Collecting Buttons

If you want to be a collector and only have a small budget you might want to consider collecting buttons.  Many households have a button bag or box where discarded buttons are kept.  In thriftier times no garment would have been thrown out without removing the buttons first and keeping them for future use.  On examination you might find that you have buttons that belonged to your grandmother or great-grandmother and your buttons do not only cover three or four generations, but they are also a fascinating insight into the history of fashion.

The first buttons in Britain were made in the Shaftesbury area of Dorset around 1620, they were made out of ram’s horn and covered with fabric and were then embroidered with undyed linen or cotton thread.  The buttons were stitched onto cards and were exported to Europe and America between the late 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, it was a very lucrative business.  Then, at the Great Exhibition in 1851, John Ashton exhibited a machine that could cheaply produce fabric-covered buttons and that was more or less the end of the demand for Dorset buttons. Continue reading “Collecting Buttons”

1950s and 1960s Ceramics

In Britain in the early 1950s there were few attractive ceramics available, the best stuff was being exported to boost the British economy after the war. Many ceramic factories had been commissioned for war work and were not yet restored to their pre-war standard. Many of the designers were working for Scandinavian or American companies who had continued production throughout the 1940s.

The British public had been starved of new decorative ceramics after the war and were beginning to demand more freedom of choice and they wanted contemporary patterns. In the USA in the 1930s Russel Wright designed tableware with with organic and freeform shapes, named ‘American Modern’ and these pieces were sold in the 1950s. In Sweden Stig Lindberg was a prolific ceramic designer. There was a influence of art and technology on design in the 1950s and Dali motifs as well as sputniks and stars could be seen. Colours were fresh and bright and were often mixed with stark black and white.

The Festival of Britain held in 1951 brought us a variety of new designs by many familiar designers.  Wedgwood launched a Festival of Britain mug designed by Norman Makison.  It featured the Crystal Palace, site of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (it being the centenary that was celebrated during the Festival), and the Skylon and Dome of Discovery from 1951.  There was red and blue hand painting which added a patriotic touch.  The mug is only 7 cm high and the Festival logo can be seen on the base of the mug.  Wedgwood also introduced ‘Garden’ plates by Eric Ravilious and the ‘Zodiac Bull’ modelled by Arnold Machin.

The Wade factory produced some of its most graphic pieces of pottery during the 1950s and can be recognized by their strong use of colour as well as their stark black and whites.  Good examples of these are the ‘Zamba’ black and white vase, the illustrated trays by Rowland Emmet and the figural cat vases. Continue reading “1950s and 1960s Ceramics”