On Collecting

I have always been fascinated by collections, collectors and collecting. What do people like to collect, what makes us collect things and how do we know what’s good, bad or ugly and do we care anyway (if it’s a private collection)? Collections can be made for many reasons – perhaps a collection is made up of objects that are family heirlooms, or it is a bequest that makes up a public collection or it might be a collection based around a particular personal interest and indeed some collections verge on the obsessive nature of collecting! Some of my favourite traditional collections are the The Frick Collection in New York, the Wallace Collection in London and the Palazzo Blu in Pisa. I also love cabinets of curiosities which are themselves microcosmic collections of the world itself.

A Collection - The Rothschild Butterfly Collection stored in mahogany cases at Harrow School. The collection comprises 3,500 butterfly specimens

A Collection - The Rothschild Butterfly Collection stored in mahogany cases at Harrow School. The collection comprises 3,500 butterfly specimens. Image from http://gu.com/p/25g7b

In starting to investigate these questions and themes, I decided it was best to start with what I know, so I have started at home. To be precise, in my childhood home where I grew up, now my parents’ home, in North London. My parents are keen collectors and they started collecting when they were younger than me, so I feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do already! They are interested in collecting decorative arts objects, some connected to the home and home life, also relating to styles including Art Deco and Art Nouveau for example.

Here is an example of a small collection housed on the kitchen dresser, of blue and white china objects. Many of these have personal meaning as some were collected from various places as souvenirs including trips to foreign lands.

Blue and White China on the kitchen dresser

Below is a collection of Poole Pottery objects. The Poole Pottery company was founded in 1873 in Poole which is in Dorset in the UK.

Poole Pottery

Here you can see collections of Charlotte Rhead objects, who was an English ceramics designer active in the 1920s and the 1930s in the Potteries area of Staffordshire.

Charlotte Rhead pots

Charlotte Rhead plates

In this final image, you can see amongst the other objects, placed at the back, an aqua-marine coloured plate by ceramics designer Susie Cooper. The plate has had the sgraffito technique applied to it which literally means scratched (in Italian).

objects including sgraffito plate by Susie Cooper

On the subject of collecting, I absolutely loved Orhan Pamuk’s latest book ‘The Museum of Innocence’ which I read after returning from a trip to Istanbul. I found the narrative to be so gripping that I couldn’t put the book down which fascinatingly portrayed life in Istanbul to me,  for 30 years starting in 1975. The main character of the novel, becomes an obsessive collector of the artefacts from his life with the woman he is infatuated with for the duration of the book. The author has now actually created the Museum of Innocence from the book, in Istanbul and you can read more about it here. So I will need to go back to Istanbul to see this museum at some point…

Currently, I seem to have collected more books than anything else – more than I have space for storing in fact. But I would like to be collecting art work, furniture and decorative art objects too myself. What about you, do you like to collect anything?


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