Button, button, she's got the buttons
The artwork that went into creating clothing buttons from Victorian times until the mid-20th century will be exhibited and discussed on Oct. 7 at the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum.
“They're little pieces of artwork,” says “The Button Lady,” the presenter who only uses her first name, Karen, for such programs. “There is such a variety of them. A lot were handmade. The craftsmanship that went into them is not done anymore.”
A collector for 20 years, Karen will talk about how the buttons were made and the types of materials used. Her collection dates back to the early 1800s when buttons were made with different materials than today, such as bone, horn, china, glass, gold, silver, other metals, enamel and forms of plastic.
“We take our everyday items, such as buttons, for granted, never thinking of how they originated,” says Dolly Mistrik, past board president of the museum.
Mistrik says she first learned about the history of buttons while talking to Karen, one of the historical society's Flea-tique vendors.
“At our last October show, we started to talk about buttons and she happened to have part of her presentation with her,” Mistrik says. “It impressed me so much I invited her to do a program at the Heritage Museum.”
“Buttons have a very interesting and fascinating past,” Mistrik says. “They were used for more than fasteners. Some were used to signify various groups, status and to adorn clothing. The uniqueness is shown in the great details and designs. People would take hours to produce that perfect design, that perfect button.”
Visitors to the presentation will get to see and feel some of the buttons.
“Mass production can not duplicate the original buttons,” Mistrik says. “Those in attendance will get a very close look at the buttons from the past. Not only will there be framed displays, but some will be passed around so those in attendance can actually feel the uniqueness of what people had prior to our ordinary buttons of today.”
Free button appraisals will be given after the program. The buttons will remain on display through the month. Regular museum hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Debbie Black is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.