While my current art quilts are heavily embellished with hundreds of buttons and beads, that was not always the case. The past few weeks, I’ve been interspersing the stories about some of my older, geometric quilts in with info on the beaded ones. Today’s posting is about the first art quilt that I ever made with buttons on it. This was back in 198. I don’t remember where the idea came from, but I imagine that I must have seen a photo in a fiber or quilting magazine. Little did I know how with such simple beginnings as shown in this piece, that I would quickly become obsessed with those little round things called buttons.
Round buttons do seem to work best in my compositions. Most of them certainly come in that shape as that way, they slide the easiest through buttonholes. I also find that other shapes just don’t tend to stay in place as easily as a round one does. Square, triangular, and other irregularly shaped buttons, while they can be cool looking, are really obvious when they fall off-center, even though I spend a great deal of time making sure that I’ve securely fastened them as firmly on to the quilt’s surface so they won’t wobble.
As you can see in this detail photo, the buttons are used to edge the shapes of the geometrical, fabric appliques used in the surface design. The colors of the buttons were chosen to help intersperse the hues throughout the composition. For instance, in this photo, there is a black fabric with red roses in the two large rectangles on either side of the central motif. So I used red buttons to circle around the edges of some of the other shapes, but not placed symmetrically. Another way I played with the buttons was my use of purple and yellow. They’re opposites on the color wheel, and I like to use complementary colors because I feel they give a lot of “punch” to the over all look of a piece. I used yellow buttons, of various sizes, scattered throughout the surface to play against the purple background of the quilt top.
In this detail shot, you can see that I was still doing extensive hand quilting, especially on the solid, purple background. Some of the hand quilting mimicked the round shapes of the buttons, as you can see to the right of the orange and white striped rectangle with the black buttons in the middle of this photo. I also used some variation in button size, and in the upper right, I used some yellow buttons with a black circle around them, as plain black and yellow ones were used elsewhere. Still, this first attempt at using buttons on an art quilt was pretty minimalist compared to the hundreds used in my more current pieces. However, everybody has to start somewhere, and at the time, I didn’t have the vast reserves of buttons that I now have in my studio from which to choose. I’m sure that all of these buttons were bought in the same time frame from a local fabric store, probably by making several trips back and forth.
Has any material that you use in your art medium become a “must have” in your work? Which ones are your mainstays and how do you think they became so popular with you?
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