I first met Dixie Nichols from Nichols Buttons a few years ago, when she very kindly sent me some tickets to Unravel at Farnham Maltings. Not only was it an amazing show, but I finally got to see some of the most interesting & original British glass buttons, produced over two decades between 1946-1966. All these beautiful glass buttons were handmade by Dixies late father, Lionel Nichols.
Lionel Nichols produced all of his own work and some of his methods were staggeringly uncommercial. Like all craftsmen, he had no regard for his own time and would work away with his unlit pipe in his mouth & his overall tied with string, in his precarious workroom with no running water and gaps between the floorboards.
His approach was entirely experimental, and with no industrial experience, what he managed to create was more akin to cookery. He would use anything to hand, to create the button designs, from brooches, to belt buckles to files – they were all used. For a more comprehensive insight into Lionels tools of the trade, please see Dixies blogpost here. There is also another very interesting post, on Dixies blog here, about how her father created his buttons from structural glass generally used on the facades of buildings and as swanky bathrooms tiles from the 1930s & 1940s!
Dixie still has boxes and boxes of buttons, many of them unopened for decades, a treasure trove built up, order by order, as extras had to be made to ensure that a matched set could be found for each garment, inspite of the irregularities of the hand made process. Dixie sells the buttons on her website, which are released as five collections a year; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Singles. The collections are beautiful and with so many ardent collectors, they tend to fly off the shelves like hot cakes!
Dixie got in touch recently to let me know that she is having an Open House from Thursday 20 September to Saturday 22 September between 12 – 9pm. Based in the Abbey Cloisters of Westminster, which are not open to the public, please email Dixie here for directions and access. Entry is free and there is also a raffle to pick your favourite button set from the website – you’ll even get an extra ticket for every friend you bring who buys any buttons! If you love buttons, then it’s well worth the browse – there will be tea & cake until ‘Gin o’ Clock’ and then you may well be treated to a glass of wine!
On the Saturday afternoon from 4pm, Dixie will also be giving a ‘Button Talk’ – detailing her fathers life; how the buttons were made; his couture customers and the Groovy Sixties – as before, if you are interested in this event, then do please email Dixie here for further details. I’ll be the one drooling in the corner, so if you’re in the area, then do please pop in and say ‘Hi’.