Saturday, June 21, 2008

Smash Penny Turtles and Baer Buttons

turtles, recycled, jewelry

I made these, wore them the next day, and sold 'em offa my ears (thank you, Cathy and your artsy niece in Napa who loves turtles 8-) These turtles are some of the first beads I ever bought, back when that pot silver stuff from India was popular. I used to make fat little goddesses by piecing together two silver beads and a round gemstone for the head. This was when my older sister had shown me how to more or less put beads on a headpin and string crystals for suncatchers.

I've been going through my little organizer boxes and kind of clearing things out. I found a certain stash of buttons acquired just before I started beading (the tail end of batiking, midpoint of embroidery, beginning of leather and dawn of beads ;-) I had gone home to Kentucky and my mother and I went downtown (Luavul) to Baer Button Company. It's changed now but back then it was mostly buttons and partly sewing stuff. Their buttons took up a couple of tall walls, stacked nearly to the ceiling in little cardboard boxes, with an example of the button taped to the front of the box.

I was just out of school and working for not much more than minimum wage, and making batik, embroidered and little leather pouches in the evenings. I needed single buttons for the pouches, and it was a huge splurge to go down to Baer and buy cool buttons. I found myself attracted to the cool older leather and metal buttons. I started looking way up high on the walls, for the yellowest old boxes with the gnarliest dried up tape, and suffered the employees to climb up and get them for me. They seemed to cost a small fortune -- but man, what they'd be worth today!

It was just an affinity and not so much a developed taste for vintage, or even an artistic style (or if it was, it would have been pseudo-hippie chick). Indeed, soon after that, button collecting seemed to take off and the goodies I saw that day were no doubt scarfed up completely. But I came away with a few little treasures -- like round disks of leather with a brass star on top, set into little brass shank settings, that I now use for necklace clasps.

I had a favorite rust colored tiered cotton skirt with about 20 little buttons down the front, and I swapped out the plain matching buttons for a row of tiny silver seahorses. I acquired the biggest coat buttons you can imagine, with burnt orange rhinestones set into brass. They'll make cool rings one of these days (it's on my list...not at the top...but, yeah, on the list...)

No, I'm not a button collector. I'm not much interested in making a display, or finding matching sets, or figuring out how much they might be worth. I don't know if I even care about using them in projects. They take up so little space, really. It's a small indulgence to just take them out and look at them now and then, like savoring a nice piece of chocolate or rediscovering an old letter from a friend.

The store is still hopping today -- as Baer Fabrics and they still sell some pretty cool buttons.

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