Pushing The Right Buttons

I realised that I have not been posting a lot of content lately. Mind you, I have been busy making so much stuff that coupled with work, I was finding it a bit difficult to balance everything. Now that I have a bit of a break in between work, I decided to go all out to make myself a double breasted jacket (more of that in my next post).

Making a well-fitted jacket takes a lot of time and it is always important to ensure that the material and finishing used is of the highest quality to ensure that the time invested is making is worth the effort. This time I went all the way in term of the finishing. I decided to make my own buttons for the jacket.

This may sound a bit crazy especially since good quality buttons can be easily bought but I wanted the buttons to be unique, one of a kind and shaped with my own hand.

I thought long and hard about the type or style of buttons I wanted. I knew that I wanted gold coloured buttons so opted to work with bronze. I remembered a while back when a friend of mine showed me an art nouveau necklace with a crystal piece with a shape of a face. It was the face from the man on the moon and being such an interesting design, I decided to replicate it using my own interpretation.

I started out by sculpting the face using air dry clay on a 20 Euro cent piece. Basically that was more or less the size I wanted the main buttons to be. I learnt a very important lesson while sculpting this face. Don’t give up! My first few attempts were less that impressive. I was near the point where I wanted to bin everything but I kept persevering and eventually, I ended up with a piece that I really liked.

This was a face that smiled so much the eyes closed. Kind of like me when I have a big smile. I left the clay to dry on top of the SKY box (as it was always warm) and the next day, a mould was ready to be taken from this maquette. I love to use Pebeo ‘Siligum’ when making a mould as it’s so easy to use, dries really quickly and the result is quite faithful to the original. There was a lot time wasted waiting for things to dry but my sister always tells me about this thing called ‘delayed gratification!’

With the mould done, I could move to the next stage, i.e. casting the buttons in metal clay. With the mould, the process was very straight forward. I only needed to fill the whole mould up to produce the big buttons but with the cuff buttons, I took a smaller piece of clay and pressed it down with a cap from a spray bottle to create an even 5 p shape button.

The main buttons may look big but metal clay shrinks in the kiln.

I like these cuff buttons as they remind me of Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’ when he peered his face through the door that he has just smashed. Ok! Not a good allegory! Anyway, when the buttons have finally dried the next day, I made the loops that went behind the buttons so that they can be attached to the jacket. Once this was done; yes, you’ve guessed it, I waited for it to dry.

Eventually, everything was ready to be sanded and sintered in the kiln.

As amazing as my kiln is, it still produces mixed results all the time. Sometimes everything is fine but sometimes, it’s a total failure. On this occasion, I suffered a 50% failure.

The top row of buttons were too close to the heating element and were melting. Anyway, I decided to cast another 3 more buttons (which meant that I had to wait for everything to dry, again!). Eventually, everything was completed although it did take me 4 days to cast these 15 buttons (including the three failed ones) in bronze.

The next step involved burnishing the bronze and polishing it to a shiny finish.

You can see the three stages of polishing. The one on the left shows how it’s like straight out from the kiln (after a quick brush with a metal brush). The middle button is how it looks like after it is polished with rouge and the last buttons is the finished product.

So would you like to see the end results? Well, you will need to wait until the next post where I show you the buttons on the jacket.

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About syvyaw

Eat, sleep and think Fashion.

5 comments

  1. Mr Smith

    Wow! That’s amazing. They look really nice. I can’t wait to see them on the jacket 🙂 David.

  2. Violet

    what a great idea – if you have your own kiln. Metal clay must be quite strong because I would not have thought clay to be strong enough to keep a jacket closed (but maybe your jacket is not tight fitting!)

    • Yes. Metal clay is quite an amazing product as you shape it like clay but once fired, it comes out as metal. I’ve dropped it a few time while polishing and it’s still in one piece so I guess it passed the quality test! I wished the temperature of my kiln went higher though as it’s too low for pottery clay.

  3. Pingback: Double Breasted Jacket | Stephen Yong

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