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The Button Business is a victimless crime

This is an article I wrote for

I moved to Minneapolis 9 years ago and have met many fascinating people. However, there is only ONE Button Lady in town.

Last Thursday morning with my daughter Nina (assistant photographer) we stopped by Rebecca Lyon and asked her a few questions for Citinerary, only to find out that not a blog article but a documentary could be made about her.


1.How did you start doing what you do?

Born in Hopkins (MN), I was living in Arizona with my husband and 2 kids, I was at the time interested in sewing and “wearable art.” I loved buttons and the comic book called ‘Little Dot’.

An old family friend told me about a button convention in Minneapolis. I walked in and was overwhelmed, there were buttons that I had never seen. When I overheard a conversation at a dealer’s table – ‘I need a blue elephant button’ – I started laughing and thought these are my kind of people.

I went back to Arizona and joined a club (100 miles away from my house). Since everybody was old, it took place in a nursing home. We moved to Amsterdam then to Minneapolis in 1994. I started selling little sets of buttons (to various stores that don’t exist anymore (such as Papergami, Magpie, Bead It at the Mall of America) to finance my collection and started specializing.

2.What are your inspiration sources?

Sorting my buttons inspires me, it’s meditation. The time stops and the visual magic happens.

3. Where do you get your buttons?

All over. I take airplanes. I drive for buttons. My big love are the 19thcentury glass buttons, which I buy in darkened hotel rooms after creating longtime relationships. That is the only way to access the good ones.



4. Name three indispensable items in your bag while shopping for buttons?

My reading glasses, a Meg Lite, my iPad that has a “crib sheet” (pictures of everything I have) because we tend to buy the same ones all over, and most importantly “the official button measure.”

5. Your favorite heroes/heroines?

Can’t think of many… the Editor of the Button Bulletin Freddy Speights, who had a very epic and poetic attitude towards buttons. You know, the button business is a victimless crime.



6. What are a few of your favorite addresses in Minneapolis?

Estrella (a beauty place where all products are natural)

The Textile Center (all pursuits that are solitary, are put together)

Breakfast at Barbette (poached eggs and rosti potatoes) and

Clancy’s where you have to get the ham sandwich with the horseradish.


7. How would you describe a regular day in Minneapolis?

Every day Charlie (my husband who is a painter) brings me a pot of coffee in bed, I leisurely read the paper, respond to my emails and play ‘words with friends’ thinking how lucky I am to have what I have. I have aging parents and am a new grandma; so depending on the day I attend to their needs and/or go on to my buttons.

I work on the floor with my buttons in sushi trays. I create groups (2 holes, center symmetry, etc.) in order to make sets.

I also spend time acquiring, writing articles about buttons, preparing competition cards. It’s a very competitive milieu, every year there are awards with rules set up by the Button Society. (Q. What is the award? A. $2, maybe).


8. What’s your “péché mignon”(your cute sin)?

I would say it’s my morning ritual with my coffee in bed that is a little sinful.

9.What is up next for you?

My son Frank started a line of clothing with his fiancée Christina; they recently had a show in NY at the Standard Hotel. The fabrics are silkscreen printed; I am collaborating with them on this collection, finding unique celluloid art deco buttons for the dresses.



Thank you Rebecca for all your enthusiasm and giving us an introduction into the world of buttons.

– Talin –

Find the original article, and many more about Minneapolis and its lovely neighbourhoods and individuals at


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