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Interview: Argentinian designer Rocio Gonzalez

As it is Valentine’s Day and because I can’t wait until the store is up and running, I thought I’d share with you the interview I did with Rocío González about her beautiful handmade button and resin products that I previewed in my last post.

What the team at Greca do is clearly a labour of love – sifting and sorting and collating piles of discarded factory buttons and using resin, turning them into brightly-coloured jewellery, ornaments and homewares. Each piece is unique, handmade and a one-off. Their choice of buttons determining colourways and styles.

Considering it all started out as a fun hobby, it is a credit to its founders, Rocío and Lucas Campodonico, that the business is where it is today. Plus they do all this, and more, with a strong ethos of caring for the environment.

Rocio Gonzalez, Greca founder and director

Rocio Gonzalez, Greca founder and director

Here is what Rocío told me about how it all began and what they do.

Tell us about yourselves – what are your backgrounds?
Lucas studied communication and I studied architecture. In 2004 he started an accessories line, mainly button necklaces and I made resin bangles, similar to the ones we have today, but with no buttons. I knew the material because I used it a lot in an art course I took. We met because we sold our products in the same shops and had a friend in common. Lucas invited me to the button factory where he worked and I went crazy over the buttons and the machinery. I always say I felt in Willy Wonka’s Button Factory.

Where did the idea to start Greca come from? When did you set it up?
We didn’t know each other, and it was a long process. At first we decided to work side by side, sharing experiences. Lucas continued his accessories and I did my bangles in the factory. Soon we realised what materials were wasted and the incredible buttons that were thrown away and we imagined using them and communicating [to others] that what we used was actually trash. We started like this, as a hobbie, as a dream, and in 2009 we decided to start the company working full time on our project.

Greca hippos

Clearly sustainable practice is very important to you. Why did you decide to focus on using discarded buttons? Where do you get them from?
As I mentioned before, Lucas was in touch with this button factory since starting the accessories line. When we started going regularly to the factory we learnt how many buttons were being discarded. It was a matter of common sense to us. We couldn’t understand how this incredible material became waste. We decided to work from this and re-use them in a way that we could replicate and inspire. We decided to use this as an example of industrial reuse. We decided to communicate this: how we make colourful, happy products from trash.

Greca is now part of B Corporation – a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corps are certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Today there are more than 600 Certified B Corps from 15 countries and 60 industries working together towards one unifying goal: To redefine success in business.

When did Greca become part of B Corps? And what does this mean for you and the business?
In 2012, B Corps made an alliance with a local associate SistemaB. We were present from the beginning of the process, and were in touch with Juan Pablo Larenas, Pedro Tarak, Virginia Pittaro who were part of the team that started it in South America.

We share the first certification in Argentina with Emprendia, Pedro’s consulting agency. We are glad to be part of B Corps since we believe in the community we are creating as fellow B Corp in Latin America and with the rest of the international community.

We feel part of this movement towards a new economy, a new paradigm since we started. We believe in this change. We find it necessary. This is why certifying for B Corps was a way of giving shape to what we believed in from the beginning and to use it as a road map in the growth of our business.

Can you give us an insight into the workings of studio Greca? Who are the others you work with? What does a typical day involve?
Our workplace is in Beccar, 30 minutes from the city. We share a small building with two other design companies. We like to see it as a hub. We share our space with Ecomania, a NGO created by Lucas and three other friends, whose aim is to communicate sustainability and it’s main action is Ecomania Magazine, a free, bimonthly paper and online magazine about sustainability.

There is no common day in Greca. We work side by side with Ecomania. One day we are producing and designing and the other, we are participating in an event and we’re all working together to help.

Our team is composed of Agustina and Victoria, working in administration and sales. Agustina is an industrial designer and she works with me side by side both in sales and in design. Victoria is studying social studies and works mainly in administration and sales. Santiago, also an industrial designer, works with Richard in production. And then there’s Daniel who also works in production.

And then there’s me, I direct the company and work with everybody. I think of myself as an octopus, reaching [out] a hand [to] everyone. Since June 2011 Lucas started working for Ecomania full time, so I stepped up to be Greca’s director. We started to assign roles and responsibilities and to find people to work with us. From that day up to today, we have grown a lot.

Who or what motivates you?

Believing in what I do and finding pleasure in doing so. Colour. Light. Smiling. Goals.

What things, people or places are inspiring you at the moment?
My succulent garden, my dearest plants. The colour in the buttons I collect every other week from the factories. The idea of becoming a green factory and working in the same environment with people and projects I care about. Music, of every kind, I am a big, big fan of many diverse styles. People who’ve always helped me to grow and think what I want for Greca.

What’s been a career highlight to date?

Our mention in Bid Challenge as environmental impact company in 2010, being in SFMOMA’s latest catalog SS012, Rio+Vos campaign (a worldwide event organised globally and directed by Lucas).

Do you have light bulb moments or do ideas form over time?
We have light bulb moments. The day we decided to communicate that our objects were made from trash was one. The day we decided to move on and work in this project was one.

Do you have new designs in the pipeline and/or can you discuss future projects?
Hundreds. We write them down and wait for the moment to develop them. We are now in a moment of growth, both in productivity and professionally.

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought?’ moment? Tell us about it.
Yes! We didn’t know how everything would turn out when we started and now, four years working in our project makes us think just that!

If you want to see more about what makes Greca tick, check out their video here.

And watch this space for our Who’d Have Thought? store where we will be showcasing some of Greca’s products!

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