Talking about buttons, I discovered the most beautiful ceramic buttons created by a designer from New Zealand, but now living in the UK. Sharry is a very lovely person, I shop from her Etsy Shop, Buttonalia, twice at the moment. I’m completely satisfied and I’m happy to recommend her shop.
I also asked to her to let us know something about her life and her buttons, so, here is a little interview.
1. How did I start making buttons?
I used to throw large bowls which were made into washbasins and then made correlating tiles – this was a great joy to me. They were high fired in a gas kiln so I could really go to town with glazes. I loved how the glazes would pool at the bottom of these very large bowls. I also used to throw on the wheel bowls which I would cut and manipulate, making them hearts, then I would raku them – I must have made hundreds of hearts, each one different.
I then began to have trouble with my elbows and ‘tennis elbow’ made it very painful to throw on the wheel, so I began making sculptures. They were all hollow and coiled and I began to develop non domestic glazes, art glazes, being inspired by nature. They got bigger and bigger and I am thrilled to say that one was bought by my Art School in New Zealand and a very big one was shipped to the USA.
My husband and I moved to Taiwan where we taught English, so I had no opportunity to work in clay. However, I taught a Friday night English class to little children and their mothers and while I read a story, the children would build little sculptures while I talked. One of the mum’s knew of a kiln at a nursery school, so she would have them fired so the children could see their work the next Friday. I loved those evenings! I was also very honoured to meet a master glassmaker, who let me spend the evening with him while I watched him work. We couldn’t communicate in language, but spoke instead in chemistry e.g. Fe for Iron and in degrees of heat e.g. 900 degrees Celsius. I still have an exquisite little red glass ant that he made for me.
My husband was offered a teaching position in Kent, England, so we moved here almost 10 years ago. Being new immigrants, we had to find our way around and it took me 7 years to finally find my place in clay once again. The equipment is very expensive, our house is a mid terrace Victorian house, which is very small, so the cellar is my studio where I keep the kiln and all my raw materials for glazing. Having a small kiln and a small house and a small pocket :), I had to think small. I am a very utilitarian person, so I tend to make useful objects unless I am being whimsical, then I make unusual, but simple objects to simply look at, like sculptures or hearts. It was natural for me to make buttons – the humble button with all its uses, buttons to make you smile.
2. Do I have other button related hobbies?
I used to sew most of my own clothes, but do just a little sewing now as my time is consumed with buttons!
3. What’s the secret of my success?
I think to start with, I have technical expertise. It takes a lot of patience, experimentation, research and pure hard work for it to become somewhat easier to do. So, besides the technical skill, I think it’s glazing that sends me to nirvana – I LOVE chemistry and that’s what glazes are! So, that’s the buttons but the next thing is photos from every angle in natural light. My customers need to see as much as possible without holding them and I try to keep that in mind. I do my best to describe them – sizes, colour, pattern etc. Pricing was a very difficult one for me because I wanted to offer pure, useful art in everyday buttons, so I had to find a price range that I could afford to offer, but one that my customers could afford to pay. Customer service is paramount in my shop – it thrills me every time I have a sale, every single time. I feel honoured that someone would want my buttons and it spurs me on to making more and more. I love seeing photos of what happens to my buttons and it amazes me what incredible skill my customers have – you would not believe some of the most exquisite things have been made, with my buttons as embellishments.
4. What question would I like someone to ask that has never been asked before?
I would love to be invited to work as a resident artist for say, a year in a new country. Or to be invited to help in a community project locally.
5. Can my buttons be machine washed?
Absolutely! Just as a cautionary measure, turn the garment inside out so you don’t have the buttons banging against the metal drum of the washing machine. They are joyful little nubs of pleasure, so enjoy them!
:)) thanks to Buttonalia for letting us know a bit more about you and your creations!