Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trefoiled in Tortoise

There are not enough "trefoil" shaped things in the world! I feel like this shape is slowly falling out of existence. Formerly a common motif in architectural designs, it also showed up in the immeasurable range of olden-day buttons. Here are three very large trefoil buttons from the 1930's, arrayed in faux tortoise Bakelite (aka rootbeer). Thought to be derived as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, the trefoil shape is a lesser-known outline than its famous cousin, the clover. I wish I had more trefoil buttons in my collection, but they are exceptionally rare. Maybe one day I'll go out and get myself a trefoil tattoo. Who will help me launch a trefoil resurgence?

-Sherbert McGee 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Strangely Monozygotic

When I saw this Bakelite button for sale at an antique shop earlier this year during my summer travels, something about it really drew me in. Prepossessing and pitch-black, this button has an almost mythical vibe with its curved cluster of etched lines moving around two identical orbs. I feel like there's a hidden, esoteric meaning in the dark design here. And would I be wrong to suggest that the design might be Egyptian? I see an ovum containing twinsa mysterious zygote sheltering two embryos separated by primitive chaos.

-Sherbert McGee

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bakelite Pie

The Thanksgiving holidays are over this year and I'm ending the week with pieliterally in the form of baked food and literally again with this pie-shaped button made of Bakelite in the color known by collectors as creamed corn. Etched across the top in a checkered pattern, the carved dashes on this old button provide a deliciously eye-catching texture. It's like looking at a small-scale tart, fresh from the oven. Where pastry meets plastic, I'm sweet on this tasteful treasure. Circa 1932.

-Sherbert McGee  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Pilgrim

Going over my buttons this morning, my eyes fell on this large complexity in chocolate Bakelite with a brass escutcheon that could almost serve as a Victorian bib. The button is folded upwards like a taco with the metal ornamentation settled into the Bakelite, hence the brass piece is bent to fit into the fold. Notice also that the Bakelite is carved with deep slits, adding to the twists and turns of this elaborate display of alloy-meets-plastic. It's hard to imagine what this button would've rested on clothing-wise. Maybe a heavy coat of some sort? Because of its prim and persnickety vibes, I was going to call this button "The Fussbudget" or "The Starchy Vicar" or maybe something a bit more Shakespearean since this old snob looks like it might've once played in King Lear. In the end, I've decided to call this button "The Pilgrim" because it conjures up visions of English Puritans tiptoeing for the first time in Massachusetts. Plus, it's Thanksgiving.

-Sherbert McGee   

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Apple Juice Cheers

A toast to apple juice Bakelite! What I love about this button is the carved undercurrent with all the engraved lines at the bottom of the button flowing in opposition to the carved lines at the top. The effect is a busy eyeful that throws light everywhere. Added to the fact that this fancy Lou-Lou is crowned with a big fake pearl and what we have here is a gleaming superstar of heritage plastic right out of the 1920's. Purchased at an antique shop in Buffalo, New York, I was told that this button comes from the estate of nearly-forgotten "Annie Edson Taylor" who famously went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1901. It wouldn't be the first time a fib was told between seller and buyer in the midst of semi-precious clutter. Several years ago, a lamp vendor in SoHo once tried selling me a candelabra that formerly "belonged" to Andy Warhol. But I digress... No synthetic material has quite the seasoned glare of apple juice Bakelite and here's a button that proves it. This dusted-off keepsake may resemble a tired relic off of Barbara Bush's church blouse, but back in the day this old prize might've been the attention-grabbing jewel on a promiscuous flapper's most daring party dress. All I know for sure is that this is Bakelite and it's beautiful. Bottoms up!

-Sherbert McGee   

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cranberry Sauce

As we delve into a week rich with holiday traditions, I'm photographing buttons that remind me of the time-honored foodstuffs one might find on the table during Thanksgiving here in the United States. Pass the cranberry sauce! This ultra-smooth button surprised me by testing positive for Bakelite since it has the texture and appearance of maroon glass. Come mealtime, I usually pass on the cranberry sauce, but this lustrous octagon looks downright delectable. Made in the 1930's.

-Sherbert McGee 

Monday, November 21, 2016

OJ Intersection

Flooded with dreamy swirls, here's an orange juice button (genuine Bakelite) with four holes and a slotted "X" between them that I assume is where the thread would lie if this button was stitched onto a clothing item. The "X" is the intersection between Valencia Street and Vitamin C Avenue, but that's just me throwing out some futile orange juice humor. Radically sunny, this unusually shaped button looks like it's teeming with hot lava. 

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

True Blue

It's time I post a very special button in the rarest of all the Bakelite colors. Here it is: a true blue collector's item in the transparent class of vintage plastic known as "Prystal" Bakelite. This one is noteworthy because it's the only carved button in my small cache of Bakelite blues. On a side note, it took me twenty minutes just to get this button to stay balanced on its rim for today's photo session. Alas, the button stands! In honor of this rarity, here's a snippet of Madonna lyrics from one of her majesty's most under-celebrated chart toppers

True love,
You're the one I'm dreaming of.
Your heart fits me like a glove
And I'm gonna be true blue
Baby, I love you...

-Sherbert McGee    

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Red Racer

Snazzy 'n' striking, this two-tone button looks like it's ready to rev its engine and disappear. Check out the jaunty contours on this daredevil. Is it a button or a sports car? A toggle really, the material is bright red Bakelite with a cream stripe. Put wheels on this dashing hunk of plastic and you'd have a miniature hot rod straight out of the 1920's. Clearly, this Bakelite button dreams of being a Corvette! 

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

National Button Day!

Here in the good ole USA it's National Button Daynot the most well-known holiday, but Happy November 16th and kiss a button ASAP! This blog makes it pretty obvious that I like to collect Bakelite buttons, but it amazes me what other types of buttons are out there, many of which go back hundreds of years. Collections of buttons range from all kinds of interesting makes & materials: ivory, wood, bone, celluloid, silver, shell, glass, porcelain, abalone, horn, leather, casein, lucite, tortoise, galalith, brass and mother-of-pearl (to name a few). Mark my words, there are probably buttons out there made of rhinoceros teeth. If I didn't collect Bakelite buttons, I might be interested in amassing an assortment of enamel buttons from the Art Nouveau era, which are truly beautiful. At any rate, today's post spotlights five little Bakelite buttons. The smallest is the dark green gear, measuring just under half-an-inch across. Bakelite is my favorite, but there are gazillions of antique buttons in the world. Souvenirs of eras and class systems and the historical trends of mankind going back to the Stone Age, buttons are cultural tokens and expressive relics of the human race. Even at their most mass-produced level, buttons are signs of life. With all of that said, feel free to admire a button at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

-Sherbert McGee     

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Toggle Tuesday: X Marks the Rootbeer Button

Some buttons exude a special radiance and a seemingly magical authority. This is one of those buttons. A far-reaching toggle that stretches toward the two-inch mark, this Bakelite log is blessed with an exciting luminosity. What's more, it's studded with a brass X (for extra charm). I've had this rootbeer treasure in my collection for a long time and I keep it stored in a small box with velvet lining to protect it from scuffing. It's only a button, but it emanates the extraordinary qualities of a rare and shimmering jewel.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, November 14, 2016

Exemplar in Black

This black Art Deco button is a recent find from an antique shop in Kansas. The carved features on this old beauty appear in three sections: a rough-hewn and whittled area at the bottom, followed by a middle band of crisscrossed etchings. The top portion is my favorite with a burst of three stylized leaves, replete with some highlighting caused by the patina. This button tested positive for Bakelite. From around 1927.

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Thingamabob

How would you describe this button's shape? Is it a wonky acorn or a double-tiered hand grenade? Maybe it's a top or an abstract pear? It sort of looks like a psychedelic dreidel, but then again there's an organic look to it. My friend, Doreen, calls it a mushroom. Whatever it is, the thing's made out of butterscotch Bakelite. Tapered at the end, the carved grooves swirl to a point like an object meant to be spun. Knoblike and smoothly sculpted, this buttery rogue is one of my screwiest mystery buttons.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bullied and Redeemed

Last summer I spotted this persecuted button at an antique shop in Saint Joseph, Missouri. It'd been tossed into a literal bucket with dozens of other buttons, many of which had metal shanks that were digging violently against this button's chocolatey Bakelite surface. Not a favorable scenario by any means. After purchasing this injured party, I brought it home and gave it a hot bath and a rigorous shine. Beautifully carved with deep flourishes and a striped pentagon design, it's hard to understand how this dandy keepsake ever landed among such hard knocks and rude riffraff. He's still got a sore dash of scars and nicks, but what was once an abused castoff is now a polished treasure. 

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In the Red

Digging my fingers through a trinket box this morning, I plucked out this cheerful button made of bright red Bakelite that's been fitted in a silver belt like a chubby Santa's midsection wrapped in a metal cummerbund. It's the day after the presidential election and I don't think anyone's thinking about buttons today, but here's one that exudes optimism and hope. God Bless the USA.

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cherry Cola Bakelite

It's not an immediately striking button, but this smooth Bakelite beauty radiates a rare color that isn't your run-of-the-mill rootbeer and is definitely not faux tortoise. So what kind of Bakelite do we have here? A reddish glow in the coloring is why I'm classifying this unusual Bakelite tone as cherry cola. The middle section appears to be more of a semitransparent chocolate. On a final note, this button possesses a spectral gleam.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Exuberant Zebra

Another button that defies practicality in favor of outlandish style, this mammoth zebra is a showy beast of a button. Very large and slightly elongated, the design of this flamboyant work-of-art is downright bonkers. A real poverty-mocker, when this button outlived the 1920's it laughed at the hardships of Depression-era vagabonds in their lackluster jackets. Brother, Can You Spare a Button? Wildly striped and bedazzled, this life-of-the-party is apple juice Bakelite with silver glitter drizzled throughout the central component. The darker sections, though hard to examine in the brightness of this photo, are strips of dark moss Bakelite. A major knockout if there ever was one.

-Sherbert McGee  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bakelite Meets Celluloid

Bakelite ball buttons in cherry and cheery red, this tasty trio is something special. I call them style berries. Chic leftovers from the flapper generation, each button gives prominence to a precision-cut slice of faux-mother of pearl. The imitation MOP is actually an inlay of celluloid. I have another set of these in butterscotch and will be posting them at some point in the future during a whole week that'll focus on Bakelite buttons combined with celluloid elements. Plastic meets plastic! These hot little goodiesArt Deco in naturesmack of highfalutin fruits picked straight off of the fabulosity tree.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Funster

One of the traits I look for in an old button is a sense of fun. The button pictured here is a chocolate button in Bakelite with a ring of carved letter U's or horseshoes going around its surface alongside a repeated circular pattern. "Fun" is what this button is having and that's why I like it. The majority of buttons made nowadays are stodgy and unexceptional. Take an old Bakelite button from the 1930's and that's rarely the case. Why, I wonder, has the art of button-making gone out the window?

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Happy Birthday, Blog! One Year of Bakelite Buttons...

Celebrating Bakelite with over 250 posts and photographs spotlighting vintage buttons going back to the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression, today this blog becomes a raring one-year-old. Filling in for a blast of confetti, here's a button primed for an epic bash. Take that back, this button is an epic bash with party-hardy moxie in creamed corn Bakelite, circa 1927. Lots more to come!  

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Licorice Eyelash Daisy Chain

Here's a licorice button in Bakelite with what I like to call the "eyelash" design going around its border. The button is topped with a metal escutcheon depicting a daisy chain of eight spiky-petaled flowers. I purchased this button last month from my good friend, Doreen, who had it for sale in her period-piece button shop. I'm guessing that a large (and vintage) button like this might've spent its original existence on an influential woman's favorite sable jacket. Who knows, maybe this was Eleanor Roosevelt's?

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee