Saturday, 31 December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Christmas Eve Midnight Button

Merry Christmas to one and all!

and before the Elves worked their Christmas Eve magic ...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

L. Nichols, Christmas tree fairy doll maker

A bit of Christmas nostalgia, because its that time of year, a Christmas memory of my father making the fairy doll for the tree.

 Actually we didn't call her the Christmas Fairy, my mother called her The Swedish Queen of Light. I just about remember her Birth. My father decided that we would ditch my mother's 1950s doll with the Celliod wings and plastic moulded crimped hair (she wasn't ditched she was moved down the tree "Sorry Miss Wings your services are no longer required as head honcho of our tree, we think we can improve on you, so take a more lowly position" This was the sixties, no constructive dismissal for fading fairy dolls, life was harsh and Miss Wings just tightened her smile and accepted the unacceptable.

Forced to accept a more lowly position

It was mean of my father but He had Plans. I was sent to bring all my "ghastly" dolls, I had three. I don't know where they came from but they all had helmets of real hair fixed in a perm which unglued from their heads.They had pink flat chested bodies and their legs were moulded together and fixed heads but moving arms and rather stunningly moving eyelids over ice blue eyes and rose bud lips. I was only too pleased to offer a victim. I had the lowest possible opinion of dolls and as far as I was concerned my father was helpfully engaged in the ritual humiliation of one of the ghastlies.

One my mother's old lace petticoats was rescued from the duster bag and used for a body hugging evening gown, then foil from the Christmas milk ( this was the days of doorstep bottles that acquired Christmas finery) was cut into wings. She was given a sceptre to hold and a crown ( the mythology was confused) and a length of sequins sewn every where it could conceivably go.

In my father's hands the prim doll was morphed into an elegant no- better- than- she- should- be late night reveller who was put to hold drunken sway over the Christmas tree. We were all enamoured with her, she suited us all much better than the old one, the first to go on the tree each year she sets the tone (or lack of it) She was made in a rush of enthusiasm with everything to do still about us for Christmas, it could even have been on Christmas Eve itself, thrown together with careless stitches and glue.

My brother and I with daddy about the time the Fairy doll was made

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Raw Glass to Button

I have just found a piece of raw glass in a box of buttons which shows how they were created.

It is Vitolite glass which is a structural glass widely used in the Twenties and Thirties to face buildings and to make luxurious bathroom finishes Think the Dorchester,the Odeon Cinemas, Art Deco.

By the time daddy was working with glass, just after the Second World war, this look was seriously unfashionable So nobody was buying the glass and the glass suppliers often had what s they had left piled up in the backyard without any hope of selling it and costing money to dispose of. My father would offer to take some and they would be glad to give it to him. So he was getting his raw material free, a born upcycler.

The glass is ridged on the back to take the fixative, the front face is smooth

This is the front face ready painted to create the button. Now it will go into the furnace and be pressed free hand. The ridges will melt back into the glass making it smooth on the back. The colour is taken over the thickness of the glass, and in this case he has  deliberately used raw brush strokes to create the effect 

Here is the finished button with its humorous "button holes " which of course aren't button holes at all as the button was sewed on by the metal shank glued to the back. The colour match is closer than is shown here, as this is distorted by the wonders of technology

This is the same button but from a differently painted "blank" 

The reason the blank is in the box of finished buttons is so that my father could remember how he had created the button. He would create the samples in the summer and quite often by the Winter when the orders came in he couldn't remember how he had made it. This would lead to delays while he tried to work out what he had done.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cuff Links for Swinging London

Towards the end of the Sixties London started to Swing and wonderful buttons gave way to washing machine friendly fastenings. My father saw it was time to move on so he started to look at the possibilities of costume jewellery. He began with cuff-links.

He moved effortlessly into the new high style. He went into the dark Carnaby Street and Kings Road boutiques and talked to the shop girls and they liked him because they liked everything that was different. 

He must have made quite an impact, an old gentleman in a filthy old Burberry mac and corduroy trousers producing a striped deckchair canvas beach bag from which he would bring out a mysterious red cardboard box which used to contain photographic printing paper. He would open the box and there would be an expensive piece of material 

Then he would open up the material so that they could see what was inside and there would be something which was absolutely of the moment 

What was clever was that he used really rubbishy fittings which made the links impulse buys, something for tonight's party 

Tommy Nutter tailor to the Swinging Sixties shows how its done

Experimental glazes 


The Midnight Button 10

Every night as Midnight chimes in London a button will appear here, each made by my father.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

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