This post was originally published on Minimums - A site which features the most interesting possessions of the world’s most interesting people.
Jeff Sheldon is the creator and founder of Ugmonk, a design brand established in 2008. Ugmonk started life with a few t-shirt designs, and has since expanded into a lifestyle brand of high quality leather goods, bags, accessories, and more. Everything that Ugmonk produces starts as a design from Jeff. The company has stayed purposefully small, with an unwavering focus on craftsmanship and quality.
Let's take a look at Jeff Sheldon's most interesting possessions and the stories behind each.
JOEY ROTH SPEAKERS
I’m a big believer in form plus function. So many products are either one or the other, but these Joey Roth Ceramic Speakers are a great example of both. Not only do they look stunning next to my iMac, but they also sound fantastic. Their simple, organic forms combined with the use of natural materials and exposed elements make them a work of art. I wouldn’t call myself an audiophile but to me these provide exceptional sound, especially while sitting directly in front of them at my desk. I’m always listening to music or podcasts while I work and these have been one of the best investments I’ve made for my workspace.
CHEMEX COFFEE MAKER
Up until a couple years ago I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker. To me coffee always tasted bitter and burnt and I just assumed that’s what it was supposed to taste like. If you dump a bunch of cream and sugar into it, it masked the taste enough to drink but I never understood the appeal other than people relying on the caffeine jolt.
That was until I had real, freshly-roasted coffee which is an entirely different drink. It’s hard to describe if you’ve never had it, but once you’ve tasted real coffee you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s smooth, delicious and doesn’t need anything added to it.
The craft of coffee and different brewing methods has really grown in popularity in the past few years and is something that always intrigued me, especially after seeing so many photos of people using a Chemex, Aeropress, or other pour-over methods. I personally enjoy the process as much as the finished product. The same goes for my design work. Most people seem to want quick and easy, but I’m more interesting in detail, process and quality.
The Chemex and Aeropress are my two go-tos when it comes to making coffee. Both produce an outstanding cup of coffee if you start with good quality beans. It’s been fun to experiment with grind sizes, steep times, and water ratios. Though the Chemex may look like some type of science experiment it’s actually a super easy method to brew a good, clean cup of coffee.
Each year we run an Ugmonk Charity Drive to help feed orphans around the world in partnership with a great organization called Rice Bowls. To date with the support of our customers we’ve been able to donate over 40,000 meals and has been awesome to see it grow each year. My wife and I had the privilege to travel to Honduras and Nicaragua several times to visit some of the orphanages and meet the kids we’ve been supporting. While we were in Honduras, we visited a pewter factory where workers melt down scrap metal they’ve collected and turn it into these beautiful pewter pieces. These little pewter elephants that we brought home are constant reminders of Honduras and the precious kids there.
A glass seems like such simple thing to include in this list, but it’s something I’ve used almost every single day for the past 5 years. I’ve always preferred the experience of drinking from a glass over plastic and this Aquaovo bottle has a few features that make it special. One of the main issues with a regular glass is that it sweats in warmer weather and the puddle from the condensation can make a mess. Since this bottle is made with a double-walled construction it prevents it from sweating and also keeps the water cold for much longer than a regular glass. I also like that is has simple screw-on lid in case I were to accidentally knock it over and flood my keyboard or desk. It’s probably not the most versatile bottle for traveling, but for everyday use at my desk it’s near perfect. Plus, we all need to be drinking more water, right?
As you can probably tell from my work, I’ve love the clean, minimal Scandinavian design aesthetic. A couple years ago my wife and I took a trip to Denmark and Norway and absolutely loved the culture, food, scenery and overall design sense that seemed to be injected into everything from packaging to signage to interior design. There’s something so pure and beautiful about the restraint in Scandinavian design. I can tell you firsthand that simple design is not as easy as it looks. We brought home these little wood and concrete houses from Denmark that embody that minimalist aesthetic and are always great conversation piece when we have friends over.
I’ve always been a visual thinker. Ever since I was a kid I loved drawing and sketching and could spend hours with just a stack of blank paper and some pencils. That hasn’t changed much. Throughout school I’d fill the margins of my notebooks and book covers with all sorts of doodles and drawings. I tend to have a hard time sitting still and focussing without fiddling with something or drawing something.
Getting my ideas down on paper is still a must for me. Even though many of my designs are finished in digital form, pencil and paper gives me the freedom to quickly sketch out concepts and explore different ideas. There’s something about the tactile nature of drawing with pencil on paper that can’t be replaced digitally. I use all sorts of sketchbooks, papers, pens and pencils, usually just whatever I have handy at the time. If I’m working on more detailed hand-lettering sketches I’ll often experiment with different mediums and paper stocks.
MY GRANDFATHER’S OLD FILM CAMERAS
When my grandfather passed away several years ago, I inherited all of his old film cameras. Though I don’t usually shoot film, these cameras serve as a reminder that it’s not about having the latest tools it’s about how you see things. I’m also blown away by the amount of detail and craftsmanship that went into making these cameras. They have a certain weight and structure to them that feels so much better than most of the cheap plastic electronics that we use these days. It sounds cliche, but most companies really don’t make things the way they used to.
PEOPLE OVER PROFIT
I’m actually not a big reader, but recently I’ve really been enjoying a few books about business, life and the psychology of how we think. My friend Dale recently released this new book “People Over Profit” and it’s a great read for anyone both from a business owner perspective or a consumer perspective. We live in a culture that seems to promote money and growth over everything, but often at the expense of people. So many businesses start with an emphasis on quality and ethics but slowly get sucked into sacrificing their core values in exchange for bigger profits and faster growth. This book is an easy read but is packed with great insight about making decisions to help us lead more socially conscious lives and businesses.