Button Embellishments on Other Objects

 

Woven ball with buttons and shells glued to it

Woven ball with buttons and shells glued to it

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

It’s not just art quilts that I embellish with buttons. My ex-husband used to say that if it sat still long enough, it would get covered in buttons. This photo shows a woven rattan ball that I glued shells on one side so it could stand up. (Shells count for embellishments if I can get a hole through it). Then, covering the top, I glued buttons in the same color theme and voila, a button ball. I don’t have it anymore, as it was part of the downsizing process as I move, so I don’t remember who got it. It’s about 5″ or 13 cm in diameter, and was always being picked up by guests as they’d ask, “What’s this?”, so I hope the new owner appreciates it.

Gold rose hairpiece with buttons

Gold rose hairpiece with buttons

Back in the 80s, in the days of “big hair”, my ex and I would go to a number of black tie balls. I always made hair pieces to go with each outfit, and this one went with a black brocade jacket. My hair was a lot more blonde then, so the sheer gold ribbon sparkled well. The small gold roses (1.5″ or 4 cm) came from a button and bead shop in New York City. Here was one time where I did buy a lifetime supply of an embellishment, as it’s VERY hard to get a needle through the woven wire petals on the rose. It’s better to glue them, which I hate to do onto a quilt, as the glue starts to leach out after awhile. Here, on this hair piece, it didn’t matter, but if they were going on an art quilt, I would first glue them to small circles of felt. Then the felt could be sewn to the fabric and would serve as a barrier between the glue and the decorative top of the quilt.

Detail of bathroom wall

Detail of bathroom wall

This last photo shows a detail of a mural that I did on the wall of a big soaking tub in my house. The wall is about 10′ wide and 8′ tall (9.2 m wide x 7.4 m tall). It took 3 days to nail and glue all of those buttons and wooden medallions on the wall, and I needed to see my chiropractor afterwards as I was reaching above me head a lot of the time. The painted part is of a scene in Tuscany and the buttons could be interpreted as rocks, or flowers, of whatever the viewer wishes to imagine. I hope the new owners of the house like it, because of the love I put in it, and it will also be very hard to remove without redoing the entire wall. However, my bathroom wall is amateur hour when it gets compared to  the Shell Grotto on Bella Isola, Lake Maggiore in Italy. You can follow the link to see the rooms that are entirely covered in seashells and small pebbles. (Also Google “Bella Isola” to see more images). The palace was built by an Italian duke dedicated to his bride, and as you sail out to the island, it does look like a wedding cake perched on a hill. The shell rooms are in the bottom of the palace, and were completed by his sons, as they took over 100 years to complete. They gave a cool refuge from the summer heat, and since that’s when I visited them, they were indeed noticeably cooler than the upstairs rooms. Now, that’s got me thinking of a whole room full of buttons in my new place. I just hope that it wouldn’t take 100 years to complete.

What other objects have you embellished with unusual materials in your art medium?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Buttons Made of Unusual Materials for Art Quilts

Button made out of compressed sawdust

Button made out of compressed sawdust

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

If you’ve been reading these blogs for awhile, you know that I love buttons. I embellish my art quilts with hundreds of them sometimes. I think it’s because when I was a child my grandmother had a button jar. I got to run my fingers through them as if they were a pirate’s treasure, sort them, and string them on shoestrings to make necklaces. So the love for the little round things began at an early age.

Most buttons are made of plastic, metal, glass, or sea shells. However, the one on the left is made out of compressed sawdust. The pink center is glued onto the peach background, making the whole button about 1.5″ or 4 cm. I bought three of them at a bead show, and wished that I could have purchased more, but they were $7 US each. SInce I put so many buttons on my art quilts, I try to keep the prices down, but for a big showy one like this, I’ll spend more.

Coconut Shell Button

Coconut Shell Button

This next button is of another unusual material, at least for here in the States. It’s made of a coconut shell. I imagine that they were constructed by cutting them out of the shell with a punch, and maybe shaving off some of the backing, as these buttons are much thinner than the coconut shells that I’ve seen. The artist who painted the design on was quite skilled, as there was some shading and several of the motifs had several colors on them. Also, I feel that they were handpainted, as there were slight variations in the five that came in the set. Purchased off of eBay from my favorite button seller, Spirit Inc. The owner lives just 20 miles down the road from me, and is known for her glass buttons, but every so often, she’ll carry something different , like these coconut shell buttons.

Peach pit toggle

Peach pit toggle

Finally, this last button is one that I occasionally saw as a child growing up in North Carolina. It’s a carved peach stone or kernel from the center of a peach. Also know as a pit, it could be used after removing the fruit from the kernel and scrubbing it clean. Then one end could be carved to make a shank for a toggle for a coat. (You need shanks on buttons and other thick fabrics so that the button can go through the thicker fabric.) This is about 1.5″ or 4 cm tall, and once in a while. I’ve seen them sprayed colors and used as ornaments on a small Christmas tree.

Since these buttons are all of wood or wood-like materials, I wonder if they’re prone to insect infestations. I have had that problem before with feathers, so I’m not quite sure how to get around that issue. I do know that good ventilation around an art quilt when it’s hanging on a wall helps, but being in a closed box seemed to be the issue for the feathers. I guess time will tell, but since I’m not having children, my art is what I’m leaving behind. Besides, I’ve found that she who leaves the most information about herself, makes it easier for some future curator to document her work, so I hope that all of my buttons survive long past me.

Got any other different materials that you’ve seen for buttons? I think that people down through the ages have used the materials at hand, from bones to leather to fasten their clothes.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Making Decisions on a Beaded Art Quilt

Closeup on the purple and black harlequin ribbon

Closeup on the purple and black harlequin ribbon

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

In the past, I’ve showed you my works in progress, but they’re rather far along by the time that you see the photos. This time, I thought I’d let you in on some of the thought processes as I go along, and how I do what I do.

A few postings ago, I talked about the beginnings of “Sunflowers and Dragonflies” beaded art quilt. Here are some macro shots and my thoughts as I was going along. In the middle of the purple and black Harlequin ribbon running down the middle, I started by outlining the purple and black edges between each diamond. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the purple and black fabric to the left of the blue button with the black rim sticks out quite a bit. Ribbons make great lines on an art quilt’s surface, but it’s often hard to get them to lay flat. By beading, I’m quilting and sewing on the beads at the same time, and as a result the surface flattens by the time that I’m finished. I would like to fill in all of the purple diamonds with these seed beads (size 10), but there’s a lot of ribbon and not so many beads, so after outlining all of the purple diamonds, I may fill them in completely or at least some of them.

Fabric with and without lines covered with blue crystal beads

Fabric with and without lines covered with blue crystal beads

This next macro shot shows the use of the blue rondelles in the center part of the art quilt. You can see what the fabric looked like before I started filling in the lines between the rondelles with the same blue crystal beads used to fasten them in place. At first I wanted to fill in the oval blue shapes with the same blue, crystal beads. I also considered filling in the triangles between the rondelles with an aqua seed bead a little lighter than the ones already being used. I had set aside some paler, aqua beads for that purpose, (my stash of most of my beads is in storage, as I’m in the process of moving), but when I started sewing them on to the fabric, they were too gray looking. It’s really hard to tell exactly how a seed bead will look on fabric until it’s laying on top of it. I usually take a straight pin, thread a few beads on it and place it where I want it to go on the fabric. That’s why I rarely order seed beads on-line as the colors on the monitor can vary so much. If I decide to fill in those blue triangles more, I need a more teal colored blue bead, so I’ll have to wait until my studio and I are reunited.

Seed beading on sunflower petals

Seed beading on sunflower petals

This third macro shot is of one of the sunflower petals. I’ve used two colors, a flat yellow and a warm brown crystal bead. When working with seed beads, there are never enough colors to match the thousands that are found on fabrics, so I try as best as I can to match those on the fabric.  When I was setting aside yellow beads, I included a wide array, but at least for this section, only the two seemed to work for the petals. If you look to the left and the right of the two petals that have been beaded, you can see that I came pretty close to matching up the colors. However, sometimes, the beads are wider than the lines and shapes on the surface of the quilt. It’s then when I have to make artistic decisions to whether or not to cover up and cover an area with one color or the other. By looking at what is already there and squinting my eyes to get the overall effect, I make choices as to whether or not more of one color is needed than another based on what the original fabric had on it, or sometimes another color choice completely different that I feel adds to the look that I’m trying to acheive.

I’ve said before that using seed beads as intensively as what’s in the sunflower petals takes a long time. 1 sq in (2.5cm sq) takes one hour’s work, so this is not for those who want to make a quilt in a weekend. However, for me, there’s a Zen-like quality of beading like this, which gives me peace as I work.

What were some of the “take-aways” that you learned from reading this blog. I’m working on a series of inexpensive lessons on how I quilt and would love feedback on any thing that you liked, want further explained, or thought was totally useless.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Street Finds Used for Embellishments for Art Quilts

Leather shoe lining

Leather shoe lining

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I’ve always like picking up unusual objects from the streets and using them as embellishments for my art quilts. These street finds used to embarrass my husband, but he’s my ex now, so it doesn’t matter. These one of a kind objects often wait pinned to the design board I use for composing my art quilts, since there’s only one of them and I would forget it they were put away in a jar. Sometimes, I’m not even sure what the object is, as this photo on the left. It’s made of leather, and I’m calling it a shoe lining, but I’m not sure that was it’s original purpose. Still, it will make a terrific face in some future project. All of the little tiny holes around the larger ones could be stopped with a sewn on bead, or I could sew floss through the larger holes. I guess I’ll have to wait until I find the right location for its use.

Black rubber gasket/lining

Black rubber gasket/lining

The next object is even more perplexing regarding its original use. It’s made of black rubber and perhaps was a gasket of some sort. (I’ll have to ask my neighbor who’s a “car guy”.) Anyway, it’s about 1/4in (5 mm) thick. It also might have been part of a heel reinforcement on a shoe. Turned this way, as shown in the photo, it could be a mask. Turned 180 degrees, it could be an animal, maybe a bunny rabbit. I will definitely have to sew floss through the holes to hold it in place (eyelashes maybe?) as I don’t like to use glue if I can help it. I don’t know of any archival glues strong enough to hold an object of this weight onto an art quilt, and after about ten years, the glue would start to leach out on to the fabric and weaken it.

Blue children's toy piece

Blue children’s toy piece

This blue plastic object, I believe, is part of a children’s toy. There are trenches down each of the arms that will make it easy to fasten this on to an art quilt’s surface. It’s about 2.5″ (9.5 cm) at it’s widest diameter. At first I thought it might be one of those dangling toys that hang from baby carriages to amuse children, but it took me awhile to remember, not being a parent, that small objects are choking hazards. Once the slots are fee of the circle in the middle, they’re notched, so perhaps they’re meant to attach to other notched objects to construct something. This piece had obviously been run over a few times by cars, as the surface is scratched and worn, but I see that as a patina. Maybe this piece is destined to be a face also.

Flattened AA battery

Flattened AA battery

The final piece is one of my favorites, and I’ve only found two of them. It’s a squashed AA battery whose label has worn off. The terminal in both of them that I’ve found was flattened so that it looks like a little face with two small arms in front. At one point, I had thought of making some by putting batteries in a heavy duty plastic contractor’s bag and banging on them with a hammer. I even queried some of my mechanically inclined friends as how to safely neutralize the acid that would come out (Baking soda got the most votes). However, I decided I’d probably splatter it everywhere, get it on me, or do something heinous to the environment, so I just scour the streets looking for more. I know that they’re out there somewhere.

While I certainly don’t put myself in the same league as Pablo Picasso, his famous bull’s head made out of a bicycle seat comes to mind. Made in 1942, it was reviewed as being quite outrageous by some, and avant garde by others. So I guess putting a few street finds as embellishments for my art quilts isn’t that out of the ordinary.

BTW, most of these objects were found outside a local Jo-Ann’s craft store in the area. I don’t know if it’s the creative clientele that frequents the place or that they often bring children who drop things, but I can usually find something of interest every 3 or 4 times I go there. All I have to do is look down, and then remember to take the piece out of my pocket before I do the wash.

What interesting objects have you found by accident and used in your artwork? Do you have a favorite type of store that usually isn’t considered for art supplies that you’d like to share with us?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Sunflowers and Dragonflies – Another Beaded Art Quilt

Sunflowers and Dragonflies - beaded art quilt

Sunflowers and Dragonflies – beaded art quilt

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I’m in the process of down-sizing and moving to another state, so the first room I started packing was my studio as I knew it would be the hardest (all of those little button and bead jars!) Since I had no idea when my house would sell, or how long it would take me to move, I cut out 3 quilts, which would give me enough to work on for a year. I attached the buttons and large beads to them, and then set aside most of the seed beads I would need to sew on their surfaces. Then, the rest of the studio was packed into boxes and placed in storage until it’s time to move. I’m already missing some of my things, and have had to by a few small items.

Part of the title for this piece comes from my mother’s love of sunflowers. Her screened in porch had sunflower pillows, and sunflower trivets and coasters, and sunflower everything else you could think of. When I was cleaning out her closets after she died, I came across some fabric that had sunflowers that were meant to be made into pillows, so I kept the fabric, never thinking I’d be able to use it, as the flowers were so big. (5.5″ or 14 cm). It’s appropriate that I started writing this blog on her birthday. She’s been gone now for two birthdays, and I thought a lot about her today, and how she always encouraged me in my art work.

Detail of sunflower and dragonflies

Detail of sunflower and dragonflies

This detail shot shows a close-up of one of the sunflowers and the dragonfly appliques scattered all over this piece. I usually add on butterflies, but I found on eBay a good price on about 50 of these, so I bought as many as I could afford at the time. I find that I like having a lot of the same kind of object to repeat on the surface of an art quilt, and this piece has LOTS of dragonflies.

This photo also shows some of the problems in using ribbons as embellishments on art quilts. I love to use them, especially if they have a pattern, like the purple and black harlequin piece, but you have to be very careful to line them up as straight as you can, because no matter how carefully you’ve pinned it, the ribbon will slide some as you sew it down. That’s when big buttons need to be sewed on to distract your eye, so when I’ve moved into my new place, one of the first things to be unpacked will be the studio.

Detail shot 2 of the beginning of a beaded art quilt

Detail shot 2 of the beginning of a beaded art quilt

In this other detail shot, you can see the green ribbon that I think I have a life-time supply of. I loved the little picot edging on it, and so I bought as many rolls as I could afford of this antique ribbon. The store has gone out of business, so I probably can’t get anymore, but it’s shown up in a lot of my pieces over the years. To the right, is a blue fretwork like pattern with an aqua rondelle (flat bead) in the middle of each motif. These particular ones I love, but I can’t find anymore with the aurora borealis finish (AB) on them in my usual sources. I think it’s because the AB finish is not as permanent, or maybe it’s more expensive, but since I love shiny things, I’ve looked high and low to find more. I used up the last of my stash on this art quilt, so unless I allow myself to wander on eBay, I probably won’t get anymore.

What are some of your favorite materials or motifs that you like to use in your artwork?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.