Friday, September 30, 2016

Painted Apple Juice: A Garden Enshrined

One of my Bakelite showstoppers, this massive mama ends my week of painted apple juice buttons. The tendrils and flowers are carved and painted at the back of the button, resulting in this wavering scene of artsy blossoms and stems. Nearly two inches across, this larger-sized button has plenty of garden space. At some point in the future I will post more painted apple juice buttons and maybe even another full week of them since I definitely have at least five more of these juicy specimens. In the meantime, lots of Bakelite razzmatazz is coming in October!    

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Painted Apple Juice: Over the Top!

Ostentatious is the word for this button, a button overdone with slants and facets galore. At the base of this wonderful creation, grooved lines were filled in with a silver-blue paint job that translates to the button's surface in an almost zebraesque motif of major STYLE. Buttons nowadays are devoid of glamour and here's everything we've devolved away from. Thank you, 1929, for these rare and ritzy leftovers of your arresting excess. This is the only button I'm posting this week with a carved bottom and a carved top. The topside is etched with eight chiseled-away blots that add yet another superfluity to this Bakelite bombshell. A chandelier of compact allure, this button's endowed with all the vogue pretenses going back to the Coolidge administration.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Painted Apple Juice: Goldfish

It's "Day Three" during my week of painted apple juice buttons and here's a swimmingly unique examplestarring two goldfish. The fish are actually carvings on the underside of the button, which have been painted bright orange and with black eyes. The apple juice Bakelite has the appearance of being finely combed, hence the delicately streaked effect on the button's surface. I've often compared apple juice buttons to fishbowls since they give the impression of fluid within glass. Maybe the maker of this button held a similar view, opting to fashion a tiny aquarium out of plastic.
-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Painted Apple Juice: The Detained Rose

There was a time when I only dreamed of owning a button so frail and exquisite. Emily Dickinson, when she wasn't scrawling her lifetime's verses in secret genius, was famously fond of pressing beloved peonies and sweet-peas from her backyard's garden and that's what this button reminds me of: a page out of the poet's herbarium. Fashioned at the back, deeply carved-out folds form the roundabout petals of this epic rose, which was probably sculpted in the mid 1920's. The whittled section was then painted an earthy pink that gives the gaping blossom the look of a conserved object hovering inside of a tarnished glass blister. Like the etched cluster of grapes that I posted as yesterday's feature, carved and painted apple juice buttons have the appearance of ancient pictures sunken under a shallow pool of honeyed faerie urine or some other amber-hued sealant. This is where Bakelite branches off into a strange, ethereal and nearly-forgotten art form.

-Sherbert McGee     

Monday, September 26, 2016

Painted Apple Juice: Grapes in Green

Last month I mentioned that I'd soon be posting a full week of "Painted Apple Juice Buttons" and so begins that week. This post is the commencement of some of my prettiest Bakelite and rarest too. Painted a dusty green, the deeply carved grapes on the bottom of this button are slightly magnified when looked at from the top view. I'm smitten by painted AJ buttons and this one's a sacred prize in that it epitomizes the defining swank and style of the 1920's known, famously, as Art Deco. Seldom do I photograph the undersides of my vintage keepsakes, but here is a second photo (below) that shows this button's carved and painted respects:

Stay tuned! More painted apple juice buttons all this week.

-Sherbert McGee 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Experiment

This irregular button is one of my Bakelite conundrumsa real bizarro-of-a-button. At a glance, the color is a deep brown with unevenly dispersed swirls of gold, whereas the lady who sold me this button called it the darkest rootbeer button she'd ever seen. Looking at it closely, I'd also classify the Bakelite as a rootbeer, although it's so uncustomarily dark that I might even call this button an example of molasses Bakelite. Meanwhile, look at the design on this thing. I see a shark's fin etched with a row of ten lines and a cluster of bubbled periods. Indeed, this button almost looks like an experiment that slipped out of the factory and made it into the material world back in the mid-1930's.

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, September 23, 2016

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is my favorite season and here's a button to commemorate its bristly beauty and the rich yellows of nature that highlight this time of year. A highly carved piece of cream-tone Bakelite with three leaves forming an Art Deco feast for the eyes, this antiquated button is the King of Fanciness. Like part of a showgirl's costume, circa 1925, I see an old-time cabaret every time I study this leafy relic. On that note, here's a befitting quote by the French playwright and essayist, Albert Camus: Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Autumnal cheers!

-Sherbert McGee    

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Chocolate Extraordinaire

Brown Bakelite takes the cake. This button comes courtesy of my friend, Doreen, who sent it to me last month. What I like about this chocolate champ is the variety of carved detail it sets forth with spots and swirls and a central design resembling a chicken's footprints! When it comes to Bakelite, it goes without saying that a brown button is a treasured fudge nugget.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chunky Reds

Be it brooch, bracelet, bead or button, I've noticed that collectors of Bakelite frequently use the word "chunky" to describe a vintage find. Here's a pair of deeply curved bowl buttons that plainly qualify for that adjective. When I was a kid I used to dine on SpaghettiOs from a set of bright red bowls that looked just like these merry mortars. Both buttons are flawlessand straight out of the 1930's.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, September 19, 2016

Quintessential Bakelite

A button oozing with carved detail, this vintage knockout boasts a distinctive "suction cup" design mingled with a three-petaled concept. A bit of patina rests in some of the hewn craftwork. So what? A little smut never killed the cat. This button could be a contender for the definitive example of a Bakelite coat fixture. It possesses a dash of everything: sculpted artistry, balance, urbanity, style, pluck and a pitch-black stateliness.

-Sherbert McGee 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wedded Squares

Originally, I had planned on posting these square-shaped buttons separately, but then I put them together and saw an instant marriage. Roughly the same size, the one at left is a butterscotch deal with the sides pinched down. The one at right is a two-tone button showing signs of Art Deco. Both buttons tested positive for Bakelite. Made in the 1920's.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Case of the Incredibly Strange, Amphibious Yo-Yo

Once upon a time, my friend Doreen emailed me with the news of finding this unusually formed button. "It'll go wonderfully in your collection," she told me. And sure enough, here it rests like a misshapen salamander. The earthy color is moss and the shape is almost like that of a stubby spool (or a yo-yominus its string). My favorite thing about this button is the etched away splotches that give this Bakelite oldster the look of a spotted swamp creature. 

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bakelite Ménage à Trois

Admittedly not my best photograph, this dark button boasts three tones of Bakelite. The base and outer edges are a deep chocolate. Two stripes of rootbeer Bakelite surround the central band, which is apple juice infused with glitter. At first glance this button is a drab chunk of overcast hues, but look closely and there is a lot going on with this angular and complex relic from the 1930's.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Toggle Tuesday: Green Bean

Bakelite buttons often remind me of fruits and candies in the way of food, but here's a toggle that smacks of ripe and tender vegetable matter. It's lightly carved with a sprout of grass-like lines and sports a smart quality with its garden-green good looks. I've never been fond of vegetables on my dinner plate, but in the world of Bakelite buttons I can handle this cheery green bean.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Dewdrop

Here's a button that I've had in my collection for a long, long time. I call this button "the dewdrop" because of the five droplet-shaped formations that seem to be curled up together on the surface of this old biddy-of-a-button. Curious thing about this specimen of Bakelite, the color is apple juice and yet it's not transparent. Instead, it's got the smeary look of a half-sucked throat lozenge. On that note, maybe I should call this button, "the cough drop."

-Sherbert McGee   

Friday, September 9, 2016


A gamesome button, the centerpiece is licorice Bakelite while the border is striped with alternating squares of butterscotch. When I look at this button I see a shrunken-down board gamesuch as Sorry!, Trivial Pursuit or Monopolywith each square being a stop along the roundabout pastime. Not a flat button, the edges are just slightly angled downwards. I number this old button among my most savvy and sophisticated prizes.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cherry Jell-O Delight

While photographing this glowing red Bakelite button, I realized that it's possibly the Prystal variety. The sunlight shines right through it, which of course is a sign of Prystala rare brand of alternative Bakelite that demonstrates a glassy effect. Like a shimmering delicacy poured out of a Jell-O mould, this visibly tilted button has all the reflective charms of a gelatinous dessert. Buttons like this were a dime a dozen in the 1920's and 1930's. Now they are costly things indeed.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Thingamajig

I wonder what inspired the wavy lines on this large Bakelite button in bright, luminous rootbeer. A trickle of deep ravines, they seem to form something reminiscent of a fossil or maybe a seashell. Or does this button bear the footprint of a twig-like space alien? It's anybody's guess what's going on with these curvy tendrils on this old keepsake from the 1930's.  

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wonder Cut

One of my favorite double-cut buttons, this one looks as though it's stretching apart in two places with internal strands barely intact as the Bakelite comes undone like a tortured wafer. I like how the featured surface designs on this butterscotch creation are etched away to show the evenly sliced underside. It always impresses me how many different double-cut styles are out thereornate grids and geometrical latticework on buttons going back nearly 80 or 90 years.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, September 5, 2016

Oddball: Front & Back

Normally I don't show the backsides of my buttons. How indelicate! But today I just had to take a picture of this boggling anomaly: front and back. The button is a transparent orb made of apple juice Bakelite with a glob of chocolate locked inside. Viewed from the top, something uncanny happens as the laws of physics cause the brown nucleus of the button to appear in two tonesor a dark brown blob hovering in its lighter brown shadow. This effect gives the button the look of a wide-open eyeball. Flip it over and see the truth. Viewed from the back, the button is flattened with the brown section merely a simple and singular component. It's a tricky button with a surreal knack. And a rarity from the 1920's!  

-Sherbert McGee