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Button queen

Buttons! Buttons a farthing a pair!
Come, who will buy them of me?
They’re round and sound and pretty,
And fit for the girls of the city…

By Joyce Ervin

Buttons have been around for thousands of years and are utilitarian in use, but they are also fascinating works of art and full of history. One French king was purported to have a suit covered with 13,600 buttons.
Denene Smith never heard of the king, but she needed to make something for her daughter, Sara, to wear for 100-days of school many years ago, when she attended Paddock Elementary School.
Smith sewed 100 buttons on a white turtle-neck top and then took a marker and turned them into snowmen, girls, boys, dogs, cats, etc. Sara is now a junior at Eastern Michigan University studying commercial design.
Smith got the button tins out and spilled the buttons on the tabletop. They were once her grandmother’s and great grandmother’s and were passed down to her by her father. She said, “I guess he gave them to me because I was the only one in the family that sewed.”
She said, “Sewing is my passion.” So, she probably was the best choice. Sewing is a hobby that she shares with her daughters, Samatha Grieshabea and Sara. Recently, Grieshabea, has started her own business making infant items, with the sometime help of her mother.
Smith has started to sort the buttons according to colors; red for bright colors, she said, for her first grandchild, Alayna Grieshabea, to play with. Other than that, she just rummages through them on occasion
She said she didn’t have a favorite button, but she is drawn to the Art Deco style buttons that are in her collection. The buttons were probably purchased by her grandmother, Gail Snyder, during the deco era of the 1920s and 1930s.
As she let the buttons fall through her fingers, she said, “There has to be a story behind every button. I wish I knew what is was. Did they go to a dance or a party, or possibly were worn on a fancy dress?”
Her collection has some military brass buttons, one that is engraved U.S. Navy. Smith has no idea who in the family was ever in the Navy. Quite the guessing game.
The game continued as different buttons caught the eye. Some were leather, some were made of celluloid, the very first man-made plastic used from the late 1800s through the 1940s. Others were identifiable by pattern putting them in the eras of the 1950s or 1970s. Some just remained a mystery!
For more on buttons, there are tourist sites to visit. Waterbury Button Museum in Waterbury, CT. has on display more than 20,000 examples. Etsy and other online sites sell buttons for collectors. It’s fun to shop the sites even if you don’t purchase.
While online, check out Night Owl Creations for infant and children’s items on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NightOwlCreationsSG/.

Joyce Ervin is a freelance writer reporting on Milan. She can be contacted at: jlervin42 [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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