Gianna Whitver was at a garage sale and she set her eyes on a button machine. The owner asked $15 for the machine and supplies. They usually sell for nearly $300. Whitver snatched it up without hesitation.
Hard at work, Whitver’s hand starts meticulously drawing an eyeball. She then colors it with red marker and dots the inside with yellow. The result is an eye fit for a Halloween monster—perfectly fitting to the style of Whitver’s work. Several of her buttons feature “Fuck off,” or some variation of the expletive. She also recycles old books, that otherwise would be trash, and cuts pieces out of them to press into buttons.
Whitver, a junior creative advertising student, doesn't know why she sells her buttons. "I was going to say, because people have an interest in buying them—but that might be something my brain made up," Whitver said.
Whitver's Portable Art buttons are sold on Etsy and at Sweet Joey's, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The owner of Sweet Joey's became interested when he saw Whitver's sister, Christina, walking around sporting the buttons. "After a couple of days I dropped in and asked if he wanted to see my buttons. He was like 'yeah.' It wasn't sexual," Whitver said laughing.
The buttons are a way to loosen up, and Whitver enjoys making new things. "It's relaxing and a way to be creative," she says.
Whitver now has two machines: One for one-inch buttons and one for those a little over two inches. As she demonstrates how to use the machine, a large brown box is still filled with button shells for future use.
It's simple: Draw, place, press—c'est fini.