Chris Anderson: A new face in town

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Local artist and sculptor Chris Anderson displays an example of one of his clam shell bonsai trees and a selection of pearl button jewelry he creates out of discarded shells and buttons he finds along the banks of the Missipppi River from the former Pearl Button Factory. His work is offered locally at Roots (the store is closing for the season after the Dec. 15-16 weekend). (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

The historic pearl button factory industry is receiving new recognition, thanks to artist and sculptor Chris Anderson. 

Chris moved to Guttenberg from Muscatine in the fall of 2018 to assist his mother, Holly Anderson. 

I have always been drawn to the river. As a child our summer vacations were spent exploring the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. I recall being about seven or eight years old, searching for agates with my family, when I first stumbled upon a clam shell full of holes. 'What a strange thing' I said to myself. I figured this shell was possibly used for target practice. How little did I know!" he said with a smile. 

Chris was involved in the Muscatine community through their Muscatine History and Industry Center. His involvement in the community included the refurbishing and redesigning of a large-scale mural painted on the side of a downtown building near the intersection of Iowa Avenue and Second Street. Chris also collaborated with artist Joe Barnard of Muscatine to create an additional mural depicting a vision of a  clear summer’s day a century ago on the Muscatine riverfront.

Anderson was also involved artistically with the Muscatine Homeless Shelter and illustrated a book titled "Boots" to commemorate the shelter's 25th anniversary. He also has an illustration in the book "Rusted from the Rain."

Muscatine, known as the "Pearl City," was the inspiration that started his use of recycled clam shells and buttons as an art medium. 

Anderson, using clam and mussel shells found along the banks of the Mississippi River that were once used in the pearl button factory business, recreates these treasures into jewelry and other art installations. 

His first artistic endeavor using the discarded shells were his clam shell trees. Each tree is as unique as the up-cycled materials found in nature that the artist uses.  "When I have everything I need and they're getting put together, they almost seem to come together themselves," said Anderson.

He has expanded his use of the  treasures left behind from this long ago industry to include a line of jewelry, using the buttons to create a selection of bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

He has recently begun to use a Dremel tool to create designs on the larger buttons he has uncovered. 

Anderson is interested in creating a mural in Guttenberg if a suitable space can be procured.

He would like to express his thanks to the residents of Guttenberg for the kindness and generosity that he has experienced since moving to our community.

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