The Trove: BertonGoods

I’ve known the gentle Berton of BertonGoods for many years, meeting him first in his incarnation as a milliner. Ever talented and gracious, he’d always allow me to pull in any hat needed for a show or photo shoot.  He has since moved on to other expressions of his creativity through dolls and other artful toys and accessories. His button-trimmed stockings are a holiday favorite at the American Folk Art Museum and ultra cool retailer, auto, stocks BertonGoods regularly.


The signature button doll is available at

Three years ago, Berton visited Guatemala and began a working relationship with a cooperative of women there. Most of his collection is now produced there.  “I work with really talented artisans, the indigenous people of Guatemala.  It really empowers them and I am grateful to them.”  He speaks lovingly of the country and its people.


Carved wooden letters (soon available at auto.) and numbers (contact for availability)


Year after year, the American Folk Art Museum stocks these popular Christmas stocking ornaments.


These multi-functional ornaments can be hung on the tree or used as ingenious “wrapping” for tiny gifts.  The Christmas tree features a zippered back and the mittens have a velcro closure at the top. Contact for availability.


This tote, available on Etsy, marries two BertonGoods favorites, buttons and ticking stripes.  The designer himself and his favorite fabric.

It is with great love that he speaks of most things.  And wonder.  “I am a very curious person.  I am obsessed with the computer and am constantly looking for things online.  If it exists, I’ll find it.”   A visit to his Brooklyn studio reveals some of his obsessions and delightful pockets of inspiration so who better to inaugurate our newest feature?

With this post we introduce, The Trove, a space for sharing the treasures of the fascinating people I’ve had the privilege to encounter.   When I asked the humble force behind BertonGoods to share his magical seven, I fully expected blue striped ticking fabric to make the cut, but here, in no particular order are Berton’s best loved:

1. Everything Batman. The late 60’s television series was his introduction to the Caped Crusader, reading the comics would come later. “My entire family would sit around and watch the TV show together. The colors, the dialogue really affected me. I learned things.  I remember an episode in Catwoman’s warehouse and the word ‘cat’ was translated into different languages.  His collection of memorabilia numbers around 50 pieces.


The lunchbox was a Ebay score; the Dark Knight Bobble-head, a gift, as was the musical snow globe; the very first item in his collection, the now dog-eared copy of The Official Batman Batbook, a companion guide to the TV series.

2. Music. “I listen to many different kinds, but it’s MJ, hands-down.  Not just because everyone is so Michael enthused right now.  I grew up with him.  I was the fan waiting for the comeback.  I said to myself I am going to go to Paragon Sports to a buy a sleeping bag to camp out for tickets whenever he comes here. I saw the Jackson Five in the seventies and the Victory Tour (1984) at Madison Square Garden… I’m so glad I got this before he passed” (gesturing to an Ebony Magazine special edition) “it was shot right here in Brooklyn.”


Michael, photographed by Matthew Rolston for Ebony at the Brooklyn Museum.

And then there’s John Mayer. “His music speaks to me.  Radio ruins things, but the songs not getting airplay are the ones I love.  ‘Gravity,’ is incredible.”

3. Guatemalan Mountain Range. During his twice yearly trips to Guatemala, “I stay in Antigua, its surrounded by mountains” (the Sierra Madre)  “The one to the south, a volcano, is breathtaking, you simply can’t not stop to look.  It is majestic.  I usually work outside in the courtyard: parrots, tropical flowers and a beautiful smell that is intoxicating.”


The long dormant Volcán de Agua, unobstructed by cloud cover.

4. Handmade, lightbulb doll. Though he’s collected a few Urban Faeries, works of dear friend and fellow doll artist, the late Adrienne McDonald, he particularly treasures this one.  “I received “Nisha” from Adrienne as a gift in 2000.  It is the one doll that I always wanted from her.  I thought it was such a clever idea.  This doll is a wonderful example of her amazing creative genius.”


5.Design*Sponge. The daily home and product design website has become a trusted friend.  “I go there everyday.  It’s very inspiring.”  He looks forward to the monthly downloadable screensavers.  “Isn’t this one beautiful?”


Berton’s October screensaver from

6. Chicken Roti.  “I grew up in Long Island.  I didn’t know about Caribbean food until I moved to Crown Heights.”


7. Converse Chucks.  In all incarnations. “I remember we used to wear cheap sneakers–there were six of us.  The three boys, we wore my mother down, we begged for Chuck Taylors.  It was a lot for her budget but she got them.”  He wears them year-round now. “I speak the things I want into the universe.  I said, ‘When will someone make Converse that can be worn in the winter?’  John Varvatos heard. I love the Varvatos elastic…this is lined with Thinsulate, genius.”


The Chuck Taylor All Star Bosey Slip-on, with its oiled leather uppers and Thinsulate lining keep Berton’s feet toasty in Winter’s chillThe rubber update is available now at

8. Thermal Shirts. “I have them in cotton and in cashmere. They are light and warm and are my Fall/Winter security blankets.

The Gap offers a striped thermal for Fall 2010.

9. The Brooklyn Museum. They always have great exhibits and I can walk there from home.

The beloved Brooklyn institution.

10. The Good Wife. The critically acclaimed CBS show is “sooo well-acted and amazingly written…this show really makes you think.”


12 Responses

  1. WOW! This is wonderful. I haven’t seen Berton in awhile and it’s inspiring to see snippets of his creative life. Thanks so much.

  2. What a joy to see! For a long time, Berton has been my business inspiration and guardian angel. It is always great to see him get the recognition he so deserves!

  3. WONDERFUL!!!!!!! Bert is a creative inspiration no matter what he embarks upon!! Whatever he does he does with grace & sophistication. What I LOVE about Bert and his work is that he creates outside the box!!
    Congratulation Bert!!

  4. Berton being featured, not surprising just long overdue. His warmth, creativity, and joie de vie all shine through everything he touches. Especially our hearts.

  5. Bert always suprises me with his creativity. He has the unique ability to always find something new and special. He is the hardest working man I know, focused and inventive.

  6. Good for you bert–consistant,artsy and a pleasure to be around.,

  7. love the blog and i love the portrait of berton. I am a fan of his creativity, and am proud owner of my own little button boy. i have, however, met Berton via email only, and your blog has been like the cliff notes to a much bigger wonderful story. thank you.

  8. Wow Bert,
    You are many, many things. But most you are an ispiration! I agree with Jimmy -that you are the hardest working and most focused man alive. Keep doing you my brother.
    Much Love……

  9. Dear B –
    I agree with all the above – You are amazing person, you are inspiration to me,you are beautiful inside / out, extremely kind, you are the most hardest working man that I’m ever and grateful to know.


  10. Berton is a sweetheart and a real talent. I am so happy that he is getting recognition with his doll collection and other pieces. I know it is just a matter of time before he explodes with his original wares.

  11. I have known Bert since high school although haven’t seen him in many years. About a year ago, we got back in touch and I am blessed to call him my friend. It is with much joy that I read about his many talents and successes. I am so very proud of him. He is an inspiration. I love you Bert!!!!

  12. I have Berton’s colorful button doll sitting on my mantle in my bedroom. His dolls are awesome, and he’s a thrilling person to know. Blessings and more.

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