box of vintage buttons that I received in the mail somewhat randomly. My 'payment' to my benefactor was to make something for her from the tiny treasures.
The crunch time of the holidays was in full swing, so the box sat for a while opened but mostly unexamined. After the whirlwind of holiday shows, I finally got a chance to sit down with my mom--who also loves random vintage-y things--to comb through it all. After an hour or so we realized we might as well organize the bounty. Color seemed the most obvious system, so we got out some trays and started in. It took a while, but that process got me closer to figuring out what I might make as a small thank you.
Antiqued bronze seemed like the right color to work with, but since I didn't have anything in my stash Natalie Tischler (Ornamental Things) was kind enough to give me a figaro chain to start with. I got a couple other things from an Etsy seller in that same finish just so all the tiny pieces matched. I was hoping that having all the basic findings out and ready to go would inspire me to dive in, but it was all still a bit intimidating.
Only one piece in the whole box stood out as a must-include. The square locket complete with the vintage picture of a man standing alone against a blown-out sky seemed like a logical focal piece. Choosing among the hundreds (thousands?) of other pieces ended up being an exercise in wanton randomness. A few buttons grabbed my attention immediately earning them A-list status. Though a good start, I was still unsure about where I was headed. Wanting a backup plan, I picked through again to create a second tier selection. I then put the rest of the box aside--it was too overwhelming to have it all out and available.
I attached the locket to the center of the chain. That is the ONLY piece that has stayed in one place during the process. The first few iterations included nothing but pieces from the box arranged in various ways. After looking at those ideas for a while I decided to add at least a bit of tin to the mix. That was another three day dilemma. I finally just forced myself to pick something that felt appropriate in order to move forward. This is about the 15th version of the necklace. I'm still not sure I love it, but I am sure I am at the point of not knowing what else to do with it!
Toward the end of the process I started to think a bit more directly about who I was making the piece for. I only know Maggie through a couple of emails and from reading her excellent book, Decoding Design, Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication, so didn't have much to go on in the way of personal information. It occurred to me, however, that I might take inspiration directly from her book. It examines the numbers zero through ten and how those numbers work to create visual meaning. Each chapter discusses its own number, so it begins with chapter zero. Those concepts--number, grouping and pattern--helped me finalize the piece to this 1, 2, 3 asymmetrical arrangement. After looking at the final necklace a bit more, I realized those numbers are even a bit flexible within the piece. The one tin element has a distinct front and back making it a possible two. Winding the chain between the two buttons also seems to visually connect the bottom two groupings to change the feeling from three distinct elements. That may just be all in my head, but it was a fun thing to play with nonetheless.
Working on little side projects like this is a great way to stretch a bit. It also gives you a pretty good idea if it's something you have a knack for. In this case, I'm pretty sure the jewelers who work with vintage charms, buttons and lockets have nothing to fear from me!