I remember one of the first times I went to PIQF, and took Ms. AC, there was a vendor known as The Button Lady. In addition to cards of buttons and trims, she had an old steamer trunk full of loose buttons. We loved just digging our hands in and scooping out buttons, letting them fall back through our fingers and make little button-plinking sounds as they returned to the pile. You could fill a little plastic baggie for some amount, I don't remember what it was, maybe $3, maybe $5. Of course the idea was that you would scoop out a random assortment, but she let Ms. AC custom pick each button. Usually there was a theme to the collecting, for example all pearl buttons or all gold buttons or all shank buttons. We still have many of those buttons.
I am still drawn to button vendors. I discovered a vendor that had baskets full of metal buttons, claiming to be high-quality inexpensive Italian buttons. At only $2.25 for a package of six large silver buttons, and by large I mean about 1-1.5" in diameter, these did in fact seem to be a good deal. But wait, there's more. If you buy six packages, they would only be $2 per package. And so I trolled through the baskets and packages, trying at first to find all of the same type, but when that failed, I tried to find similar types, and finally cameup with twelve packages of large silver buttons. I tend to lose track of time when doing something fun like perusing buttons, but it think I only spent about a half-hour choosing my buttons.
When I went to check out, the nice vendor saw my badge and said, "oh, you're Pat's friend, I'll let you have the buttons for $20. What a deal!! Seventy-two large silver buttons for $20!
"Will these tarnish," I asked.
"Oh no," she replied, "you can throw them in the wash multiple times and they will not tarnish."
"Even if I leave them out in the rain?", I rejoined.
"Why would you leave buttons out in the rain?" She asked looking somewhat askance at me.
And so I told her a bit about my bowling ball garden art, for of course theses buttons were destined to adorn a future bowling ball art project. Then,being a vendor, she asked if I sell my bowling ball art creations.
"No," I replied, "I have no guarantee yet that they will not fall apart, so I just keep them for myself."
One who follows my crafting adventures might recall the great mosaic bowling ball disaster of 2014, wherein my very first mosaic bowling ball cracked at the grouting seams and all the tiles fell off. But I've learned since then to use silicone and not mortar, and I even repaired that ball. So far none of the balls made with silicone have shown any signs of cracking, but I also am not grouting many of them these days since my materials are too varied to support the regularity of grout. I am, however, dealing with issues of fading and rusting as I expose various ceramic and metal objects to the elements. But, this is how I learn and grow, and I've come to accept these projects as art to bring me pleasure, with no need to last for generations.
Back home, I immediately started making plans for my silver button bowling ball. I have several "blank" bowling balls that are on display in my garden because they're pretty as is. Some I may leave that way forever. I chose Plato, a black and beige marbled ball, which looked wonderful sitting on the black and beige ceramic Eiffel Tower vase, but it was the least pretty of my blank balls. I decided to use a clear glass knob as the focal starting point, then start arranging the buttons around this focus. I'm glad I had to buy a variety of buttons, because it became quickly apparent that using all the same buttton design would not be as effective as introducing some variety. Which also made it apparent that I would need more than the 72 silver buttons. Not a problem, I have jars of buttons and a box of junk, supplemented with the judicious purchase of a few mirrors for added bling and shine.
There is the usual challenge in working on a curved bowling ball surface of finding a way to audition items without having them slide off. Painters' tape helps.