Today Collector’s Corner was fortunate to have Geoff Dudman and his display of beautiful oriental rugs and bags at the rear end of the gallery. There was a steady stream of visitors and it was difficult not to stroke the carpets admiringly as he shared his knowledge of their tribal significance, along with impact that the political history of the area has had on their production and survival. People were also interested in more practical issues such as who made the rugs, how they were used, dyeing techniques and the meanings of motifs and patterns. Several people shared their own stories about rugs or textiles they owned, including one visitor who had seen hers being made in India by a young boy under the tutelage of his grandfather. The old man remembered the pattern and passed on the skills entirely word of mouth, much as Geoff described the skills being passed on by the women of the Baluchi.
The exhibition has made me take stock and think about why I personally keep so much stuff, some of it long after it has served its purpose. I wanted to explore if and why other people do this, so took in wrapped ‘useless’ objects from my studio to exchange with willing visitors. I saw Jill and her husband looking at Desk Top Garden Culture as I was setting up. They confessed that they also found it difficult to decide when to throw things away. When asked if they had a garden shed in which to hide clutter, they said that their garage served that function, so much so there was no room for the car. Jill regretted not keeping some music memorabilia from her youth as it would now be worth a great deal of money, while her husband and I mused on the difficulty in discarding possessions He felt that he was editing himself when he threw things away and that maybe another person needs to do it for him, as they would be less affected by an objects history or emotional attachment. Before moving on he told me: “Things that outlive their usefulness don’t outlive their usefulness” citing the example of letters he keeps which his parents sent to each other when they first met.
When Frankie opened one of the brown paper parcels and discovered a pretty ink well (which was a gift from a friend now living in New Zealand) she was surprised it was to be given away. Though a lovely to look at, it is impractical and so I want to pass it on. Frankie suggested that it might serve as a keepsake. We talked about keeping things to remind us of our friends, but how sometimes although they are a reminder, when we still don’t keep in touch, the object then becomes loaded with guilt and getting rid of it impossible.
Simon from Brighton found a cup and saucer which I had reluctantly housed because the previous owner found it too difficult to give to the charity shop; a remnant from a deceased parent’s house. S imon felt compelled to give it a home because he found the story so touching, although having picked it up in the exhibition, he saw a change in function from cup to a piece of art. Simon described himself as collector of several things and has recently been buying toys he played with as a child. He saw this as ‘collecting his own past’ though he could never get as close as he wished. It felt like he was only able to catch an echo. He wondered what might happen if he managed to buy the very last toy on his list — would he drop dead?
Eerika looked a little disappointed with the nearly dried up tubes of paint she had chosen and confessed that she also hoards things because it seems wrong to throw them in the bin. This she puts down to the influence of her grandmother, whose wartime experiences make it very difficult to throw away containers or small scraps, just in case they prove useful. I took pity on her and offered to throw them in the bin on my way home.
Many thanks to Geoff and Sue Dudman and all those who took the time to talk.