For me the ideal Sunday would be whiled away crafting, an endless supply of tea and cake on one side, sewing materials by the bucketload on the other, and some soothing music playing gently in the background, all against a backdrop of vintage inspiration and nostalgia. Sigh…
This was the scene on one such Sunday recently, when I spent a winter’s day cosied up inside The Button Tin in Rotherham,
Yorkshire, the crafty home and studio space of textile artist Gemma Nemer, where I attended one of her now-famous sewing workshops.
The Button Tin is no ordinary studio, however. Based inside an old market hall, to step inside this not-so-unlike-a-tardis-like structure is to journey back to a time when life seemed more simple. The space is Gemma’s very own work of art, packed with wondrous treasures from years gone by, as well as a scrumptious collection of vintage fabrics, lace, doilies, threads, vintage sewing machines and, of course, lots and lots of buttons.
“the button tin is a little altar to all things nostalgic and sentimental. it re-ignites memories and stories for all its lovely visitors. those memories of playing in grandma’s quality street button tin as a child : tipping the buttons out and sorting them into colours, the smell of the rusty old tin, happy times.”
I had seen photos of the inside of The Button Tin in magazines and online, so I had a vague idea of what to expect, but I still gasped as Gemma unlocked the door and invited her latest workshop attendees inside, and it’s one of those wonderful scenes you just can’t take in all in one go; each time I looked up from my work during the session I spotted something else to make me smile.
Gemma gave myself and my four companions a choice of three projects to make; and thinking – now quite shamefully - of my own blank workspace at home, I opted to sew a sampler to brighten it up a bit. I also wanted any excuse to have a go on one of the vintage sewing machines…
And so passed a happy few hours, all too quickly. Tea was poured into beautiful vintage teacups and saucers and cake provided for us to help ourselves. We chose our fabrics and snipped and ironed and stitched. I rediscovered the therapeutic benefits of hand embroidery and entered that relaxed stupor that only a crafter knows to the dulcet tones of Doris Day. We admired one another’s creations and got to grips with sewing machines, and at the end of it all I had a beautiful sampler to call my own.
Using The Button Tin as her studio in which to work on her many art projects and commissions during the week, at Gemma opens it up at various weekends throughout the year to her workshops, and they are very well-attended by others wishing to spent some day away from hectic modern life learning new skills, or rediscovering old ones.
Thank you Gemma, I’ve often dreamt of journeying back in time, but understood that the rule is that you can never bring anything back with you!
All photos owned by Gemma Nemer of The Button Tin, please do not use without express permission.