Tag Archives: collecting

The little yellow house : before

The house stood abandoned for close to a year. I grew weirdly attached to it. Protective of it, even.

Eventually, my curiosity led me ’round back, where both basement doors gaped open. I went in. On one side: hanks of rope, a stack of used lumber, and drawers full of old rolls of tape, bits of pipe, bolts and screws. Had the former man of the house been a plumber or were these the useful supplies that a handier, more self-reliant generation typically collected?

The cellar’s other side contained more personal items: a map of Italy, a metal wardrobe full of cloth, plates, a bundt pan, a crucifix. Or maybe, they were just more feminine. Next to a support-pillar, an open lawn chair by a shelf with clock and ashtrays spoke to retreat. A plumber who smoked?

I didn’t go upstairs until the second trespass. It was truly weird. The place looked as though someone had hurried out to a movie and would be back any minute. It certainly didn’t look like the house of someone who had died. Weren’t there children?

An umbrella tipped against the wall near the front door. The mantel populated with mementos. Sunlight flooding a dining room table, the hutch in the corner full of figurines and exactly the kind of coffee pot my sister had recently described. She wanted one.

The spooky impress of lives led and then gone. A shrine without a caretaker. A structure needing to be emptied and cleansed and no one to do it.

Yesterday, the postman told me that there were children — “the son was really weird.” He called the former inhabitant “one of the old Italian hold outs” — but I already knew that.

Week after week, Finn and I passed the house — its neglect and imminent demise notable.

Why wasn’t I taking anything? There were pots and pans! Crystal candy dishes! Hardware, blankets, linens and chairs! Shouldn’t I leave a note at the very least and offer to box stuff up and donate it?

Even after the fence went up (signaling the onset of demolition), I kept my hands off policy going. Maybe it was sheer inertia. But part of me began to think that burial in a pile of rubble might be a fitting end for these belongings. Dignified, even. Besides, weren’t my attics and cellars full? Didn’t I have piles of my own shit to box up and donate?

This week the excavator was delivered and with it, a sense of urgency. Time was nearly up! I snuck through the fence and went in for a third and final visit, this time all the way up to the bedroom level. It was eerie and sad. A radio next to a couch, both forlorn. One can imagine someone with the window cracked open to the sounds of summer listening to a Red Sox game.

This time I did take a few objects: two mixing bowls, a plate, four woven potholders, that glass percolator, and a few items from a hardware drawer.

Turns out, you can tear down a house in under an hour. Finn and I stood and bore witness in the bitter cold. More on that with the next post.

Transitions and things and slavery (never far from my mind)

C and his girlfriend went away for the long weekend. As soon as they returned, it was time to drive my other son to the airport. Washing dishes at the sink this morning, I thought, “oh this phase of the empty nest is marked by transition,” and then a heart beat later, “ALL phases of life are marked by transition.” After all, I was washing a ceramic bowl that an hour earlier belonged to a downsizing friend.

Scanning her garage shelves this morning I said,  “I’ll look because both boys are setting up apartments this fall,” but the truth is I find opportunities to receive free stuff irresistible.  Perhaps my choices were puzzling to her. I took several decades’ worth of spigot and hose attachments, but not the complete set of enamel-handled silverware (surely handy in a young man’s empty apartment?!). I grabbed the funky, brass crab ash tray, but left the collection of vases from all over the world behind.   It is not quite as fun as it used to be — this gleeful, thrifty form of acquisition — because I now understand the cost of HAVING things. The housing, the cleaning, perhaps the wishing I hadn’t.  But still, can anyone doubt that those giraffe salad utensils look happy in their new home? Look at them, checking out the kitchen!

I could go on a framing spree to justify the big box of wooden frames I lugged home.

Or, I could go drink iced coffee in the shade before it rains. I’d like to finish Faulkner’s “Go Down, Moses” even though I may have less idea about what’s going on than the author intended. Can’t a read be like that? Just a letting of the text wash over the mind? And then it’s back to “Blood and Indigo” and Eliza and the enslaved Melody and the events during the week of the Stono Slave Rebellion (the second week of September, 1739). Imagining.

It requires research and a kind of patient waiting to describe a scene situated almost 300 years ago. What was in the minds of my white characters that week? What was in the minds of my black characters? The attempt to fully imagine those events feels like a fruitful one. I begin to understand the harsh tensions of that time, including the true costs of slavery. The void between white and black points of view is vast and unbridgeable, as I tell it, and perhaps one or even both sides are unknowable to me, and yet, I keep going for it.

Sadly, this research and patient imagining of violence brought on by racial oppression echoes across the centuries and helps me to understand OUR time as well. I wish that weren’t true.

All kinds of things tell me that we, America, might be at a tipping point. Don’t you think? Commentators a lot better informed than I are talking about the coming of the end of white supremacy (for example, here). Everywhere, I see signs of a willingness to take on our history with a fresh and more honest approach.   

(If you know that this is Newton’s Jackson Homestead, celebrated as one of the documented stops on the Underground Railroad, you will understand the import of that banner).

To be continued, of course.

Junker Chronicles, IV and Feng Shui for a Major Leak?!


This under-the-staircase area was so crammed with crap that I could not enter it, Before Flood.  Now look at it!  My husband built me some shelves (AFTER insulating the space).  He only used wood that was on-hand.  Now, I have a place for my batting THAT I CAN GET TO, and a place to put fabric that I think my students will like, but that I don’t really want getting in my way.  As soon as I find a BEFORE picture, I’ll post that, too.

And perhaps somewhere in my studio, I should post the picture below, of the apartment of the Collyer brothers in New York who literally collected themselves to death:

Collyer Brothers mess

Infamous hoarders, indeed.  (THIS blog’s subtitle is “saving the world, one room at a time” — funny)

I like my cousin’s philosophy of circulating her finds (read her entertaining and visually beautiful blog here).

She thinks of herself as a ‘foster parent’ to finds rather than a collector.  I like it.

In the last three weeks I have:

  • Thrown out 10 to 12 huge bags of stuff from the studio (probably all worth saving to someone);
  • Filled two huge garbage cans with cardboard, frames, ruined boxes, etc.;
  • Given away 9 large garbage bags of fabric and sundry items to a ‘free on Craigslist’ responder (a sewing/crocheting mother of five, so THAT felt good & it meant I was able to throw in a couple pairs of boots and snow pants, too);
  • Added 26 new drawers to my workspace that allow a whole new level of organization — including THREE drawers for works-in-progress (these were buried here and there all over, largely forgotten);
  • Coralled all my rubber stamps into one area; and
  • Decided to leave sump pump well area empty — and will ‘dress’ it somehow soon — any suggestions?  It also happens to be the ‘Wealth Corner’ of my studio — eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks — could that be why I’m not making much money?!! and
  • Begun to bore myself on the topic, so the Garbage Picking Annals will not reach No. 5 anytime soon.

But, I’m serious about the Feng Shui request — What would YOU put in the wealth corner of a room that was seriously rendered negative by a sump pump well and drain pipe being located in it?  This isn’t even SYMBOLIC of draining — it IS draining!

Fabric, fabric and MORE fabric!

Heart Quilt, about 2' x 4'

Heart Quilt, about 2' x 4'

I promise better pictures of this quilt, made many years ago and given to my husband on one of our anniversaries. It hangs above our bed.  It belongs in this post, because the entire bottom section of the quilt was made with CHIPS of fabric… some of them the size of postage stamps.


These doors and windows, from one of my Village-Quilts-Turned-Pillow, are TEENY, some as small as 1/4″ x 1/2″.

You can see how being able to construct a design using such teeny bits of fabric makes throwing ANY scrap out difficult.  This would be true even if one were NOT a fabricaholic (am I?!!), or a pack rat (YES!), or a curb-side and thrift store aficionado (many decade member of that club!)

So here are a few before pictures.  You might want to sit down.



I say “YIKES”, but actually, I can and do work pretty productively in this environment.  The biggest problem, in my eyes, is not that I have too much fabric (the gross insulation hanging from the ceiling is not up for discussion today), or my storage system (I like bins), but that pin board.  That pin board is 8′ x 4′ and is a piece of my booth.  I use it as a design board when not out selling, but then have NO WHERE to put it.  I prefer to work on the floor, squatting and not having to pin or unpin, but there is very little floor room, and then, if a quilt goes into a resting phase, one has to walk on it (alright, the lack of floor space is directly tied to there being too much fabric).  Maybe today I will cut it into thirds — which will seal my commitment to redesign my booth (a much discussed project that has not really materialized into a good working concept).

Free fabric is so hard to say "No" to!

Free fabric is so hard to say "No" to!

That TV is gone, sad to say — a 13″ B&W which I bought when I was a 1L at Boston College Law School.  It was not worth a converter box!  I have been sorting the patterns, which can be difficult to lay my hands on.  But so far, I have been unable to heave most of the fabric under the desk (and a LOT of fabric went on the curb in the last five weeks!)

Here are some shots, post-clean up.




I’m not a huge fan of folding fabric, but fellow-blogger, Mal, was undertaking a monumental fabric-sorting task and reporting about it on her blog, turning*turning, in a way that inspired me.


The problem is, after sorting, chucking, folding up in the living room (Ken was away), once the bins and boxes and piles returned to the cellar, I used up floor space again — rendering the bottom shelves less useful.

There is more to be done!