Just five minutes chatting with Renée Botman reveals so much about her passion for a salt-of-the-earth way of life. She’s a seamstress by day, florist by other times of day, a fresh-baked mum, and some WA country town’s future treasure.
Her handmade homewares are darling, Nanna-inspired pieces that have evolved a lot over the years. I’ve had the pleasure of smelling almost every ream of fabric that’s entered her workshop, and I must say, they smell so wholesome. In the short time we were desk buddies in a shared office space, I got to watch her agonise over choosing supplies and suppliers that live up to the quality promise of her brand. And I just had to share this with you.
Let’s take five minutes with Renée…
JL: Tell me a bit about your background and career, leading up to you creating the RB label.
RENÉE BOTMAN: I studied Interactive Multimedia and Film & TV at uni and started my career as a graphic designer, which I loved for years. After a while though, I found I was no longer in love with the client work aspect of the job and it was time for a change. I’ve always loved sewing and textiles and being able to use my graphics skills to make my own patterns & products felt like the natural next step.
JL: What inspired you to create RB and what’s it been like getting established in Perth?
RENÉE: The short answer is, my Nanna. I started sewing by hand when I was about 4 years old, taught by my mum’s mum who was a seamstress all her working life. The first things I ever made were simple clothes for my mum’s Barbies that Nanna kept at her place, made out of colourful scraps of material from Nanna’s fabric stash.
The market scene in Perth is great for getting established as a small maker, I think. It can be trial and error to find out if your right demographic are attending the markets you’re working, but persistence pays off and once you find the groove, it can work wonders!
JL: What’s been the most challenging hurdle you’ve had to overcome in getting RB off the ground?
RENÉE: Making my products completely natural and biodegradable and using top quality fabrics is the cornerstone of the RB brand, and something I’m very passionate about. Finding haberdashery items such as threads, elastics and zips and even batting that are not at least partly synthetic has been a challenge and has meant ordering my most basic of supplies in from other countries at times. In the last 18 months, however, I have been pleasantly surprised to find the products I was buying from overseas, and even better options, become available through my local suppliers.
JL: How have your RB skills translated to the challenges of motherhood so far?
RENÉE: Well, being able to make matching things for myself and my daughter Imogen brings me no end of joy, so there’s that, ha ha, More seriously, though, being used to searching high and low for the right materials to make my products made finding sustainable alternatives to more modern, plastic and synthetic based baby products a breeze, meaning I could help make my mothering journey as sustainable as possible.
Also patience and perseverance. Whether I’m trying out a new market or prototyping a new product I often have to try more than once before it worked out or felt right. Motherhood and babies can be very similar, sometimes you’ve just got to keep plugging, or change your approach a couple of times before it feels right or it sticks!
JL: What advice would you give to young creatives starting on the journey towards their dreams?
RENÉE: Stick with it! Especially the vision you have for your products or art. Let me give you an example…
Using all natural materials and top quality fabrics mean that my products often fall into a higher price bracket, and at times I’ve questioned if it was necessary for me to lower my prices to what they were expecting. Thing is, what they were expecting when I said “handmade”, it means “designed here in Perth and handmade by someone who is likely being exploited”, not “handmade by me right here in WA”.
And when I say that my fabrics are top quality and include linens and other quality fibres such as hemp and organic cotton, what I mean is that all my fabrics are fair trade or made in countries with fair work conditions. But this, again, isn’t necessarily what the customer is expecting.
So by refining how I package, advertise and talk about my brand and my products I can let my customers know that what they are buying is something unique, considered and made, in a sense, the old fashioned way, to last a lifetime! Now sure this won’t be for everyone, but it is for my demographic. I stuck with my vision, and refining my message and how I talk about my brand helps me find them and them find me!
JL: What’s your all-time favourite romance?
RENÉE: I’m going to be a sap here and say the relationship my husband Chris and I have is my favourite romance! He’s my best friend, we share the same sense of humour and the same whimsy about the world. It also helps that we’re both nature loving homebodies, so even a trip to our favourite park with a flask of tea can feel like an adventure.
Other than that, I’m a total sucker for a Rom Com, any of them, really, but if it’s British so much the better!
Enter the giveaway!
Two lucky giveaway winners will receive a Renée Botman handmade cup cosy, designed, made and tested by Renée herself. They’ll also receive a pair of earrings by More Sundays Please, fresh romance reads sponsored by Kyanite Publishing, Skye McDonald’s new book, plus a signed paperback copy of my latest romance, It Starts With A Kiss.
Check out the giveaway post for details on how to enter. This is an international giveaway. Entries close 29th September 2019.