I grew up looking through my mother's and grandmother's button jars. In fact, I still have one of those jars. There is something about seeing and feeling those round, oval and square shapes that fascinate. Some have pictures, some are in relief and some are just colorful and all are pieces of history.
When the owner of a fabric shop asked me is I could make polymer buttons, I said "Sure"! Having worked in polymer clay I was positive this would be easy. After a lot of learning and practicing it is an intriguing enterprise that takes patience and is fun!
My latest button inspiration came from a friend who looked at the buttons in my display and said 'Red and Black' You need red and black and maybe burgundy for the season!' These new buttons will be in showing up my display case and in my etsy shop though out this month.
My process begins with conditioning the polymer clay and then make polymer canes in different designs but in the same color scheme. In this case I've chosen red and black with a touch of translucent (which reads light gray) and another color scheme in burgundy, black and white. The backing of the button is black.
Once the backing is rolled to the correct thickness I add thin slices of canes. Sometimes I put this through the pasta machine and stretch the design. Other times I place the cane slices touching each other and smooth the edges so there in no line between the designs. Then I cut the shapes of the buttons and cure them. When the buttons are cool I drill the holes, sand, buff and polish the buttons. Often I'll use Renaissance wax to give them a little extra shine.
My buttons are one of a kind or a few of a kind. They are unique handmade tiny pieces of art.
Here are some of the things I have learned while making buttons:
o It's great way to use polymer canes. Canes are those clay logs of patterns and color that are sliced, baked and used to make all kinds of things polymer. The logs in the photo are examples. I always make too many canes and am glad to find ways to use them in my designs.
o In my opinion polymer buttons need to be somewhere between 2 cm to 6 cm in thickness. Too thin and they are too flexible and not strong enough. Too thick and they are cumbersome.
o Yarn artists like buttons with large holes so the yarn goes through easier. Sewers like the holes spaced for the sewing machine needle can sew them. (I find that seldom happens with a handmade button).
o Edges need to be smooth - not sharp and the finish needs to feel smooth.
o The curing of the polymer needs to be accurate so the buttons do not break.
o Generally, people like buttons to be durable and washable.
o It's possible to match a button perfectly to a fabric but usually I prefer contrast.
o No matter how many different buttons there are we need more!
o Buttons make great gifts. They are fun to receive with a note "Just thinking about you!", or as a stocking stuffer. They are often used as beads, pins, and earrings.
o Buttons make great accents on bags, purses, quilts or most anything you can think of.