Classical 91.5

Creating 6x6 art from Grandma's Button Box

May 30, 2019

It seems that as each new generation comes along, with it there is a renewed focus on the environment, recycling and going green.  The next young generation decides that saving the planet is something they’ll do better than the previous generation. 

I am at the end of the Boomer generation, and in my experience, it was my grandparents’ generation that knew about recycling & reuse. Everything from hand-me-down clothes, to wrapping Christmas presents in cereal boxes and newspaper tied with a rag, to the “button box.”  Every grandmother seemed to have one.


That shoe box or biscuit tin with an endless depth of discovery – an endless variety of buttons of every color, shape, material or design.  Restless grandchildren could be entertained for hours sorting buttons by color, or stringing them on a long piece of string. 

Buttons came from all sorts of places and had a special purpose.  Before turning any worn out article of clothing into a dust cloth or cleaning rag, the buttons were cut off and saved.  If a button was on the ground, you’d pick it up and put it in your pocket to add to the box. After all, you never knew when someone might need a button. 

A few years ago, as I contemplated what I could create for WXXI’s contribution to RoCo’s 6x6 exhibit, my thoughts went to Grandma’s button box.  WXXI has been a media partner with RoCo for several years and I wanted to make something unusual and three-dimensional.  Buttons just might do the trick.  I had used buttons to decorate picture frames – so why not make a picture from buttons?

This year, I decided that as Program Director for WXXI Classical 91.5, I would connect classical music with my art – after all, arts collaborations are what makes Rochester such a special place.  My mind went to coming up with the names of pieces of music with colors in the title.  There’s Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Joan Tower’s Wild Purple, John Phillip Sousa’s The Black Horse Troop or Villa Lobos’ Song of the Black Swan, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, or Vaughan William’s Fantasia on Greensleeves. The options provided a rainbow of opportunity.  Now to collect enough buttons to reflect the work.

I had done enough button art over the years that my supply was greatly diminished, and I knew I didn’t have enough buttons of one color to create the art.  I hate buying buttons, and the buttons of today simply don’t have the interest or variety of antique buttons.  I started keeping my eyes open for buttons in antique shops. That proved to be a good move.  Then I started receiving button collections from others – my mother-in-law’s button box, the buttons from a WXXI volunteer’s grandmother. The buttons started to grow, and my artwork had an ample supply.

With glue gun in hand and buttons neatly sorted by color, my two 6x6 projects came to life.  Can you guess the music that inspired this year’s pieces? 

6x6x2019 - The International Small Art Phenomenon
June 1 - July 14, 2019

    Global Online Preview: NOW LIVE!
    In Gallery Preview:
    May 27 & 28, 12-5pm
    May 29-31, 12-8pm
    Opening Party and Artwork Sale: June 1, 4-10pm
    Global Online Purchasing Begins:June 4 at 10am
    Artwork Purchase Price: $20 each
    Sold Out Artists’ Names Revealed Online: July 5
    Purchased Artwork Pick-Up: July 14-17, 12-6pm

Answers:  Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Lehar’s Gold and Silver Waltz.