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How to: Become a Collector

DIY Projects Nov 19, 2012

Being a collector of one item in multiples seems to be a dying art, it seems everyone’s grandma had a collection of painted plates, or dolls or lace doilies, but these days it’s rare. For me, nothing is more rewarding than collecting special pieces from your everyday, and not so everyday, travels – sentimental items that have a story and mean the world to you. Sadly, having lived overseas for the last five years one of the things that I’ve missed is the ability to keep all the precious pieces I find. I left London two years ago with only two suitcases – my total takings from 3 years of living in the UK. Luckily my collection of postcards from my travels (complete with blurbs on the back of the things we did and what we saw) didn’t take up too much room. I recently helped a friend unpack her new house and was in awe, and admittedly slightly jealous, of her much larger collections. In the last few years she’s kept all her used perfume bottles, horded Vogue magazines and collected mountains of Lonely Planet guidebooks. It would be wrong to suggest that it’s the things you have that make your life complete, but these little bits and pieces around her apartment speak of a life of travel, a little bit of fashion and her always smelling delicious. Luckily I’ve already put dibbs on my parents National Geographic collection (complete from the early 70s!).

Are you interested in collecting? Or have you already got a collection of your own? I spoke to a few people with amazing collections (including my great aunt!) who helped put together these tips.

How to become a collector
1. Things you’ve done vs. things you bought – To me, the best types of collections are made of up pieces that represent something you’ve done, like a place you’ve been or an experience you’ve had. I guess that’s why I love collections made up of pieces from people’s travels – my mum collects small coloured pebbles from beaches she’s visited, from New Zealand to Argentina. Sure, you could call my shoes a collection of sorts, and indeed many people collect fashion like others collect art, but to me they’re more something I’ve bought that don’t have a huge amount of extra meaning other than looking good and protecting my feet from glass.
2. Don’t force it – Your interest in collecting a particular item should come naturally, so when thinking about what you want to collect, consider the things you already own, the things you are drawn to and the things you cherish the most. These will be easiest to build on.
3. Limit Yourself – Hone in on one of two items to collect so that you can focus on quality and uniqueness rather than collecting everything.
4. Make sure you have enough space – Living in a small apartment in Hong Kong isn’t conducive to me collecting bulky items, and even collecting magazines can be a pain when you move house every 12 months or so. So think about space when you start collecting.
5. Think about display – The best thing about having a beautiful collection (put together with your own blood sweat and tears) is how you can tie it into your house so you can look at it everyday (instead of it languishing in a garage). So when you start collecting, think about how you will display it. My friend who also collects postcards said that one day she wants to have a long table with a piece of glass over the top and her postcards from all over the world made into a collage covering the table under the glass.
6. Pick something you can afford – This one probably goes without saying but unless you’re rolling in dosh you’re probably not going to start collecting vintage Chanel handbags, so pick something that’s not going to overload your credit card.
7.  Choose something out of the ordinary – You don’t have to collect stamps, postcards or magazines just because other people do, choose something unique and different that represents you – you could collect egg cups, sharks teeth, alarm clocks, festival posters, ladders, rejected photos from photobooths (thanks Amelie!), vintage erotic playing cards – anything you want!
8. Collecting vs hoarding – I’m guessing most of you have seen the show ‘hoarders’, if you’re not careful or picky that could be you. So don’t buy or keep everything you see, pick items for your collection carefully so they are special and important to you.
9. Commit to your collection – people with amazing collections have worked hard to get it that way, I know for a fact that my friend crossed swords with her parents and her partner about keeping her huge collection of magazines, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
10. Or you could… Lack the drive or concentration to start a collection from scratch? Head to an estate sale and pick up someone else’s collection (vintage teaspoons anyone?).
Here are some pics of my favourite collections, including vintage cameras, magazines, rocks, sunglasses, baseballs and heaps more!

Are you a collector or do you know any? Do you have any tips or rules for collecting? I would love to hear and also find out what you collect!

Images: here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here


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