Buttons Defy Time and Technology in Jablonec
Every few months the ” buttons rumor” pops up again. The last Czech button presser is retiring/has retired and a century and a half of exquisite tradition is over.
Fortunately, they’ve been wrong every time. While it is true that only a handful of small shops in Jablonec maintain the hot, labor intensive, exacting and detailed skills necessary for the individual pressing and finish of each piece — Czech Glass buttons remain a gift to us today from a glorious past.
Jablonec is no longer the “Bijouterie to the World”. Its’ signature buttons are rarely available for sale to those in the Czech Republic. The influx of synthetic materials, automated processes and cheap labor in other world markets decimated production. The remaining market is driven and the artisans supported by foreign purchase. Nirvana is proud to be part of keeping the tradition alive and providing our customers with the beautiful result.
MOLDING THE FUTURE
Many of Jablonec’s button molds have been lost, damaged or purchased by off-shore and knock-off companies. Most of the remaining production comes from traditional molds passed between generations of glass pressers. We have brought tens of thousands of buttons in those designs to the United States over the years. Nirvana is proud to offer options like our six new colors of moon faces and the new Luna AB finishes launched this week.
We invested in a new button mold almost a year ago. The process of getting the mold produced and proofed has taken much longer than one would expect. In our world, grade school science fair projects are done on home 3-D printers, but button tech remains old school. As the delivery date gets closer — our excitement and impatience is building.
IT’S A VERY HUMAN PROCESS
Czech glass buttons have a proven process without shortcuts. With several decades of experience each, our artisans make it all look deceptively easy when we visit. But each button is an individual work of art. Every one is pressed, smoothed and (usually) hand-finished. A final fire-polish often seals the work making the durable art wearable for generations.
Sometimes our orders on existing molds linger weeks or months longer than expected. We do our best to keep our inventory full and quality high. We’d rather pay more and wait longer than deliver less than our customers have come to expect.
STOCK UP ON BUTTON STOCK
Many have learned to stock up on their favorites as they become available. Buttons are still being produced, but molds break and pressers retire. Before World War I there were more than 700 glass production businesses in Jablonec. There are only a fraction of that number today.We are actively working with our producers there. We visit Jablonec regularly to find quality opportunities and ideas for button and bead production. It’s an important part of our commitment between the artists there and our artist customers here.
BOHO SINCE 1860
The current Boho fashion trend has designers discovering exciting new ways to incorporate Czech Glass buttons in their work. Czech Glass buttons have been produced in Jablonec in Bohemia since the crisp relief of the molds was first perfected there in the 1860s.
The authenticity and beauty of the buttons — and the art created with them — make the extra efforts required an essential investment of our time.
A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Finding a source of high-quality Czech buttons first brought me to Nirvana as a customer and eventually part of the team.
It was love at first sight for my first Czech button. I found a gorgeous 18mm purple beauty hand-painted with a silver dragonfly dazzling me from the corner of a case in a Texas bead shop. I have probably purchased them in at least 50 local bead stores in our family travels over the years.
When I finally forced myself to share my treasures, my clients loved the first few pieces I completed with my buttons nearly as much as I did. I had happily shifted most of my design work to Czech buttons and beads before I remembered “the” button. My “Prussian” grandmother moved it to the top button hole of every long, dark wool coat I’d ever seen her wear.
Once I recalled that beautiful piece on that amazing woman, it all fit together. It didn’t surprise me to discover two of her uncles went to Jablonec to work in their late teens. They earned our family passage to Ellis Island in the late 1800s.
I’ve told my customers for years that there is fire and history in every Czech glass button. When they ask if I am Czech, I want to say yes.
FINDING YOUR CONNECTION
While it may not be familial for you, I’ve come to feel there’s a connection in every button. Nirvana is delighted to continue to provide artists with the opportunity to find their own link. Watch your email and this space for news of the “big” announcement when the results from the new mold arrive.
Writer Judi Griggs designs and sells jewelry in Western New York in the summer and Texas in the winter.