For as long as I can remember, I have been a collector of things. I come home with pockets full of pebbles, shells and beer bottles. I have flowers and leaves pressed between pages of books, and scrapbooks full of tickets, cards and photographs. I love to buy postcards of places I’ve been.
Every year, as a family, we went on holiday to Greece. Every year, I bought a little porcelin house as a souvenir. They line up in my childhood bedroom: fifteen years of different islands and happy memories.
I spent my childhood and teenage years rumaging through the charity shops of my hometown, buying pots, lampshades, photo frames, old jewellery. I have boxes and boxes of jewellery: mostly inherited and second hand. I take apart the broken things and make something new. I keep beads – I like to look at them, sorted by colour and size.
It is much more satisfying to come across objects in the course of a lifetime than to go shopping expressly for that item. Some of my favourite things are those that I’ve found in attics: clothes and books from my Grandma, the box that my grandfather made, the plant pot that I rescued from the house clearence after my great uncle passed away. My most worn clothes include those that former housemates have left behind, or that my sister was throwing away. I treasure things that are bound up with the memory of somebody that I love. I am curating the things in my life, one little discovery at a time.
The collection that I gave most attention to growing up was that of troll dolls. (You remember?) I have about 250, mostly picked up at charity shops and flea markets, by myself and other people. Once you are known for something, it’s easy to accumulate them. People used to buy me trolls, troll stationery, troll jewellery and more. My most recent troll, which I very much count as part of the collection, is a tattoo on the back of my right arm.
I see tattoos a another of my collections. Instead of planning out a half sleeve, I’ve assembled a haphazard bunch of tattoos by different artists. I’ve gotten them as they’ve occured to me, and each represent something I think has been meaningful in my life.
My twenties has been a period of living in temporary spaces, where I can’t add much meaning to my surroundings or accumulate many things. I decorate my arms when I can’t decorate my space. Even when it feels like my body is the only home I have, my skin is all mine to make beautiful.
I add meaning by collecting. I have shrines to past selves, past travels, and people who I love. I keep them on my shelves, my scrapbooks and myself.