Saturday, March 12, 2011

Studio Saturday All Buttoned Up with Lynn Davis

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! 

As an incentive we offer a free prize each week to bribe you to use that keyboard. The following week we choose a random winner.

This weeks winner is Iana at SomethingUnique! You have won a butterfly pendant from Heather at Humblebeads! Email Heather to claim your prize. 


This week we join Lynn Davis in her studio.

Lately, I've been thinking about buttons. 
At a flea market, I gathered up a glass peanut butter jar full of old, mismatched buttons.

Have you ever thought about the history of the humble button?

The word "button" comes from the french "bouton," for bud or bouten -- "to push" a piece of metal used to connect parts of a garment with a buttonhole.

Long before the crusaders, button-like objects were used as ornamentation or jewelry, until returning crusaders brought home to Europe samples of buttons and buttonholes from the Middle East in the 13th century. 

Buttonmaker guilds were formed in Europe around 1250 A.D. to organize artisans, who were creating buttons one at a time using gold and silver for the elite. The common man wore buttons of cloth, wood, bone, horn, shell and woven leather, and because your buttons told society where you ranked on the social ladder, a royal decree dictated what kind of buttons you could, or could not, wear.

In 18th century France and England, potters made ceramic buttons, glassmakers created glass buttons, and artisans made large opulent buttons to decorate men's waistcoats, gloves and to fasten shoes. Some showed hunting scenes and animals, and were called "picturesque" buttons, made to be collected.


In 18th century America, it was patriotic to wear only American-made buttons. Craftsmen made buttons from wood, pewter and brass. Phineas Pratt, a piano-key maker, began making buttons from ivory. Silversmith and patriot Paul Revere made fine silver buttons. A set of gold buttons with a profile of George Washington on them were presented to the Marquis de Lafayette during a visit to America in 1824.

Buttons can be like little history books for us to study, showing activities and events of the day. They are endless in their variety and patterns.

Some of the finest buttons were created between 1830-1850 during the "Golden Age" of button making in America, including military and sporting buttons. Buttons are so common now that it doesn't occur to us to salvage the buttons off old garments before we dispose of them, or to inventory them and bequeath them in our wills. 

I've been taking the buttons from the flea-market jar and turning them into charms, and I've been lucky to receive antique buttons, to reproduce in pewter and give them a second life as wearable jewelry components. I almost feel that I'm following in the footsteps of the pewter button-makers of the past.


There's something sweetly sentimental and old-fashioned about a two-hole or four-hole button, in shell-like white or in colors. And the pewter reproductions are like tiny sculptures, barely an inch or so across, but with incredible detail.

Reply to this post with a comment on the questions below, and you might be chosen as the winner of one of my pewter reproduction buttons to use for your creative expression. 

Do you collect buttons, or use them in creating your jewelry? What are your favorite ways to feature buttons in your designs? What ideas, sentiments or stories do buttons evoke in your mind when you use them.  If you have a button story, do tell!

Leave a comment on this post and you might be the lucky winner this week!

Posted by Lynn Davis, who enjoys spreading the piles of buttons out on the table, admiring and matching them up, before putting them back in the glass jar on the windowsill again.

54 comments:

Mandy said...

I've just discovered using small buttons as focal beads in my bead embroidary. I can't wait to go to the antique flea markets this spring and summer with a whole new item to catch my eye!

m.e. said...

I just purchased some vintage buttons to use in an all white bridal necklace.
But,wouldn't it be special if it could be made from buttons saved by the brides family members?
Wouldn't a great gift for a mom be something made from buttons saved from her children's clothing...
We should all start saving buttons!
btw..LOVE your button charms !
m.e. :)

Lois Moon said...

I have always loved buttons. My grandmother kept a pickle jar full of castoff buttons and I loved to look through it and find beauties. I have her jar now and I still love looking through it.

I hunt for buttons everywhere I go. I use them as closures and embellishment on my beadwoven pieces and string them together in bracelets and necklaces. I also make molds of them to make polymer and art clay pieces.

One of my favorite ways to use nondescript buttons (think cheapo plastic) is to stack them up and wire them together into a bead. While they may not be interesting by themselves, the varying thicknesses and shades of whatever colors seem in "cross-section" make a nice little piece.

somethingunique said...

Good Saterday Morning Lynn, WOW i am so excited i won a Humble Beads Pendant, i love Heather's unique components.I never really though so much about buttons,i have used them a little in my jewelry mainly for rings and bracelets i new they had history but you have really educated me on that.I am new to blogging and i am love all the wonderful people i am meeting and finding amazing components i never new exsited.My brother yard sales every weekend i will be asking him to bolo for some button for sure. have a great weekend and thanks so much for the pendant ttfn Lana :)

Alice said...

Lynn, I just love buttons. Like many of us, I loved sifting thorough the button jar as a kid.

I love that you take antique buttons and mold them for charms!

Anna Anpilogova said...

I use buttons for stamping and texturing polymer clay beads
here is a example of beads in mokume gane technique with the help of a button
http://annajourcrafts.livejournal.com/122145.html

My Life Under the Bus said...

LOVE old buttons especailly mother of pearl or little sterling ones but sometimes any old button will do. Mourning buttons too have that vintage pull - I recieved on by surprise in a lot with figural hands that was made of woven hair! SOunds "ewwwwwwww" but it was actually woven and quite pretty!
Happy Saturday!!!

Rosanne said...

Thanks for sharing all that wonderful button information. I have been removing buttons from discarded clothing, saving all those "extras" that come with new clothing. I have jars of buttons. I've used them in my jewelry designs for a long time. One memory I have is of my Grandma's button box...we used to play with it when we were kids. In fact I think Heather has it now. Buttons are just plain great.

Lyn Foley Lampwork said...

What a great post! I have a small button collection, and used some of them from time to time as clasps. Recently however, for an gallery show, I created a collection of necklaces inspired by antique kimonos. I used old silk kimono fabric for the neckpieces, and also made the tabs or bales from which my lampwork beads were suspended. I sewed an antique button on almost every bale. The buttons were metal with little flower scenes - very sculptural and oriental looking. They added the finishing touch to unusual jewelry pieces. Photos are on my site under jewelry shop, What's new. http://beads.smugmug.com/Jewelry-for-sale/Whats-New-1/9686984_qRnhk#1203862814_rgsU8

Kate said...

I was never a button collector until recently. I just couldn't figure out how to incorporate them into my designs. I was inspired by the recent Bead Soup party to give it a shot. I am working on my first attempt this weekend!

Sabine said...

I do collect buttons. I love the buttons from the 1920s that reflected the Art Deco style of the time. I also have some wonderful celluloid buttons that looks like open tropical flowers. I have not yet used them in my jewelry, but maybe someday!

Great post!
Ann
mycriticaleye.com

indigo heart said...

i adore buttons. i remember spending hours sifting through my grammy's button box... now i use them in my jewelry. i make earrings, rings, charm bracelets, necklaces... really, the button can do anything the bead can do *and* it carries the mystique of past lives.

Jane Perala said...

I remember playing with my Grandmother's button collection when I was quite young. She was a seamstress, and had boxes and boxes of all kinds of buttons. Sure wish I had them today.
Thanks for this post, it has brought back those memories.

EmandaJ said...

Hi Lynn,
Thanks for the history lesson -- I have always been drawn to buttons. Mom tells me that when I was a little girl, I asked her if I could have her button box when she died. (I don't recall if she said yes!) My Great grandmother and HER tiny mother shared a little house. Everytime we visited, I ended up playing with the jars of buttons while the adults visited. Wouldn't it be grand to have some of them now?

Emanda
Just discovered a button dealer who bought a store closed for 50 years. www.addvintage.etsy.com

Penny said...

Buttons remind me of growing up, I remember my mom used to sew alot of my clothes and I got to pick the buttons that would go on the outfit, I remember taking to much time in picking out the special ones and hoping that there would be leftovers so that I could look at them in her glass jar.

Great post, I learned some news thing about buttons that I didn't know.

Rebecca said...

I love buttons but I don't often use them in jewellery making as I never seem to find quite the right use for them...they are great for clasps though, especially on necklaces! I also have some lovely ceramic buttons from HodgePodge Arts that I use as bracelet links or pendants sometimes. I think buttons in jewellery are just lovely as they add a nostalgic touch to a piece - like something out of my Grandma's sewing box. I should use them more often!

rosebud101 said...

I was lucky enough to have inherited my grandmother's button jar! I still cherish those beautiful buttons. I have used some of them in my work, but, for the most part, that button jar is in tact!

stregata said...

I remember playing with my mom's button basket as a child. I have picked up various bags and boxes of buttons at the flea market and last summer I was sorting through them (putting aside the MOP buttons - my favorites)and was joined by my husband, who spent at least an hour sorting through with me...
I do use them in my jewelry and have a collection of antique brass and metal buttons that I want to reproduce...

Malin de Koning said...

I have a rather small button collection, and I wish it to be bigger. I like buttons used in jewellery like for instance Lori Anderson did with her gorgeous BSBP necklace, or when Lorelei incorporates one or a few buttons in a piece in an ingenious way. I've seen them being used in earrings and I really like that.

But hey all of you, check out TomBjorn on Etsy. A Swedish designer who makes super cool things with loads and loads of buttons.

I have only used buttons a few times myself. I don't have a particular way of using them, they could be in clasps, or used just like other beads strung on a waxed linen cord.

I really like the button components you made Lynn. They are cool.

All my best,
Malin

Sally Anderson said...

oh, buttons make my heart break! My mom had a big ole tin of buttons from her mother. It was going to be mine, all mine. But I didn't take that tin home after she died. I should have because Dad's house burned down in a fire, and all the buttons were gone. Poof! So many things gone. So sad. I love love love buttons, especially the old ones!

Beadroe said...

I also love old and new buttons. One of my most treasured items from my mother's sewing room is a jar of old buttons.

Tari of ClayButtons.com said...

I have a thing for buttons ;)

Tom Bjorn Designs said...

I have just been told about your blog, and I love it. Especially this post about buttons!

I am in love with any little button I find! And I treasure them :)

Here was my post about my christmas button present
http://tombjorndesigns.blogspot.com/2011/01/lot-of-old-buttons-happy-christmas.html

And this is what I have done from them :)
http://www.etsy.com/shop/TomBjornDesigns?section_id=7474963

Carol said...

I do love buttons and have a couple of jars full of old and new buttons. Being a seamstress I have used buttons as trims on bags and purses mostly. I have thought about using them for jewelry so maybe soon!

Deryn Mentock said...

Great post, Lynn! As you know, I love your pewter buttons and use them in my work. They're the perfect element to marry with new and old.

Boot ~C said...

I love old glass or MOP buttons. I haven't used them in a long time, but I used to string them into necklaces & bracelets

b.gailwhitehead said...

My mom recently gave me several jars of buttons,hers,her mothers,and others she just came across when relatives passed on,or wedding dress buttons,military buttons and so on.They are so wonderfull,I've madr earrings of some,some are Christmas ornaments,etc.My youngest daughter has always asked to play with them when younger,now she brings me some really -different- buttons,so I know who will want my buttons when I,to,pass.

baglady said...

I have always loved buttons- as a little girl, I was always in my mom and grandma's button jars and now I have several of my own. I occasionally use them in jewelry designs but I have a hard time parting with them.

Heidi said...

I love all those metal buttons up there. I also really like the aqua button you turned into a charm.

My grandmother worked at a fabric store in the 60s & 70s, and she had so many buttons! I picked out the ones I loved the most when she was moving out of her house into a smaller condo. I don't even want to think about the ones I didn't claim. I didn't know then how much I'd be wanting them 7 years later. ACK! There is a serious lack of detail and craftsmanship in almost everything these days. Good for you for giving those old buttons new life!

Riki Schumacher said...

Hi Lynn! I love using the vintage metal buttons, any designs, but especially ones with the mirror backing. I use them as connectors all the time, or to add a bit of bling. Also love the mop buttons so much, again as connectors. I have jars of buttons on display to enjoy. Take care, Riki

DebbieCrothers said...

The humble button is such a wonderful thing. Like many of you it seems, I also inherited my mother-in-laws button stash when she passed away. Oh my gosh - when I think of the many wonderful hours my daughter and I have had sifting our fingers through them. We just love buttons.

maneki said...

What kid didn't love playing with mom's button jar? What a treasure chest! I picked out the prettiest (in my eyes) and saved. Still have some of them.

I like buttons, but don't use them that often in jewellery. Usually I use them the same way I'd use beads, stringing them, or as focals/pendants. Recently, I bought a big flower button with two holes, thinking that with two holes it might be more stable than using the usual lucite/acrylic flowers with just one. Last time I used buttons -- in the bead soup blog party -- I used them as part of the focal, hanging interchangeable pendants from the middle one.

I printed some instructions from an aussie bead mag where they used small four-hole buttons in a herringbone bracelet. I like that.

My collection of buttons is relatively small, but span over norwegian pewter shank buttons, classic MOP buttons, vintage and modern czech glass buttons, swarovski, plastic novelty buttons (e.g. black sheep with dangling legs), handmade silk print fabric buttons, kitschy picture buttons and more. Of cause several of them feature cats. My latest interest being in Dorset buttons.

Oh, darn... Now I remember those cool dragon buttons from Alchemy I want so much, but are beyond my budget right now...

Klassy Joolz said...

I just recently started working at a store called Haggler's Outpost a few days a week...it is a collectibles & vintage/antique store. I have a new found appreciation for vintage items...one of them being buttons. I have been adding them to some of my designs and finding I like it.

So buttons can be a fabulous addition to a jewelry design...love yours Lynn!

Smiles, Pam

Stephanie said...

I once founf buttons that dated back to the early 1900. They belonged to a family member. I used them to make a set of earrings for my greatgrandmother. She was burried with the earrings.

sandi m said...

Funny how EVERYONE seems to have button memories. I, too, remember my grandmother having little jars of them. I love the metal ones with all the detail that tell little stories.

Lynn, you're so lucky to have the talent to retain the beauty of these little gems through casting.

LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

You all brought back a memory I hadn't thought about for a while. When I lived in Kansas City there was a fabric store I walked to at lunch, with incredible fabrics and neat patterns. At the cash register there was a huge metal bowl, all filled with different buttons. I can't say how many times I stood there going through that bowl of buttons with my fingers.

There's just something magical and evocative about old buttons, isn't there?

Kylie Parry Studios said...

I collect vintage buttons and keep them in old jars in my studio. I love using buttons with interesting textures to my ceramic pendants.

Linda Landig said...

Thank you for the fascinating post!

Did you know that Michelle Mach is hosting a button challenge exchange? It is closed now, but the challenge reveal date is April 21st. You can join us then to see what everyone made with their buttons.

I have vintage German glass buttons, Thai cloisonne buttons, and even old Burmese coins that were made into buttons. I enjoy using them as unique bracelet closures.

BooBeads said...

I have a block on my brain that doesn't allow me to use buttons for some reason.

I have tried and keep trying and will eventually get. I'm persistent :)

I still buy them because I like them. I don't have a lot but when I get past my block, I'll have them on hand to use!

SueBeads said...

Hi lynn, thank you for the info on buttons, very interesting. Also, I have a jar of my grandmother's buttons, and I used to love just playing with them when I was a kid. I have buttons now that I like to buy because they are like beads, shiny!

Erin S said...

never used buttons, but I'm always up for something unique.
Erin S

quiltingjewel39 said...

I love buttons too. I have a large jar on my window sill in front of my beading table and love looking at them. They are just fun and like you said - who knows what their history is!! I've started using some in my jewelry and just love the pewter ones you do.

lynn said...

I have some wonderful antique buttons, my grandma collected them, she said nothing would go to waste when the clothes were worn out they would take them apart keeping zippers, buttons and cloth, she even made a button book, she gave them all to me before she passed away, now I make molds from them, and cast PMC to make pendants, spacers for jewelry. If you wold like to see an ex sample just let me know. Lynn Gonzalez

Melody Martin said...

I use all kinds of buttons in my jewelry..stacked brightly-colored plastic buttons for a ring; silvery shell buttons combined with grey freshwater pearls and seed beads for bracelets; pearl buttons and white freshwater pears to make flower like embellishments on the bead covered bottles.

roseworksjewelry said...

I use buttons has clasps sometimes :)

Suzanne said...

I have started making bracelets with small colorful buttons that I purchased from our library rummage shop - I paid all of $1.50 for a small box and have made some beautiful bracelets - strung on clear elastic stretchy cord, I throw in a pearl or a semi precious stone in the mix and you wouldn't believe the delight when people realize that the braclet is made out of buttons...I have wonderful memories of running my fingers through the "jewels" my grandmothers button box!

Cynthia said...

I love buttons, and look for them in shops wherever I go. I have bought special buttons one at a time, for a pretty penny, and I have bought them in big fruit cake tins for a steal!! There's nothing quite like running your fingers through a giant tin of buttons!!
I use larger, prettier buttons to make jewelry - I wrap filigree around them, to make necklace focals.

For My Sweet Daughter said...

Hi Lynn,
I love buttons I especially like to make molds of them and reproduce them in PMC.
I would love to know if there is any tutorials or information about the technique you used to create these button links. thank you shannon c

Elizabeth said...

I have a huge tin of buttons from my grandmother and mother. I like just running my fingers through them to feel the various textures. One of the first things I ever sewed was a button on to a shirt. I love, love, love buttons.

Eileen said...

Buttons bring back such memories of being a kid and going through my grandmas big jar of buttons and other treasures.

kiwiken said...

I do collect unusual buttons... I don't often use them in jewelry, but if I do it's usually as a clasp (and most likely in a bracelet). I loved digging through my mother's button jar as a kid - it was huge, and many of those buttons were quite old - most of them had a story to tell, too.

Pretty Things said...

Total squee on that first picture!

I've been collecting buttons for about ten years and have a REALLY hard time parting with them, but have recently made two pieces of jewelry with them.

Anonymous said...

Buttons are so cool! I'm a closet Button hoarder and have hundreds of Buttons by now and I joined a Button Society! They have a Facebook page~check it out:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/California-State-Button-Society/86452353290

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