My love of buttons came first. My immigrant grandmother knitted, crocheted, embroidered, and sewed clothing for her family—all without patterns. It was only years afterward that I realized how talented she was. But even as a young child, I was drawn to her wonderful biscuit tin full of buttons. I would sort them by size, colour, and “most beautiful,” and arrange them to create pictures. When she passed away I inherited them.
I found myself searching antique stores and flea markets for more buttons. Eventually I had far more stashed away than I could ever use for the clothing I made. One day, about seven years ago, I took them all out, and began to arrange art deco buttons on bakelite belt buckles of the same vintage. That was the beginning—turning those cast-offs into brooches. I soon branched out into earrings, pendants and bracelets, and adding repurposed jewelry bits and watch gears, even washers and paper clips, to the mix.
I find working with old buttons endlessly fascinating because they rarely come in multiples—so for each piece I must start fresh. Their shapes and balance points are challenging to incorporate into jewellery—essentially, items meant to be displayed 2-dimensionally are being used in a 3-dimensional context.
Through these small objects, I feel deeply connected to my grandmother, and to all the other women who have made beautiful things when plainer ones would have served the same purpose, forthe pleasure of it.