Jen Pascall is the creator behind Incomparable Buttons.
She may be my mum but I don't think I'm biased when I say she's absolutely stunning. And what an amazing, hard working, determined and selfless woman.
Jen started Incomparable from her garage many many (about 27, we've lost count) 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.
Mum is a qualified teacher but with 3 children under the age of 4 she had her hands full.
After a short while, some of the other mining wives knocked on her door and told her they had an extra pottery wheel and it was very cheap and she should take it.
Now Jen's last experience of clay was when she was pregnant with me - and she disliked it intensely. The smell and feel of it made her feel quite ill and so she really had no interest whatsoever in taking the wheel.
Turns out the mining ladies of the Northern Cape are quite a tough bunch and they weren't taking 'no' for an answer. So Jen found herself the owner of a brand new pottery wheel (totally off-centre and without a motor!)
No worries to her, she wrote to her parents in Johannesburg and asked them to post a motor from an old sewing machine and with that she was ready to go.
Well almost. First a trip to 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 and after much trial and error and some manipulation of the off-centre wheel (and thus many wonky pots that were thick on one side and almost see-through thin on the other), Jen had a car boot full of pots ready for their first firing so off she went back to the ladies who had one kiln which was fired once a week. Of course, they were expecting a few ash-trays or pinch-bowls and were not prepared for the load that had arrived. Fortunately she was able to convince them to fire a few extra loads a week.
Within a few more weeks she was not only teaching herself from a book but also had a group of women who arrived for lessons and assured her that if she stay one chapter ahead of them all, that would be more than sufficient for them.
And with her beautiful designs and lovely soft blues, pinks and sandy golds, she was soon creating sought after works of art which people would fly in in their small aircraft to the local airstrip to come and buy. And so began at least a decade of crockery sets, serving platters, casserole dishes, lamp bases and vases.
Next installment will be how Jen moved from large pots to jewellery, beads and finally the Incomparable buttons we all know and love so well.