A friend of mine recently asked me if I collect anything. I smiled and rattled off a half dozen of my favorite collections. She then asked me, "Are you a temporary collector or a lifetime collector?" I was completely taken aback. There's a difference I asked? Yes, temporary collectors collect until they 'have enough' of something and then stop and go on to the next collection. But a lifetime collector focuses on one item her entire life - for example someone who only collects dolls, or postage stamps or model trains. I am in the first group, a temporary collector who dabbles in lifetime collecting.
As a child, traveling the world with very limited space, I collected postage stamps. I remember loving the thrill of finding a new stamp that I had never seen and sticking it into my album with those wonderful little double sided glassine hinges. But even then, I was more interested in how pretty the stamp was, then in the value of it. If there was a choice of one valuable stamp from England or 5 glorious gold and silver foil stamps from Africa with little or no value, the foiled stamps won hands down! My father was a stamp collector as a child too. And like me, his eye ruled his collection, as he cut off those 'offending ragged edges' on each and every stamp he owned, promptly de-valuing anything he collected.
Other collections followed me through my younger years as well; foreign folk dolls, postcards, antique scrap, and teacups - now lovingly stored in my garage or studio. Back then it was the attraction of having something pretty to keep, something that I could search for when out and about with my parents. Something that I could call all my own.
So what drives me today? I realize that I like how things look in multiples. They say if you have 3 or more of something then you have a collection. If that's true, I must have hundreds! But seriously, I do have quite a few collections that number more than 3 - and just as many of 'only 3'. Like a child again, I sometimes gaze at them and count! Why is that? Deep down I know it's not the number that interests me as much as the looks and appeal of the items. I never add something to my collection just to 'have one more'. Or is that true? What about my feathers that I posted about yesterday? True, I do leave the ratty and dirty feathers or the ones that are just too tiny where I found them, but all the others get pocketed.
The collections that decorate my home now, and there are many, have to look good as a group when I display them. If there isn't room for another, I stop that collection. There I've said it...
I have been known to weed out parts of a collection for something better when found, but it doesn't happen very often. Like my friend said, I am a temporary collector, and I move on to something else. But beyond this, what I collect has to pull at my heart-strings and fulfill some kind of nostalgic need buried deep down in my soul. I collect for memories. Memories of loved ones past, or experiences remembered. Good memories, Romantic memories, Soft - Gentle memories and even Imagined memories. I own quite a few 'Inherited' collections. I wouldn't have hung the plates in my kitchen, if they were not hand painted by my grandmother when she was losing her eyesight. The tiny purses in my bedroom, recently given to me by my mother, are filled with memories of her finding them, once buried in my childhood consciousness - but now out for public display.
I love the search as much as the display. Researching and discovering, learning more about something's history is important to me today. Thrifting and antiquing makes me swoon! Secretly I like to find things to fall in love with that I hope no one else has discovered yet - which of course never happens, except in my imagination. I also love Thematic collections geared around holidays, moods, and fairytales.
I have a dear friend whose home is a serene oasis. Everything chosen for its beauty and line. It is filled with lots of empty space, plenty of blank walls. I love visiting her, but I couldn't live in her home. A blank wall, for me, is a giant invitation - fill me with something - a collection! My friend will look, research and wait for that 'perfect' item to add to her 'collection'. I was not gifted with that patience! Plus how can I pass by a doll who is missing one shoe, has a vertical crack down her face and hair that looks like it was washed in the creek outside??? Collections tell us so much about who we are, I thrill at discovering what my friends covet and hoard.
I collect to feed my soul. What do you collect and why?
(photos of my current ongoing collection of Chinese baby hats - 27 in all - and composition Chinese dolls - 32 and counting)