MY CHILDHOOD was a simple one, even basic compared to many. And the pleasures I indulged in were simple too.
There were no tortoiseshell or lacquered jewellery boxes sitting prettily upon my mothers dressing table; in fact she didn’t even have a dressing table. No make-up, apart from a very plain Woolworth powder compact and the same, seemingly everlasting pale pink lipstick to experiment with. And perfume, (or ‘scent’ as she preferred to call it), was definitely an Avon affair only.
But, she did have a Button Box, or to be more precise, a whole toppling stack of Button Tins. These tins were my ‘jewel boxes’. Each treasure trove was housed in an old ‘Rolled Gold’ or ‘Golden Virginia’ tobacco tin and I spent hours running my fingers through the cold gems inside.
I say gems, rather tongue in cheek, as many were not in any way pretty at all. Each tin was sorted into size and colours and many, many of them were plain, round and rather dull. But I loved them all. I loved the feel of them between my fingers, of counting them, making pictures with them on the carpet in front of the coal fire in Winter or on the rough grass outside in Summer, (It was definitely ‘grass’ we certainly never called it a lawn). I even loved the faint, sweet aroma of my Dad’s tobacco that still lingered when the airtight tins were first prised open. So much pleasure from such little pieces of plastic.
There were of course the special favourites. The rubies in the tobacco dust that shone out through the reams of shirt buttons and toggles and the shank backed ones of fraying plaited leather. Three, positively gaudy examples, were flower shaped, encrusted with glass ‘diamonds’ and were cut from a coat my mother bought at a jumble sale because, ‘she felt overdressed’ when wearing things ‘like that’. There were small, smooth, pearlised ones, ones shaped like blue elephants and yellow rabbits. Black ebony ones, with tiny bright pink dots around their edges and of course, the shiny metal ones, like military buttons, that were more often than not, used as ‘stars’ in my carpet art.
Now of course, we are inundated with buttons galore. In this visually saturated society, we can drool over as many as we want, just like the one’s I’ve featured here. Clever craftspeople turn them into pictures, encrust bags, shoes and pile fondant buttons onto cupcakes.
Brides can even have button bouquets like this gorgeous example from http://www.iheartbuttons.co.uk.. (who just happens to be a fellow Ryde Artisan!).