Owl Button Art

I have been drawn to old knickknacks as long as I can remember. One of my very favorite things to do when I went to my great-grandma’s house (which was at least a few times a week as a child) was go through her huge collection of old buttons. I could sit for hours sorting them into colors and  imagining what outfits they had all belonged to.

I’ve run across button art from time to time, but never found anything that struck a real chord or matched my current decor. When I finally decided we needed something to spruce up our bare-walled owl-themed bathroom (and I happened to have an antique mirror on hand as a base), I knew just what I’d saved so many good buttons for! (Our shower curtain and toothbrush holder below are from the wonderful Modcloth.)

There are so many quirky and downright hilarious buttons in her collection that I have often wondered what practical purpose they could have ever had. I never imagined there was much I could do with the funny little carrot buttons, but during this project, I figured it out. What a perfect owl nose one turned out to be!

Ninety-five percent of the time spent on this project was rearranging buttons before gluing anything down. If you have to fudge a little to get buttons to fit, they’ll inevitably leave glue residue behind from sliding around. I must admit, this was difficult for me since I’m better at jumping into a project and figuring it out as I go.

After laying out the design for the owl and using up a slew of gray and brown buttons, I couldn’t help but feel there was a little depth, and color, missing. That’s when I picked out a few buttons each in white, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, blue and black and scattered them over as a second layer in that order to create a highlighted section and a shadow. I feel like it became as dimensional as a button art owl could be without being raised 5 inches off the wall.

Once the owl design was done came the decision whether to leave the little character floating there or not. Eventually I took the plunge and started gluing the branch down underneath it that I’d fiddled with for a half hour. In the end, I think it grounds the composition nicely and I’m glad I included it.

Tips on making button art (especially when adhering buttons to a mirror):

  • Clean the mirror with window cleaner that contains amomnia with a lint-free towel
  • Use a heavy duty clear craft glue like E-600 or SureBonder 9001 (you can find these at any craft store)
  • Keep a Q-tip and/or small razor on hand to clean up bits of glue that squeeze out before it dries
  • Place each button in your design before gluing anything. Rearrange, rearrange, rearrange. This part takes hours; the gluing is quick and easy!
  • For buttons with a raised back loop (as opposed to four holes), use wire cutters (found in the jewelry section of craft stores) to crop off the loop and sand the little part that is left with a course metal file. This mainly applies to the bottom layer. If you add a second layer, the button backs may actually help them stay in place.
Good luck with making your very own button art!

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