How To Build A High WASP Collection Of Thingamabobs For Your House
Doesn't the TV stand wheel in the background add a certain je ne sais quoi? A certain ironic reflection of the snuff bottle's non-sphere? Can you tell I was talking literary theory with my son yesterday? Bwahahahahaha. This'll show him not to get his mom going.
High WASP houses always have a collection of something or other, somewhere. One way to make this happen is to inherit a group of thingamabobs, put together by a family member, and passed on. These thingamabobs might be works of great value, but that's besides the point. Another way is to set out on the hunt yourself, again, for works of great value, or not.
I've got a small collection of snuff bottles. I don't think they're, um, commercially important. The original set belonged to my grandmother. Whether she found them as she traveled with her second husband, around the world, or whether she picked them up in Boston antique stores, I realize I don't even know. I think they are Chinese - except the red one. I bought the red one somewhere, in a faint-hearted attempt to take up the collecting mantle. I failed.
Amassed collections live a much more purposeful and energetic life, statements of personal interest. You will know a High WASP collection by its quirkiness, and its adherence to genre and era. It will not be a collection manufactured as "collectibles." I realize that some of you reading do not follow this protocol. More power to you. Again, I'm not saying you ought to participate in this cultural folderol. I'm deconstructing, not proscribing.
Reggie Darling, who writes one of most beautiful classic house style blogs out there, collects antique twine dispensers. Tell me these don't make you suck air in between your teeth and say, "Oooh." Or at least feel the delicious quirk of the similar yet different shapes and textures. And those scissors, stabbing? Wowza.
Of course, not everyone has the time, or the funds, or even the interest to travel hither and thither looting and plundering. Not everyone wants to go to Bonhams and Butterfield's auction house catalogues in search of the perfect glass and silver pickle jar. Not to worry. A quirky collection can be put together with nothing but wit and intent. With nothing but a broadband connection and a hard drive.
To wit, these blogs. Kate, at love you big, introduced me to A Collection A Day. Below, plastic doilies. Close enough to all those wonderful photos of no snowflakes the same, but plastic. For irony, and a little mid-century relevance.
Kate also introduced me to Amassblog. This is from a collection of playing cards that have been used for more than playing cards. How's that for a poem of being?
Collections are a wonderful model for how humans understand the world. The grouped collection has meaning above and beyond its separate items. Yet each item has its own story. Its own narrative, as the critics would say. Quite structuralist. Quite demonstrative of how language itself functions. I may have spent many months writing about this in college. But I really digress.
The thing is, collecting is also dreadfully stressful. I remember 40 years ago calling all the local big box stores, every Sunday morning, for my brother's Hot Wheels. I believe we were looking for a McLaren. With a spoiler. I've never recovered. My father collected art. To this day if we discuss buying art his eyes gleam. The thrill of acquisition, the agony of loss.
The thing is, also, I need my house to calm me down. Especially after all those years of corporate adrenaline. If I were to collect in the real world, I believe I might vibrate at such high speed that one day I'd begin to spin and either generate enough power to solve our reliance on carbons fuels or explode. So, no collecting of stuff. Although I would love to deal with the carbon fuel problem. But, again, I digress.
In truth, I've never even bought anything on eBay. Let my little collection sit in its place, unbroken by increase or decrease, reminding me only of my grandmother's house as it was. While I like the naming of groups (Did you know that a flock of larks is called an Exultation?), we'll leave the actual collecting to you. Tell me. Because collecting stories is another thing altogether.
Twine dispensers by Boy Fenwick, via Reggie Darling
Doilies via A Collection A Day
Playing cards via Amassblog
Labels: house style