Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • April-May 2024 • Circulation 5000


Collecting and Collections

Copper and green glass containers on the floor to ceiling shelf I made by the stair landing in the corner of my kitchen. It serves as storage in previously unused space. Joanne McNeal

I think I collect quite a few things. I never really thought about it. Why do we collect things? Is there a purpose? Sometimes we collect things just because we like them. Other times, we collect things that serve some purpose like storage, or things that help us remember a place, like tourist art. Other collections are of things that are similar to each other by type, creator, or material.

When I was a child, my family got me started collecting tiny pitchers. My relatives brought me little pitchers from various countries and cities. I even have a tiny pitcher that says “made in occupied Japan”—after the Second World War. My sister collected tiny vases. When our family travelled, I always tried to find tiny pitchers and vases to remember where we’d been. So, when my own daughters were small, I let them choose what they’d like to collect. My eldest chose to collect little plates, and my youngest collected tiny shoes. Both of these were easy to find and not expensive to buy, and the girls liked having them on a little shelf in their rooms.

I still have my collection of small pitchers and I add to it whenever I find neat and different pitchers from various places. Some are made of different materials. Sometimes my daughters bring me a pitcher from countries they visit. My love for pitchers expanded to large functional pitchers for water, lemonade, or other patio drinks.

I also have other collections that serve a variety of purposes. When I was working on my doctorate, I spent a lot of time talking to women artists in the Canadian Arctic, and I bought examples of their artwork whenever possible. So, now I have a collection of Arctic art that I take to schools to help children learn about life there. These have also been exhibited in Toronto, Virginia, Vancouver, and Edmonton. That is one possible purpose for collections: they teach us about different places or about life there. When I was teaching art at the U of A, I bought a lot of examples of various styles of artwork to help the students learn about art.

Another collection I have is copper canisters and green glass jars. These are incredibly useful, as they serve as storage for various cooking ingredients. When I bought my little house in McCauley 10 years ago, it had almost no storage and few cupboards. So I built lots of shelves, and the shelf in the photo is floor to ceiling at the foot of the stairs that leads from the kitchen to the upstairs. It’s handy, useful, and the glass containers let me see what’s in them. The copper ones come with basic brass labels: flour, sugar, coffee, tea, or cookies.

I do have other smaller collections, such as quilts, handmade pottery, hand-turned wood bowls, stained glass, women’s embroidery, and old family photos. I love anything that is handmade, so I now have too many collections!

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