Helen Brett Babbington Ceramic Buttons

Helen Brett Babbington made buttons for the J.L.Hudson’s Company from 1944 until 1948. Though she had a short run in the button industry she made some beautiful buttons. Babbington, a sculptress by trade, made buttons in an effort to support the war. Metal was scarce and button selection was poor in 1944. Babbington approached Ralph Chrysler, Hudson’s store buyer, complaining, yet suggesting, that buttons ought not be so limited. She suggested supplying the store with ceramic buttons, all of which were individual sculpted, if he would provided the upcoming seasonal swatches of fabrics to be sold. Chrysler agreed which started a business partnership with the Hudson’s Company of Detroit.

From 1944 through 1948, Babbington made buttons, brooches, earrings and the like. At first, each was individually made, but soon, they were molded, by use of a slip type of clay, mostly white clay, yet some were terra cotta clay, her preferred clay. White glaze was easier to achieve the appropriate colors. Buttons were decorated with glaze, formulated by Babbington. She did consider herself a chemist as making specific colors was most difficult. Most buttons were adorned with the extra firing of the gold glaze giving her buttons a little pizazz!

Babbington was an extraordinary button maker selling many buttons to those women of the times making their own dresses. Unfortunately, in 1948, an accident, render her unable to continue with the production of buttons. Babbington lived a remarkable life into her nineties, as an artist selling many buttons and beautiful sculptures. The Michigan Button Society is honored to have such a wonderful sculptress as part of our button world. Information was provided by Vera Williams, researcher, and also by Helen’s daughter.

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