Brendon ‘Buzz’ Jaine gave up a life at sea to collect other people’s rubbish and says it was the best move he’s ever made.
A decade spent diving for pāua, kina and sea cucumber had left the Invercargill local with a less-than-pleasant taste in his mouth; the chance to forge a career that was good for both the soul and the planet was the change he’d been longing for.
“I spent all my 20s working between New Zealand and Australia as a commercial fisherman,” says the solo father of three. “I love the sea and I enjoyed the work, but I always felt bad about stripping the ocean of these defenceless creatures. It felt a bit like clear-felling a forest.”
A talented and resourceful man, Buzz began gathering pāua shells and sea glass to decorate mirror frames and create one-off pieces of jewellery. “I’d always had a creative side hustle, but these pieces were a big hit and it all snowballed from there.”
Now Buzz runs a jewellery business creating unique necklaces, rings and earrings from found glass, broken ceramics and discarded cutlery. If he’s not crafting a masterpiece in his garden shed, he can be found fishing around local dumpsters, scouring op shops and foraging for treasure in the long grass behind dilapidated homesteads.
“I hunt in all sorts of places for materials I can use in my work. A lot of people save their bottles for me, the local bars contribute and even Briscoes recently gave me a whole lot of their chipped ceramics which would otherwise have been thrown out.”
In the 14 years since hanging up his dive gear, Buzz estimates he has crafted anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 items of jewellery for a loyal – and global – fan base.
His contemporary glass pieces are among his best sellers, many of them etched with Māori designs, flora and fauna, and even entire mini-landscapes. According to his partner and online manager Anna Claire, his natural flair for glasswork is nothing short of mind-blowing.
“Buzz has severe dyslexia, so much so that he can barely read or write – but that is also what makes him a creative genius,” says Anna, who has a fine arts degree and, in addition to working with Buzz, creates her own silver and stone jewellery.
“Buzz never had any formal training but he has an intuitive understanding of the way light reflects in glass. The drawings he carves into his pieces are not just pictures, they’re brilliant multilayered sculptures.”
Driven by a desire to recycle and reuse, Buzz makes everything he possibly can from other people’s junk. His copper jewellery clasps are made from old electrical cables dug out of abandoned construction sites; his sandblasting machine is fashioned from a 44-gallon drum, secondhand Perspex and plant pots. He collects all his sand from nearby Ōreti Beach and even built a cyclonic air scrubber (to sort the sand into different grit sizes) out of a road cone, an old vacuum cleaner, paint buckets and plumbing fittings. And when it comes to packaging, the sustainability focus continues, with reused and recyclable envelopes, and – thanks to a recent donation from a happy customer – recycled rubber bands.
“Producing rubbish is not what we want to be doing. We want to contribute to the planet in a meaningful way.” Pre-pandemic, the majority of Buzz’s pieces were sold via local craft markets and selected retail shops, with his biggest retail outlet Glowing Sky, based on Stewart Island. But, like so many other small businesses, Covid prompted the need for an online presence – thus Anna’s role of online manager.
She says: “It’s been tumultuous, nerve-wracking and terrifying but it’s all good now, in fact Buzz is so busy he is struggling to keep up. During lockdown I put a post on the Chooice Facebook page and we got 1,500 likes. That was a very proud moment; it was the first time Buzz’s work had been so publicly recognised.”
For him, it’s less about recognition and more about pursuing his passion in a way that treads lightly on the earth.
“I hate seeing things go to waste and love the challenge of not throwing things away,” he says. “It feels good to be making something valuable from something that is otherwise unwanted – and supporting my kids in the process.”
Find his work at bjaine.nz
Reported by Vanessa Trethewey for our AA Directions Spring 2021 issue