Going along with today’s lesson of Guest Blogging I’d like to introduce you to Jen of Incomparable Buttons. Today she shares the story about how she learned pottery and the story of how her company Incomparable Buttons started.
I started Incomparable from my garage about 29 years ago. At that time we were living in Okiep, a tiny mining town in the middle of nowhere in the Northern Cape in South Africa. I was busy with raising 3 children plus I was a teacher so I was pretty busy.
After a short while, some of the other mining wives knocked on my door and told me they had an extra pottery wheel and it was cheap so I took it. My experience with clay was limited (last time was when I was pregnant) and it made me fell sick – the smell and the feel of it – so I had no interest in learning the wheel.buttonsmad
The Northern Cape mining ladies were a tough bunch and wouldn’t take no for answer so I was now the owner of a brand new pottery wheel which was totally off-center and without a motor. No worries as I wrote to my parents in Johannesburg and asked them to mail a motor from an old sewing machine – I was now ready to go.
I first visited the local library (Biblioteek or more affectionately the ‘bib’ to the local Afrikaans population) to take out a few books on pottery and throwing pots. Within a few weeks with much trial and error and a bit of manipulation of the off-center wheel I had a car boot full of pots ready for their first firing. (some of those first pots were wonky – thick on one side, thin on the other)
Now I was ready to return to those mining ladies who had one kiln which was fired only once a week. I surprised them as they were expecting a few pinch pots and ash trays. I had loads of pots to fire. I was able to convince them to fire a few loads per week.
Within a few more weeks I was not only teaching myself from a book but also had a group of women taking lessons from me not to mention the people who would fly into the local airstrip just to buy by beautiful designs of lovely soft blues, pinks, and sandy golds. I sold crockery sets, serving platters, casserole dishes, lamp bases and vases for the next 10 years.
In the eighties I started to phase out the large pots and dinner services and focus in on smaller items like beads and jewelry. One night I woke up my husband with fabulous thoughts about buttons, he just turned over and continued snoring away.
In those early days of perfecting Incomparable Buttons I had to throw away shelf loads of failed attempts but that did not deter me. I persevered and finally found the process of making the perfect button – which I still use today.
Each button is made individually by hand and then dried in the African sun before being fired. They are also hand painted which means every button is unique – no single one exactly like the other. Sometimes if you look closely you’ll see a finger print on the back which is a small glimpse into the fact that each one is created with love and care by a real artist and not a machine.
That is the Incomparable Buttons story. Today buttons are what we do. No plastic for us. Many knitters, quilters, and crocheters use our buttons to enhance their own work as they appreciate the hours of care and effort that goes into a handmade product – why add a plastic button to your hard work when you can add a uniquely handmade clay button?buttonmad
We now employ local ladies to assist us in making these buttons in fact my entire family is involved in the button business. We train the ladies to paint the buttons. Often times these women come to us never having touched a paint brush before. Now they’re skilled artists and supporting their families which brings them great happiness and self-empowerment.
We now sell in the USA, Canada and Italy. Our tag line is “Why settle for plastic?”
Thank you Jen for sharing your business with us. Jen is a sponsor/Guest blogger for the 31 days of crochet business blogging please visit her site and browse the many handmade buttons she offers. Visit her blog too as she always hosts giveaways – who knows you might win a couple of buttons for your next crochet masterpiece.