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Bright Green Buttons

~Bright Green Buttons~
 We tend to think that our mania to collect anything and everything dealing with a popular image is particular to modern times. Witness the vogue of Mary Engelbreit, an illustrator who got her start in the world of greeting cards. As the popularity of her designs increased, her work could be found on everything from cotton throws to Christmas ornaments. Let us take a glimpse of times past and look into the era of the Victorian. Here we find the Mary Engelbreit of her day, Kate Greenaway, an artist who was so popular in the late1800's, that even button design was influenced. Kate, the daughter of a master engraver, revealed her talent in her early years. She began her Art studies at the age of twelve. A happy childhood and loving family influenced artwork portraying ‘childish innocence’.Summers in Nottinghamshire, a bucolic English countryside brought forth illustrations of flowers and birds. She created the children of her drawings in a quaint pastel of color and fun and her revival of the high-waist ‘Empire Style’ of 1795-1815 even influenced children’s clothing. Frilly smocks, mob caps and sunbonnets are practically a signature of the Greenaway style.

Much like Mary, Kate’s first commissions were for cards and calendars .Later came illustrated books with her own verses and a number of Almanacs. Kate’s books were enormously popular in Britain and America and just like now, when the public can’t seem to get enough of something there are always knock-offs. Even to the buttons being made at the time. For collectors who are particular to the depictions on buttons attributed to Greenaway, they must be matched with known illustrations they were copied from. Kate’s charming style is evident on these buttons which are usually of the metal pictorial type. Most are of children along with the Almanac illustrations of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Her designs may also be found on black glass buttons and a rare Vegetable Ivory. These buttons are much sought after and each has a name linking it’s Greenaway association. There is Little Bo Peep from Mother Goose, Patty and her Playmates from Under The Window, Ring-a- Ring-a-Roses and Winter Stroll from Almanac illustrations.

Greenaway designs have seen a widespread appeal from crazy quilts to wallpaper and plates and have shown a lasting popularity. It is also interesting to note that Mary Engelbreit produced buttons for a short time in the early 90's. These were discontinued and are now quite collectible buttons as well.

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