“Tell me what you collect, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Willy Mestach
What is this urge to collect? For centuries people have acquired objects on an ever increasing scale. Miniature oil paintings, postage stamps, thimbles, Barbie dolls, spoons, vintage roadsters, Beanie Babies, Pez dispensers… this list could go on and on. Perhaps it would be easier to identify those things people don’t collect. I am sure that would be a significantly smaller list.
Did you know that actress Diane Keaton collects vintage Bakelite jewelry, or that Demi Moore bought a house to contain her burgeoning doll collection, or that Carrie Fischer (daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fischer) collects animal portraits? Collecting is a passion obviously shared by many and can be as simple as a boy’s shoe boxed collection of baseball cards to a king’s collection of Sevres porcelain.
As an interior designer I have intimate knowledge of the things my clients collect. And I’ve had the pleasure of helping some of my clients hone and expand their collections.
We designed an award winning kitchen that served as a display space for my client’s wonderful collection of blue and white Spode.
Another client… a musically inclined bachelor, wanted his budding collection of guitars displayed, almost as an art installation.
A wonderful couple, who live in the same building as our young bachelor friend, are starting what will surely be a lovely collection of Imari porcelain. We designed beautiful, dark wood shelves and paneling for their library with the idea that the deep rich tones of the wood would make a dramatic backdrop to the collection’s vibrant red, blue and gold palette.
And we have yet another client who has both an incredible art collection and a delectable wine collection.
“Collecting has been my great extravagance. It’s a way of being. I collect for the same reason that I eat too much – I’m one of nature’s shoppers.” – Howard Hodgkin
When my husband Cole graduated with his degree in architecture from Kansas State University, the curriculum for an architecture student was greatly varied. They studied engineering, space planning, geometry, even entomology. Needless to say, his appreciation for the beauties of nature remains and beautiful examples are encased in shadow boxes in our library.
But don’t misunderstand me… this isn’t my husband’s collection. Ours is significantly smaller. But this is such a wonderful example of the extent to which some people’s collections expand. And this probably all started with a lightning bug and a leaf in a mason jar when this avid collector was a child.
This is a smattering of our collection.
“It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.
I am a member of an organization called The Dallas Glass Club. The general purpose of the organization is the study of glass objet and other collector’s items to perpetuate with thoughtful discrimination a permanent exhibit of American Antique Glass in order to contribute to the cultural and educational growth of Dallas. It all sounds very serious and scholarly.
In truth, many of the members have extensive collections (of more than just glass) that have been thoughtfully edited and cultivated over many years. One member displays an amazing collection of blue and white transfer ware plates and platters along the curving wall of her staircase. It’s virtually a floor to ceiling collection and is a beautiful sight to behold. I wish I could show you… it puts Martha Stewart’s collections to shame.
Collecting china and porcelain has occupied both bourgeoisie and royalty for centuries. Significant collections are housed in museums around the world. Some collectors had such a passion for porcelain that they commissioned entire rooms detailed with porcelain, like the Porcelain Room at the Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain. There, Charles III had an entire room designed by the Royal Porcelain factory. The ceramics adorn every inch of wall and ceiling space. The room was finished in 1771.
It’s a little hard to see the “dimensionality” of the room in this photo…
… a detail of the porcelain ceiling.
Another collection the Glass Club was able to learn more about is an enviable collection of antique tobacco containers.
In 2010, my dear friend, and marvelous curator, Deborah Gage, gave a wonderful lecture to the group entitled, "Tobacco Containers and Accessories : Their Place in Eighteenth Century History - A Quintessential Art Rediscovered." The talk detailed a marvelous collection Debo compiled for a corporate client in the UK. Here is a smattering of some of the beautiful and unusual pieces in the collection:
Tell Us What You Collect…
Each year the Glass Club sends out a survey wanting to know what the members collect and it causes me such unrest. My tiny little collections of Old Paris porcelain and American tramp art are insignificant when compared to the other members’ collections. These ladies mean serious business.
I would love to spend my days researching and acquiring… oh the things I would collect!
I would add to my collection of Old Paris porcelain…
Old Paris Porcelain, or as the French say, Vieux Paris Porcelain, does not refer to a single manufacturer, but to more than thirty porcelain sources based within the city of Paris between the mid 1700's until around 1870, the end of the Second Empire. Several clients of mine have wonderful collections of these beautiful and functional pieces.
· And add to the antique perfume bottles on my dressing table…
… such as these lovelies from Lalique, Galle, and Daum.
· I would increase my patronage of emerging artists…
Sentience by Jason Stallings
Jason is a young artist I’ve mentioned before (refer to previous blog mentions). He’s completed commissions for several of my clients and I’m please to have a few of his paintings in my own collection as well.
· I would begin to collect books with fore-edge paintings
A fore-edge painting is a scene painted on the edges of the pages of a book such that the painting is not visible when the book is closed. In order to view the painting, the leaves of the book must be fanned, exposing the edges of the pages and thereby the painting. This genre of painting developed in the 15th century and flourished in the 18th century. The University of North Texas happens to have an exceptional collection of fore-edged paintings in their Rare Book & Texana Collection.
· And add to my tiny collection of Buccellati silver
Mario Buccellati founded the House of Buccellati as a goldsmithery in the early part of the 20th century. Since that time the family tradition of exceptional gold, silver, and fine jewelry continues. The Huntsville Museum of Art in northern Alabama has a fascinating assortment of silver Buccellati animals in its permanent collection.
“The Silver Menagerie" was donated to the museum from Betty and Charles Grisham's private collection.
But alas, the rent comes due every month… like clockwork. So, until mine is a life of leisure, I’ll have to content myself with perusing the Sotheby’s and Christie’s catalogs for lovely collectibles to lust after, and continue to enjoy and appreciate what I have now.
A little sampling of my collection of Old Paris pieces… I would love to be able to while away the days searching through auction catalogs, antique stores, and flea markets for new additions.
And you, dear readers… what do you collect??