Funding youth art education, one button at a time.

Paying Art Forward

Bob Ewing and Drew Hill are lifelong friends. And they’re lucky. Unlike most kids who grow up in the Midwest, Bob and Drew benefited from a stellar art education program.

As lifelong friends tend to do, the two stuck together and have worked under the same set of ceiling tiles for close to a decade. One hobby that survived the journey from childhood was collecting one-inch buttons, or “pin backs,” as they’re sometimes known.

Eventually, Bob and Drew came up with the idea to start their own button club. And rather than design all of the buttons themselves, they would reach out to the greater design community for monthly submissions.

Yes, INCH x INCH began as more of a “self-serving” idea for the two friends. It would grow their individual collections and get them in touch with some really talented artists.

But Bob and Drew soon realized that their brainchild had to be about something more. It didn’t take long for their minds to wander back to childhood, where they both received plenty of opportunities to build creative muscle. Then, it was decided: INCH x INCH would give back to young artists so they too could have the opportunity to develop into creative masterminds.

A Little Help from Their Friends

Still, the duo knew they couldn’t do it all on their own. First up was Brian French of French Paper Company in Niles, Michigan. Brian was “an easy sell.” He had a history of helping numerous causes and also had his own affinity for one-inch buttons.

Next, Bob and Drew reached out to Mama’s Sauce, a print shop located in Orlando. The two had met owner Nick Sambrato at Creative South. Nick took a bit more convincing and requested a business plan before coming on board. Good thing, because it helped persuade Busy Beaver Buttons of Chicago to join the party.

Lastly, it was off to the office of E3 President Tiffany Sauder. After all, this mission was going to require some attention during the work day. So to avoid any trouble, Bob and Drew wanted to deliver a heads-up to their boss.

Tiffany pushed them to think about INCH x INCH not as a hobby, but a business. She wanted to see their plans, and to make sure they knew that they were prepared for such an endeavor. One that would come to teach them a lot about themselves.

Creating a Greater Force For Good

INCH x INCH launched in March 2015 and gained close to 150 members in its first month. The design community started taking notice. And just six months in, INCH x INCH had 500 members.

Today, the club is approaching 1,000 members, spanning 43 states and 12 different countries, and has opened an online store full of buttons, stickers, posters and more. Proceeds benefit two charities: currently, Art with a Heart, an Indianapolis organization that provides hands-on visual arts experiences that educate and inspire at-risk children; and 826CHI, a group dedicated to helping students develop creative and expository writing skills.

If you believe in encouraging the dreams of young artists, support the INCH x INCH mission by becoming a button club member. You will receive three one-inch buttons each month, designed by a diverse palette of contributors.