Sunday, May 3, 2015

Buttons, Toggles and Frogs - Part One

Buttons- Part One

Button-Button Who’s Got the Button?
This is an old children’s game.  In one version a group of players are sitting in a circle with one player in the center.  The object of the game is to pass a button amongst the players undetected by the player in the center of the circle.  The players constantly move their hands as if they were passing the button to add difficulty

Buttons are common textile elements. These ordinary closure items are often overlooked, until one goes missing and a replacement is needed.  However, there are many beautiful buttons, antique and modern that  add great interest to clothing and textile art.

Originally, textile historians tell us that buttons found in ancient Egypt, Greece and Persia, were not intended to hold garments together, but rather, used as embellishments and badges of rank.  Made of metal, stone and shell they date from circa 2,000BCE . 

                 A Collector's Guide to Buttons, Diana Epstein,
                           Walker and Co., NY, 1990

In the 13thC buttons appeared in Europe.  Diana Epstein (Collector’s Guide to Buttons) indicates “Etienne Boileau, Provost of Paris, established laws governing the guilds of French craftsmen, which included rules and penalties for buttonmakers.”

Today, buttons are collected as objects of textile-related art, some examples fetching goodly prices. There are numerous resources available for the would-be collector, including the National Button Society,  Occasionally, one can find copies of Just Buttons Magazine which was published monthly by the Just Button Museum of Southing, Conn. from 1944-1979.

It is common for collectors to classify buttons by materials (shell, rubber, pewter, glass, for example) while others limit their collections to a specific color or button shape, or limited editions of novelty or commemorative buttons .

Stamped metal buttons.  Top button has a celluloid backing.

                                                 Glass buttons

Etched mother-of pearl and shell buttons     

                          Shoe and glove buttons

                                               Pewter buttons

                        Celluloid buttons

Stamped/ braided leather buttons

Etched buttons, many different materials, including vegetable ivory

Vegetable Ivory comes from the Tagua nut (S.A.).  After processing the material  had an ivory color as in true ivory making it a very popular material fro buttons in the last part of the 19thC.  Reportedly, there is a move to save the Tagua trees from the burning of the rain forests and, perhaps, we will see small cooperatives making these buttons in the future.

Art Deco Buttons

Next week, in Buttons Part Two we will look at modern buttons and discuss a few "button" trivia.

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