Today we are pleased to announce a new offering in our Twig & Horn store: handcrafted bison bone buttons by Andrew Haviland, artist from Providence, Rhode Island.
Carefully carved by hand, each button is unique—no two are alike, due to the individual qualities of the bones from which they’re crafted. The freedom of versatility is limitless: A single button can work as a subtle statement piece to finish a garment, while multiple buttons together give serious character to a buttoned handknit.
We had the joy of putting a few questions to the maker for an insight into how these lovely buttons came to be, and into the daily work life of the artist himself. From his hands, to ours, to yours—Andrew’s pursuits are as interesting and varied as each button that dances across his workshop table. Welcome, Andrew:
- You’re a jeweler by trade. How did you like making buttons?
I loved making the buttons; it ended up being an almost meditative act. I’m especially grateful that this work allowed me to practice the ancient technique of bone carving. I use carving techniques regularly in my own work—carving barnacles and nautical forms out of wax blocks to cast into silver jewelry—so carving the bone buttons was not a far stretch from the norm. Whenever I am working with a particular material, I am always thinking about how I might change or adapt it to create something new. At Maine College of Art I focused on metalsmithing and jewelry but I view art-making as a much broader and universal act.
- What is your process of creating buttons, from start to finish?
Like most things, “the start” is definitely not as fun or pretty as “the finish.”
The bones are collected from a bison farm, and then naturally sun bleached and thoroughly cleaned. After the bones are perfectly clean I bring them into my studio, where I hand cut each button with a jeweler’s saw. After a lot of filing and sanding I am able to drill the holes and give them the final touches. It may not be the most timely or exciting process in the world, but the end product is definitely worth it. To be able to see each mark made by hand and to know that every button is unique is what fuels me to keep making. Crafting bone buttons, like making jewelry, is a time intensive labor of love, and I can happily say that I have two well-calloused hands to prove it.
- You enjoy collecting bones and other pieces of the natural world. What draws you to these objects and materials?
I think we are naturally drawn to collect things. Why I choose to collect old bones, shells, and organic detritus is a little harder to figure out. Through taking a good look at myself I have come to realize that it’s the history of the findings that draws me to them. To think of the incredible journey that each item goes through on its way to the single moment I find it at my feet always amazes me. The collection becomes a reminder of how big, beautiful, and constantly changing the world really is.
- What is your workshop space like?
It’s a little like a turn-of-the-century jeweler’s studio and a lot like a weird coastal antique shop. Vintage maps, old wood furniture, and natural findings take precedence over any shiny new tools. My collection of relics is carefully curated and displayed, almost mimicking the style of a natural history museum. Although I spend numerous hours inside my studio, I enjoy working outside in the woods or by the sea as well.
- In your bio on your website, it says “He makes things in order to make sense of things.” As a maker, how do your creations fit into your general philosophy towards life?
My creations fit into my general philosophy because they are as much about a finished product as they are about investigating the inner workings of myself and the world around me. While I was in school I was always creating work rooted in the natural world; exoskeletons and shells especially inspired me. It was not until my senior year that I really began investigating why I was so drawn to these natural aesthetics. Through quite a bit of research and soul searching, I was able to come to the realization that what I was replicating in my work were defense mechanisms. I think I am subconsciously drawn to the way in which fragile creatures live and thrive in harsh environments. Even my newest work, which is inspired by antique naval tools, is still very much about survival, adaptation, and soldiering on.
- What else is in the works for And-How?
At the moment I am working hard to get as much exposure for my jewelry as I can, which means a lot of weekend pop-up shops, craft fairs, and knocking on gallery doors. One of the biggest opportunities to come my way will be happening this December at Craft Boston, where I will be showing my work as part of the Society of Arts and Crafts mentor program. On a nine-to-five basis I am a designer for Armbrust International, one of the country's oldest chain and jewelry manufacturers. I recently started teaching jewelry workshops at The Steel Yard, an amazing nonprofit organization in Providence. Between my day job, teaching, and constant work in my studio, I am able to thoroughly devote myself to all things metalsmithing and jewelry. Going forward I hope to continue to refine my work and create more innovative pieces.
Andrew Haviland Original Works (And-How) is a multifaceted operation involving much multitasking and elaborate planning. Much of this planning and scheming culminates in scribbles and sketches on various notebooks scattered throughout my apartment. I am currently working on a new line that builds off of my Crustacea Cirripedia series and incorporates gemstones and precious metals. In an effort to find more hours in each day, I will also continue my eternal quest to transcend space and time.