327 Buttons. 7 Categories.

sorting buttopns

I chose to categorise my button box by materiality; this was an immediate and intuitive response to the task – and only when I began to sort through the buttons did I consider the various other options available.

I was able to divide the button box into 7 categories: wood, metal, seashell, cloth-covered, leather, clear and plastic, the latter was the largest category – and therefore it has a sub-category of colour. In addition there were a few oddments that could be considered miscellaneous. It became evident that each grouping could be broken down further, for example of the 24 metal buttons 9 were gold and 15 silver; or 14 were engraved with a pattern, 10 were plain etc.

Here are the findings.
Clear = 13 / Cloth-covered = 15 / Leather = 12 / Metal = 24 / Seashell = 33 / Wood = 11
Plastic = 219 and within this category there were 63 black, 60 white, 28 brown, 13 blue, 13 green, 11 orange, 10 grey, 7 purple, 6 red, 6 yellow and 2 striped buttons.

The orange plastic buttons were the only group made up of identical buttons.
The reverse of the cloth-covered buttons also reveals two names – Astor and Trims. Astor appears to be a German company, whilst Trims has been difficult to identify.

As my button box is inherited, many of the contents reflect buttons of a specific time – the metal buttons look particularly dated, as are some of the fabrics of the cloth-covered buttons; others are timeless.

stripey buttons

My favourite buttons are the pair of black and whited striped conical-shaped ones… what were they part of…?

And finally (in the spirit of the Vera project) the miscellaneous section:misc


Painted Ladies


Inspired by the making days at the beginning of the week, I have kept the momentum going by trialing and testing further postcards – this has sometimes meant adopting T’s approach of working directly with photocopies – a more immediate method than scanning and working digitally.

I have been concentrating on two pieces that utilise a variety of different techniques, therefore each one is taking quite a long time to develop and complete. The trick is knowing when to stop and accept that the design is finished.

Mr. P. White



On the hunt around charity shops for old postcards to inform my visual practice, I happened upon a typewriter in Oxford yesterday.  Whilst chatting to the sales assistant I discovered the former owner of this Olympia Traveller de Luxe model had been a writer and had also donated a typewriting instruction book, several typewriter ribbons and two boxes of correction papers.

Gregg Applied Typing (1965) provides instructions and practice exercises to master the art of typing a postcard ready for despatch.  

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Mr P. White’s name is still visible on the typewriter case lid and the used correction papers allude to the places he has visited and the stories he has written.  I’m not sure yet if Mr. P White will connect to a person or place within this project in some way or if he is the start of a new project !

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Research and more research

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Since we met in the middle, research has an even greater focus with each site having to be represented by one or more individuals; on the face of it this seems a relatively easy task, however in reality research is taking many hours, and can often result in a dead end. The main difficulty is finding enough information about ‘ordinary people of the past’ to expand on potential stories. Unless the individuals were nobility or became famous, it is unlikely that much would be written about the ‘common man’ in the 19th or 20th century… so this is where the problem lies, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the task! Stamford Library did however come up trumps again last week with the discovery of a Thomas Cook  connection – subsequently I found an entire book on him in the University Library with pictorial reference too, however it would be a shame if each site had to represented by the rich and famous.

Meeting, musing and decision-making

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This weekend gave us lots of opportunity to share research and ideas, examine our individual approach to the project so far and decide upon the direction of the project.
We used a series of questions as the starting point for our discussions:
Should the outcome of this project be a book?
P: This project is about exploring a different working practice to our usual collaborative process, a practice where research plays a more significant role in determining the outcome; therefore it was important to ask this question rather than make assumptions. After some discussion we decided that a book was still the most appropriate vehicle for the project, it would enable us to reach a wider audience and there was a known forum for it to sit within. We would be working to a new formula where the focus would be on the process of making (the journey) and sharing skills rather than the end result. We reasoned that this was a good enough rationale to work within, what could be considered our comfort zone of ‘artists’ book’

T: The opportunity to meet over a weekend and address an outcome for this project was really interesting.  Sharing visual and written starting points enabled a detailed discussion debating alternatives  for and against a new book work.   We spent some time talking through a potential second outcome which will include making work in response to the range of village notice boards observed during our individual site visits.  It may be that we return to each village and photograph the notice board and catalogue its contents in some was or that we consider exhibiting artwork within these notice boards.

If a book, should it be an edition?
P. We decided on an edition of 8. A manageable number and as the walk is a total of 88 miles, we will both be producing 8 books, so we could also rationalise the decision.

T: Whilst discussing the format of a final outcome we exchanged individual aims and areas of interest within this project.  We share an interest in both the meaning and making  processes and agreed that producing an edition will enable the achievement of both these areas of interest.

Should we work independently and share ideas and practice or work in isolation?
P. We looked at the collaborative project organised by Design Factory called Synchronise, which puts together two practicing craftspeople to exchange a material skill to further practice. Although we both perhaps have some reservations about working separately, rather than adopting our  usual collaborative process – i.e T as the image-maker and P as typographer and book maker… it’s important to find a way forward that enables us both to work independently to an agreed format, so finding techniques that we are both happy to work with in terms of type, format and binding became important to this process.

T: The idea of working independently seems to ‘fit’ this project – in that our separate practices will ‘meet in the middle’.  Whilst this will be a new challenge we have established a format of exchanging, sharing and refining ideas within previous work which will ease this.

Should there be a common theme/ ‘hook’ ?
P. We had both arrived independently at the thought that there could be a women-related theme throughout. However as we talked through this idea, we realised that it would be too restrictive and we both had interesting research that would have to be discarded. We looked at the definition of social history and the phrase ‘the experiences of ordinary people in the past’ seemed to resonate, therefore we’ll aim to highlight and tell the story of an individual within each location – this’ll mean reviewing and consolidating current findings and undertaking further, ongoing research. We began to realise that having to do further research needn’t stop us from starting to produce actual artwork, the two could and should work in tandem.

T: We spent some time considering how artists use photographs in their work and in reading around history and geology.  The definitions of social history and compendium really seemed to fit with our first observations.  Both of us have discovered eclectic collections of facts about villagers within our section of the walk which we would like to present in some way.



Chacombe: The sweet tone of the Bagley Bells



Research into the seemingly oddly named Silver Street in Chacombe led me to discover stories of Henry Bagley and his boys who cast church bells at a local foundry located at the top of Silver Street in the village of Chacombe between 1605 and 1785.  441 bells in churches and cathedrals are listed as being cast by the Bagley family.  The bells were richly decorated with patterns, motifs and text including bells at Chacombe  inscribed ‘ring tunefully and you shall have as much beer as is good for you’ and ‘I ring to sermon with a lusty tone that all may come and none may stay at home’.

The metal for the foundry was transported to Banbury by canal and then by wagon to the village.  Allegedly women of the village would throw their silver jewellery in with the molten metal at the very moment the bells were being cast believing this additive would impart an exceptionally sweet tone to the bells!

Harringworth – arches and eggs

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The Welland railway viaduct is a spectacular architectural feature spanning the Welland valley with its 82 arches; this grade II listed building was completed in July 1878 and, according to Wikipedia, is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in Britain. As we drive from village to village we pass under the viaduct on several occasions – I am drawn to the hand painted
figures at the base of each arch/span, which depict their numerical construction order. I am keen to find out more about the construction of this engineering feat, and specifically about the workers and working conditions.

The Health and Safety section of the Manton to Kettering line helpfully lists all the deaths that occurred during the building of the viaduct. The youngest casualty was just 13 years old. In December 1877 Alfred Hide died at Glaston tunnel whilst attending an engine fire. He had got caught in a cog wheel which drew him into the engine. Other reports include men falling to their deaths either from the scaffolding or into the shaft holes.
Further investigation shows that there was a Zeppelin attack on the viaduct in 1916.

In the village, next to the White Swan pub (which was sadly closed at 1pm on a Sunday), an honesty box was in operation for free range eggs – a bargain price of £1 per half dozen!






Rose and Joe Skinner sailed Friendship along this section of the Oxford Canal until 1959.  As the last horse drawn narrowboat carrying coal in Great Britain the boat is preserved at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port.



Opened in 1778, the 77 miles of Oxford Canal was once part of a grand plan to link the Thames, Mersey, Trent and Severn and as such formed a direct link with London.  It became a major transport route bringing wealth and prosperity to the town of Banbury.