Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Week 13: What's with all the junk?

This week's blog is inspired by my trip last Saturday to Chattanooga, where I attended an antique medical estate sale.  Where many people would say "ewwww," I was beyond excited to check out the tools, equipment, instruments, books, and furniture in the massive collection and see if I could pick a few treasured pieces to use with my work. And what treasures there were!

This vintage eye testing machine is just one of the pieces I found that will be used in future work.  My mind reels with the stories this may unfold.

Why I am talking about my antique adventures?  Well,  I have mentioned before that picking or pickin' is somewhat of an obsession for me. I have my parents to thank for that. Dad's side of the family were farmers, and on a farm you never, ever throw ANYTHING away that could be repurposed or reused.  That trait was definitely passed down to my father and to me. As a little girl I would spend hours going through his "treasures" and reinventing new creations with them. In addition, Mom would take us antiquing on the weekends in the Virginia countryside where we explored the history of the area and the treasures it held.  Through the both of them I developed an appreciation for the past and a desire to find a new function for things that had lost their original purpose.

I can't say when exactly I started to combine found objects with my ceramic work, but it was a natural progression of my narrative impulse.  I was drawn aesthetically to how these objects play off the ceramics, such as the rusty, crusty nature of the object and the fine skin of the porcelain.  Moreover, working with both mediums is a faint whisper of the collaboration I experienced in the theater.  But most importantly, I recognized that these objects created the feeling of another world in my work--a by-gone world. But these objects are not held high in a nostalgic or saccharine way. We relate to them because they are a part of our history. But in my sculptures I give them a new meaning or rebirth.  These found objects help to define the story I am telling, just as our own history informs who we are. 
Where does this need to rescue lost items lead me?  EVERYWHERE!  I search flea markets, antique markets, garage sales, salvage stores, junk yards, estate sales and even along the side of the road.  (Although I have had to stop hopping out of the car to pick up interesting scrap since it was sending the wrong safety message to my kids! )  And now, even friends and collectors of mine send me unwanted junk they find!  Am I the only person in the world that gets all warm and fuzzy when people see junk and think of me?!

But the more I accumulate, the more I have to focus on storing these artifacts. You see, the objects have to be visible in order to remember everything I have, and I am not someone who likes chaos.  I have had to achieve a level of organized chaos in the studio that allows me to see as many items as possible and feel inspired by my surroundings. 


Yes, working without these objects would be easier in some ways. Combining porcelain and mixed media to create a seamless and cohesive story is not without its share of complications and frustrations.  But it drives me, inspires is my passion!