Button Artists v2 Karen Hurley

Karen Hurley is a graphic designer based in Auckland, New Zealand. She has always had a passion for creativity and it certainly shines through her work. You may or may not recognize her color wheel made of buttons that has been floating around the internet. I first found her designs on tumblr and immediately contacted her to let her know how inspiring her work was!

button color wheel by karen hurley

How did your creative relationship with buttons begin? How did you go from graphic designer… to button artist? Or was it the other way around?
karen hurleyMy passion for collecting buttons flourished when my great grandmother became too old to sew and I was given her odds and ends from her sewing kit about 10 years ago. I had always been fond of buttons before then, being called cute as a button from a young age due to my petiteness. It fascinates me how something so small and simple can be so varied and intricately designed. I have always found interest in the small details of designs and this was another avenue to explore. To date I own over 8000 buttons from different era’s, that use different materials, and are created in a variety of colours and textures. My graphic design background lead me to begin to experiment with using buttons as an art form. I started with small projects such as simple linear rainbows stuck on my bedroom wall and gradually learnt the way the buttons could be manipulated; almost as a form of pixel art. Presently, I use the creation of my button art works as a form of relaxation; there is something therapeutic about laying them all out.


What are some buttons you are in love with right now? Whether its color, style or brand!! Share it with us…
My current favourite buttons are a small collection that I found at a vintage textile fair held recently here in Auckland. The buttons are promotional Guinness Irish stout waistcoat buttons made in England in the 1950’s. They feature the popular zoo characters from the Guinness advertising campaigns; the zoo keeper, the toucan and the sea lion. These buttons are my favourite due to the historical context and the fact they they combine my love of buttons with my love of graphic design and advertising.

Your work with buttons is beautiful, but I realize it is only temporary. What makes you create them this way instead of gluing the buttons down?
I would love to keep all of my completed works but the reality is that I simply don’t own enough buttons to do so (Most of my works use over 2000 buttons)! Many of my pieces involve rainbows and I find some colours of buttons are difficult to locate therefore I need to reuse them in the next piece to achieve the same sense of gradual gradient. I hope that one day I have enough to keep some of my works; but for now, photos will have to do.

colorful button circle

Where do you go to find buttons to add to your collection?
I find buttons everywhere I can. The local fabric stores, small town knitting shops, antique and collectable stores and fairs. Everyone who knows me knows that I love buttons so I’m very lucky to receive a lot of donations from people clearing out their old sewing boxes.

Do you have any crafty or artist tools that you cannot live without?
In terms of my button works: All I need is buttons! – and occasionally a pencil if I’m working with a geometric shape. In terms of my graphic design: Every great concept starts with a sketch so as long as I have something to draw with, and on, I’m happy!

What projects do you have going on right now? If you have any links you’d like to share with us please let us know!
Presently I’m spending a lot of time focusing on my graphic design career and have not had much time to focus on my beautiful buttons for a few months now – I’m hoping to start something with them over the Summer/Christmas break.


I sent Karen some of our Favorite Findings Mini buttons with the hope she could create something and share it with us. And she did! She called it “Spinning” and we love this piece. Thank you so much Karen!!

You can learn more about Karen Hurley and her work at these sites: Portfolio: http://karenhurleydesign.com & Blog: http://karenhurley.tumblr.com

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