Button Button, Who's Got the Button was a game my Grandma invented to keep us little ones occupied. Her button tin was a special treat reserved for special occasions. We gathered around her enticed by the sounds of buttons as she shook the tin, removing the lid with a flourish. We gasped with pleasure at the magical sight within. A couple of rules then off she went, leaving us with So. Many. Buttons. We made up more games and played for hours. There were buttons of glass, celluloid, mother-of-pearl, metal, bone, wood, clay, seeds, and cloth. A spectacular universe of buttons! We lost ourselves in time and space, sorting, pairing, arranging by color, size, and demeanor. We built a fantasy world peopled by buttons.
We had queens and princesses, mothers and daughters, dancers, sailors, stodgy old ladies, men with stinky cigars.
Shiny mother-of-pearls, bejeweled and bedazzled glass rarities ranked highest.
Celluloids in dark, deco patterns became buxom old women and cigar smoking old men.
Sleek brass buttons with metal insignia could be our knights or sailors.
Scores of Depression era white shirt buttons sewn to bits of cloth, boring, were cast aside.
Precious and teensy, cherished for decades, were buttons intended for a baby’s layette.
Buttons became flowers, walkways, decorative patterns. There were no limits.
I adored button day. My Mother's tin was equally fascinating on those long Buffalo winter days. I sorted and arranged her collection, lost in my own thoughts, my design brain at work
So of course! I have a button box (my tin rusted in Florida). I filled with treasures from Mom and Grandma and added my own. There are project leftover buttons and project wanna be's. Oddities from estate sales. Artsies for some day. Buttons traded and buttons shared. Piles and piles of buttons.
I sift through the jumble in search of just the right one, transported. Those button days. A skirt I made at 23, an outfit for my child, a jacket woven at 37. Metal flowers, animal shapes, antlers. Saved for later days. I turn them over in my hand, let them drop back into their box.
Holiday season is a time when we honor our family and cultural traditions, usually with copious amounts of food and gifts. But what is tradition exactly? Pondering this, I came across a quote from an old Italian textile company. By old, I mean over five hundred years producing luxury textiles. Early records indicate in 1499, Giacomo Bevilacqua, a weaver, was head of a dynasty of textile artists in Venice, Italy that passed down through the ages. It was formally established in 1875, as a company, by a descendant, and the company thrives to this day! It produces some of the world’s finest velvets made by highly trained weavers using 18th-century looms. Oh I would love to see this!
Two other luxe Venetian fabric workshops include Fortuny (fashion) and Rubelli (upholstery fabrics and wall coverings). Rubelli is run by two brothers, Nicolo and Andrea, the 5th generation to produce luxury silk brocade and jacquard fabrics. Keeping tradition alive also means incorporating newer techniques, like ink-jet printing. Nicolo states, “Tradition is not only the past. It is the simple tool to reach innovation and move forward.” (Victoria Magazine, October 2019).
This statement makes me think of my own commitment to weaving and others’ (mis)perceptions. Many times visitors to my studio would comment, erroneously, “Oh that’s a dying art” as I, very much alive, wove very contemporary, conceptual art before their very eyes on my big, traditional floor loom, Weaving, of course, is not and won’t ever be, a dying art. Sighing, I excuse these comments as mis-perceptions of the unaware; those who equate textile production as women’s work, less valued than men’s work, what ever that is.
The Rubellis, Fortunys, Bevilaquas and I can empahtically laugh this off. Woven cloth, in all its permutations is literally the fabric of life. It is everywhere around us from every moment of our lives, from birth into death. Weaving is part of our DNA our birth inheritance on Earth. We share this gift with other species who utilize it. Weaver Birds and their fabulous nests, Beavers and their mighty dams.
People have been weaving since the beginning of time across all cultures. The very language of weaving is imbedded in our common vernacular. Weaving,loom, warp, shuttle, shed: A driver is weaving from lane to lane. An idea is “warped.” A deadline is “looming.” The space “shuttle” was launched. All manner of things are “woven together.” People and situations are “woven: together. Put you tools in the “shed.” Yes, shed is a weaving term.
Going back to Nicolo Rubelli’s quote that “tradition is a tool of innovation,” I have often sat at my loom, mesmerized by the rhythmic progression of the cloth forming before my eyes, colors and patterns mingling, my hands throwing the shuttles (in the shed), my feet pressing the treadles. Working from traditional weaving patterns as the architecture of my work, I create new patterns, new forms of conceptual and contemporary woven textile art. My work, Where the Desert Meets Biscayne Bay has a story (for another time). It exemplifies a traditional pattern, Monks Belt, in contempoary context.
This process is transformational, occurring in a parallel reality of no-time, no-space. Within this zone of creativity as I weave, those weavers who came before me and those who will follow ‒ we are all connected by an energetic thread on the continuum of life.
And so I weave the past into the future, through the present. Tradition is innovation.
Get ready for a "Make it Take it" project meeting! Bring your own supplies to use and share. Project: Chemical Scrabble. We are making faux scrabble tiles to represent our initials, using the Periodic Table of Elements.
Download here -- https://www.ptable.com/
Find your initials, copy each initial onto on paper or cloth and get ready to make each one into Chemical Scrabble Text-Tiles. Finished size will be 4" x 4" so you need BIGGER fabric to start. One initial per square.
You may embroider, cross stitch, crochet, applique, stitch, draw...your choice. We like variety.
Supply list: Needles, thread, embroidery thread, embroidery hoops, cloth, sharp scissors, pencil, white glue, pins, plastic canvas... basically your sewing room, what ever you have.
See you there!