Monday, 7 April 2014

On the Subject of Collecting

Someone asked me a few weeks ago whether I collect anything.

At the time, I think I said, "Well, I er, collect books..."

"Yes, but lots of people collect books," he said.

Oh. After a bit of thought nothing else had come to mind, so I declared myself, when it comes to collecting, a rather boring sort of person, and said that no, I didn't collect anything, really.

Later I realised that this isn't strictly true, and that actually, collecting is a rather subjective term. What makes a collection, a collection? And what makes a collector, a collector? It's a question that has been ambling round my head ever since.

I thought about the jars I keep on a shelf. One houses buttons, another shells, another washi tape and another ribbons. I think of purchasing for these jars as 'keeping up the stocks'; making sure I always have supplies in for my next craft project or commission. (Yeah yeah, great excuse!) But their contents have been collected and curated, bit by bit. I also have bags of yarn, tubs of beads and pots of paints.  Does that make me a collector?

I thought about the vintage plates I use to furnish my glass desk. I bought them so as to make my desk aesthetically pleasing... but in doing so, did I become a collector of plates? Do I collect vintage crockery, or do I just happen to own a fair amount of it?

My brain really got going then and I thought about the mountain of jazzy socks I own because they're always wandering off, the DVDs in my bedroom and the Beatrix Potter-related items dotted around my home. What about the fact that I have more teapots than the Mad Hatter? Does a collection simply mean 'having lots of something', or does it constitute a certain amount of curation, seeking items sharing similar qualities? Does a collection have to be proudly displayed and boast its own dedicated dusting apparatus to qualify as such?

In the end I came to a conclusion (you'll be relieved to know this).

1. Collectors are always interesting, though their collections may be interesting to many, or only to themselves.

2. Collections comes in many forms, but to qualify as a collection its items must have been gathered with a certain element of pride and joy. The fun is in the collect-ing, not just in the collect-ion. That's why we all owned so many Pogs back in the day, and why some can't ever open the drawers under their beds for fear that the TY Beanie Babies will finally burst their vacuum pack bags and the secret will be out. To qualify as a collection, its owner must be proud of it or find joy in ownership of it.

3. It's never okay to collect porcelain dolls. I'm sorry, but this is my blog, they are scary and stare-y, and that's just a fact. Moving swiftly on...

Am I a collector? Why yes, I am. And if my collecting ever goes too far and I stray into the category of hoarder, it'll be the books that are my downfall. And I actually own a fair few collections within my book collection, too. I own every book Roald Dahl ever wrote, I leap on 1970s Enid Blytons wherever I find them and have a hefty shelf packed full of children's books (I so wish The Gruffalo had been around when I was a kid.) I also collect craft materials with a certain amount of pride. If you ever pop round for a cuppa, don't ask to see my fabric stash. You'll be there forever.

So, are you a collector? What do you collect? And is it something you'll admit to next time an intellectual type challenges you at a cocktail party?

PS: I'm not an intellectual type, so you can tell me :)

PPS: next time I am put on the spot with that particular question, I will now be prepared. I shall sniff, examine my nails, and say, "yes, I collect bodies. I have lots in my cellar at home." And then smile cheerfully and sidle off to admire the buffet.


  1. I adore the glass topped table with vintage plates!! xx

  2. I collect teacups, porcelain & glass in greens & blues, tins, flower paintings, pebbles, bits & pieces, anything I find interesting! For me it is looking for pieces with colour and quality, that sit well with what I already have. I'm very fussy! x

  3. Oh I love your glass desk. I think I'm just a habitual collector of anything which takes my fancy. I'm certainly more about clutter than minimalism.

  4. I'm certainly a collector - i've been collecting vintage powder compacts for a number of years and also love adding to my vintage cookbook and craft pattern pile. Me and the husband also collect vinyl records to the point of having over 800 of them and they then taking over our apartment. The record collection certainly sparks a conversation with people, they love to hear how we got into it and any goodies/rare pieces in our collection.

  5. Oh dear, I'm in the same boat as you were - not really sure if I collect anything... will have a ponder and get back to you! :)

  6. Love the Enid Blytons, wooden button, and jar of ribbons. Collections are a funny thing - I don't count myself a collector of anything in particular, but I do have a lot of novelty jumpers, and I buy far too much colourful bedding... Hmm. xxx

  7. Hi Anna,
    I completely understand You when You write about collection!!
    I Am mad about collections for craft things.
    I have a jar of Shells and buttons too.
    And Fabric and wool and.......
    Lot of things. Things You collect are the reflect of your personnality and that's Great.
    Like to Read your post.
    Miss xx

  8. I agree with everyone else - your glass topped table is fab! I have a collection of Bunty, Mandy, Judy and Jackie annuals - probably over 100 dating back to the early 60s. I also have that same white milk jug you have - part of my collection of Arcopal Scania crockery. My father-in-law collects jukeboxes - he has 16! :-) x

  9. I collect similarly to you. I must enjoy crafting more than food, because it seems the contents of my materials box keep migrating to the kitchen cupboards... Lol.

  10. Great post! I have around 3000 books but I wouldn't class all of them as a collection - I collect the Bancroft Children's Classics, first editions of my three favourite authors and, my favourite collection, different editions of Charles Kingley's The Water Babies. I also have a bit of a thing for little boxes, doesn't matter what they are made of so long as they are small and not mass produced. Would love to have a dig around in your button jar :)


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