Friday, October 9, 2009

Collecting a piece of the past...

Spending so much time the past few weeks hovering over Halloween folk art and watching people flock to a coveted artist and then quizzing people and listening to their stories of why they LOVE folk art or why they LOVE Halloween or any piece of art or a particular holiday or just collecting in general, got me thinking.... Why do people collect things? Standing in line in Northville Michigan behind a couple from Houston Texas I started to realize there are definitely different kinds of collectors. This "older" couple does not collect anything old, vintage, antique--whatever you want to call it, but they DO collect. They admitted to purchasing their house because it had more display space and more storage room for their collectibles. She collects ornaments... not just Christmas ornaments, ornaments for all seasons and holidays (thus being at a Halloween show nearly 1400 miles from their home), just no antique ornaments. They have something like a dozen Christmas trees and they leave at least one up year round to display seasonal ornaments (Easter, Halloween, etc... ). He collects marbles, but not antique marbles... huh? I did not even know there was such a thing as modern marble collecting. Apparently it is quite an art with marbles that look like eyes and also animal print marbles, flowers, unique colors and a variety of sizes from very small to very large. Possibly I have seen these glass art marbles before, but just never thought of anyone collecting them. I'm sure they make for a beautiful collection. I found this couple fascinating. They definitely represented a breed of collector that I had never talked with before. Since many of the items at these Halloween shows are contemporary folk art pieces, it was clear that most of the people were either Halloween fanatics who had moved into the realm of folk art or folk art collectors grabbing up really amazing Halloween theme pieces.

As I said in my last post, I am not obsessed by Halloween nor am I a folk art collector. I enjoyed my time with an old friend and I did pick up a couple of items that I thought were cute.
Above: metal art pumpkin party hat purchased at Halloween & Vine in Petaluma and displayed in our dining room on one of the pumpkins from our garden

Below: Willet the hand crafted Halloween Party Bear purchased at Ghoultide Gatherings in Michigan
But honestly, I usually do not even decorate for Halloween (I know, I know, I'm an old fuddy duddy). For me it is like thinking about making dinner after getting home from work at 6:30pm. I have to decide what to make, possibly pick up a few groceries, prepare the meal and then clean up after the meal. As much as I love to cook, its overwhelming and not really enjoyable to be cleaning the kitchen at 9:00pm. Same with decorating... with those extra few hours (not to mention dollars), do I choose to go all out and decorate the house, or spend a few hours oil painting or working in the garden? There are definitely trade-offs in life and for me, a few pumpkins and the colors of the leaves on our dogwoods, quince and japanese maples are enough to keep me in the Halloween spirit.

So back to the question of collecting. I think people collect for a few different reasons. First I think some people collect because they have an affinity for a specific holiday, or artist or item, like marbles or purses. I also think there is a type of collector called a "hoarder" or pack rat. Someone that just wants to collect as much stuff as possible without ever getting rid of anything. We bought our house from a hoarder... she collected everything from antique china to sheet music to costume jewelry. She spent hours at estate sales and thrift stores. There were rooms where you could not even open the door for the piles and piles of treasure she had accumulated. When a woman in the neighborhood died, she would lobby the widower to purchase her entire wardrobe whether it fit her or not. There were fur coats from size 6 to size 14. We had a pretty crazy awesome estate sale here before we could even think of moving in. There are collectors who consider their hobby an investment, like many sports cards collectors, and coin and stamp collectors. And then I think there is the kind of collector that wants to grab a hold of a piece of the past and embrace it, envision its humble or not so humble beginnings, reminisce about its life, where it has been and who has held it before... and then never let it go.

I was a teenager when my Grandma Elsie died. She knew she was dying, of stomach cancer, and before she passed, she called me and my Mom and my Sister to her house and gave us things that meant a great deal to her... things that had been in her family for a long time or had special meaning in her own life. She let me hand select my favorites of her English Bone China teacup collection. I still collect the most amazing china tea cups although it is rare that I find one special enough to join my Grandma's collection.
She also gave me her collection of pink depression glass. Her green collection went to my Sister. I occasionally pick up pieces and sometimes I receive them as gifts like this beautiful tea cup I received from my Mom....And then there is my collection of miniature vintage American Pottery vases. My original miniature vase was actually Swedish and was also a gift from my Grandma, but unfortunately it did not survive the childhood of a couple of rowdy boys named Joey and Sammy. I have continued to love these little vases that I have collected in honor of Grandma's vase and I pick them up whenever and wherever I can. They are not that common which makes them even more special.

Below: a sampling of my miniature vases. Chloe is inspecting the largest, a beautiful red vase approximately 5 1/2 inches tall.

Below is one of my favorite pictures. Me, Mom, Great Grandma McPeek and Grandma Elsie.
So I have decided that I am a collector, a collector of the never letting go kind, a collector of childhood memories of my Grandma. These little pieces of history remind me of a time she represents and that will never be forgotten.

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