It may surprise you to know that I can be a bit of a hoarder. Even with all the moving I’ve done, there are still things that move from house to house in boxes and tubs then head straight into the loft or cupboards, unopened. Sure, some of them are sentimental items that I don’t want to get rid of, but there are plenty of boxes of other things that have no rhyme or reason as to why I need to keep them. Over the years I’ve become better at letting things go, and Marie Kondo’s Magic of Tidying inspired me to clear out a whole load more, but there is still enough in our attic to provide a whole layer of extra insulation for our house.
Because I might need it all one day, you see. I’m not sure where this sense of a potential post-apocalyptic world where I can no longer get linen napkins or random boxes of books has come from, but there it is. And I have, on occasion, been proven right. Many years ago, at a jumble sale in Sydney, I bought three decorative pierced wall plaques, obviously taken from an old home. I think I had an idea of hanging them on the wall as art, but it never happened. So they stayed wrapped in a box through subsequent moves back to Melbourne, to the South coast, and then to the UK. When we bought our most recent house, we redecorated and renovated it top to bottom (a process that’s still ongoing). A couple of the wall vents upstairs needed new covers – hey presto, my decorative panels finally found a use, fifteen years later.
I do wonder if my propensity to hang onto things is an extension of how I work creatively. I saw an interview with the late great David Bowie where he stated he was ‘a collector.’ That is, he collected ideas and images and details, which he then used as a starting point to create his own unique style. This was something that resonated with me. While I am by no means an artist of the stature of Bowie, I can relate to the idea of collecting. My Ambeth stories were inspired by a single incident that happened to me when I was a child, then embellished with other details drawn from my life, as well as drawing on the influence of fantasy writers before me, of places I’ve visited and things that I’ve done, living on as fragments of memory and dream. Other stories I have underway also draw on places and people and things that I’ve seen and done and held – collected imagery inserted into a whole new picture, held together with a new idea.
None of us create in a vacuum. We are all part of the same world, with access to the same ideas and images and places to visit. Yet each of us has our own vision of how we choose to interpret the things we encounter. It’s why some people are passionate about collecting thimbles, for example, while others search out concert wristbands, or eccentric hats. It is what speaks to us at our creative core.
So you see, all this stuff gathering dust in my attic isn’t junk. It’s art, right? At least, that’s what I’m going to tell my husband next time he asks…