A Brown & Co Buttons is a factory in Croydon, South London specializing in plastic, metal, glass, pearl and olive wood buttons and wooden toggles. The company has been in existence for the past 100 years and has been making huge sales ever since. Unfortunately, the company is closing down due to a slump in sales.
The owner of the family-run company Stuart Brown, was afraid that the “hundreds of thousands” of unsold buttons in the warehouse which could have fetched around $1.9million would have to be thrown out. Amy Clare Tasker made an online appeal on behalf of the company last week and tweeted: COSTUME DESIGNERS: I’ve been asked to share this call to save buttons from landfill. Brown & Co Buttons (a 104 year-old button factory in Croydon) needs to dispose of 30 tons of buttons as the factory is shutting down.” The tweet has been shared 5,219 times and there are suggestions for the buttons to go to schools to be used in art classes.
Ai Weiwei a Chinese contemporary artist and activist used social media to express his interest in taking the hundreds of thousands of unsold buttons being offered by the company. Ai is best known for his vast works in visual arts including sculptural installations, woodworking video, photography, ceramics, Lego and inflatable rubber; his interest in the buttons could possibly mean that he is developing an interest in textile art. He responded to Tasker’s tweet asking, “Can I have them all?” In 2010, Ai created sunflower seeds and filled Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100 million hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds. Could it be that Ai wants to create similar works with the buttons?
Ai is however not the only artist who expressed her interest in the buttons, another artist, Delaine Derry Green who uses buttons in her pattern-based artworks also expressed her interest in them.
Sarah Janalli, the factory owner’s sister-in-law whose contact details were included in Tasker’s tweet responded to the floods of responses saying, “Thank you so much. The responses have been overwhelming and we can’t cope with any more enquiries but SUCCESS! No buttons will go to landfill.”
It is yet to be known whether the company has responded to the interest of Ai or of Delaine but the negotiations between Ai and the company are ongoing.