Monday, December 21, 2015

The Cabinet of Curiosities

 (Above:  The Cabinet of Curiosities, 3D found art sculpture.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Almost every morning finds me sitting at the dining room table typing stream-of-consciousness journal entries on my laptop.  Each one is saved by its date and stored in a file by year.  The earliest are from 2007.  Before that, I wrote longhand (and I have no idea where in my house these volumes are! LOL!)  Occasionally I peek back to read my own words ... from a year ago, three years ago, five years ago ... now even eight years ago.  As a result, I know that most of the artwork I create first appears as "words", descriptive passages of a foggy vision, and phrases of concept mixed with a healthy dose of dreaming. I've been writing about The Cabinet of Curiosities for over a year.  A couple months ago I started gathering wooden containers, jewelry and cigar boxes, and an old chest of drawers.  While clearing out the attic over our garage, Steve found a vintage clothes drying rack.  I played around with these assorted things ... until about a week ago.  From words to my "hunter-gatherer" phase to considering various ways to begin, it finally came down to one of my mantras:  JUST GO FOR IT!

 (Above and below ... lots of detail photos of The Cabinet of Curiosities.)

Out came the electric drill and the battery operated screwdriver.  Working in tandem, holes were pre-drilled and filled with finish screws.  A few picture frames with glass were installed.  A slightly broken table top with cut into wedges for ledges.

Decorative wooden organ pipes and old piano keys altered the spaces inside the structure.

I have a stash of Victorian knobs and filigree.  Pieces came in handy for leveling the extensions.


Very consciously, I worked while walking around the piece.  There is no "front" or "back".  My intention is "in the round".

Dominoes, chess pieces, a giant spool, and parts of old clocks were added.

I am grateful to my Dad for teaching me how to use the tools I need.  Measuring, leveling, pre-drilling, gluing, and screwing things together is NOT instinctive.  It was something I learned as a child while helping my Dad turn a basement room into a "study", a place to do homework and practice the piano.  I learned a lot ... so it feels "instinctive" now!  (Thanks, Dad!)

Almost everything I used came from Bill Mishoe's auction, especially the one held on Tuesday nights.  That's when "used household items" are sold.  Friday night is reserved for "better items".  (I generally go to both, just buy more on Tuesday!)  Yet, the piano keys and the decorative organ parts came from my friend Pat Callahan.  (Thanks, Pat!)

The large clock case (which had wooden gears ... saved for another, yet-to-be-determined project) came from another friend, Skip Dudley.  I'm fairly sure, however, that Skip got it at Bill Mishoe's auction (probably on a Friday night as Skip generally has a taste for "better items"! LOL!  Thanks, Skip!)

Some of the items undoubtedly came from my youngest sister Sonya ... who now owns the family house in Slippery Rock with the basement "study".  Sonya is known in Slippery Rock as the owner of Airport Orbit, a shuttle service for western Pennsylvania ... taking people to the Pittsburgh airport or bus station.  Yet, she has a great reputation for spear-heading recycling efforts and even "dumpster diving" when the pickings are good.  She's always saving things for me too!  (Thank you, Sonya!)

I'm also in debt to my husband Steve ... who helped take apart the old radio, held parts together for me, and allowed me to boss him around for nearly a day in order to get the structure stable.  Steve also suggested adding a base.  He stood back and said, "It's too flat on the floor.  You need a pedestal."

Fortunately, last Tuesday's auction included a 42" round, oak table ... with two leaves.  It was sitting in the aisle, in pieces, and labeled with a number that was clearly at the end of the evening.  I figured I'd get it for $20 or less.  I did ... for $6.  Easily it could have been put back together as a nice, antique oak table ... but I cut it's base down and made it into a low pedestal.  It is perfect.

I will probably add more things to the cabinet ... like the wooden ruler with the 1944 calendar on its back.

I also might collage a few foreign, cancelled stamps to it ... and scraps of hand-written letters from the 1950s or check stubs from the late 19th century.

I'm sure there's a few places for anonymous, black-and-white family photos too.

After photographing the cabinet, I arranged the "curiosities".  These are small found art assemblages.  Each is meant as a suggested narrative, as if an obscure family heirloom ... strange combinations of unrelated keepsakes fixed in place by epoxy.  I've only made twenty-four of them.  (Here's a link to how they were made with a bit about their concept.)

I joked with Steve that I probably now need about one hundred more.  He laughed.  He knows that I meant for him to laugh but that I'm not kidding about the number.  I probably do need about one hundred.

Part of that scares me.  It is a lot of work.  I will need plenty of "stuff" ... marbles, shells, athletic pins, small travel souvenirs, campaign buttons, charm bracelets, war medals, rosary beads ... all the little, precious possessions that generally end up in a forgotten drawer or sold at auction.  I love these things ... they really do suggest a narrative, a story of someone's life. 

They also remind me of the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) in Vienna and Haus der Natur (House of Nature) in Salzburg, favorite childhood places full of mysterious specimen.  I loved these places!

So ... now to fill up The Cabinet of Curiosities.  If someone wants to donate their small, precious possessions ... I'll try my best to create something unique and add it to this sculptural creation!  My address is: 2123 Park Street, Columbia, SC 29201

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art ... even though this isn't really "fiber"!  At least a "fiber artist" created it!


Robbie said...

I was born in the wrong era...I love items like this! Can't wait to see what you end up doing!!

Chyfey said...

Its GORGE-jess ,love it.And love the fact there no front or back


I'm on it..I will have some trinkets for you and invite you to visit my latest stash stock-pile this weekend!!! Save some space in your Scion!!! Plus I need to get rid of some of this stuff!! Thanks too for the mention... A kid in Giant Eagle called me "The Recycled Lady" and I took it as a compliment!


BTW I'm so into the idea of my own curiosity cabinet that I want to make one... Only how can I fit my neon stuffed animal "Baby Jesus" pig into a cigar box????

Egléa Senna said...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

These last days have been a lot of work and bustle here. My visits to your blog were quick and, for the most part, silent.
I intend to take advantage of these days to withdraw revise calmly friends.
I could not help writing to you wishing happy holidays, good health and happiness with his family.
Happy and holy Christmas to you and your family!
A warm hug!

Amy Art Quilter & Fyber Cafe said...

As I saw your construction progress, I kept thinking it needed LOTS of curiosities! I am so happy to see the beginning of your collection, I think 100 pieces sounds just right! Have a happy time creating!

Maggi said...

This is such a fascinating piece.

Wanda said...

Absolutely love it. It is like can just keep building on, adding, is awesome. I would love to send you some trinkets or precious possesions, a part of me in your world, but I don't have any ideas at this time. I also find that funny in itself...I have so much junk that I don't even see it anymore. Well, I think this will continue growing and taking shape (and changing shapes) so if and when the time comes, I might also be a part of it. Have a safe trip home today!