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buttons underwear etsy

These little fellas help us get our act together all day, until we undo them in the dark.  While we dream, they wait, wide eyed, for the start of a new day.  For most of us, it’s a kind of unacknowledged mutual dependence,  like those birds that live on the backs of rhinos.  We know they’re there, but we act as if we don’t.

Of course, some people are different, and some of those people are not at all indifferent to their buttons.

pearly kids

These are the pint sized offspring of London’s Pearly Kings and Queens, who gussy up their plain clothes with as many pearl buttons as they can.  The results are fabulous, fun, and a little tragic, like much of life for those on the lower rungs of London living. More recent pics in this article.

Truth be known, while we often admire displays of a great big bunch of stuff, we are generally more partial to those who celebrate the individual unique thing, be it a bungalow, a backless dress, or a button.

buttons pret a porter

Aaaww, look at that, cute as what it is.

button pattern

And this one, well now we are way beyond cute into the country of art and design. This has an idea, and this was executed with skill and craft.  It’s from the collection of the National Button Society!  Along with more, below:

buttons pattern screen

Black Glass 1

This black glass button is as stormy as a Canadian winter sky or a late-night argument that just won’t end.

buttons pennsylvania

The above nifty trio, each a fine bright thing, live in the Pennsylvania House Museum, which is not in Pennsylvania, apparently.

buttons birmingham

But buttons aren’t just a North American pleasure.  Look at the above fistful from Birmingham, the one in England.

buttons art deco Boutonsartdeco1B   button art deco boutonsartdeco2B

These gems up there, from here, tell us that button making and button wearing was once something special.  Today, we think we are the most interesting people who ever walked the face of the earth, but how many of us pay any attention to our buttons?  Maybe that will change.  There is lots of encouragement…

buttons bouttons_poster

This great little book is a catalogue for an exhibition/celebration of buttons in Paris at the Mona Bismark gallery      Many were from the collection of Loic Allio, who has his own book (hard to find and pricey).  First seen here.



Some have been woven from cloth, many more punched from mother of pearl shell

buttons historic

buttons m of pearl

A few made it to the vest of the little emperor himself and left their mark.

buttons napoleon

Chanel Buttons_thumb

Coco Chanel knew her buttons and put her mark right there, out front, in classic fashion below seen here

buttons 50s vogue lover

button zegna shirt

Of course, it’s really a question of style and personal taste, whether you go plain above or bravura below.

buttons big rhinestone

The thing is you have a choice, it’s up to you.  Don’t leave it to chance.

button historic single

This is one of the oldest buttons ever found.  Simple, yes, but made with care, not like any other.  See its story here.

If you want a bit more history to go with the eye candy, Slate has this.  And if you want to shake up your daily life just a little, go to your closet and check your buttons.  Are they YOU?  Well, you  can change that.

rousseau Boy on the Rocks

If  you ever find yourself in front of a painting by Henri Rousseau, as we did some weeks ago, you are bound to feel a bit queasy, as we did, because you will probably be, as we were, simultaneously charmed and spooked.  First you smile, then you cock your head and give it a shake.


The world depicted by M Rousseau makes no sense, and in spite of that, or most likely because of that, it is beguiling, seductive, addictive. The more you look, the less you know for sure.  His manual skill is adept and refined in many places (branches, leaves), and then you come across something that you think must have been done with his eyes closed and the brush attached to his elbow.

rousseau old-man-junier-s-trap-1908

rousseau football

The composition and perspective are always completely wrong, but never in a way that suggests he actually knows what would be right, and the events, if that’s what they are, are simply wacky.


He seems to be making it up as he goes along, an improvisation by someone who knew the rules well enough to break them without breaking the spell cast by the people and places he has painted. Our awareness that  things are terribly wrong here adds a tension that may be crucial to the enchantment.    Maybe.

rousseau rabbit-1908

So few people in any field carve their own path, and of those, so few leave behind anything that strongly connects with anyone. M Henri Rousseau is an original whose work stands firmly within the palaces dedicated to the masters of modern art, yet this work seems to be alive and alien in a way that almost nothing else in that palace is.


The giants Picasso and Matisse are part of the family now and can be safely invited to dinner.  M Rousseau?  He is still the outsider who got in, and his work has never been tamed.  Keep your eye on that one.


To those of us who have spent our lives in a moderate climate–ours is moist, mild, misty, and lush–it is stunning to encounter the desert for the first time.   Pic above is a desert in Peru looking to swallow up the highway, found here.

The desert eats me, Uyuni tour

We are here to say that people can lose their heads over this landscape, falling quickly and hard. The torrid attraction to desert heat and space happens not only to ordinary boys and girls off on a road trip (like this smitten traveller in Bolivia seen here ) but to all sorts of exotic creatures, including architects and artists.

Desert vacation home architizer

If you want to do more than just look and swoon at the desert, if you want to live there, find yourself an architect who’s got the desert bug.  Above is called the Four Eyes House by California architect Edward Ogosta, more here .

desert house olson kundig idaho desert house RosaMuerta R Stone DesertNomadHouse R Joy

Say “Desert house” to many an architect and you’ve got them where you want them.  Here you don’t have to worry about the zoning restrictions, the neighbours, or where to put the lumber, trucks, and tools while you are building.  This freedom, combined with the sheer harshness of the physical factors, has produced some beautiful results. Above three desert designs are by Olson Kundig Architects, Robert Stone, and Rick Joy, all found here.

Ant Farm Cadillac Ranch 1974 Photographed 1977

Artists too have found freedom and inspiration in the desert–the flat open space must seem liberating to any artist who feels confined by the canvas and the studio. Above is Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas as it looked when produced in 1974 by an art gang named Ant Farm.  See here.

desert christo oil barrels

The artist who in our time has set the standard for getting out of the studio, Christo, has wrapped up big things (bridges, buildings) all over the world and now intends to place a very big thing in the desert landscape of the United Arab Emirates , as reported here

michael heizer_city

And this is American artist Michael Heizer, image from here.

michael-heizer city wide

Mr Heizer has devoted a good slice of his life and imagination and hutzpah to creating, not a sculpture, not a monument, but a city in the desert of Nevada.  Above image from Treehugger and more from the NYT 

And if you like art and light and you don’t know what James Turrell has been doing in the desert, you need to go here now.

turrell roden crater

Above is an entry into James Turrell’s Roden Crater project found here  

But don’t go getting the idea that it is just the 1% of the artistic club, the superstars, who get their hormones and imaginations all swept up in the desert.  Lots of everyday free spirits with a gluegun and a hammer and a glint in their eye do too.

noah purifoy

This is a portion of the life work of one Noah Purifoy, now known as the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art exhibit near Joshua Tree CA. Visit here.

Many of the freest spirits who lust for the desert end up at the Burning Man Festival every late August/September.

burning man 2010 boston big pic 15 

Held in northern Nevada in Black Rock Desert, it is about art and life and transportation and fire and lust and freedom and a lot more.  Only a desert seems capable of hosting such a collection of desires. Pic by Jim Bourg/Reuters via

burning man 2010 Boston Big Pic

Before the burning, time for tea.  This image is one of many at the Big Picture site at

Some of the sculpture is wondrous, such as the piece shown below in this photograph by Frederick Larson of the SF Chronicle.

burning man sculpture 2008 F Larson the Chronicle

The desert seems to be able to accommodate and excite all varieties of humanity. It’s not just the unclothed and untamed who fall for it, but the super sophisticates who find something unexpected and rich in the plain hot flat emptiness if it.  How about you?

desert noel2

Mr Noel Coward, 1954 photo by Loomis Dean for Life Magazine seen here

what new ION 18

Well among other things, this swell metal THING is apparently new.  We certainly don’t have one yet.  Do you?  It has the look of a high-end designer rocket launcher, but maybe it has a more playful purpose.  Anyway it’s new.  Found here (thanks Whafe)

At the end of any year, we are all thinking about the NEW 12-pack of months coming up and wondering what actually will be new about it.  After a fairly random stroll around the internet, we found a few things that seem pretty new to us.

whats new2013infinitijxintersysnov16-620x350

This new system above is supposed to help you from backing your car into another car. That’s a good new idea, don’t you think?  It replaces the yelling, shrieking, honking, fist-shaking system currently in use in most vehicles. The new one is called the Advanced Backup Collision Intervention System, and it’s built for the newest model of the Infinity JX. Seen at the House of Japan here.

whats ne magnetic-nails_sallyhansen1-e1344183234402

But you’re probably wondering: What’s new in nails?  Well, if you want, they can be magnetic!  So it says here.


what's new origmi teacreative-packaging-part3-20

You want new? origami tea bags!

what's new parmesan pencils creative-packaging-part3-5-2

Parmesan Pencils!!

whats new mt fuji creative-packaging-part3-8-1

Mount Fuji tissue dispensers!!!

The above 3 cool new packaging ideas are collected by Bored Panda here.  We saw them first in a scooped collection by ECAL library based in Lausanne, more of which here.

If you can’t find yourself something as new as these things right away, you can at least grab yourself a 2013 calendar.

what's new Calendars30-3Robot

A robot a month

whats new chalkboard calendar

This calendar wall decal is made of  black chalkboard vinyl that you can write on and erase. It is applied directly to the wall.

Both of the above courtesy of Brit + Co


It’s your year, go out and get it.  Don’t forget to try something new.  Be bold. It feels good.  You’ll never regret it.

whats new man dance

Well there’s no guarantee, but you’ll never know till you try, and nothing new happens without taking a chance.  Above from a story in the Guardian here (Photo: Alamy)

We are big fans of small at the republic of less. We just are. So we keep our eye peeled for little joys in every season and every where.


Above little guys are were found in a local store specializing in things Scandinavian. From Kosta Boda, maker of eye-catching things in glass since 1742. More here.

Big time artists have been known to work at times on a small scale, particularly in three dimensions. Above is a little dancer sculpted by Edgar Degas, found here.

Aristide Maillol is the man behind those large bronzes lying around in unexpected poses in the gardens adjacent to the Louvre. Not far away is the Musée Maillol, a great little museum with lots to like, including the small figure above we saw there.

This we found closer to home base. It is a lovely small figure by Antoniucci Volti (1915 1989) that lives at Vancouver’s Gallery Jones.

In our view, no artist of the 20th century was bigger than Alexander Calder in either imagination or output or playfulness.  He too could work small, producing amazing portraits in wire and, as a present for his wife Louisa, a swell set of miniature mobiles in a cigar box, seen here .

Making art large or small is not a modern invention.  Humans have been at it for ages.

This pre Columbian terracotta cutie was found in Columbia and is said to date from ca. 600-1200 AD. She’s about 5 inches tall in her bare feet.  See more here.

Strike up the band: these little fellas are from Cyprus and they are even older–600 BC. They are now performing at the MET in NYC. We first featured them in a post called  Small is. 

What’s cuter than a doll?  Well, a doll created by the guys and gal at Winnipeg’s own Royal Art Lodge, gone but never forgotten around here.  Top group done by Michael Dumontier and Drue Langlois (see here) and lower group by Mr Langlois single handed. Small wonders.

Another doll, no less sweet for being made of clay, we found at the 2011 Venice Biennale.  It was part of an exhibit by sculptor Dominik Lang which he called The Sleeping City, a tribute in part to his father Jiri.

Small scale objects have a special quality, and so do those little unexpected moments when the universe tells you things are pretty good.  Such as  when you tell a stranger at an art installation in Venice that you have a blog, and he hands you a complimentary crimson drink, which you get to enjoy while sitting at the edge of a canal.
No big deal, maybe, compared to lots of other things in Venice and in life, but it felt like a little moment that would mean a lot for a long long time.

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