, serve them up on feast-worthy Harvest Table Linens. And pour your many glasses of Seder wine in Lempi Blown Glasses, on sale for 20% off during our Iittala sale.

Bon appétit!

Harvest Napkin in Wood Napkin Ring

Almond Macaroons

– Butter, for greasing
2 3/4 cups ground almond
– 3 egg whites
– 2 1/2 cups superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with buttered parchment paper. Put the almonds in a bowl and mix in the egg whites a little at a time. Stir in the sugar and mix well.

Form the dough into slightly flattened balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

From I Know How to Cook

Sweeten up the Sweetest Day

Easter is a day of sweeter-than-anything scenes: pastel-tinted egg hunts among fresh-blooming Easter lilies, toddling little girls donning frilly church dresses, and sugary treats galore.

On this sweetest of days, what could be more appropriate than coconut cake? It’s fresh, festive, and sure to disappear with much less elegance than it arrives when you serve it up from a Tier Cake Stand with Eve Brushed Gold Flatware.

Coconute Cake on Tier Cake Stand

Prefer more cocoa with your coconut? Try Casey Barber’s Coconut Cherry Suzy Q’s, deliciously featured on Design Sponge. And for extra ooh’s and ahh’s (and savings), present it all with our cheerful Gingham Kitchen Linens in any shade – now on sale at 70% off!

Manual Coffeemaker Launch Recap

Posted on March 24th, 2015 by Alicia

Just two weeks ago we launched the beautiful new coffeemaker from Manual at our Chicago store, attended by the creator Craighton Berman and a round of intrigued customers and coffee tasters. Craighton is the designer and producer of this amazing line Manual, and also an artist and professor here in Chicago. Manual’s goal is to  produce not only aesthetically beautiful products, but also ones that ask the user to slow down while making food.

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As he puts it: “We think the effort of preparing food is just as pleasurable as the food itself. We think there’s pride in making something yourself. We just aren’t all that impressed with gratuitous features. When it comes to food—we’d rather take it slow.”.

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Craighton demonstrated the process of the Manual Coffeemaker (truly easy) and how to pour the hot water correctly to achieve the coffee bloom which is an important piece in order to extract the flavors from the coffee. The coffee used was from Gaslight Coffeeroasters, also here in Chicago. We are so thrilled to be offering this gorgeous coffeemaker in our store and now online. As for Craighton:

“I’m thrilled to be partnered with Unison as one of the first retailers to carry the Manual Coffeemaker Nº1—they truly understand how to bring together an amazing collection of modern home goods that strike a balance between function and form. I’m honored to be among so many objects that I appreciate (and desire).”

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Vote for your Favorite Pillow!

Posted on March 20th, 2015 by Alicia

Spring has sprung at Unison, and with that we wanted to help color your world with a little spring makeover in the form of adding some of our bold throw pillows to your modern home.

From now through Monday April 6th vote for your favorite pillow from our spring collection and we will send you a promo code via email to shop the winning collection at 50% off!

Sign up to get your voters’ discount code:

#ThirstyThursday With Rhine Hall

Posted on March 19th, 2015 by Caitlin Ragan

Unison teamed up with neighbor and local distillery, Rhine Hall to bring you a delicious #ThirstyThursday drink!

Rhine Hall’s Jack Rose (see recipe below)

rhinehall-Jack-Rose

Toyo Tumbler, $4-6

Ingredients:

2 oz Rhine Hall Apple Brandy

75oz Fresh Lemon Juice

5 oz Homemade Grenadine

25 oz Simple Syrup

Top With Regans Bitters

Steps:

Fill Ice In Shaker

Fill Ingredients

Shake

Fill In Glass Over Fresh Ice

Top With Regans Bitters

Lucky You, Free Shipping!

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by Caitlin Ragan

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Design Love Fest

Posted on March 11th, 2015 by Caitlin Ragan

Roughly one month ago, one of our favorite go-to blogs, Design Love Fest, held a Unison giveaway. We were overwhelmed by the loving 440 comments from participants. Below you’ll find a recap of some of those blush-worthy comments and a few of the products selected by Design Love Fest.

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