In some ways, this essay feels like a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" from when I was still in school! I am known for my collections, as a permanent exhibit at the Children's Museum since 2011in the form of Michael's Museum: A Curious Collection of Tiny Treasures, and also for the collections which continue to grow and seem to occupy every horizontal space in my condo.
You might say that collecting is one of my passions and you would be right. But lately, I have been thinking about why I so enjoy the activity of collecting and what it satisfies in my pursuit of life.
The collecting itself is fun. Whenever I am out and around shopping for whatever, visiting antique stores, attending flea markets, traveling around the U.S. and around the world; I am always on the lookout for unique items that seem to "speak to me" and you might say, "buy me rather than me buying them."
The items need to be something really special in some way. Maybe finely detailed or possibly with most of the features worn away. Interesting colors and textures help me in my selections. Fine craftsmanship counts as well as excellence in details of "machine-made" items. Antiques catch my eye, items from when I was growing up during the 50s and 60s. During that time frame, many items from the 30s and 40s were still around and figure in what I like and what I collect.
I like the Feng Shui of things, also known as Chinese geomancy, which is the pseudoscientific traditional practice originating from ancient times, which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. I enjoy being able to get an item in each color of the rainbow, like beads or children's blocks. If I can get a tiny one and a large one of the same thing, I am happy.
When I get a figurine, I am attracted to it mostly when the facial or body features are mostly worn off. They could be worn off because of gentle loving or because the artist chose to "suggest" the features rather than "portray" them.
Many of my collections are exciting to me because of the magic in repetition. For example on my last trip to New York City, in one of the many souvenir shops in the 42nd Street area, a uniquely sculpted Statue of Liberty caught my interest. She was four inches tall and unlike the original, this one was geometrically shaped. So I bought a dozen of them. It is unique to experience a dozen Libertys in a line when you are used to seeing only one.
Besides the collecting itself, the looking for and finding "treasure," I enjoy creating displays with the objects I own. If you have visited me in the condo or gone to Michael's Museum, you will see that the arrangement of the objects adds to your wonder and your amazement. Rarely are the object spaced a distance from each other but rather they are nicely "crammed" into the cabinet or onto the shelf. I am good at always being able to add new items even when a shelf looks to be completely full!
The collections are not only interesting on a piece by piece basis, but the "whole" of each collection also peaks one's interest. There is a beauty, a rhythm, an artistic esthetic, a balance, a feeling of peace and quiet about the collections. My collections, although many, do not make the condo feel cluttered, or unkempt, or out of control, dirty. There is a peace, an order, a uniformity, a well-placed comfort associated with taking them in and enjoying them in whatever way you choose.
Sometimes, although rarely, those who visit the condo for the first time or friends who are here often, find it uncomfortable if only because my style and the sheer number of items around everywhere is so unlike their home environment that they cannot imagine living in my world. I understand this and might add that I feel just as uncomfortable when I am in someone's home that does not show any love, ownership, or involvement with life.
Often, I have been told that my "displays" are more like "shrines." The shrines celebrate the objects, their relationship to each other, and their relationship to me and to life. A shrine is: 1) a place regarded as holy because of its associations with a divinity or a sacred person or relic marked by a building or other construction; 2) a place associated with or containing memorabilia of a particular revered person or thing; 3) a casket containing sacred relics; a reliquary.
In my case, the shrines in which my collections are displayed feel sacred, important, holy, etc but they are on a shelf or in a small cabinet in my home. They are actually far from religious or holy but there is something special about them which often on which one cannot put a finger. They are an homage to life, to the magic of life, and to the awe in which I hold the life around me. Often they revisit my past.
My collections tell stories and if they don't tell stories they create an atmosphere in which one wants to discover the story or make one up. There is often a history behind the objects that can be studied if one cares to do the research. They might evoke memories of items you used to own or ones your parents or grandparents used to have.
As I have aged, the items I purchase for my collections are a little more expensive (I can afford it) but nothing is extremely expensive or precious. Also, I get more selective in what I add to my collections if only because over the years I have seen so much, and collected so much, that my eye gets more fine-tuned to finding quality, uniqueness, and unusualness of the items. When going to an antique mall, I can stand at the head of a booth, glance around, and determine if it is worth going in to look around any further. I have been able to spot the smallest object in a setting that is overfilled, chaotic, and basically an unorganized mess.
Will I ever stop collecting? Hard to say. I have slowed down. Probably not. As mentioned, I have refined what I buy, and periodically deaccession a collection because I have lost interest in it. For the most part, my "things" still bring me joy and I love curating my collections (also known as playing with the objects.)
Below are some photos of the collections in my home. Some are long-standing and some are recent additions of collections and cabinets in which to hold them as well as new artwork and photographs recently hung on the walls. Enjoy.