My Mom, God love her, was a hoarder and a shopaholic, like the ones you see on TV. When I was growing up, we had no table or counter that was not covered with “tchotchkes”, junk, clutter, unopened shopping bags and other useless items. We could never find a working pen or a sharp pencil, despite cups full of them everywhere. And there was nowhere to sit, study, cook, or eat without piling up out of the way, moving clothing papers to another room, or shoving newspapers onto the floor.
There were piles of styrofoam and old magazines in the basement. Our kitchen junk drawer was stuffed with wads of string of every hue and texture, and rubber bands of every thickness and color.
My Dad did his own type of collecting. On his walks to and from the hospital to his pediatric office, he would pick up random pieces of dismembered earrings, bracelets and necklaces from every sidewalk and each parking lot. He had a little workshop in the basement with some small tools where he would “potschke” in an attempt to make workable jewelry. In the basement there was a cute little anteroom with french cabinet doors where he kept his samples. It was full of empty pill, tincture and lotion bottles of every color, shape, and size, and oh, the lids!
To this day, in reaction to growing up in such a household, I react very viscerally to physical chaos, feeling anxious and claustrophobic. Sometimes I feel like screaming “I can’t stand it! I need space!” When I am eating at our breakfast bar, if the salt and pepper shaker or the napkin holder are too close to my plate, I have to move them to the back of the counter.
In 2009, I decided to move my art supplies from a 120 sq. ft. room upstairs to a 500 sq. ft. studio downstairs next to my garage, and to open my studio to the public. I vowed that it would stay organized. Of course, it’s a known principle of physics that stuff expands to fill the existing space. What was initially a dozen baskets of materials sorted by category soon became 50 plastic bins sorted by color. I had ribbons, lace, paper, yarn, buttons, beads, shells, fabric, feathers, netting, faux fur, and wood, many of the things my parents collected when I was a child.
My son Ethan is a glass artist who lives in Seattle. On one visit to Ithaca, he looked at my new location and said: “Mom, I know you love baskets. They’re beautiful and very country chic, but they’re not efficient. Give me $50, go have coffee with your friends, and I’ll set you up.” Three hours later he had completely reorganized my supplies by color into the first dozen of what would later become 50 plastic drawers.
I’m a sublimated hoarder – I just hate to throw away something that could be used again for art. There is a counter at the top of my staircase where daily, a few everyday items appear which would otherwise be discarded. If something is texturally interesting, colorful, or if I can envision that someone could make something clever out of it, down it goes into FCp!
Then the fun begins for me. I love deconstructing things to morph them into art supplies. Computer parts become fascinating bits for assemblage. High heeled shoes disassembled yield beautiful pieces of leather, much gorgeous bling, zippers and velcro straps, ribbons and gilded insoles. My hammer, pliers, tin snips, and wire cutters get quite a workout. And the heels can make functional or fun sculpture. Containers of all sorts, lids, broken electrical parts – all fair game for art.
Recently I came upon a piano that was about to be relegated to the dump. Instead, I took the hammers, keys and all those cool kinetic spring-loaded pieces to my art-making shop. I spent hours yanking out hundreds of steel pins from the sound board. There are now buckets and drawers full of felt, wood and metal springs in my studio, and my upper body strength has been enhanced.
It’s as therapeutic for me to acquire and remake the supplies for my shop as it is for art-makers who frequent FCp! to create there! Come see for yourself.