Not much, you would think but lately I've been perusing a book on Alexander Calder's jewelry, a fascinating look into the artistic mind of a genius whose iconic sculptures changed the artistic world of the 20th century. He made wire jewelry as gifts, each one a tiny masterpiece of form and design. So I've been steeping myself in mid-century styles and influences, mostly tribal and primitive.
I was lured away from my new avian buddies – 45 chicks which arrived peeping at my door courtesy of the USPS a few weeks ago --by the promise of new and unknown buttons chosen from a stranger's stash. And of a fun design challenge/Button Blog Hop hosted by my good friend Cindy Wimmer.
I found myself happily paired with Celeste Thurston, whom I met at ArtBliss last year. We chatted about our button collections—where we collect, what we like to collect and what are our favorites to collect--one of the best entertainments of a button swap. We both like to make molds from our buttons to use with polymer clay and neither one of us shies away from “large” so Celeste suggested she send a Bakelite belt buckle in red and amber that she had. I have a fabulous stash of red buttons of varying shapes that I scored at a flea market one summer-- one of the excellent finds of all times-- that I knew contained some red Bakelite I could combine with the buckle.
When the buckle arrived, it was magnificent – large, colorful, shiny-- and square! I'm not a 'square' person-- I don't like angles but I adore curves. How to incorporate this intriguing shape into my design sensibility? I decided to do a polymer clay background, using a technique I stumbled upon while messing around with unconditioned clay one rainy day.
Faux Bakelite Primitive
I liked the freeform way that the holes appeared when the slices were stacked so I did the same thing using ecru clay, building a flat background layer, then stamping and antiquing it. Reminded me of Mayan stonework when I was finished. So I kept the theme going and made some beads using the same technique to pull the whole thing together into the stringing. I raided my bead stash for some leopard skin jasper and found some older beads I had made with the same colorway, added some red crenellated Bakelite beads from the famous Red Button Stash, some bronze African cage rounds and rings from a Michael's chain to hook it all together.
I was planning to add some other red Bakelite shapes to the center front of the buckle and use E6000 to glue the whole thing together. I usually like to use wirework or rivets to join pieces but the smooth modern finish of the buckle seemed to need a minimal treatment. When Douglas got home from work, I proudly displayed my creation and he said “It almost looks like a face, with that center line as the nose”. A face! Perfect! Celeste had included an interesting long Bakelite bead with a gear around the center and that made the ideal nose for my 'little man'. An ochre Bakelite gear button was the base for one eye and coral rounds made up the rest. Very Picasso-like, I thought. “Pablo” was born. Thanks, Cindy for hosting such a fun challenge and thank you, Celeste, for the gift of my wonderful buckle and supporting buttons. Happy Mother's Day!