Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Collected Stories

I don't know, the headless puppet body, a 1900's maiden stamped on tin ceiling, toy gun parts and a workman's tool belt etc. that I bought in New York last weekend kept teasing with life stories. I was glad to shut them up in a box and ship them back to Detroit. You know I love the stuff, the stories and the people animating history from the beyond, but...there's a few things and a few people in New York to love…good thing I got information bypass (straight to laptop) so the vital needs get met and overload's averted. A blog and a roundtrip ticket to the Midwest are just what the doctor ordered.

I came to look at a collection, one animator, Maria, and 40 years worth of great stuff and stories as fun and creative as she is. Maria's inner artist has explored the sculpture in the classic carvings of Victorian architecture to folk art (dolls, spool furniture, collectibles et al), the painterly aspects of 19th century tole (painted metal) to peely painted furniture, and graphic modernity in primitives to vintage advertising. I scan a collection like I scan an antique show or market; searching for form, material, color and anything especially odd. As they add up in my head, I'm concurrently styling a booth or vignette to tell a story. In the boxes, cupboards and places I search, it is a narrative thread I am looking for. It's in the last place I look where I find the storyline for this collection. Turns out it begins with Maria's occupation..she sells jewelry..and an unusual connection back to me.

It's late in the day and up in the attic is our last stop. There it all is, a glittering tangle of 1960's silver from the southwest piled on a card table. The two of us can't stop ourselves from pawing through the treasure, what fun! The Native American jewelry is like a magnet and a door to my past. When my family moved from Arizona where I was born, my parents (probably my mom) had this groovy idea that we should take the proceeds of our modest bank accounts and buy Indian jewelry. I was 9 years old. I still have my little girl bracelets from the $200 investments I made that day. Southwestern stuff has always been part of my own collection and I love to mix it with antiques.

The story writes itself. Maria's jewelry will pull them into the booth I can now see in my head. It will be displayed in small cases, on rocks and hanging from cut branches, on top of her spool furniture. Architectural fragments will provide solid background to the furnitures' delicate shapes. Larger primitive cabinets with worn paint surfaces will anchor the collection. Rugs, quilts, dolls and other textiles will soften the solid forms and add color. I edit the pieces in my minds eye: this in, that out. The more the story develops, the more it stays the same. I natter over just the right effect like I natter over just the right word. Honing my craft, designing the booth, my store, your place and writing the best story I can so you will want to take it with you and be inspired to add your own to it.

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