Connecting to collecting

Starting, building and displaying a collection can be a rewarding experience, strengthening personal connections and opening up new ones. Being a collector, though, is about much more than curious terminology or the physical act of accumulating ‘stuff’. There’s a strong emotional side to it, too. Organising and arranging a collection can be comforting and provide a sense of wellbeing. Then there’s the satisfaction of displaying a collection in a beautiful or unexpected way.

The personal touch
Collections are often about personal connections. It may be that a person is reminded of a happy, important or comforting time in their life – the books they read growing up, action figures they played with in their earlier years or a coin collection that was kick-started by a relative. Keeping those items close, looking at them and holding them can bring back special memories. It may be that a collection is borne out of an attraction to the way something looks, such as the design of certain perfume bottles or the intricate patterns on decorative plates. There are items that have a particular draw because of what they represent – military medals are testament to tales of heroism, bravery and certain moments in history, while special-edition stamps mark the notable achievements of significant people around the world.
The key when thinking of starting a collection is to consider the things that mean something to you – objects that make you feel a certain way, that you’re drawn to and that you like to look at. Whether it’s vintage brooches, bonsai trees or first edition books, there’s a joy to be found in garnering items that inspire nostalgia or remind you of a special someone. Along with connections to the past, a collection can be a glimpse into the future for children and adults alike. The art of collecting helps foster new interests and ambitions and can help you forge an alternate career path as well as inspire children to establish their goals for the future. In this digital age, perhaps there is even greater comfort to be found in the physicality of a collection. There are times when holding or rearranging the objects can have a calming, almost therapeutic effect. Plus, ordering and displaying them in a particular way can be visually pleasing – you can group everyday objects in such a way that they become a thing of beauty.

Interaction and discovery
The joy of collecting can extend beyond a connection to certain items. It can be a great way to connect with other people, too. Antique and vintage fairs, car boot sales, flea markets and specialist shops provide more than just an opportunity to find an object, they’re also a chance to chat with like-minded collectors. Sharing photos of your collection on social media and discussing them on dedicated forums can extend your network and lead to new friendships. Having a collection on display at home, and adding new items to it, is also a great point of discussion for visiting friends and family.
Building a collection can be a wonderful tool for learning and discovery – it’s an opportunity to uncover everything from how the items you’ve acquired were made to the history of who made them. Museums and galleries are full of excellent collections and are a great source of information and inspiration. Allow yourself time to wander and you may even find that the quiet, thoughtful environment brings a sense of contentment all of its own.

Visual appeal
One of the most enjoyable aspects of building a collection can be contemplating how best to arrange and display it. The act of organising it can be richly rewarding, providing a sense of order and focus. Putting the items on display in a particular way – on a shelving unit, in a display cabinet, hanging them on a wall, stacking them on a table – can add to the collection’s visual appeal or mean that it is viewed from a new and different perspective.
It may be that the collection is edited for display and you choose to put out only one section of it – the items that mean the most or that look nicest together. It could be that you rotate your display, having certain items out at particular times, then swapping them. The guiding principle should be that the way you arrange it should bring a sense of satisfaction and contentment.

A collection can be so much more than a grouping of objects – it can be a physical representation of your interests, your personality, your identity. It can anchor you to an important time or person in your life. Building it can give you a sense of achievement and sharing it with others is often rewarding. If you already have a collection, you might want to find a fresh, new way of displaying it. If you’ve yet to start one, give it some thought, consider the items to which you’re emotionally drawn and look at the objects already around you – perhaps you’ve begun your collection without even realising it.

This article was originally published in Issue 12 – Set Forward