Coping with Covid: Sara Mulford, Dealer

Sara Mulford, at a library presentation

Covid19  has played havoc on our hobby.  But — when the pandemic started, button sales seemed to soar. With staying home and time on their hands and no button shows to attend — what else were people to do than peruse the internet for buttons.

With all the shut down of button shows at the state, regional and national level where does that leave us to shop for buttons? Many of us often turn to eBay auctions, Etsy  or maybe online button groups such as Button Bytes. These are fine, but for me and  my need to sell, I needed to reach more button collectors. I’ve signed on to 4 groups, with many more out there. During this time I mailed buttons all over the states as well as Canada, England and Australia. 

Each group has its own rules for selling and buying, they even do auctions occasionally. You will meet not only button collectors but sewers, crafters, jewelry and costume makers.

Buttons can be listed  as a single button or a group. There are also times where large lots are listed. It depends on the button group what type seems to sell. I notice my higher end buttons don’t move as fast as my lower cost or novelty buttons.

So where do you go to find these buttons I have for sale? ( there are many more out there) In no special order, Buttons4Sale, Vintage Button Circle, Old Buttons, Buckles &Beyond, OLD BUTTONS NEW BUTTONS & MORE Buy/Sell/Auctions. These are all Facebook sites. You do need to join the group to see what is for sale. They do only PayPal payments. If you don’t have that set up it would be wise to do so. Just like at a show you need to know your prices, not to over pay for your buttons. Buy the ones you love. You can also find some bargains or treasures. (some what like a poke box without the digging). 
We don’t know when all this mess will end but I know there is an endless amount of buttons out there!  
Submitted by:
Sara Mulford
Sara Mulford is a past president of the New Jersey State Button Society.

Virtual Visit to a Button Show

What’s it like to go to a button show? Here’s a video to explain, it’s about a three day show in Florida.

In New Jersey, our show is just ONE day, but the elements are there — the dealer tables, the competitions, the raffle — and the fun!

We can’t go to a New Jersey show this year -and the National Button Society show has been canceled –  but we can have fun thinking about it, and preparing for next year!

Thanks to Sylvia Durrell of Holey Buttons for this video.



Portait of a Collector: Mary Stampleman

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Mary Stampleman, left, poses with studio artist Karen  L. Cohen

“Thank God for Buttons!,” says Mary Stampleman, in the middle of the COVID lockdown. “At least we have a wonderful hobby to turn to when we need to escape!”

She has collected buttons for more than 35 years and is partial to Division 1 glass. (Division I buttons are non-uniform buttons made before 1918).  “I like to make creative mountings using antique trade cards and Victorian scraps. During the shut-down, I’ve been remounting old trays and also making new ones.

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Studio button by Carolyn Eisley, frame by Mary Stampleman

Here’s an example: The button above was made by Carolyn Eisley of Fairy Tale Buttons. It is about three inches across on a wooden disc, with an acrylic face made by the artist. Mary embellished the fabric frame.

Her advise for newcomers to collecting: Read button books, join the National Button Society, visit their online educational materialsand go to the State shows to learn about buttons.



Glass Artist: Nancy DuBois

Nancy DuBois has been creating buttons for more than 25 years and has more than 3500 collectible buttons out in the button world, almost all of them most of them numbered and catalogued. Her materials and techniques include leather, wood, vegetable ivory, bone, paper mâché, shell, Lucite, glass, and techniques such as sculpting and carving, watch crystal button construction, scrimshaw, cameo carving, reverse carving and flame working.

“I like the challenge of doing something odd or different or pretty or unusual– it’s the joy of actually making things,” says Nancy. Though she rarely makes multiples, she accepted the commission to design and craft 30 NJSBS Diamond Anniversary buttons to be delivered on May 7, 2016.

The base is a size medium Pinna Nobilis shell with an inserted metal shank. The main design of a goldfinch sitting on a red oak branch with leaves and acorns has been scrimshawed in 24-carat metallic gold. (Scrimshaw is the age-old art of scratching or carving line designs into the surface of natural materials, then rubbing pigment into the indentations.) The tiny violet was flameworked, done by melting colored glass in a hot flame produced by a torch and shaped it to the desired configuration. The goldfinch, branch, leaves and acorns was  surface tinted with a yellow, brown and green paint then sealed for durability. A Swarovski Crystal on the front recognizes our state’s diamond anniversary. Each button back includes an engraved design number, log number, date, signature with Nancy’s seal design, and the words “New Jersey State Button Society 75 years 1941-2016.” The button is finished by a second Swarovski Crystal on the back.

When she was given some buttons from Massachusetts collector Eva Evans, Nancy started a charm string that now has close to 700 interesting specimens; her favorites are diminutives. She began making studio buttons in the late 1980s, when Eva Evans — knowing that Nancy did leather sculpting — asked if she could sculpt a tiny carved log cabin button. Nancy’s first encounter with the NJ button club was at a show in Flemington. “I was so happy to find out that our state had a club,”  she remembers, “but I was nervous because I was showing up to my first meeting with a bunch of sculpted leather buttons to sell. I was soooo scared but when I got there, Gloria Chazin grabbed hold of me and introduced me to everyone and showed them my buttons! It was a great day! The next meeting, though, I paid for a table like I should.”

At present glass is Nancy’s main focus. She and her husband, Skip (also a noted paperweight artist), raise cattle and Muscovy ducks on their Salem County farm. When the Salem Community College Glass Education Center was built two miles away, Nancy joined her third child and youngest daughter, Emily, in the glass art program and earned duel degrees in glass and industrial design  That Nancy now works at the Center enables her to use the techniques of glass blowing, kiln casting, fusing, slumping, cold working, flameworking, and “pate de verre.” She also has her own flame working studio that she humorously named “Coop de Verre” (because it looks like a chicken coop).

Nancy rarely has time to attend meetings, leaving it to Annie Frazier to sell her buttons. Currently she is making glass-covered dresses for the Glass Art Society convention in Corning, New York, June 9-11.  Her work can be seen in Antique and Collectible Buttons Vol II, by Debra J. Wisniewski, the late Jane S. Leslie’s reference book on studio button makers, and the second edition of the Big Book of Buttons.

It’s been a busy spring, what with 14 mother cows calving and several hundred Muscovy ducks producing ducklings for the Asian restaurant market. “We let the hens sit all around the farm,” says Nancy. “Then we have to catch the baby ducks to put them under heat lamps to grow into adult ducks. Then they go to pens, where they have plenty of room, fresh water, and nonstop feed.”

Not surprisingly, birds are among her favorite subjects, along with fables (the more unusual, the better) and Kate Greenaway designs. The most unusual of her “one only” designs was a carved bungee jumper that could spring up and down.  Always on the go — that’s Nancy Dubois.

This article by Barbara Figge Fox, telling about the 75th anniversary button for the New Jersey State Button Society, was published in the Bulletin for Spring 2016. 


Portrait of a Collector: Jackie Moreno

 Jackie Moreno is president of the Jersey Shore Button Club, and her husband, Matt, paints studio buttons and button cards.

Here she tells about her “button life.”

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Jackie Moreno

My interest in buttons began as a young child. My mother had many of my clothes made by a seamstress, hence, buttons always fascinate me.

Many years passed and I went to the Fashion Institute, where I combined fashion and fabrics. I also worked at B. Altman in NYC, where fashion really became my passion.

One day, 16 years ago, Matt and I were in the Point Pleasant Pavilion and were fortunate to meet Marilyn Jost. She invited me to join the Jersey Shore Button Club. About a year later, Matt (retired at the time) joined the group also.

My husband always worked as an artist. He owes his work on buttons to a former member, the late Alicia Martin, who encouraged him to translate his artistic talent on to buttons. It was collecting and painting that we could do together.

Though Matt is recovering from a fall, and had three weeks in ‘rehab — thanks to email, phone calls from button buddies, and cards, I am making time for buttons again.

Right now, I’m mounting some wonderful small 18th century metal buttons, but my favorite buttons will always be glass.

July 16, 2020


Portrait of a Collector: JoAnn Taylor

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Card of Rosette Shanks from the catalog of Annie Frazier

JoAnn Taylor is president of the Bergen Button Club. 

JoAnn Taylor started collecting in 1991 after reading in her local newspaper that a button club was meeting at Teaneck Library, all welcome. “I was hooked!” JoAnn is president of the Bergen Button Club and, with Pam Muzio, takes care of competition entry at New Jersey State Button Society twice-yearly shows.

JoAnn says her favorite buttons to collect are Paris Backs and Rosette Shanks. (Here’s what the bank of a Rosette Shank looks like)rosette shank reverse

During Covid, she has been mounting enamels and trying to mount paperweights by maker.

“When recarding my paperweight buttons, I had 3 paperweight buttons labeled as Skip DuBois, bought years ago at NERBA. I have two that are millefiori and one is very pale pink with a small white flower that looks as if it’s opening, with green leaves. They all have six precision cuts around the top/sides and sliced across the top.

“I contacted ButtonBytes (an educational Facebook page) for more information on Skip DuBois. I was emailed by Debra Wisniewski about her book that lists Skip and some of his buttons.

Someone else sent me the article on Nancy DuBois, the SAME article that had been published in the NJSBS bulletin in 2016! (Nancy DuBois, Skip’s wife, crafts in glass. She designed and made the 75th anniversary button for NJSBS). “It was wonderful. enjoyed it. Great information. I’m now looking for more Skip paperweights because they are so well made.”


Portrait of a Collector: Cynthia Bartlett


Cynthia Bartlett, past president, left, knew Sara Howell’s aunt.

Cynthia Bartlett is a long-time button collector who is a past president of the New Jersey State Button Society. She explains how she fell in love with buttons:

“I did not inherit a collection; my entire collection is “self bought.” I kept a list – the material, an illustration if I think I am going to forget it, and what I paid. I had never known a collector until, in the ‘70s, I met Annie and Johnson Frazier at a flea market. Annie had cards of buttons but she had other items to sell too. She told me about a club that just down the street from Sonia and John Force. (Sara Howell is the grandniece of one of the ladies so helpful to me at that time). I spent many years traveling with Anne Flood and other collectors, going to national and regional shows. Close to home, our New Jersey clubs have been a great resource for me to find and learn about buttons.”

Cynthia Bartlett, past president, and Jackie Moreno, board member welcome visitors to the NJSBS Show and Competition.

Sam Kramer: One of a Kind Button

Sam Kramer, born in Pittsburgh in 1913, studied jewelry design in high school and college. In 1936 he moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, the center of bohemian and artistic culture. There, he opened a workshop and gallery to sell his surrealistic jewelry advertised as “fantastic jewelry for people who are slightly mad.” Among many things he used glass eyes from stuffed animals, saying, “Every conceivable material, often not associated with jewelry, can be used. Each material will provoke a certain feeling, and at the same time suggest a multitude of intriguing design possibilities.”

When I worked in New York City, I frequently visited Greenwich Village, but I never visited Kramer’s workshop, which was up a steep flight of stairs. In 1964 I read his obituary in The New York Times, which said that “Mr. Kramer was an ex- pert at making jewelry out of taxidermists’ glass eyes,” and later, “His wife, Carol Enners Kramer, is expected to carry on his work.” Reading that, it occurred to me that she might appreciate the challenge of making a button from a glass eye. So I trudged up the steep stairs to his studio and ordered a button, pictured here.

I was assured that mine was the only such button ever made.

by Ann Wilson