My criteria for the choice of purse were as follows;
plain black - the colours should be from the buttons, white may work as well,
simple style - too many dangling bits, exterior buckles and exterior pockets make it difficult to attach the buttons and also take away the focus from the buttons,
smooth material - this makes it easier to glue the buttons to, fuzzy or course materials would be harder, and
cost effective - the less expensive the better.
After a few hours of searching on eBay, I picked up a
Dyeables handbag style 1807 dyed black for $7 plus $12 shipping to Australia. The handbag is a very basic style with lots of large flat surfaces; the clasp is hidden out of the way as well.
I sourced all my buttons from the females in my family, mum, auntie, grandmother. My initial plan was to produce a purely random arrangement on the purse, hence I collected all sizes and shapes of buttons, and the more unique the better I thought. I stayed away from dark colours and opted for brighter colours as it would contrast the black. All types of buttons are usable, flat, sew-though and even shank buttons.
The next step will show how to prepare the shank buttons.
As I mentioned, I was initially planning on placing the buttons randomly with as many unique buttons as possible. I realised this wouldn't look as nice as I hoped.
I started to arrange the buttons into colour piles and realised it looked nicer when the buttons were arranged this way. Also, I realised that placing the buttons in a geometric pattern was a better approach to a random distribution. Hence, it was decided to make a colour gradient on each side of the purse.
I used a sheet of paper first to see how it would look, and to determine the spacing between buttons. I eventually opted for a 10mm grid, as this would allow for the buttons to just not be touching.
To make sure all the buttons were aligned on the purse; in pencil I drew a light 10mm square grid. To glue the buttons I chose 2-part epoxy due to its strength (advertised as holding up to 140kg). Glue the buttons going from row to row.
I decided to grind away some of the buttons that were protruding on the opening front flap.