Well, bust my buttons


This past weekend, hundreds of vendors were lined up on Mulberry Street, hoping to sell their wares to festival-goers. One such vendor was Pamela Welty and her husband David, who were selling antique button jewelry.

Welty said she got into button-collecting through her great aunt Victoria, who had “an incredible button collection” which she and her husband gathered in Europe on his business trips.

Originally, Welty didn’t think she could get into it, because she wasn’t sure how to get the buttons she would need.

However, she ran into a button dealer at an antique show, who told her that if she liked buttons, then she had to go to a button show.

“It was like a kid going into Toys R Us for the first time,” said Welty. “Not only did I see thousands of buttons, but I also saw gorgeous buttons, ranging from ten cents to $10,000.

So, on what Welty said was a leap of faith, she put aside her other jewelry and turned completely to selling jewelry made from buttons.

“I try to buy buttons that don’t look like buttons,” said Welty. She then refurbishes the button and decides how she’s going to “frame” the piece.

“My way of doing things is to keep the button as the centrepiece, not overdo it. I want you to really notice the button,” said Welty.

She also writes the history of the button on the back of the cards that the pieces are attached to, such as a pair of earrings which had a velvet background, used to put perfume on.

Welty said that her buttons’ origins range anywhere from 1820 to the 1940s. Once the mid-1950s came around, glass buttons were replaced by plastic buttons and were no longer considered antique.

“There are some nice books,” said Welty, “where I can find interesting things about, say, if I find a button that screws open, and it’s from 1920, it held rouge. But if it’s from 1700, it probably held poison, and it came off of a spy’s outfit.”

While Welty is fascinated by who crafted the button, she said her husband is more interested in the person who wore the button.

Welty said that this is her fifth time at the Cherry Blossom Festival, and three of the times have been in bad weather. “The people of this town have a sense for the weather,” she said.

Once, her tent was actually blown away in a storm three years ago. However, she also says that once the storms blew through, she had some excellent business.

Welty said that for her, collecting buttons is fascinating.

“It gives me an opportunity to actually sell beautiful real hand-crafted pieces that someone spent so much time and effort and craftsmanship into for a reasonable price. . . Anything I can just use one button on is a real treasure for me because trying to pair up something that’s over a hundred years old is hard.”

Sometimes, she said, she gets lucky and finds a treasure in a box of buttons that she bought at an auction, such as one time when she found six buttons that ended up selling for $240, though she only paid $1 for the jar they were in.