The Button Project brings a world of artists to Macclesfield

A stunning exhibition of contemporary handmade buttons will go on show alongside the silk costume collection at Macclesfield’s Heritage Centre this June.  Running from June 14 – August 8 the exhibition will be launched at Barnaby, the town’s summer festival of art and fun, and will showcase work by artists and makers from all around the world.

Nearly 300 makers have put themselves forward for The Button Project. From precious metals and traditional silk buttons, to glass, felt, enamels and recycled materials; the creativity from makers has been diverse and eye-catching, with The Button Project’s youngest contributor being just 11 years old.

Showing that inspiration can come from unexpected places, there’s a button by jeweller Katie Gayle in collaboration with sound recordist Amelia Mariette that depicts a sound wave – the sound being the noise of the artist undoing and doing up a button on a silk and velvet waistcoat.

Local connections abound, with artist Sarah Bradney exploring Macclesfield’s history of parachute and map-making by creating a button that encloses a tiny silk parachute, a map and a hidden code too.  And Michelle Ault has also touched on her local history, with a series of buttons called ‘Macclesfield Mill Girl’, which represent her mother’s experience of working in a local mill. 

Some stories are even more personal - Rachel Ballard’s amazingly intricate embroidered button on Indian silk is autobiographical, showing the ‘metamorphosis’ between two very different parts of her life. One side shows her clad in overalls and wellies working at a plant nursery, and the other transformed into a party girl who won’t get her shoes dirty.

The silk moth is a favourite subject, and Felicity Denby has made a little vignette of the moth Bombyx Mori and her eggs in silver, beads and resin that is both extraordinarily skilled and stunningly beautiful.

There are buttons that use updates of traditional techniques; such as Gina Barrett’s ‘Spring’ button in luminous colours that demonstrates her extensive know-how providing reconstructions of traditional costume accessories for theatre, film and museums, while Lionel T Dean ensures that up-to-the-minute methods are represented with his 3D printed button ‘Superkitsch’.

And there’s more. Nancy Sutcliffe’s delicate figurative diamond-point engraving with gold leaf is a small masterpiece and it is no surprise that she has work in collections worldwide, including Broadfield House Glass Museum; well know UK jeweller Jane Moore has sent a stunning floral enamel button that will be instantly recognisable to her fans; Susi Hines has created a tiny goldsmith’s workshop complete with tools and gems, magnified by a crystal lens and Judith Brown’s hand-stitched wire button is a wearable piece of art that echoes the work that she already sells at the likes of the V&A and the British Museum.

All the buttons are for sale, and Victoria Scholes, the event organiser, predicts some stiff competition for these very collectible pieces. “I’m willing to bet that most of these won’t be hidden away in cases and button boxes. They’ll be converted into jewellery and wall-art, as well as stitched onto accessories and clothing. They really are tiny works of art,” she says.

And this is no surprise, given that buttons have a fascinating history. Going back a couple of thousand years at least, they have a practical use in fastening clothing, but they are much more than that, and have been used as items of jewellery, decoration, status, and even currency.  In this modern re-make of a traditional idea the simple fastening has never looked so good.

The Button Project
15 June  - 8 August 2013
The Heritage Centre, Macclesfield, SK11 6UT

Preview 6-9pm 14 June as part of the launch of the Barnaby Art Trail

Images (top to bottom): Felix Denby - Bombyx Mori, photo Graeme Harris; Katie Gayle; Rachel Ballard – Metamorphosis; Gina Barrett - Spring

For more information or high resolution images, please contact or call 01625 425049

Macclesfield Barnaby Festival is a Festival of contemporary arts, culture and fun, celebrating the town's rich heritage. A recent reinvention of the centuries old tradition of celebrating the feast day of St Barnabas, it's held every June in the town centre.

The four sites that make up Macclesfield Museums – the Heritage Centre, the Silk Museum, Paradise Mill and West Park Museum – are an acknowledged treasure, showcasing all aspects of silk use and production plus other aspects of local and international history. The Heritage Centre features fine examples of the local Macclesfield silk button as well as a nationally important collection of silk clothing, fashion and accessories from throughout the town’s silk-making history.  It is an ideal setting to complement top-notch buttons by contemporary makers. And at the nearby Silk Museum – formerly the School of Art where textile designers were trained – there will be more buttons on show in a companion display, creating a button bonanza that spans the town.

For Macclesfield, silk buttons are where it all began.  This cottage-based business flourished into major industry and shaped the town into what it is today. Macclesfield Museums, which recently have been designated the official western end of the Silk Road by the United Nations World Tourist Organisation Silk Road Project, present all aspects of silk use and production.

The Button Project is the brainchild of Victoria Scholes, an exhibition organiser with some experience in putting together this kind of collective show, and also a well-respected glass artist in her own right.


Popular Posts