Monday, March 7, 2011


This post is dedicated to the memory of blogging friend and fellow Australian children's writer Mabel Kaplan.

This year is the beginning of Year 5 in my Five Year Plan. Some of you will remember my very first post where I explained my plan to achieve the goal of becoming a published children's writer and illustrator. So far so good. I am well on the way with one book under my belt and two more half way there.

But today I'm going to talk about Collections. The stuff that fills our houses with memories and dust. I love to collect blue and white china and Australian Carltonware in green and yellow. You might collect things for their sentimental value or as a hobby to wile away a Sunday afternoon. Recently I rummaged through my Dad's old stamp collection hoping to find the one stamp that might pay off my mortgage. No such luck.

Travel spurs the collector's habit for many of us. That's why souvenir shops survive. We all want to bring back a little piece of that wonderful holiday when the kids were small and all we had to think about was whether to have fish and chips or hamburgers for dinner.

When we visited friends of ours in Germany back in 2006, I noticed they had a shelf of at least twenty jars in a neat row in their living room. Each jar was filled to the brim with sand.

Coarse sand,
soft sand,
talcum powder smooth sand.
Black sand,
white sand,
glistening with ore sand. 

And carefully labelled on the back of each jar was the name of the beach. They had collected sand from every beach holiday they had ever been on. And there it was ... Burleigh Beach 1991 - from when they had last visited us.

Now I was glad at that point my own collections had never been quite so unusual. Until...

I noticed my husband picking up bits of broken crockery from every town, street, city, lakeside, beach and mountain on our family trip around Europe. While I was photographing castles on the Rhine, he was scouring the river pebbles for washed up detritus. Then he would proudly open his hand to display his treasure. A broken bit of pot, or teacup or plate, quite often blue and white.

"What do you want with all that rubbish?" I'd ask.
"I'm collecting them," he'd say, as if a collection somehow validated their worth.

The pile gathers in the dashboard shelf carefully labelled.

As the weeks and months passed the collection multiplied and at one stage we even had to mail some home. Heaven knows what Australia Post thought as it passed through the x-ray.
After a while even the kids were helping out.

A piece of Cornish Ware from a beach in Cornwall, a fragment of Delft from a Dutch village, a slice of Bohemian porcelain from the Czech Republic, a chip of clay-fired earth from the Andalucian hills of Spain.

Every day brought more treasures.

As the collection of bits and pieces grew I also came to enjoy the fossicking; the hunt for the perfect piece which would remind us of the city or country we were visiting. I thought about the people who had used each piece when it was part of a whole. What was their story, their history? I even found a piece in my aunt's garden in Croatia. And it is my favourite.

Now if you're out and about and something catches your eye and you add to it later until it becomes a collection - Do not ask 'Why?' But simply 'Why not?'

I'd love to hear about your whimsical collections....


Karen said...

Hi Angela
"Thanks for dedicating your Blog to Mabel...she was such a support and mentor to emerging writers.
What do i collect from my travels...stones, stamps, fridge magnets and unique pieces of art."
...Karen T

Life's a poem said...

Angela,loved the pottery collection- I confess I'm a bit like that- but not so organised to display the collection like you've done. And what a dedication- must confess I've been back and looked over Mabel's blog-she will be missed.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Angela, loved this post! Yes, Mabel was a treasure in the world of children's writing and her generosity and enthusiasm will be sorely missed.

I love your blue crockery collection - I've been lucky enough to see the real thing. Beautiful! I collected rock and (once) shells from all over, but ended up only keeping the stand-out ones, the rest goes into my garden.
I stopped collecting shells a while ago when I saw an old picture from the 1930s of the many, many thousands of cockle shells people collected in one day at Nudgee Beach - now there are none left on that beach at all. Sad.

Dee White said...

Hi Angela,

I loved this post and especially the dedication to Mabel who was truly a wonderful and remarkable lady.

Your collection is way more impressive than anything I have. I collect bits of stories and photos and ideas. My kids have a rock garden which was created when they started bringing pockets full of rocks home from school and wanted to keep them in their bedrooms:)

Kat Apel said...

I love your display of crockery fragments - and I love the sentiment!

I'm a rock and shell collector, too, Sheryl. They're all here in some format. Basket of big shells. Dish of little shells. Rustic wooden box of rocks. Bowl of polished stones... Unfortunately, I haven't labelled them all. But the sight and touch bring memories. (Rocks I remember, but the shells get tricky!)

Catriona Hoy said...

Mabel was such a thoughful writer and generous with her time...

I started collecting fridge magnets in Paris after my husband objected to me buying one. He asked 'why do you need that?' I said,'I'm collecting them.'
'How many do you have?' ....'One,'

Chris Bell said...

Hi Angela, Love your post and your husband's collection of bits of crockery. I'd never have thought of that but there’s a sort of magic to it. And such stories behind each piece. I have a small collection of tea cups and saucers that I love. I also collect small antique bottles including one from Russia and an authentic smelling salts bottle. I also collect magnets from overseas countries I visit. Hubby is putting lotto ticket under a different one each time, and if we win, that city is first on the list to revisit. Chris :)

Angela Sunde. said...

How lovely! All of you have so many different and interesting collections.
The very last post on Mabel's blog was mine (from my blogtour), so I feel linked to Mabel as we journey through cyber space for an eternity.
Stones, rocks and fridge magnets seem popular. I am a fridge nazi when it comes to magnets. My house is so cluttered as it is, but I like the fridge as clear as possible.
Chris, your story of buying a lotto ticket and travelling to the town of the fridge magnet is a gem. You should blog about that one and link back to this post.
Lorraine, I came home to a pile of broken bits and thought 'there must be something I can do with this lot.'
Sheryl, I sometimes wonder whether archaeologists in the future will be confused when they find rocks from all over the world whilst digging in a former suburban garden.
Dee and Kat, I still have three rocks and a leaf my son brought home for me when he was 3.
Karen, I have a lovely stone from a beach in Devon. The stones were soo beautiful it was hard to choose which.
Catriona, you made me laugh. What a great way to start a collection.
Thank you everyone for your comments.