Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Lincoln's skulls

This week I was joined for Collectors Corner by Lincoln Taylor and Sheila Richardson.

Lincoln brought in a sample of his many collections. He collects his skulls and stones with holes in whilst out on walks or, as he says, as something to do on the beach. The stones with holes are a new collection, just started. Lincoln's not quite sure what he's going to do with them yet. The skulls caused much curiosity especially among young visitors who were keen to know their origins. Lincoln pointed out his fox and badger skulls, his sheep and deer skulls, and in pride of place, his beaver and his rhesus monkey.

We talked about the pleasure of finding unexpected "treasures" and the way many of us are drawn to collecting natural objects - driftwood, stones, fir cones and bones. Someone brought up the subject of hoarding and we tried to think about what was the difference between hoarding and collecting . At times, we agreed, the line between the two was very fine.

Lincoln also brought in part of a very different collection. It consisted of a wooden box frame, in which were carefully arranged and mounted a number of items: some coins and a £5 note, a flyer and a travel leaflet, a bus ticket, an unopened packet of chewing gum, a letter. The box was part of a year long project, a collaboration with Lincoln's friend, Danny, in the year 2000. At the end of each month that year, Lincoln and Danny would meet, and systematically empty their pockets, meticulously recording the contents, left pocket, right pocket,  and then file them away into envelopes to be stored. Eventually the whole collection was framed in 24 glass-fronted boxes to be exhibited as an archive of the year.

Looking into one of Sheila's kaleidoscopes

Sheila had brought in her collection of kaleidoscopes which were a big hit with adults and children alike. We all agreed that part of the fascination of other people's collections and of Tomoko Takahashi's work and Lincoln and Danny's millenium pocket project, is that we can so often find things within them that we can relate to or identify with; things from our childhood or that remind us of a place or a person.

Once people had looked through one of Sheila's kaleidoscopes they wanted to try them all. I think that everyone had childhood memories of kaleidoscopes, but most people had not looked through one for many years. Sheila certainly had an amazing array of them. Some just simple cardboard tubes with shiny beads or fragments of foil in their mirrored interiors. Others were more sophisticated with revolving bases or musical turntables, or tubes of oil filled with glitter which flowed back and forth beneath the lens like starbursts provoking oo's and aah's and other exclamations of pleasure and delight.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Junk and Stuff

The first person I spoke to on Saturday was Carol, who saw a kindred spirit in Tomoko. She loved the installations and said that she relished collecting, so much so that apart from a small area on the floor where she sleeps on a layer of sponge, she has given over her bedroom to storing objects. At some point she will put it all in order and use it to make things. "I don't call it junk, I call it STUFF!". Interestingly, she has an ordered, tidy kitchen where she doesn't like clutter. When her daughters go to college this year she intends to expand into their bedrooms...

It gives me great pleasure that my stash of wrapped objects is diminishing. I noticed that everyone paused a little or shook the parcels before choosing, rather like children at a lucky dip. Fiona wouldn't be drawn into the game though; she said she had enough of her own rubbish at home. Clearing fifty years worth of books in her parent's home, loft, garage and outhouse had cured her of visiting junk shops and buying bits and pieces. She said that seeing so many stacks of rotting books had left a lasting impression.

Ruth took part though and was pleased with her choice; her daughter less so. Ruth was now the owner of some small painted paper squares, whilst her daughter had the bits of plastic and netting that I used to make the painted squares. These for me are more useful than the discarded little paintings. She, like many of us, keeps things out of guilt, nostalgia, for kudos, because of the potential for usefulness and though we didn't exchange objects, she did give me the best story of the day. She told me of a friend who has kept a beautiful oak door just in case the house he should move to doesn't have a front door!