Monday, March 5, 2012

The Button Tree Story

It all started with a painting of a tree and a bunch of buttons. And it was all Kim's fault. That's what I reckon anyway.

In the beginning we just painted for the pleasure and the fun of it, with no audience or purpose in mind. And it was nice to sit at the dining table after Missy P went to bed and paint. We'd have a vino, a chat, half-watch a movie at the same time and bounce ideas off each other. We weren't even trying to make anything to sell.

Then one day Kim painted a curly tree on a canvas and got some buttons out. I don't know what gave him the idea. I don't think even he knows what gave him the idea. He scattered them around the branches like leaves. We both looked at it and then at each other. It worked. It really worked.

A selection of our button artwork

 So we made some more. We booked a market stall. We sold some.

There used to be a little section in The Saturday Age newspaper called 'I made it myself' in which artists and crafters featured their wares along with a short description of the creation process. I wrote in with our button tree because I thought it would be a bit of a lark to be featured. Nothing happened.

I discovered Etsy and started building a shop. It was fun. I listed three items. Nothing happened.

Then it was Kim's 30th birthday and we were throwing a big lunchtime shin-dig at a local pub. It was a Saturday. As we were getting ready I started browsing through the paper, as is my Saturday morning habit. And there, in the 'I made it myself' section, was a picture of our button tree. I ran to the bathroom where Kim was getting ready and shouted, 'look, look!'. We may have done The Price is Right dance. I can't remember. Let's say we did, because it's highly likely. Or maybe that was just me.

Of course, our newspaper debut settled at the back of our minds during the day's festivities but when we got home all three items in our Etsy shop had sold and our inbox was filled with countless requests for button trees. We were completely unprepared!

So we got to work. We painted, we booked markets, we listed our trees on Etsy, we sold more button trees, we got email requests, we painted some more, did some more markets. We got featured in more newspapers. A journalist came to our home with his little notebook. Surreal. A photographer made me stick buttons on my face for a photo shoot and Kim had to paint swirls on my cheeks. I felt like a prize goose. Then we made more button trees. Phew, it was exhausting. But so much fun. Honestly, those heady button tree days were some of the funnest times. And it all just sort of happened by accident and seemed to have its own momentum.

The original 'I made it myself' feature and other press

Then our baby turned into a toddler and the whole button thing started to get a bit impractical. And we had other ideas we wanted to explore with our art. We each had individual projects we dreamed about, which we couldn't really work on while we were knee-deep in buttons. So we stopped doing markets and scaled back our Etsy shop. Then we only made button trees on request. Then we stopped altogether, because although we loved making them, and loved selling them, and our customers loved them, they took a long time to make and we couldn't really sell them for a price that reflected the materials and time we put into them. And as I said, we had all these other art projects we wanted to get to.

Our stall at the Rose Street Market, Melbourne.

And then I became pregnant with our second bub and all art ceased because, honestly, I could barely keep my eyes open most of the time. I neglected this blog. I barely even looked at it. And then one day I checked the stats, I don't know why. I certainly didn't expect to see any traffic happening. But to my bemusement, the activity on the blog was going berserk. There were huge spikes of visitors on a regular basis. Same with our Etsy store. I didn't investigate because I just thought there was something wrong with the analytics settings. Those stats just couldn't be right. I hadn't even posted in who knows how long! And our Etsy store was closed. Closed!

Then after I had our second daughter late last year I started to think about art again. I thought about getting back into blogging. I started reading other blogs again. Then Pinterest crossed my radar. I didn't really get it. But people on the interwebs kept mentioning it, so I checked it out.

Then it clicked. That was where the traffic was coming from. I looked into it. And I was shocked. Our button trees had been pinned. A lot. Not just a few times. They had been pinned and re-pinned hundreds and hundreds of times. Wow. I was in awe. But I didn't know what to do with that information. That's interesting, I thought, pity we don't make them anymore. And then I moved on.

I revamped this blog and started posting daily. I took notice of the stats. And I realised that people were coming to the blog every day from Pinterest. Every single day we get so many hits from these pins. Then I started feeling bad. People were clicking on our button tree images and being directed to a blog that had undergone such a transformation that there really wasn't much on offer if you were looking for the low-down on our button trees. Still, I didn't know what to do about that. I wanted to offer something to all our Pinterest pinners. I wanted to give them - you - something in return for visiting.

And then I thought, well, I could offer up a couple of things. I could tell the story of how we came to make buttons trees. And also how we came to stop making them. And here it is.

Secondly, I could show everyone how to make them. We still get requests for custom orders and while we really love that people love them, we just don't make them anymore. But you can make one yourself. You really can! And later this week I'm going to post a detailed tutorial which will show you how to make your very own button tree. I hope that you will like it. And I hope that you will try your hand at making one if you're so inclined.

But in the meantime, I just want to say thank you for your visit, and we want you to know that if you've come from Pinterest, we do notice you popping in here, and we just wanted to say 'hi'!