Tag Archive for quilts embellished with buttons

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.

“Graffiti” – Another Early Art Quilt with Buttons”

"Graffiti" - a hand appliqued and quilted contemporary art quilt embellished with buttonsNancy Smeltzer, MFA

While I hate graffiti when it’s pasted all over walls and public places, when you make it yourself on an art quilt. well… maybe it’s not so bad. I had just come back from New York City when I started this piece back in 1989, and had been struck by the textures on many of the telephone poles. Back then, most of them were wooden, and posters had been staple gunned. pulled off, and new ones attached, over and over, so that the poles had thousands of staples and shreds of paper stuck on them. Their surfaces reminded me of Nkisi or African power statues, where nails or other metal objects were pounded into them as part of various rituals. Many of the construction site barricades also had posters applied, torn off, and new ones added, so I had lots of images of overlapping shapes floating around in my mind when I came back home.

Detail of contemporary art quilt, embellished with buttons - "Graffiti"To duplicate those advertising posters, I set about cutting out lots of rectangles out of fabric. Slightly off-center of the right in this second photo is a dark grey vertical rectangle that has some Asian looking writing on it. To the right of that piece, there a piece of white fabric with black Asian writing on it. Asian looking fabrics were very popular in the late 80s, and I apologize to any group that feels slandered, as I have no idea if the symbols even say anything or if I have them facing in the correct direction. I like that idea that because of their repetitive patterns and arrangement on the fabric, they look as if they had meaning to the creator, even if they were just interesting symbols for me. In a way, that’s perhaps what graffiti is when it’s approached as art, as it definitely seems to have meaning to the creator.

Detail of contemporary art quilt, embellished with buttons - "Graffiti"Here is a section of the quilt top that shows some larger pieces of the black print on a white background. The rectangle in the lower left reminds me of some Asian newspapers that I’ve seen. You can see one of the problems of using a print fabric in that rectangle, for while the fabric was cut straight, the lines of design weren’t printed on the fabric in straight lines. As often happens with inexpensive fabrics, the fabric wasn’t pulled taut when it was printed. That causes the motifs to not line up with the vertical warp threads, so if you make a small cut and then tear the fabric, the designs will be crooked.That fault doesn’t show as much on the smaller, horizontal black rectangle in the upper left. However, try as I might, the one in the lower left couldn’t be straightened. I finally gave up and decided that graffiti and advertising posters are rarely stapled gunned into place accurately. As I made more and more art quilts where straight lines were important, such as using ribbons  as  a decorative element, I leaned to use more and more overlapping elements, such as large buttons or other embellishments to distract the eye from a line that wasn’t straight.

This piece used several styles and colors of buttons to enhance the shapes of fabric, but no where near what I now use. I was also still using lots of hand quilting to fill in the background, as here you can see where I used black quilting thread on the white base fabric. I was playing off of the old childhood riddle “What’s black and white and “red” all over?” Answer = a newspaper, but I couldn’t restrict myself to just black, white and red. Some yellow, orange, and purple snuck into the composition somehow when I wasn’t looking!

Now there are whole web sites devoted to graffiti or “urban” art. The genre has evolved to so much more than just spray painting subway cars and bridges and has collectors who are constantly looking for new artists. My piece is so tame in its look and feel compared to what I make today. However, in the late 80s, I thought I was being pretty adventuresome in even having a piece of art work with a name like that.

 Have you ever thought your art work to be really out there, only to find that it’s rather ordinary when you start researching what others are doing? For myself, because I find that most of what I make is created in a vacuum, with little feedback from others, I find blogging so important to me. You have no idea how important comments are to me and to others who are putting themselves out there for public scrutiny, so please write something!

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 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.

Tidying up the Sides – Adding the Binding (1)

Trimming the edges of a contemporary beaded art quiltI suppose that it’s quite appropriate that this week, marking one year of posting on this blog, that I talk about finishing an art quilt. “Circle of Black, Circles of White 7″ is finally finished and ready to put the binding on. While this stage isn’t much fun, it is so critical that the opposite sides be the same length  and the corners be squared, as that’s will make the piece appear more professional when ti’s hung on the wall.

You can see on the side of the quilt the tools that I use to even up the edges before putting on the binding. On top of my fold out table that I use just for cutting, I have a green self-healing mat. There are many out on the market, but I like this version as it has grid marks printed on it. The Olfa rotary cutter is perfect for trimming off the little smidgens of fabric and batting that keep the sides from being even. The pieces that I do mostly now are approximately 3′ x 4′ or 91.5 cm x 122 cm. That size is small enough so that I don’t have to haul out a frame, as the embellishments can get to be pretty thick. The result of not using a frame, however, is that the pieces can get slightly distorted in the construction process, and so this final cutting to even the sides is really important.

I have two sizes of T-squares to use to run the rotary cutter against. The larger one is really heavy and measures about 48” or 122 cm tall of usable height. I bought it in the tools department at a local hardware store and it’s a much sturdier surface to cut against than the smaller one shown above that you get in the drawing supply section of an art store. Sometimes, the larger buttons have to be temporarily removed so that the rotary cutter can pass by them. They then are sewn back in place after the sides have been trimmed. The last piece of equipment you can see is a clear drafting triangle. That is invaluable for making sure that the corners are cut squarely and that the corners are folded neatly and evenly after the binding is put on.

Starting to put the binding on a contemporary beaded art quiltHere is a view of me starting to put the binding on the edge of the trimmed quilt. I used to make my own bias, but I find it so much easier to use a wide ribbon for that purpose. It needs to be at least 1.5″ or 3.75 cm wide and easily draped, so that it will turn the corners easily. That need for easy folding eliminates many of the heavier grosgrains that are out on the market. I try to keep the embellishments at least 3″ or 7.75 cm  from the edge of the quilt as I’m constructing it, because as the sides are being trimmed, it’s often surprising how much fabric is lost to even out the edges. Sometimes, the ribbon binding may cover up some of the small, size 10 and 11 seed beads, but if there’s a larger element, it may have to be removed. Hopefully, if it’s a larger button, the binding can fit under the edges and the button will just overlap out over the inner edge of the binding. Sometimes, when holding the quilt up at the end to check on the visual balance, I’ll sew buttons or larger elements out into the binding to make the piece appear more balanced to the eye.

I usually start sewing the binding up a little ways from the lower right hand corner. That way, the overlap of the rest of the binding doesn’t seem to show as much. When I get to a corner, I fold the ribbon at a 45 degree angle and start the binding heading off on the new side. I pin the binding in place along a whole side so that it will be even. Before I get too far sewing along a side, I check the corner with the drafting triangle to make sure the corner is even, before I’ve sewn too far along an edge and have to rip out the binding that I’ve sewn down. I find it’s better to measure as I go along, rather than have to take out stitches later.

Measure, measure, measure! It’s not particularly rewarding work, but crooked corners and sides that are supposed to be straight and aren’t can be so distracting. Many people can see discrepancies as small as 1/8″ or 3mm, and will spend all their time looking at them rather than the great work that you’ve done. I’ll detail out more information on finishing up an art quilt in my next posting.

What tricks of the trade have you learned about finishing an art quilt? What do you do to indure that the edges are even and the corners squared?

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!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook,  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.