Monday, October 31, 2016
Halloween cheers! Today marks my all-time favorite holiday with four Bakelite figure buttons. Rarest of all is the witch, which I have never seen without a few daubs of paint on her hat and broomstick. The cat too, is not easy to find. Bakelite figure buttons are "factory pressed" and flimsier than most Bakelite forms, but they're fun to collect (and addictive too). In my estimate, I believe that there are between 60 and 70 varieties of pressed Bakelite figure buttons floating around out there. circa 1930.
Friday, October 28, 2016
The "Gibson Girl" was a popular design of ideal feminine beauty that garnished the Art Nouveau era of the late-1800's through the years leading up to the end of WWI. Invented by sketch artist, Charles Dana Gibson, the famously penciled lady boasted a buxom wholesomeness (tightly corseted), a long and elegant neck, the air of upper class respectability and usually a broad mound of high-piled curls. She was a fragile albeit progressive woman who defined the times, appearing on magazine covers, newspaper ads, sheet music and merchandise items such as ashtrays, cameo jewelry, souvenir spoons and least of all...buttons. This very old Bakelite button, possibly made as early as 1919, would've come out just as the Gibson Girl's heyday declined—a transitional time when the 1920's began upholding more wild variations of the modern woman in the form of fast-moving chippies and haughty flappers who bobbed their hair. Set in gold and mounted on bright green Bakelite, this Gibson Girl looks warm and matronly. The first time I saw this button I thought the featured matriarch was a brothel's no-nonsense madam, possibly named Josephine. Courteous, but always down-to-business, she's one helluva seasoned mama.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
When I was in first grade, I had a Portuguese teacher named Mrs. Andrade who painted an abstract mural on our classroom wall that depicted epic swirls and leafy sunflowers. This button reminds me of that mural with its roller coaster grooves and curvaceous flower design. There's also a childlike playfulness about this button. It's like a six-year-old broke into the Bakelite factory and operated the carving tools to churn out this chocolate lollapalooza.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
How about a little Art Deco on the rocks? These four showgirls are putting on a theater act that's right out of the Folies Bergère! Each button is Bakelite: 1 quarter creamed corn and 3 quarters apple juice for a nifty, geometric effect. Style all over the place, these are ritzy definitions of 1920's mischief and opulence. Fun to arrange, I chose to position these zany babies in such a way that makes me think of a Busby Berkeley dance sequence in a Hollywood classic, such as Dames or Footlight Parade. There's a jazzy imagination in these buttons and a dazzling heap of misbehavior.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Oh, these cherry Bakelite buttons kill me every time! It's hard to take a picture of a bright red button in Bakelite because the intensity of the color comes out as an overly vibrant splash of saturated potency. It's like looking at an unbearably radiant fireball. Too red! This ardent zinger features a slitted Art Deco design that suggests a pair of open leaves, carved on each side for an accented effect that typifies the celebrated flair of 1920's chic. I'm gaga over cherry Bakelite, but not as gaga as Lady Gaga. Let's get that straight.
Monday, October 24, 2016
An autumnal victory of style, this voguish leaf button is an Art Deco treat (as opposed to a trick) in creamed corn Bakelite. I love the lines on this buttery triumph and how the button is divided in half with a waffled effect on one side and a single frond nestled at the bottom of the other. Leaves are a prevalent motif in the world of Art Deco and I'm kind of nuts about this vintage fashion point of the 1920's. To that end, I'm in an Art Deco mood and will be posting buttons that exemplify this classic, streamlined aesthetic for the next few days. Stay tuned!
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Though absurdly hard to find and steeply expensive, pinwheel buttons are one of my favorite things. This one's an extravagant spectacle in apple juice and black Bakelite with visible glue holding the pieces together in a dark orange tone. It's a massive button that might've punctuated a mink coat in the 1920's—possibly one designed by Chanel or Pierre Cardin. I purchased this button in March of 2014 at a high-end button boutique called Tender Buttons, located just north of Bloomingdale's on Lexington Avenue in New York City. Tender Buttons specializes in vintage buttons and the shop is a pristine trove of heritage fasteners going back to the 1800's. A serious button collector can't help but make a pilgrimage to this specialty outlet for an exorbitant purchase on something wildly rare.
"...buttons are richly varied, often exquisitely crafted, imaginatively designed and made of valuable materials. In their making they reveal our impulse to enhance even the most familiar and minute details of everyday life and in their collecting they represent our ever-present desire to find the extraordinary in the commonplace."
—Diane Epstein, founder of Tender Buttons, New York, New York
Friday, October 21, 2016
Shaped like a spaceship, this large and multi-textured button tested positive for Bakelite. The color is moss, a rather murky green with veinlike flourishes in black. The rim of the button is carved in an almost quilted pattern. This button entered my collection last summer through a purchase I made via my friend and fellow-button collector, Doreen. It's kind of exciting to find vintage buttons shaped like unidentified flying objects—where Bakelite goes sci-fi.
Visit Doreen's online store-Sherbert McGee
Thursday, October 20, 2016
This past summer I dug through a stash of my mother-in-law's buttons, including a vintage lot that she'd owned for nearly 50 years. Among that stew of oldies, I found this large apple juice button with a customary carving of blandly typical rings. It's not the most exciting button, but it's classic Bakelite from the Great Depression era and that's exciting enough for me. As unshowy as a button may be, there's no such thing as discardable Bakelite.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Every now and then I find a button that showcases a really interesting bead. Voila! Here's just the thing in a brown octagon made of Bakelite. The glass bead is a burgundy marble that's streaked in black and dotted in reflective crystals. It almost looks like a little nod to Mars or some other planet with a variegated surface. The Bakelite is just a frame for the bead, but it has its charms too with a ridged construction and a deep, chocolatey tone.
Visit Doreen's online store
Monday, October 17, 2016
A substantial chunk of swirled butterscotch Bakelite forms the stage for this huge 2-tone button with a bold decorativeness and impressive composure. Topped in a licorice crown and etched all the way around, the focal point of this wowzer is a beautifully incised flower design made up of five petals. I've had this button in my collection for several years now, but I don't recall where I found this major charmer. It's one of the largest buttons that I own and definitely archetypal of Bakelite's famously eye-catching poise and stamina. Made circa 1930.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
One of my absolute favorites, this eyeful of style is a vintage model of flamboyant Art Deco and a monkey's brunch! The main yellow section of this button is custard Bakelite, bunched at the base in a bright green accent piece that is also Bakelite. (It's like this button is wearing a button.) Proof that the world had a sense of humor once, this might've dominated a dandy's shirt at Jay Gatsby's last great jamboree. Made in the 1920's and oozing with all the panache of a flapper on her way to Woolworth's to buy a copy of Town Tattle magazine, I'm bananas about this lulu of a keepsake.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Normally, I don't go after Bakelite buttons unless they possess a striking feature or an unusual element that sets them apart from other vintage finds. However, if I come across a Bakelite button that's maroon in color, that's pretty much all it takes for me to snap it up. These plain Janes aren't too extravagant, but that's okay. They are maroon Bakelite and that's good enough for me.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
This flower buttons looks to have been carved in a sloppy hurry by Edward Scissorhands himself! The Bakelite is a hazy rendition of apple juice that always reminds me of weathered beach glass with its frosted and roughened appearance. As for the slashed mode of the incised detail, every slit looks like a swiftly rendered knife-wound, albeit with attractive results. Gashed, scratched, nicked and pruned, this old button underwent some serious cutting.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
As a kid I couldn't stand Tootsie Rolls and found them to be especially offensive on Halloween when they'd show up like dreaded turds in my trick-or-treater's pail. Despite that repulsion, one thing I did enjoy was the classic jingle that went along with the TV commercials: Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me! In any case, this chocolate toggle reminds me of an extra fancy Tootsie Roll with carved and undulating stripes. As a brand of dime-store candy these are utterly gross, but as inspiration for a Bakelite button I'm definitely okay with Tootsie Rolls.
Monday, October 10, 2016
A few years ago I visited Thailand and traveled up and down the country, starting with Phuket and Koh Phi Phi in the south and then onto to Bangkok—the country's capital. From there, I took a bus northward and visited the Sukhothai province and also Chiang Mai, a tropical and vibrant city in the mountainous highlands. Throughout my travels I visited many Buddhist temples giving prominence to traditional Thai architecture with tiered roofs adorned with rows of jagged edges called lamyong. The lamyong are sculpted and blade-like projections, which are distinctly Thai and tremendously exotic. This Bakelite button, a heavily-carved masterpiece in butterscotch, reminds me of the spiky rooftops on the temples that epitomize Thailand.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Some of my most unique buttons are these interlocked hoops in cherry and creamed corn Bakelite. This set of triplets came into my collection last spring and they are truly amazing. Acquired at an estate sale by my friend Doreen, these are not your vapid, day-to-day blouse ornaments. No siree, these are lively buttons with a twist. Blame it on the innovative fashion quirks of the 1920's or early 1930's for a set of buttons that look like they belong on a monkey's kimono.
Visit Doreen's online store
Friday, October 7, 2016
Someday I'm going to post a rootbeer button in an actual puddle of rootbeer, but not today. This rootbeer button is already carbonated enough with a gleaming and orderly array of nineteen carved bubbles (or loops) on its sunlit surface. An attractive button with effervescent charm, I present this button today as a sparkling toast to my favorite vintage mania: BAKELITE!
Thursday, October 6, 2016
This mountainous blob of licorice Bakelite is one of my mightiest finds. It's a gigantic button in a domed shape that gives the impression of tar poured out of a Jell-O mold. Belted in a silver band, this mega-button likely dominated a fur coat back in the 1920's. The antique dealer who I purchased this from was a friendly lady with a striking slew of rare and unique buttons for sale from her life-long collection. Of course, I was happy to take this posh asteroid off her hands.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
It's October now and I'm paying homage to this month with an orange button that's ridged with an all-the-way-around, wavy pattern and centered with four holes. In the production phase of this old button, the plastic was pressed or stamped by factory tools as opposed to being carved or sculpted. To that end, this button did test postive for Bakelite. It's not too substantial, but this nifty keeper has loads of charm.
Monday, October 3, 2016
While taking pictures today, I realized that I needed a side-angle to really show off this button's steeply-made rings. The Bakelite is a deep avocado green with a butterscotch midsection and a base in brown (that's barely visible in this photo). Like all of my vintage buttons, I can only imagine what sort of getup this decorated once. Picture five of these going up a zesty frock in the 1930's.