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Buttons and bags: twigs and trees

Starting from top row left to right are  buttons made from branches of  yew, maple, boxwood, black cherry, birch, black walnut, mystery driftwood, tulip and ash.

I confess I know very little about trees, even though growing up surrounded by them like birds, I considered them commonplace and paid little attention to their distinguishing features.   Looking south out my bedroom window - my favourite view and the best part about waking up was with the sun rising over Lake Erie thru the trees.  Like watching a negative develop into colour , tree trunks and branches emerged from the pitch becoming charcoal silouettes against a salmon pink sky...

A couple of years ago I decided to pitch the plastic toggle we attached to the BBB- (the original idea was to play off the plastic handle tubing – an essential feature for comfort) in favour of a more natural look using wood.   I think I am not alone in remembering that all this plastic stuff is a bi-product of the oil industry and the sythetic polymer manufacturing explosion of the 40's.  Imagine the world before Tupperware? The history of plasitc is fascinating Neither oil or plastic is is very fashionable today but we would be hard pressed to completely eliminate either.  Personally I think choosing natural over manmade is not the issue but the scale of useage.  For example, if plastic water bottles were only allowed in emergency situations, the problem of them on the side of the road, the plastic gyre in the middle of our oceans or closer to home on the beach along the shores of Lake Erie would probably not exist.  Instead, we have an emergency caused by over use.  So recyclable plastic, wood, indeed recyclable anything is a very good approach today. 

So back to buttons:    I wanted the button accent  to be about the paper-like story of the BBB. And logically wood has more to do with paper than plastic. ( Although one could argue with the invention of Tyvek , essentially plastic paper using a composite of wood chips and plastic resins that modern day paper has more to do with plastic than wood).  So where to source these buttons was the challenge.  The button below came from a local Yew tree.  Looks amazing on the Tabc colour wax cotton.

However, my first source was like bringing coals to Newcastle. China for god sakes. The obvious was why not source them literally from my own back yard. First objection, was what do I know about trees.  A twig is a twig….. I have enough trouble identifying a tree by its leaf. I will use non-local source if merited.  If you happen to have a stash of Bermuda Cedar  - guard it!  So the branches were calling out to me, if you will. Last week while packaging a bag with a tulip tree button – my favourite tree – I realized how over the past couple of years our source of wood tells a fascinating story about the colour and texture of various woodl  Here's  a few of the button/wood source parade:


Boxwood:  slow growing and wonderfully hard and hard as hell to cut.  Learned there was actually a Boxwood Society in England where the wood is prized for these qualities.


The lovely Yew bush:  relatively hard and lovely colour when varnished.


Black Walnut:  highly prized for woodworking.  The branches are not the lovely brown colour yet,  so this is taken from a large trunk split into smaller pieces.  You can see the grain.


Tulip tree:  without a doubt my favorite tree.  The wood from the branches is quite hard and lovely pale yellow colour.

 Driftwood:  a never ending source from the flotsam and jetsam on the beach

Now that does not look like a tree on the left..... Hope you don’t think this is cheating using a shovel handle.  But this is actually ash and not just any shovel handle ash.  Now it is here , I say to the reader,  if that damn button could talk!!!  6 years ago, my sister decided to create a Potager on apporximagely a half acre of land in my back yard.  She dug the entire garden with that shovel.


By the time she finished, it, the shovel, had a spoon and a hoseclamp holding the handle together. A couple a weeks ago I was using the same shovel to repair a drainage ditch down a ramp to the beach and the shovel handle finally succumbed. I was ready to toss it like the plastic toggle … and a button/recycle light went off in my head.   It's probably made of hardwood, probably ash or oak… slice it up…..add some oil and wax to it.  And you may very well be carrying the end result.  So when I was packaging the bag with this button, again I thought if buttons could talk....   Ergo this button blog entry.  But really if you think about,  pick any item up and really wonder at the story of the material.  Like a family tree it's a never ending story and as long as one’s imagination.



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