Who’s got the button? Well… I know, but I’m not telling. Suffice to say that over the weekend I was granted entrance to the inner sanctum of one of the most prominent and experienced importers of Czech bohemian glass buttons in the USA. Folks, I’m not a religious woman, but I thought I had died and awoken in heaven. When my kind and generous host invited me to open any of the dozens and dozens of drawers and boxes in the collection room, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t having one of my recurring thrifting/collecting/hunting/gathering dreams.
The photo above captures the full haul of the day, which would have been 10x that amount had I not been on a pauper’s budget. Along with the buttons is a delicious 1/2 pound bag of glass beads in an incredible and irresistible palette. My plan is to craft one or two super duper long rosary beaded necklaces out of these. A good busy-hands activity while watching my new favorite shows (RuPaul’s Drag Race, Pawn Stars, etc.).
The Czech Republic has a long history of some of the finest glass work in the world, dating back to the Renaissance. Vintage beads and buttons are very collectible and currently commanding ultra high prices. Each button was/is handcrafted, including painting on the fronts or reverse painting, as shown above.
Today, some of the antique molds are being used again, and new techniques are adding to the amazing beauty of these miniature works of art.
Colors and styles range from baroque, to psychedelic, to mid-century modern with abstraction and patterns, as well as cats, dogs, magic mushroom men, puddings, fleur de lys, fairytales and rhinestone embellishments. I am deeply fond of some of the new figurals including the cicadas and moths (bats?). The white swan on pink glass with blue water could be my number one favorite. It’s an older button and getting difficult to come by.
Using the glass buttons in jewelry-making is a challenge; most have glass self-shanks that can not be removed without damaging the piece. I’ve seen people wrap fancy brass filigrees around the buttons but I find that to be visually noisy and distracting. So I’m working with my own techniques of incorporating these into my work… as a good friend says, a big part of jewelry-making (especially assemblage without formal “smithing”) is the solving of engineering problems.