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Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

We are closed on Bank Holiday Mondays

Please note the house will be temporarily closed for 4 weeks from 14 March 2024

Stories

Artists Buttons

Artists Buttons is a new project organised by Kettle’s Yard and supported by LOEWE.

Artists Buttons

We are delighted to present our new project, Artists Buttons. Ten leading artists have created limited edition sets of buttons in support of Kettle’s Yard: Ai Weiwei, Jonathan Anderson, Rana Begum, Edmund de Waal, Antony Gormley, Callum Innes, Jennifer Lee, Cornelia Parker, Vicken Parsons & Caroline Walker.

The artists have pushed themselves to explore new approaches and techniques, turning these everyday accessories into original art objects full of character, invention and personal stories.

Buy Artists Buttons here

Unique gifts, Artists Buttons are for sale through the Kettle’s Yard shop. If you would like to purchase them, please ask at the till. The button cards are also available to purchase online via the Kettle’s Yard website. Each button card is numbered, dated and signed by the artist and presented in a bespoke box. All proceeds from the sale of Artists Buttons will support the new Jim and Helen Ede Fund, a five-year initiative that aims to increase Kettle’s Yard’s endowment and enable further engagement with artists, local communities and young people.

The project draws inspiration from the exhibition, ‘Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery’, recently at Kettle’s Yard. During the war, unable to get a licence to make pots, Rie turned to making ceramic buttons for the fashion industry.

We are enormously grateful to all the artists.

Box designed by APFEL for the Artists Buttons edition

Purchase Artists Buttons

All proceeds from the sale of Artists Buttons will support the new Jim and Helen Ede Fund, a five-year initiative that aims to increase Kettle’s Yard’s endowment and enable further engagement with artists, local communities and young people.

 

Buy Artists Buttons here

Framing Artists Buttons

In discussion with the artists, the following specification is recommended:

  • 10mm (width) x 33mm (depth) oak moulding with medium brown wax finish
  • 100% acid free museum-quality mounting board
  • conservation standard and reversible artwork mounting materials
  • low-reflection artglass with a 70% UV filter
  • For Rana Begum, the above applies, however the moulding should be stained white. For Jennifer Lee, the moulding should be limed oak.

Our local framing partner is Jonny Aldous. Please contact Jonny directly on provincialframes@gmail.com. The cost of the frame is £79.00 (no VAT) plus P&P. Please note payment is to Provincial Frames, not Kettle’s Yard.

Ai Weiwei

Gold Button (PLA), 2023

Edition of 250 individual buttons
Solid sterling silver button including shank, plated in 24 carat gold. (Silver hallmarked in Birmingham).
Diameter, 25mm
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Production by Kettle’s Yard with Firmin & Sons Ltd from an original Chinese PLA button
Signed by Ai Weiwei, numbered and dated

Launch price £650

Ai Weiwei has recreated the mass-produced buttons found on the uniforms of China’s People’s Liberation Army in gold-plated sterling silver. This new work corresponds with other works by the artist in which everyday objects are re-made in precious materials, questioning their meaning, value and status. Ai Weiwei’s gold buttons are manufactured by Firmin & Sons Ltd – a company established in 1655 and the official supplier of buttons to the British royal family since the reign of George II.

Buttons hold great personal significance for Ai Weiwei. During his secret detention in Beijing in 2011, he was under constant surveillance by two guards from China’s People’s Liberation Army who wore golden buttons on their uniforms. Ai recalls: ‘I was instructed not to look at the guards’ faces, so I focused on their buttons, which have been revered from my birth until today as symbols of the unassailable dignity of the army and the honour of the country.’

Known for both his art and activism, Ai Weiwei uses a range of mediums, including architecture, installation, documentary, writing and social media, to examine contemporary society and geopolitics.

Read a text written by Ai Weiwei about Artists Buttons

Members of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA)

Jonathan Anderson

Pigeon, 2023

Edition of 250 individual buttons
Jesmonite, airbrushed by hand in five colours with silver-coloured brooch attachment
Dimensions, 55 × 70 mm
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Production by Kettle’s Yard with Helen Johannessen
Signed by Jonathan Anderson, numbered and dated

Launch price £300

Jonathan Anderson has reimagined his iconic pigeon clutch bag for JW Anderson in the form of a button. Each miniature pigeon is hand-crafted in jesmonite – an environmentally friendly material made from acrylic resin. They are then individually airbrushed in vibrant colours reminiscent of graffiti. Anderson’s lively pigeon is a subversive and original image of urban life, straddling the line between art, design and fashion.

For Anderson, pigeons are potent symbols of the metropolitan landscape. He says: ‘Fashion has this great way of allowing us to escape reality. Pigeons are so inherently unglamorous, it’s funny to turn it into a functional object like a clutch bag that’s typically seen as quite glamorous.’ The clutch bag also has art historical resonance with Lucian Freud’s work on paper, Boy with a Pigeon (1944) in which an adolescent boy in a blue suit and spotty bowtie holds a pigeon to his chest.

Jonathan Anderson is Creative Director of LOEWE and founder of his eponymous label, JW Anderson. In 2016 Anderson founded the LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize for artisans from around the world.

Caroline Walker

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 30 cards (with six buttons), edition of 12 (with a single button)
Porcelain and oil paint, individually hand-painted by the artist
Diameter 31 mm
Production by Kettle’s Yard with David Stonehouse
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Signed by Caroline Walker, numbered and dated

Launch price £1,600, £300

Porcelain button forms have become tiny canvases for Caroline Walker, who has individually painted each one to give the illusion of classic tortoiseshell buttons. Working in oil paint, she has created six variations that simulate the mottled appearance of horn. The four holes on each button are painted, with shadows suggesting the effect of light on the surface of these trompe l’oeil objects.

Walker is renowned for her paintings which illuminate the experience of women, revealing the diverse social, cultural and economic conditions which shape society. She focuses in on spaces and activities, both in the workplace and the home, which are rarely depicted in contemporary art. The painterly skill of her compositions places her in an art historical lineage stretching from the Dutch Golden Age to Manet and Degas and onwards.

Antony Gormley

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 40 cards (with six buttons), edition of 90 cards (with a single button)
Black porcelain, individually handmade by the artist
Dimensions variable
Production by Kettle’s Yard with Katharina Klug
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Signed by Antony Gormley, numbered and dated

Launch price £1,600, £350

‘Buttons are pesky things’, explains Antony Gormley, ‘so much a part of dressing and undressing that there is a rite of passage in childhood when you must become competent to fasten your own clothing.’ ‘The delicacy of touch’, the artist continues, ‘and the finger control necessary to button and unbutton are entangled in the twin tensions of desire and propriety.’

Gormley’s hand-made black porcelain buttons carry the story of their making. See the traces of his fingerprint squished into their surface as he pressed the little clay balls between thumb and forefinger. Feel the cracking at the porcelain’s edge from when the disks were fired at 1265°C. Imagine now these buttons in your own hands, your fingers feeling their way in opening or closing a shirt. With Gormley’s buttons, these sensations become more acute.

Like the trace of his fingerprint in the porcelain, Antony Gormley has continually investigated the human body and its relationship to the wider world. For Gormley, the space of art is a place of becoming in which new behaviours, thoughts and feelings can arise.

Read a text written by Antony Gormley about Artists Buttons

Photo: Garlinda Birkbeck
Photo: Garlinda Birkbeck

Rana Begum

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 30 cards (with four buttons)
Porcelain in three colour variations
30 × 30 mm
Hand sewn onto Munken Polar Crisp White paper 300 gsm, 210 × 148 mm
Production by Kettle’s Yard with Helen Johannessen
Signed by Rana Begum, numbered and dated

Launch price £650

Rana Begum’s beautiful two-toned porcelain buttons are characteristic of her interest in colour and material. Working with ceramics for the first time, Begum has developed an original button shape by moulding wet clay. The pastel yellow, green and pink colours are based on a series of cement floor tiles which Begum created during a residency in the Philippines. These cement tiles were arranged to create geometric patterns, using repetition and modularity to explore the idea of the infinite.

Revisiting these ideas in miniature form, Begum has created functional, wearable objects that have the appearance of small-scale sculptures. Individually hand-made in a process involving over ten stages, the buttons are true to the medium of ceramics with every button becoming a unique work.

Rana Begum’s wide-ranging practice encompasses sculpture, drawing and painting, as well as installation.

Her artistic language is inspired by urban life in London and memories of her childhood in Bangladesh, recalling the geometric patterns of traditional Islamic art and architecture and the fall of changing light.

Callum Innes

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 40 cards (with four buttons), edition of 20 cards (with a single button)
Glazed porcelain in three colour variations
45 × 35 mm
Production by Kettle’s Yard with Lucy Dunce
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Signed by Callum Innes, numbered and dated

Launch price £600, £175

Callum Innes has created a series of buttons in a style closely related to his abstract paintings and prints. The form of the buttons is based on objects in Innes’ home and studio in Edinburgh. The overall shape is cast from the thumb aperture of a vintage wooden artist’s palette and the relief on the button is an imprint of a 4,000-year-old Persian sculpture onto the porcelain forms.

The three colour variations of the buttons produce intriguing effects. The black and white buttons have a simple, bold appearance. The green-hued buttons, created by applying several layers of glaze from the East Lothian area in Scotland, take on a metallic look. The luminous lilac-blue buttons capture Innes’ technique of establishing a play between painting and un-painting.

Callum Innes is renowned for a distinctive process of addition and subtraction, exploring the varied effects of painting a surface and then thinning or dissolving the original colour.

Vicken Parsons

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 30 cards (with six buttons)
Each button individually modelled by the artist in clay
Stoneware glazed with ultramarine slip
Dimensions variable
Production assistance by Katharina Klug
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Signed by Vicken Parsons, numbered and dated

Launch price £750

Vicken Parsons has created leaf-like forms in clay, each one unique and individually hand-crafted by the artist. ‘I took a small piece of clay in my hands and pressed it three times using equal pressure with both hands and this form emerged.’ After a bisque firing the buttons have been dipped in ultramarine slip and fired again at a high temperature. They extend Parsons’ subtle exploration of the boundary between abstraction and representation and her fascination with colour.

Parsons is best known for her small, vibrantly coloured paintings which often recall architecture or landscapes. Her works are executed in thin, almost translucent layers of oil paint on small panels of wood. She says of her work: ‘I like the contradiction of making a large space within a small thing, and then within the small thing, the space opens up again.’

Edmund de Waal

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 30 cards (with six buttons)
Porcelain with gold leaf on reverse
Diameter, 27 mm
Hand sewn onto Munken Polar Crisp White paper 300 gsm, 210 × 148 mm
Signed by Edmund de Waal, numbered and dated

Sold out

For Edmund de Waal, objects are vehicles for human stories and emotions. His buttons – tiny white porcelain discs – are an elegy for the ceramicist Lucie Rie. They are inscribed in delicate letters with Rie’s name and studio addresses in Vienna and London, alluding to the importance of these two cities in her remarkable life.

Each button is unique, with slight variations in colour and shape. Some are flat and wafer-thin, while others are more curved and sculptural, almost resembling miniature bowls. All the buttons have gold leaf applied to the reverse, so that they cast a glow when placed against a white surface. They are sewn onto their cards with gold thread in an asymmetrical arrangement.

Artist and writer Edmund de Waal is best known for his vitrines and installations of handmade porcelain vessels, often created in response to the history of a particular place. He is the author of the best- selling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, which explores diaspora, loss and the survival of objects.

Jennifer Lee

Buttons, 2023

Edition of 30 cards (with six buttons)
Stoneware mixed with metallic oxides. Each button has been individually handmade by the artist
Dimensions variable
Hand sewn onto uncoated off-white 430gsm card, 210 × 148 mm
Signed by Jennifer Lee, numbered and dated

Sold out

Jennifer Lee’s hand-crafted buttons use her signature method of mixing metallic oxides into clay to create subtle strands of colour. Each of her cards has a unique set of six buttons in a panoply of different shapes and sizes, evocative of surfaces in the natural world.

Buttons have a personal resonance for Lee. Brought up on a Scottish farm, her mother had an oatmeal barrel full of buttons, kept in colour-coded containers. Her friendship with Issey Miyake and his use of Lucie Rie’s buttons is also pertinent, reminding Lee of seeing Rie’s button moulds when visiting her studio.

Lee’s instantly recognisable pots are characterised by their distinctive forms, smooth surfaces and rich colours. Her process begins with selecting the clay from an archive that began forty-six years ago. Hand- built and unglazed, the pots are formed by pinching and coiling – processes with roots in the earliest forms of ceramics. Lee’s work evokes experiences of time, place and process in a way that is at once timeless and contemporary.

Cornelia Parker

Military Buttons, 2023

Edition of 30 cards, each unique
Lead soldiers, wax thread, card
210 × 148 mm
Signed by Cornelia Parker, numbered and dated

Sold out

Cornelia Parker transforms her button cards into battlegrounds, creating violent encounters between vintage lead soldiers which are sewn onto each card with blood-like red thread. The red cross created by the act of sewing has various resonances: according to the artist, it could mean that the soldier is wounded or signify a ‘kill’. Its form also recalls the emblem of the Red Cross.

Each of Parker’s button cards is an original artwork, with a different configuration of soldiers on what she calls her ‘mini theatres of war’. The artist looks to the history of the soldiers, which would have been part of children’s war games in a time before the discovery of lead’s toxic properties. By transforming found objects in this way, Parker renders both the toys and the ‘buttons’ useless, except as art. The marks and holes on the button cards document the process of making.

Cornelia Parker uses forms of transformation to engage with important issues of our time, including violence, ecology and human rights. She often uses processes that mimic cartoon ‘deaths’ such as explosions, steam- rollering, falling from cliffs and shooting full of holes.

Read a text written by Cornelia Parker about Artists Buttons

Credits

Artists Buttons is curated by Andrew Nairne and Naomi Polonsky with production support from ceramicists Katharina Klug, Helen Johannessen, Lucy Dunce and David Stonehouse.

The identity and packaging design has been supported by A Practice for Everyday Life.

Artists Buttons is supported by LOEWE. A Button Workshop accompanying ‘Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery’ at Kettle’s Yard was supported by the LOEWE Foundation.

All product photos by Beth Davis.