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All That Jazz: Deco Highlights from the Ruth Meier Button Collection

Past Exhibition
11 Jul 2015 – 31 Jan 2016
Free

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Ruth Meier in her home. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Ruth Meier in her home. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Buttons from the Ruth Meier Collection. Photo: Mark Tantrum

Zig Zag, Jazz Modern, Style Moderne—the movement we now call Art Deco was the era of flappers, jazz and swing. Art Deco reflected a new age of speed and rapid change. Sandwiched between two world wars, Art Deco began in the Roaring Twenties and danced its way through the sharemarket crash of 1929 and the financial depression of the 1930s.This exhibition focuses on one small aspect of Art Deco: buttons. 

Selected from the private collection of Lower Hutt resident Ruth Meier, each button is a tiny work of art that reflects the time in which it was made.

Starting with Art Nouveau in the 1890s through to Art Deco in the 1920s to 1940s, the buttons show developing technology and fashions. As lifestyles changed so did the clothing that was worn. The invention of plastics such as bakelite and celluloid made possible lustrous new colours and extravagant shapes.

This exhibition gives only a sample of the over 3,000 buttons in Ruth’s personal collection, accumulated through 40 years of buying and trading in the international button market. Her trading collection is upwards of 20,000 buttons.

Most of the buttons were bought one at a time, painstakingly building up the collection. However once she acquired 700 kilos of buttons in a single purchase, requiring Ruth and her husband to hire a truck and drive through Switzerland in a snowstorm to retrieve hundreds of buttons stored in old tea chests. Her collection started when she purchased a small Oxo tin filled with buttons at an antiques fair in Manchester. They intrigued her and from that moment, as she describes, “it was like a love affair and I couldn’t stop”.