Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Button as Art

 (Above:  The Button as Art I, 13" x 17" unframed; 20" x 24" matted.  Photogravure from the World's Columbian Exposition 1893: Art and Architecture published in 1894 by George Barrie fused to fabric and altered with hand stitched assorted vintage buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time, my husband Steve Dingman and I bought and sold antiquarian prints.  We weren't high end dealers.  We were what other, better dealers referred to a "bottom feeders", people who purchased the dregs at specialized book auctions.  We bought the books with broken spines, stained covers, missing plates, and otherwise damaged pages.  Some dealers bought pristine volumes, cut out the engravings, and sold them separately.  We didn't.  Some dealers broke perfectly good atlases too.  We would never!  In fact, we have never broken a "fine book" or a "very good" one or even a "good" one.  (Yes, there is a very specific vocabulary for describing the condition of old books and antiquarian prints.) 

Years ago we came across several sections of the World's Columbian Exposition 1893: Art and Architecture.  Originally this was a series of eleven books.  We didn't get half of them.  What we bought was in lousy condition and many of the engravings had already been removed.  We had no problem "breaking" these books for the engravings that were left.  Many were framed and sold at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall outside Charleston, South Carolina.  We rented several walls there for over twenty years ... but we moved out almost a decade ago.   

(Above:  The Button as Art II, 13" x 17" unframed; 20" x 24" matted.)

In order to make room for all the artwork I create, we got rid of most of our antiquarian prints about four years ago.  Evenso, we still have several of the engravings from the World's Columbian Exposition 1893: Art and Architecture, including Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth which was engraved by Gaston Albert Manchon after the 1889 oil painting by John Singer Sargent that now hangs in room 1840 of the Tate in London.

 (Above:  Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, an engraving after John Singer Sargent's oil painting.)

Yet, this painting once hung in Chicago ... at the World's Exposition ... and was included in the photogravure now called The Button as Art II ... in the very middle on which I stitched three buttons.

 (Above:  The Button as Art III, 13" x 17" unframed; 20" x 24" matted.)

These four photogravures were first fused to an upholstery fabric.  Many other textile artist might think I'm using Pellon's WonderUnder or another company's iron-on fusible, but that's not the case. I use a framing industry product called Fusion 4000 in my 36" x 48" dry mount press.  Fusion 4000 is acid-free and considered a conservation grade product.  Inside the press, it fuses paper to fabric ... permanently.  It takes just five minutes at 180 degrees with a perfectly even 28 pounds per square inch of pressure.  It works like a charm, every time.  I love this machine!
(Above:  The Button as Art IV, 13" x 17" unframed; 20" x 24" matted.)

I also really enjoyed selecting the buttons to fill the depicted picture frames.  Conceptually, the buttons are presented as legitimate art in a proper gallery hung in a salon-style.  I added letters clipped from other vintage sources to the top of each page.  The Button as Art.  Black buttons complete the works.  Finally, I matted the four pieces ... using a black beaded wooden insert between the mat and the image.  This is called "a fillet".  It also raises the surface of the mat up and away from the image ... giving space for the buttons.

While looking for these engravings, I also came across another collection of antiquarian prints that just seemed to scream for me to use with even more buttons.  I'm almost finished with it and will blog it soon.  Definitely, I'm button obsessed! 

1 comment:

Christine said...

Amazing and interesting post. Love the use of buttons.... look forward to seeing more finished prints.
Thank you for continuing to share your artwork