I was raised by people who collected things, and who taught me early on to look for the small details in objects — not only to appreciate what you find in something, but to use it as a jumping-off point for something else. My mother would often find some thing and tell me a story about it, giving an object a life, anchoring it in time and place and giving it a value that, to me at lease, went well beyond its surface.
It happens something like this: I walk into a thrift store (or yard sale or shop) and my eyes wander around the shelves. I'm usually looking for things to use for collages (anything ephemeral) but more often than not, I find a box.
It might be the title that draws me in: The Automatic Spaghetti Fork!! —how could I not pick that up!?
Or it has a great graphic: The Striptease Soap Box — featuring a lovely lady transforming from pin-up to skeleton in a few short scrubs.
Sometimes, I'm pulled by a wonderful shape — as I was with the exquisite heart-shaped Brach's candy box filled to the brim with paper dolls and a full wardrobe.
Maybe it's just something elegant: a beautiful wooden specimen box, for example.
So I wander over to the box, examine the surface and then slowly peek at what's inside. This gets to the heart of why I collect boxes: for while I usually love the exterior, it is the infinite possibility of what a box might contain that keeps me collecting.
It's two stories in one: the outside tells one tale while the inside tells another.
My collection contains both boxes left just the way I found them (that Spaghetti Fork is perfection on its own) and boxes that I transform into something else. The specimen box became one of my portfolios, complete with a constellation of pin pricks hidden in the back behind my work. Sometimes I display a group of boxes in a row, set up to form unusual sentences with the titles of what they once held. And sometimes I'm lucky enough to find one that is a mystery — like the patterned tin that houses 23 hand-made Japanese paper dolls mounted on slim boards (I would love to know the true story behind those) or the cigar box full vintage photos of funny dogs, found in a tiny shop in New Orleans. But really it's the mystery of what a box might actually contain that grabs me more than anything, and explains why I'll probably never stop being a collector.