Monday, April 21, 2008

Bowerbirds and magpies all- the getting and letting go of stuff.

The very delightful Donna has been doing some thinking and writing about hoarders and obsessive collecting recently (as I spoke of briefly yesterday) and I'd like to talk about it as well. I have alot to say and I'd like to get it all out, so I've broken it up with some nice pictures of maximalist interiors.

Naturalist's still-life, bedside table (my own image)

I have alot of stuff, like most of us do (gathering by blog studio pics I see!) I grew up with a very creative father who made model trucks, restored clocks and kerosene lamps and also collected Victoriana- which in his time was very unfashionable and therefore very easy to get, in vast amounts, especially in the countryside where we lived. My mother was also a collector of old things, and between them gave me a very stocked full house to grow up in. I should say though that it was kept mostly neat and clean- there may have been a dusty shelf here and there but everything had a place- on the wall, on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, in the garden, in the shed, around the shed...

Shop/residence of Ann Shore, UK stylist

It was a warm, cosy, friendly (and too a young child's imagination, immensely interesting) place to be, and since my grandmothers also had the collecting bug (paternal granny from a house load of kids who all loved old stuff and maternal granny from her travels over Europe as a nurse for the Red Cross) I consequently grew up in a world that was full of things, full of laughing people (Dad's side has Weasley blood) and full of love.

The collecting bug therefore wasn't the only thing that my family passed onto me- it set me a personality that only truly feels comfortable in stuffed rooms. My bedroom as a teenager was tiny, and I loved being in there surrounded by stuff. To this day I prefer a small bedroom.

Scan from Interior Alchemy- one of my favourite books ever.

As life went on though, I began to develop emotional issues and anxiety. I can't be exactly sure where these stem from (though I'm about to start therapy (finally!) this month to start digging up answers) but the short of it is that in order to curb my feelings of anxiety and vulnerability, I began to collect things around me.

I didn't collect just anything I might say- tin cans and old newspapers still went in the recycle bin!- but I did develop a serious thrift shop habit, and collected alot of stuff. Of course being an art student I couldn't really afford such a habit, but I still did it. The more the world gave me a hard time, the more I would collect. The more I collect, the poorer I became, the more the world gave a hard time...etc. It was a destructive circle.

Film still from Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist

This past year I developed a habit of selling things on eBay (because I had alot of stuff sitting around that people paid good money for), and made enough cash out of it to support my running up the street and buying all new stuff whenever I felt the need to 'nest'. It didn't fix my problem, but it made it affordable. It doesn't take away the fact however that there is clearly a larger issue underneath. But is there? Clearly I've developed a security from having alot of stuff around me, but is this an altogether bad thing?

In terms of my surroundings, no. I like stuff. I like having alot of it. I did the Oprah Winfrey hoarders test and managed a 13! But that was mostly due to my being such a diverse artist and living in a house by myself, meaning I don't have to pack away my work when I'm done looking at it. I have jewellery and wrist cuff stuff all over the kitchen table, paper collage all over the studio table and de-stash all over the lounge room floor. These are 'in progress' places that I'm happy about.

Artist Mark Ryden in his studio

But am I making excuses? I've reached a point in my life where due to various emotional and physical problems, I can't cope with daily life 'out there'. I don't spend my days hiding under a blanket, and left to my own devices in my little invented world I'm fine- but let's suffice to say that the stress and anxiety I so easily get from 'out there' is enough to prevent me having a full time job. Thusly I am on welfare payments, which, as some of you may know, aren't nearly enough for getting by in life, let alone having a collecting compulsion.

Loft of artist Wil Shepherd.

What all this boils down to is that I am now finally admitting that I have a problem. If I had the space and the money I wouldn't care, but that's not the circumstance I'm in. As it is now (and I'll be totally honest about this) I have to move out of my house and in with my mother, in order to be able to pay off the debts I've accumulated by choosing thrift sale days over paying the phone bill. (Admittedly there are other reasons for moving out of here but this is a big one.) This is going to be a testing time, not because living with my mother is hard, it isn't- we get on well, but because I'll be in a space that's only half the size of my studio here, and my studio here is too small even for my art, let alone a bed. That's why I'm spread out all over the house (something my muggle mother will not allow).

The outside Room, long-harvested from a forgotten online source.

I'll be in this house for another month. In that time I expect to leave here with half the possessions I have now. Half the books (I never read them), half the CDs (i never listen to them), half the clothes (too small, too big, badly fitting, just don't like it), half my kitchenware (who needs a summer scheme and a winter scheme for their kitchenware!? Just pick one, Penny!) and half my sundries (to quote Absolutely Fabulous: Bric'n'Brac'n'Nick'n'Knack'n'Things).

I'd like to end by saying that when I started this blog I wanted it to remain a pure thing, something that would showcase my work and the influences. To some extent it has stayed that way- but not the perfect mask I desired it to be. This blog has swiftly become a personal place as well as a visual library of influence.

Because all life is my influence.

I am an artist and therefore inspired (and sometimes repulsed) by the world around me. The chips and cracks that I love in physical objects are also there in metaphysical terms in my life, in my head- and I am comfortable with both of them being here for all to see. True strength of character lies in baring all our scars.


Donna Layton said...

Well, wow. I know how you feel. I understand. Totally.
It's funny how the blog eventually does become an extension of our true selves. No matter how hard we try to keep it from happening. To me it feels safe because of all the the amazing, kind fellow artist bloggers out there. We are a true community of kindrid spirits and our secrets are somehow safe with one another even though we are on this world wide web. I know you will find relief in your destashing quest. I actually envy you living with your mum for a while. Wish I could live with mine for a while.
I can't wait to know if you settle on the summer kitchenware or the winter kitchenware :).

High Desert Diva said...

In the end, our blogs do show our true personalities.

I enjoyed the pictures you posted as well as the Weasley and Muggle references.

Here's hoping your fresh start will a huge boon to creativity.

oldflowers4me said...

im so sorry this has happened to you- maybe going home is going to help-our daughter jessy has moved out into a house and she has now got another girl to move in to share the cost's- is this any help to you-but i will say she said she may move back home in oct -so we may have to build inside our shed -and make her a flat- hope all goes well for you-

Christine said...

Hello - I have just found your lovely blog and this thought-provoking post - a lot of what you say resonates with me as both myself and my partner are lovers of vintage and collectors, and I understand the thrill and burden of collecting and how it can sometimes be a way of shutting out the real world and lead to financial ruin! I too struggle to keep my blog 'pure' as you say but life and creativity are one and the same so its hard to do. You are brave to be honest here and I hope things go well for you and although you'll be letting go of some possessions - I hope you rediscover some gems you'd forgotton you had x