The Art of Collecting

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Day 331

Sometimes blog topics come to me by happenstance. I was thinking about the things I collected throughout my life and wondered if I would be happier to live a minimalist lifestyle. Somewhere in this mental wandering, I ended up reading the notes on Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

In the play, Laura has a collection of glass figurines she treasures. I am not sure I ever had a collection of anything that I prized that much, but I did collect things throughout my life.

The first thing I ever remember collecting was broken glass pieces harvested from the creeks where I lived. They were beautiful to me. Shimmering in the water, smoothed from days of continued polishing by the water and the rocks along the way. I kept them in the cardboard box my Barbie doll came in (yes, Barbie was once packaged in cardboard). I do not know whatever became of my glass collection, but I wish I had it now. I cannot tell you why, but it is meaningful to me. Maybe because we did not have a lot or maybe because I could see something beautiful in the things other people had discarded.

My great-aunt had a glass cabinet filled with porcelain animal collectibles. There was usually an adult and two baby animals connected together by a gold chain. They were delicate and beautiful — much like I imagine Laura’s collectibles were in the play.

By Brian StansberryOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

My grandmother had a collection of Blue Ridge Pottery dishes. They were made by Southern Potteries out of Erwin, TN. The pottery plant was located on land set aside in the early 1900s by The Carolina, Clitchfield & Ohio railroad to encourage the growth of industry along the railroad. These dishes were brightly decorated and say everything about ‘home’ to me. Sadly, like so many other things taken from my father, these dishes disappeared into the homes of other people.

When I was in the Air Force, I purchased a set of black Mikasa-like glassware. Beautiful goblets that I dreamed I would someday use at an elegantly appointed table. Unfortunately, that collection was collateral damage from my marriage. My ex turned the goblets upside down, snapped off the base and used them as candle holders. I learned to let go of things rather quickly after that.

I had short-lived fascinations with hunting and collecting things at antique stores. I had barber bottles for a while, then ornate perfume bottles, and an eventual collection of cobalt blue glass. This included several poison bottles that I purchased off of e-bay. I still have the perfume bottles and the cobalt blue glass, but they are packed away — wrapped in bubble wrap — waiting for someone else to love them someday.

My husband was a collector for a while, too. He had David Winter cottages, porcelain owls, and a collection of duck stamp prints. Between the two of us, nothing we ever collected really had any value. They were simply things we liked.

Of late, I do not collect much. We have a rather large collection of original Plein air paintings purchased throughout our marriage. These are on the walls and are a constant and loving reminder of the life we have shared together. I do have quite a few tools and supplies related to art and jewelry making. But still, I look around and think I could live with less. Hubby is an avid collector of hardback books that overflow our bookshelves. He also has an assortment of tools (thankfully they are mostly housed in the garage).

I wonder what it is that makes us collect things. To surround ourselves with things we love is comforting somehow. All these treasures of ours are unfortunately seen as ‘stuff’ that our children do not want to deal with when we die. I have become the repository for ‘family’ memorabilia. Nothing of any intrinsic value — just a collection of memories. It is wise for us to remember that many of the things that hold memories for us because of our parents or grandparents hold few if any memories for our children or grandchildren. As a result, I have been asking questions of my children. What do you want?  If there is no interest, then why am I holding on? I guess because there are still memories for me.

Now I am off to find a copy of The Glass Menagerie to read — or perhaps I can find a film streaming somewhere.



12 thoughts on “The Art of Collecting”

  1. I do collect too many things. When I acquired things from my mom I sought out family and friends to gift things too. Basically if anyone had memories tied to items I wanted then to have them.
    I collect S & P shakers, books, fabric, scrapbooking supplies, yard art, pictures, and memories. The memories are the best.

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  2. I am prone to collecting, and have to actively stop myself doing it. I have a decent amount of Art Deco pottery, plates, uranium glass, and ceramics, but with no room to display them, they are packed away in bubble wrap in boxes in the loft.
    I also have a lot of cameras, including some non-working vintage models. Like the ceramics, they are in a box somewhere; unseen, and never looked at.
    My biggest ‘collection’ is DVD films, with around 500+ stacked on shelves. At least I have watched most of those. 🙂
    Best wishs, Pete.

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    1. We have a lot of cameras, too, Pete. All boxed up because all but one are film cameras. I had not thought about DVD’s. We have three huge plastic bins full. We packed them up when we had our floors replaced and there they have stayed. Of course we do pull a favorite out of the box occasionally. We donated most of our collection of CD’s before we moved from Florida.

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  3. Maggie, ahhh, the memories!

    One man’s trash and so on…

    I have a few “things” I treasure: a glass bowl that belonged to my great-grandmother, whom I barely remember; a painting of my mother and me that my dad commissioned a local artist in Okinawa to paint by studying a photograph. Dad was stationed there while serving in the Air Force.

    My biggest problem is going on purging binges. I feel suffocated by all the “stuff” in my house and start tossing out things. Some of the things I’ve thrown out I now want back.

    Collecting: Danged if you do,. Danged if you don’t.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Debbie, that is the danger of collecting, especially when things stay boxed up for long periods of time. I have yet to regret any of my purging but I am sure that day will come.


  4. Maggie, you and I have talked about this issue since our kids have made it clear that our ” collections” with the exception of a few family heirlooms, do not interest them. For some time now, I’ve wrestled with parting with many of my ” things”. however, when you said your collections made you happy, I decided! Mine may be junk to many ( including the kids) but they all make me happy and nostalgic, so for now…..I’m going to keep it all and stop debating!! I will say, Maggie helped me decide! Lol……😂😍


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