The finds of the day, complete with the dirt and dust.
Annie sorts after digging a few feet below the surface.
Becky, Deb, and Annie dug below the surface to find the treasures.
Below the surface the tiles looked like colored licorice in a candy box.
Becky, amid the debris.
In October, 2010, six
stalwart button collectors and one tagalong husband completed a special trip
that other button collectors have made since 2005 when Jane Quimby, Deb Hanson,
Janet White, Jodi Behrbaum, and Monique Blaise ventured to a place rumored to
be rich in old buttons. Workers at the button, bead, and tile works started by
Jean-Felix Bapterosses had dumped the end-of-day leftovers into a valley along
the Loire River canal behind the factory for more than 100 years. The hope was
that fabulous remains of buttons and beads could be dug from the deep mounds of
Our modern-day Indiana
Joneses did find old beads and buttons, the likes of which they had not seen
before, and they brought new information to china button collectors all over
the world. They also stirred up interest in Briare, the small French town
southwest of Paris. So, in 2010 Jane and Deb led Annie Frazier, Becky Lyon,
Angie and Dave Talaber, and me to Briare on a drizzling day in hopes of finding
The size of the
hunting ground — three football fields large — only suggested the Herculean
task that those who had been before knew. We had to dig deep below the surface
of the earth to find buttons and beads, since the factory stopped making them
in the early 20th century. The factory debris was all that filled the valley;
the only dirt was the dust and soot that had seeped in over the years, leaving
both treasures and treasure hunters coated with black dirt.
Some in our group were
outfitted with shovels, a small carrier, and heavy boots, enabling them to dig
three to five feet deep through decades of tiles dumped on top of the buttons
and beads. As a sorter, I helped pore through trays of 1-in. square tiles in
hopes of finding an inserted shank button or a large four-hole china button. The
colors of the tiles suggested the finishes of ceramics of the Arts and Crafts
period, and we gathered some of these as souvenirs.
although we found many small beads, we garnered only a few buttons for our
collection. While our results were meager, the knowledge and experience we
gained were enormous. And at the end of the day, we headed to the Musee de la
Mosaique et des Emaux Briare le Canal (firstname.lastname@example.org) to oooh and aaahhh at the buttons that
were displayed there.
Stay tuned. Next month, Jane Quimby will
describe the buttons and Deb Hanson will provide pictures of their discoveries.