Saturday, November 12, 2016

Collections: Bears, Books, Buttons, Barbie, Bottles and Camels

I was an avid collector of teddy bears in the 1980's through 1992. I sold off much of my teddy bear collection after Kelly was born to make room in the house for a baby and all the things baby's require as they grow into active children, teenagers and young adults. I repurchased some of my bears and now have a limited collection of my favorite Steiff mohair bears and Hermann mohair teddy bears.

Another passion of mine is books. I collect books by my favorite authors. I have them in hardcover, paperback and as Nook books. I also have a passion for books about words- dictionaries, thesauruses, and word origin books as well as backwards dictionaries, books on antonyms, synonyms and homonyms. Unfortunately I'm married to a man who wants to build things but won't drive a nail into the wall to hang a bookshelf. My library is stored in file cartons in the basement where I cannot access them- a huge disappointment and frustration. My dream has always been to have a library in my home...but I don't think that's ever going to happen.

My third 'B' passion is buttons. I began collecting vintage and antique clothing buttons in 2003. I used to collect all sorts of buttons but over the years I've focused my collection to Victorian and earlier buttons, but do like some Edwardian era buttons. I also have focused my collection on charmstrings. A charmstring is a long string of beautiful buttons. The fad was popular from the mid-1800's to the early 1900's. It was popular with young girls who collected buttons from family members and friends for their memory or charm strings. They could not buy buttons, they had to swap and trade and try to have all different buttons on their strings. Those called memory strings also included small objects like hand-carved miniature peach pit baskets, tiny metal doll spoons, rings, bits of broken jewelry, love token, commemorative tokens, coins with holes drilled through them for easier stringing, and other odd objects, such as a bear's claw. The goal was to string 999 buttons. The 1000th button would be given to the girl by the man she was destined to marry. Many strings didn't reach that length. Some grew even longer. Many were divided between sisters who each took a section with them when they married or moved away. Most ended up being dismantled, but there are some still in existence found in old estates in trunks in attics, wrapped in fabric and stored in unusual places. I have charmstrings and the containers they were found in- one was found in an oblong leather soap box, another in a hand-thrown, three-handled bean pot and a third in a chocolate wafer cookie tin. Some strings have little scraps of paper attached with info on individuals who donated the button- such as 'button from grandmother's wedding dress'. Occasionally there's some information about the string. In 1877 Kate Turner collected 1000 buttons and mounted them in a pattern in a shadow box frame decorated with red cording around the inside for an exhibition of some sort. The framed buttons must have been hung on a wall for some time as the hard rubber buttons had turned brown from light exposure, except where covered by another button...leaving curiously black and brown buttons.

Today I attended the Massachusetts State Button Society show in Three Rivers, MA. I came home with three Colonial era metal coat buttons and five Japanese Satsuma porcelain/pottery buttons. Until today I had zero of each of those types in my collection, and no interest in Satsuma's whatsoever, but today the patterns on them caught my eye. I chose four medium and one small. I also snagged another peacock eye button- glass with shimmery blue and green foil underneath. It'll go on a charmstring I plan on making soon.

My other 'B' hobby is vintage Barbie. When I was little my first Barbie doll was a 1962 titian ponytail doll in a red jersey bathing suit. (Prior to Barbie, or maybe it was simultaneous to her?) I had a red-haired Pebbles Flintstone doll. My maternal grandfather loved redheads. I have a picture of him holding Pebbles but not Barbie. Of course the photo is black and white, but I know he's holding my doll because she's a redhead! So, I'm thinking I inherited that trait, an affinity to redheads, from him? Many of my characters in my books have female main characters with red hair. That gets commented on a lot. But here's what that's all about- my goddaughter is a redhead. Every time I write a female lead with red hair it's a wink to her to let her know I love her.

My other hobby starts with a 'C' and that's camels. Ever since I was a little girl I have had this things for camels. This originates from the nativity or manger scene our small town put up every year on the town green. There were three camels and I loved them! They were so exotic and noble looking. When I was like eight or nine years old my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I replied, "A camel." I received a plastic toy camel from Italy. I still have that camel, and many more besides- plastic, plush, bisque, chalkware, china, brass, etc. I also have a replica camel bell from when the army used camels out west as beasts of burden, and then released them in the desert. I think that wads just after the Civil War? I own two lamps with camel figurine bases, a small standing camel ink well and a large lying down camel ink well, both brass. I prefer dromedaries (one hump) over bacitrans (two humps). My weird obsession with camels led to the Christmas story Bruce that is published in Together for the Holidays. Tying my two hobbies together- I've managed to put together five collector cards of various camel buttons. You wouldn't think there'd be that many buttons with images of camels on them, but there are, from UK livery buttons with the head of a camel, or a full body camel on them to buttons that look like dollhouse miniatures of vintage Camel cigarettes package (oddly enough, my great-grandmother lived with us in her own apartment and smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes, so that might also be why I like camels, gazing at the camel and the pyramid on her cigarette packs).

Kelly also has 'B' hobbies- books and buttons are among them, but she also collections vintage and antique soda bottles. She has a nice collection of mid-1800's Buffum soda, mineral water, beer and porter bottles. Originally the first half dozen of those bottles were mine, displayed in the china cabinet with other Buffum items. Then she showed an interest in them and I passed them to her, which gave me more room for my own stuff in the china cabinet which has some glassware in it but no china!

Kelly also collection antique ink bottles and Victorian era fire grenades which are like pretty colored glass bottles in which there was a chemical. They were hung on the walls of Victorian homes and used as fire extinguishers. You just threw the bottle at the fire and hoped the chemical fluid inside would slow the fire until the fire wagon arrived! She also collects vintage trolley and some train photographs and postcards. She inherited two stamp collections that basically fill her closet. Her uncle is a philatelist (not sure of the spelling of that!) She also has quite a few N-scale model railroad cars, some track and accessories, and a train layout table. Her other passion is LEGO- the creator limited edition city buildings and the trains, of course! I hope one day she has a home with a very large cellar where she can set up the entire city street, the haunted house and all the train sets!

I'm from a family of collectors. My husband on the other hand just doesn't comprehend the whole collecting thing. he has very few interests outside of television which he is glued to for hours and hours on end.

Kelly and I thoroughly enjoy our hobbies and have made all kinds of interesting friends because of them. I think it's healthy and informative to have hobbies and to belong to groups where people have the same hobby. There is so much history in clothing buttons. A lot of people collect military and political clothing buttons...not pinbacks, but actual buttons. The George Washington inaugural buttons sell for small fortunes because of their scarcity.

Then, of course, my other hobby is writing. I do quite a bit of that!! (Kelly does to, to a lesser degree)

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