Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Button Power by Christen Carter and Ted Hake

 (Princeton Architectural Press, 2021) Who knew that development of a kind of celluloid that could protect a piece a printed paper that could be attached a pin and stick into your clothes did not happen until l896, marking the birth of the pinback buttons that have aorned many a campaigner, punk rocker, Union Man, and Beatles fan? Well, a cadre of collectors knew it, and luckily for lovers of art and culture they saved enough of these beauties to create an art book for the ages. Specifically, two buttoned-down minds made this happen. Veteran button collector/historian Ted Haake (who appears on a few buttons himself in the book) and the Button Gal herself, Christen Carter (who sneaks in a badge of her amazing band Budget Girls --- if you see a copy of their 1997 LP within my under-$35 budget let me know!) curated the button selections and crafted the text in this book, all of which is delightful. While we learn some details about the company that brought pinback buttons to life and the visionary who made them a potent force of hippy protest (and fashion), mostly, in nimble paragraphs, we learn the stories behind dozens of specific buttons...with briskly written summaries of the politics, historical figures, company histories, social movements, big games, crimes, conventions, labor movements, disasters, popular cultural characters, and snake handling circus folk deemed button worthy. And the photographs of the buttons, capturing the rich printing, the poetic corrosion, and the magnificent artwork and design deserves its own button! It would be easy to list how many amazing pins made the cut (Klaus Nomi, Rube Goldberg, Bart Simpson, Major Taylor, Shirley Chisolm, pre-MAD Alfred, mammoth corn cobs, both MJs, Satan, Alvin, Simon, Theodore...) but instead this bizarrely affordable book should just be purchased by everyone so they can them all see for themselves. And with that plug I'll put a pin in it.

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