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18 Collecting: Lisa Congdon
When I first thought of this series of collecting, Lisa Congdon was one of the first people I thought of from seeing her collections pop up on flickr every once in a while. This girl not only creates beautiful art, she has some amazing collections too and a real talent for displaying them. After seeing these photos, I am craving collecting even more so than before. I think I could spend hours floating about her home, taking it all in. Here are her thoughts:
You have so many collections. Why do you collect? I have been a collector since I was a kid. I have different collections now than I did 30 years ago, but the part of me that yearns innately to gather “like items” and display them has always been pretty active. I didn’t ever become consciously aware of myself as a “collector” until I read Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover in 1992 when I was 24. The novel centers on a character called the Cavaliere who is a collector. I remember that when I read this book I realized for the first time that there was such a person as a “collector” and that I might be one of “them.” Once I self-identified, my habit definitely solidified because being a “collector” became a conscious part of my identity, as opposed to a quirky habit.
How do your collections usually start?
I have had about 30-40 different collections since the time I was 8 years old. I have sold many of them as my interests have changed over the years. Portions of my early childhood collections live at my mother’s house in the guest room. For the past 25 years, I’ve typically collected things that are somewhat challenging to acquire but common enough that they are not terribly expensive or completely impossible to find at thrift stores, flea markets or antique malls. The challenge associated with collecting is part of what keeps many of us collectors going. I collect things that appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities and passions. Many have a sense of history or mystery to them. I usually have about 15-20 collections at any one time. I cannot even begin to name all of them. Right now, my main “active” collections are:
-tiny vintage photographic portraits
-vintage ephemera including postage stamps
-three-dimensional typographical E’s previously used for signage
-vintage mid-century Scandinavian/Japanese/French kitchenware
-vintage (mostly plastic) religious icons
There are many more than this, but sometimes I stop collecting things when I feel that I have enough. So while I have many “collections” in my home, there are several I do not actively add to anymore. My owls and tiny globes are a good example of that.
How do you display them?
I think collections are the most beautiful when they are displayed together. So most of my collections are displayed amongst each other. Some of my collections, like my E’s, are sort of dispersed throughout my house. My stamps, which I also use in my collage work, are organized by color, as is all of my vintage ephemera which is housed at my studio and not in my house.
Where do you find most of what you collect?
Like most avid collectors, I go regularly to thrift stores and flea markets. Occasionally I peruse Ebay, but I find it more enjoyable to find what I collect by physically looking for it. It’s more work, but it really satisfies the “archeologist” in me. When I was a kid, I went through a period of wanting to be an archeologist. The whole notion of digging through the riff raff to find special items has always appealed to me.
What is most satisfying about collecting?
Finding and displaying, of course!