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Christen Carter of Busy Beaver Buttons
interview by: Mike Alfini January 2003

Mike: When, why and where did Busy Beaver start?

Christen Carter: I was doing a work in London program and a friend I met there was making buttons over there. I was like, "nobody's been doing those for the kids over in the states forever" so I thought I should start doing them. When I got back to the Midwest, I was hanging out with Guided By Voices and they said that they'd be my first customers if I did it. So I decided to do it. That was in 1995 and I was in Bloomington, Indiana.

Mike: What was the first button you've ever made?

Christen Carter: It was for Guided By Voices. They were the biggest band we ever did buttons for, for years.

Mike: What is one button that you‚ve made that sticks out in your mind more than any other?

Christen Carter: The OJ Symptoms, it was along time ago, but it's a hilarious button. It says "The OJ Symptoms fuck pigs" and it has a guy with a liberty mohawk on top of a pig. Plus, the artwork was of really crappy quality.

Mike: Have you ever turned down an order because of moral or ethical reasons?

Christen Carter: Yeah, bootleggers and racist people. It's happened about 3 times ever.

Mike: What was the most you have made of one single button?

Christen Carter: 80,000! It came from some guy who used to work at a record label, later he worked for some marketing company. So he ordered them from us instead of a big company.

Mike: Do you have any idea how many different buttons you have made?

Christen Carter: I guess about 8,000 or so. We had a show at the Rainbo (a bar here in Chicago) in May and there were over 7,000 and it seems like we've done loads since then. It makes my brain spin.

Mike: Is there any thing else you would like to manufacture through Busy Beaver besides buttons and stamps?

Christen Carter: I have no plans on doing anything but buttons through Busy Beaver. But I started doing 1.5 inchers and now 2 inchers for all the Anti-war buttons we've been doing. And I'm super excited about doing 1.5 inch squares in late Feb or early March. I wanna do a bunch of album cover ones for people.

And we don't do stamps anymore, it was a labor of love and then it just became a labor.

Mike: When and why did you decide to move to Chicago?

Christen Carter: I moved here in Sept 1998, as a comprise with a fella. We didn't stay together, but I'm really glad that I'm here.

Mike: What are some of your favorite places to go in Chicago?

Christen Carter: I love driving up and down Lake Shore drive listing to the oldies station. I like eating at places like Lula's, Sultans and The Home Run Inn. I love food and Chicago's got a lot of it. Movies at the Music Box. A church in Wicker Park where I've been going for Yoga classes for years.

Mike: Where in Chicago do you prefer to see shows?

Christen Carter: I like the Empty Bottle, partly because it's just across the street. I like the Hideout and I just saw King Soloman Burke at the Oriental theatre, that place is so great. The Fireside has great shows, too. I feel like a herded animal when I go to the Metro, so I limit that to once or maybe twice a year.

Mike: Who are some people in Chicago that you make buttons for?

Christen Carter: Lawrence Arms, Owls, 90 Day Men, the Dishes, The Hideout, lotsa a Anti-War buttons, the greeting card company, Jack and Lulu, Thrill Jockey. There are lots more nice people...

Mike: Who are your favorite Chicago bands of all time?

Christen Carter: The New Colony Six, Sam Cooke, Dirty Wurds, The Impressions I think they're all Chicago, but they just might have strong Chicago ties.

Mike: Any last words?

Christen Carter: We're also doing this art project where we sell buttons in vending machines, there's a map on my website (, it's called So and So's button-o-matic. The buttons are made by artists and some people who don't consider themselves as artists. They're really great, it's a changing exhibit (hopefully every 3 months). The buttons are so great.

for more info on Busy Beaver Buttons please visit:

"Millions of Brazillians"
Flying Luttenbachers
"Infection and Decline"

Evil Beaver
"Smells Like Christmas"

Haymarket Riot / Hitch
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