Hoarding has to start somewhere
By Shelley Taylor
The Collection Connection
Birds do it. Bees do it. And I confess. I do it.
It's an obsession. A disease. A compulsion. And I love it!
My name is Shelley. And I am a collector.
What is a collection? Andy Warhol made it very clear: three of anything. But you gotta start somewhere.
Actually, collecting is fundamentally human ... our brains are wired for it. Surprisingly, 70 species of animals "hoard."
Now, I staunchly reject the label of "hoarder." Nor am I a collector of curiosities.
In my humble self-assessment, Michael Jackson - who once wanted to "collect" the Elephant Man's skeleton - is way outta my league.
I think of my precious treasures as eye candy, an "aide memoire" if you will, to my increasingly distant childhood.
Hopefully the objects I am drawn to spark conversation and reveal something about me.
Years of treasure hunting have made me an expert at "casing" a flea market booth. With a quick visual scan, I know immediately if something speaks to me. And if it speaks to me, I gotta have it.
I began collecting as a child (didn't we all!). First there were fireflies and snails and even spiders. And, of course, dolls.
I still have shoes I wore to my 10th high school reunion - and gowns I wore in my "General Hospital" days.
I started haunting the phenomenally huge Rose Bowl Swap Meet in Pasadena, Calif., back in the 1970s. One day my heart stopped. There before me was a simply magical portrait of two cockatoos in an avocado tree; a print by little-known artist Jesse Arms Botke. I now have prints of many of her paintings in my collection.
In the 1990s, when I worked on ABC's "Home Show," I presented individual collections including those of soap stars: carousel horses, antique perfume bottles, buttons and antique stoves. Here's our 1953 O'Keefe & Merritt. (To my Dish readers ... you won't be surprised to see my obsession transformed my stove here into a curio cabinet!)
I've haunted fleas for many years but it wasn't until I found my muse that the disease overtook me.
Hunting for treasures became Greg's and my weekend activity of choice.
In the 1980s, after tagging along with Greg to "deltiology" (postcard) conventions - a treasure trove for collectors - I decided to find a theme unique and meaningful to me.
I am intrigued by the anthropomorphic and realized I always had been fascinated by faces.
And then, I found the Man in the Moon.
A "theme" collection such as mine has no end of interesting possibilities and runs the gamut from illustrations, antique postcards, toys, teapots, figurines, salt and pepper shakers - even antique sheet music.
We collectors can't keep it under wraps and we will wax nostalgic about a special find.
Years ago, I fell in love with a toy dinosaur from the turn of the last century. Gertie was for sale for $600. No way, Jay! Then about two years later, while casing a flea, I see her (or one just like her) for sale for $80. I walked away with her for a mere $60! Yee haw!
But then, I get the creeps ... my collections have a habit of spreading.
Typically I'll start noticing a treasure a friend would just love, like the "flow blue" (a type of blue and white china) a longtime friend collects.
Knowing what friends collect makes birthday shopping especially fun.
Inevitably, one day I'll see a piece of that flow blue and say to myself, "This has Kathy written all over it." But then, "You know, this is really pretty. And the price isn't bad. Oh what the heck, I'll get it for myself."
See what I mean?
As a child, everything had to look brand new. But collecting has taught me to appreciate what I call "the patina of age" ... like my froggy here. Remember him from the "Andy Devine Show?" It's that patina that brings memories. "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!"
I admire the patina of age on older items but sometimes I'm only interested in the image and I don't care if it's a repro. But a good repro - not something that's been knocked off so often that the fine lines of the thing lose their sharp definition.
And while there's nothing wrong with mass-produced collectibles, it's the "one-of-a-kind" objects of desire that create the personal touch that gives a home character.
Sometimes I find a deal on an item that has a chip or other imperfection. Usually they are easily camouflaged or hidden when displayed. Ask me sometime and I'll give you some tips.
Many times I'll find something I just have to have, but don't know where in the world I'll put it. And all my collectibles must be displayed. What good is it if it's in a box? So I'll put my newest find somewhere it obviously doesn't belong - a daily reminder that eventually turns into an "ah ha!" moment for the perfect spot.
Finding imaginative ways to display my collections is a particular joy. It's all about the visual tableau and how treasures are showcased, a surprise to be discovered.
Crowding finds together, singling out a particularly unique piece, using mirrors and special lighting all add to the delight of discovery.
Grouping individual pieces together - instead of spreading them all over the place - gives them importance and focus. And it doesn't have to be something expensive. When Greg and I began collecting old plastic cameras, they cost about 25 cents. But when you put them together, they look rather impressive.
You can see many of our collectibles in this visual tour of our old home in California at our website www.itallbeganwiththe maninthemoon.com (It All Began with the Man in the Moon). I've also included some history on some of the more unique pieces. (That's our kitty Bud in every room.)
We've been building our dream home since we moved to the peninsula six years ago and all my treasures still are packed in (800!) boxes - plus the 200 pieces I've collected since we moved here. (Guess the subject of my latest collection. Give up? Images of homes, of course!)
I'll be a kid on Christmas morning when I can gaze upon them once again. You won't see me for weeks while I discover just the right place to put them.
In the meantime, with apologies to the Lady Colossus in New York's harbor: "Give me your old, forgotten, time-worn, unappreciated tchochkes ... yearning to be loved, admired and seen anew."
Do you have "the collecting addiction?"
We're looking for
The Sequim Gazette is planning a column that peeks into Sequim residents' curio cabinets, and I'll be bringing it to you. I suffer from the collecting obsession, too, so I'll be sympathetic.
So, if you have a
collection of anything
that you'd like to
show off, contact me through the Sequim Gazette at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get to work.
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