Like many people, I collect objects and images and use them to decorate my home. Some have flown with me across oceans, some were made by friends and my boyfriend, and plenty are gifts from people I love. I have always loved having these objects out where I can see them - minimalism is definitely not for me. When I met my boyfriend and saw that his apartment was crowded with his own collection of objects of wonder, I knew that we would get along fine. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling so connected to objects, and I sometimes wonder - why these things? What is it about them that makes me never tire of looking at them?
In her book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp talks about creative DNA: "I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them."
I think these objects are part of my creative code. When I look closely I see that certain themes come up again and again: navigation, exploration, and discovery are big ones, along with a sense of history, and of being very far away in place in time. These themes underlie my art (my obsession with maps and old things) and my life (I feel a constant urge to explore, to learn, and to venture further and further afield).
Some of the things you'll find taking up space in my tiny bachelor apartment include: postcards from an exhibit I saw in Edinburgh called "Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery", an old map of the north of England that my boyfriend had beautifully framed for me, an old window frame filled with dried flowers made by a local artist, a vase full of dried local grasses, weavings from Peru, and large wall-hanging that I made in Argentina, glass insulators from the tops of old telephone poles (we used to go looking for them in ditches with my dad), an antique mirror and brush that I bought while visiting a friend in northern Alberta, a sock puppet a friend made for me when I went away for a summer, a Kachina doll I bought in Arizona, a fan my brother brought from Japan next to one from New Orleans, a tea pot my mom gave me when I moved out.
To me, these things evoke the feeling of a jumbled 19th century museum, with strange new treasures around every corner. Natural history, textile arts, maps. They provide a record of what I have already discovered and inspire me to continue exploring. Even the colour schemes that I'm drawn to are straight from the dark corners of of a natural history display - the deep rich woods of old cabinets, the dusty beiges of dried plant matter and animals, the occasional shock of green or pink from a faded botanical print. This explains, perhaps, why I keep dead plants around, despite their supposedly bad fung shui, and why I still have the vertebrae of a cow that I found in a field when I was eight years old. That slightly morbid fascination with things that have long since died gives a clue as to why I currently feel compelled to create sculptures of hearts and eyeballs, and why I cover them with old, found papers.
This isn't even all of it. I have a box full of items that didn't make the cut - a quote from a poem written in Chinese calligraphy that I watched being made in the Chinese garden in Portland, weavings made by one the best weavers in all of Bolivia, and the pieces that she taught me to make, postcards from Chicago, New York, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Lima, and plenty more maps. I dream of one day having a library where I'll be able to display everything and have a visual inventory of my travels through space and time.
I'll be moving in with my boyfriend in a couple months and will have to pare down even more and be extra choosy about what will be displayed and what will be stored. What will stay and what will go? And how will he and I decide how to merge our creative code and tell our shared story? I can't wait to find out.
What objects are part of your creative code? What do you keep around to remind you of who you are and what's important to you? Leave a comment below.