In Pursuit of the China Button

On June 1, 2005 we visited the museum at the Bapterosses factory in Briare, France. The factory currently manufactures tiles, specializing in mosaic tiles. Beginning in the 1850's, however, it grew to become the world's largest manufacturer of china buttons and beads. Button production ended in 1962.

We came to see examples of early production china buttons, and to investigate the origin of buttons which had been coming to us out of France in recent years.

Our group consisted of Lorrayne Bailey, Janet White, Jody Behrbaum, Lindy Miller, Jane Quimby, Deborah Hanson, Monique and René Blaise, Deborah's mother Donna and her friend Diana Horntvedt.

All the photos here are courtesy of Deborah Hanson of Byson Buttons.

The first photo shows one of the two large display cases at the entry to the museum. They contained many buttons we recognized, and some familiar body types with amazing decorations.

A close-up of buttons in the case shows medium calico buttons and unusual marbled and lustered finishes on the third tire type variant- body style 5 shown on page 86 of our Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons.

...

We presumed these were gaiter type buttons, but the designs on them were certainly exceptional.



Hobnail gaiters had also received elaborate decorative treatments.

In the case with the familiar shape 4 gaiters, were gaiters with calico and marbled finishes. Many of the buttons in these cases were heavily trimmed with gold.

Inside the museum many sample cards were displayed inside floor to ceiling glass cases.

We recognized some inserted two-way self shank examples, in the company of many body types and finishes we had not seen before.

This is a close up of some of the unusual bodies we presumed also to be inserted two-way self shank buttons.

Another sample card mixed whistles with more inserted two-way self shanks. The swirl pattern was eye-catching.

Some of the cases showed much larger cards with a variety of buttons and beads, perhaps for reference within the factory.

This close up shows more inserted two-way self-shanks that our Guidelines does not include.

 

 

The calico patterns on whistle buttons shape #2 were a wonderful surprise. They apparently were manufactured concurrently with the dark bodied two hole calicos which we recognized.

Here is a card of the selfshank buttons we have seen, in a variety of lusters and colors. The logo on the card suggests a later manufacturing period.

Our eyes were caught by the unusual glazed finish on these smooth-tops lying loose in the display case.

Nowhere in the museum did we see evidence of some of the buttons which have come into our collections out of France in recent years. From the museum, then, we took a long walk around to the rear of the factory, to what is referred to as "the discharge area." We began seeing buttons and tiles on the ground and soon were walking on mounds of these cast-off pieces.

Jane was the first to zero in on an area where buttons were lying close to the surface.

Here are some of the buttons we found, some in familiar china button shapes, and below,

a close up of two types which seemed unusual.

This concludes our tour of the Bapterosses factory in Briare, France.



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