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Untangling: Buttonalia


Just glancing at her beautifully glazed ceramic buttons, it’s not surprising to learn that Buttonalia’s Sharry Madden has a background as a sculptor. A New Zealand native now living in the U.K., Sharry starting off making large bowls used as washbasins, moving on to create hollow, coiled sculptures when throwing on a potter’s wheel became too painful because of tennis elbow. She ended up selling her work both at home and overseas, even shipping a large sculpture to the U.S.

These days, Sharry’s smaller creations adorn everything from fingerless mitts to sweaters. She sells her buttons on Etsy and, more recently, Zibbet, and has found many fans among knitters on Ravelry. Her buttons — plain or patterned, in bright colors and complex neutrals — come strung on a simple piece of twine, the perfect way to show off these individual works of art.

I’m thrilled to be selling Sharry’s buttons at this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show (and I’m going to try my hardest to keep some of those sets from wandering into my own button stash…).

Just one set of buttons Sharry sent along for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, appropriately displayed on a copy of the UK-based Pom Pom Quarterly.
Just one set of buttons Sharry sent along for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, appropriately displayed on a copy of the UK-based Pom Pom Quarterly.

How did you start making buttons?

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 seven years to finally find my place in clay once again. The equipment is very expensive (and) our house is a mid-terraced Victorian, 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.

Buttonalia 2

How did you end up on Ravelry?

I came to Ravelry because one of my customers begged me to! Most of my customers are knitters and she was tired of having to tell her friends on Ravelry where to find me. And so began the crazy, fabulous romance with Ravelry, where I regularly lurk and drool over the marvelous things my customers knit. Ravelry’s community is simply awesome and when I need a lift, it’s the first place I go to give me a smile. My range of customers either knit, sew or make jewelry.

Sharry's buttons adorning my Conjured Cardi.
Sharry’s buttons adorning my Conjured Cardi.

Do you knit yourself?

As far as my love of knitting goes, I grew up with a wonderful grandmother who, when not cooking or cleaning, clicked away wherever she was — even on the beach. I used to spend hours at her feet, unravelling yarn and winding balls ready for her to use. I then graduated to sewing sleeves to bodies and then knitted my first scarf. I haven’t done much since as my life is so full with working in an office by day and making buttons every other minute I have. I have other projects that will simply have to wait until I retire and have more time on my hands.

Buttonalia Blue

I’m giving away this set of six periwinkle blue buttons. To enter, comment on this post with a pattern you would use them with. You have until the end of the day my time on Sunday, Aug. 9, and then I’ll be picking a winner by random number generator. Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed.


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7 Responses

  1. I would have to use them on something for me (a Wenceslas cardigan?) They are fabulous and I would want them all for me, but I might be willing to use them on a gift for someone really special. 🙂

  2. All of the buttons are so beautiful! I recently cast on Leadlight by Amanda Scheuzger. One of the contrast colours is a blue that would look wonderful with the blue buttons.

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