Monday, January 27, 2014

What do they have to say?

I have become an antique store wanderer.

I have never before been one to love history, or genealogy, or old stuff in general.  I much prefer the present, or the possibilities of the future, to the past.  And yet a year or two ago, because of my love of collage and mixed media, I decided I should take a peek into our local antique store and see what paper materials I could find.

I got lost.  In the best way.

The closest antique store to us is a sprawling one story building with musty-smelling nooks and crannies leading into hallways, around corners, and through doorways.  It is an antique mall of sorts, with different small rooms belonging to different dealers, and each has its own color, personality, and mood.  One is packed with military paraphernalia, another with old children's books, and the one next door may have jewelry and vintage woman's magazines.

There are many things I pass by due to cost, and others I'm not interested in at all.  I am not a collector of things.  I do not have trinkets on my shelves, or many pictures on my walls.  I will not have ruby glass or Hummels or a set of nutcrackers to gift to my children when I am gone.

What I collect are stories.  Faces and photos and ledgers and workbooks.  Pieces of lives, handwritten correspondence, and memories of relationships.  I touch the sepia images, see the near non-existent smiles, and wonder at the seriousness of capturing a face in those times.  What do these treasures have to say?  I ask, and they speak, whispering as I create, knowing exactly where they want to be and which piece, which color will suit them best.

Often one of these pieces of long ago will strike me in the most profound way, touching something within me that I hadn't yet discovered, bringing emotions bubbling up to the surface and sharing a phrase or a word.  They may make it into my art journal, or a collage piece, or simply in the waiting space of memories I keep on my table.  I don't rush them.  And they never disappoint me.

I guess I've become a lover of antiques, although it's not really the dissolved past that attracts me.  It's more the essence of humanity that winds its way through time, much as I wind my way through the aisles, and the few dollars I spend on postcards, photos, and disintegrating books seems almost disrespectful to the memories held there.

Yet with reverence, I allow their stories to bloom with paint and pen and paper.  I try to honor with my time those that are long gone, and give them voice on the blank page.  My vision and my art come from the remembering of things I never experienced.  This is at once odd, and inevitable, I suppose.  And I do not take any of it for granted.

{Have you created with antique images?  If not I encourage you to sift through stories at your local antique store.  Purchase a few that capture you, take them home, make color copies, and see what they have to say.  I guarantee they will not be silent.}