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tribaltextiles.info • View topic - Button Decoration on Jacket

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:12 am 
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Location: Wisconsin & Yunnan, China
Hi, does anyone know what material these buttons are typically made of? Is it a form of tin or mix of silver? I believe this jacket is from Guizhou, but it may also be from Sapa in Vietnam. Would they ever use lead at all? A friend has bought it but is afraid the buttons could be made of lead. Thanks, Jeanee


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:13 am 
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File comment: Page 139, figure 344: [i]"Kim Mun, Lantien Sha (Phong Tho area, Lao Cai, Vietnam). 'The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand' by Jess G Pourret
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:58 am 
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File comment: close-up of the fastenings on my Yao Lantien sha man's jacket
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 Post subject: Jacket buttons
PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:01 am 
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Location: Wisconsin & Yunnan, China
Thanks all for your reply. My guess it that it must be of the same material as the others. I will let my client know that the buttons are likely made of lead. Thanks for noting that you would still wear it though! Jeanee


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:12 am 
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The buttons were traditionally made of lead; however, recently made jackets may have a cheaper metal, such as aluminum. These jackets are readily available at the markets in Sapa and Bac Ha in Lao Cai Province, northern Vietnam. (They can also be found in "tribal arts" stores in Hanoi). The jackets are made of hand-spun indigo-dyed cotton. If you get a new one, I'd recommend a wash in salt water to help the dye hold a little better!

The full jacket pictured above is a very nice one. In general, when the buttons are close together the jacket is better made (and pricier). Many new ones in the market have buttons up to 3 cm apart; also, often the buttons do not line up well and thus the jacket hangs unevenly. Sometimes sleeve lengths are uneven as well, or shoulders are not even. If you're purchasing one in the Vietnamese market, be sure to carefully assess all its attributes. We have scrounged through many a poorly made jacket in search of quality ones - and quality jackets are not necessarily much more expensive than poor ones.

Pourret's book is brilliant and a must or anyone interested in Yao textiles, jewelry, and other accessories.

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 Post subject: Jacket buttons
PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:33 am 
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Location: Wisconsin & Yunnan, China
That's interesting to note, that newer and lesser quality jacket buttons are made of aluminum. Would the buttons be of lighter feel than the older ones, I wonder? My sense is that this is a newer jacket. Thanks, Jeanee


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:24 am 
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Lead is stronger, and the buttons couldn't be reshaped or dented without adding a lot of heat. They will have a darker, more pewter-like patina. Aluminum is shinier and one's fingers, with pressure, could bend it. I wouldn't doubt other metals could be substituted as well, such as tin or a tin/nickel alloy. It's not like there is much quality control; I imagine a villager making these jackets would use what is readily available.

Sapa especially has a lot of tourists (both western and middle-class Vietnamese from the big cities) and often textiles are designed to meet a less demanding (that is, more ignorant) market. Quality is learned.

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