Sunday, 3 January 2016

Recording the Stuff We Can't Quite Throw Away...


Happy New Year all! I'm 3 months into my residency now and have so far mostly been painting a general picture of university life. I have been really looking forward to this next bit though, as I will be getting increasingly involved in the research projects of the various academics at the Morgan Centre. 

Just before Christmas, I got a sneak preview or what is to come. I took my sketchbook to my very first research interview, for the Dormant Things project. It looks at the way in which almost all of us has a weakness when it comes to throwing certain objects away. We don't actually need them though, so we shove them under the bed, in a drawer, or shoehorn them into the already chocka cupboard under the stairs. Even better, we stash them conveniently out of sight and mind, up in an attic or down in the cellar. Unless you are a rare creature indeed, you will know that I mean. Yep? Thought so.


Our reasons for hanging onto these unneeded objects vary. Often they carry important memories or mark significant moments in our life. They might be 'things that could come in handy one day'. Some are unwanted gifts, or objects whose use we have forgotten but don't like to throw away, 'just in case'. I have hung onto my cut-off hair, because it is a part of me, a part of the younger me who had long hair all through senior school and university. I don't need it, I don't even need to see it, it just feels wrong to part with it.


The research interview was with a woman in Stretford. All interviewees need to remain anonymous, so we called her Margaret for the day. The researcher, Sophie Woodward, had already explained about my Artist-in-Residence role and so Margaret was expected me. We had a cup of tea and she chatted generally about her personal clutter, then the three of us when into the hall, where Margaret spent about 40 minutes 'unpacking' the contents of her hall cupboard for us. I sat on the floor, a fly-on-the-wall, while she took out one thing at a time, explaining to Sophie why she had decided to store it in there, rather than get rid of it. 


My task was to try my best to record the objects and their significance. I obviously couldn't draw them all. Even scribbling away at super-lightning speed, I could only get the highlights and try to capture the flavour of the interview. When we were done, I showed Margaret what I had done and she got quite emotional. I was very pleased, since I felt it showed I had captured the poignancy of her saved objects. 

Once we had left Margaret, I chatted to Sophie about some of my own Dormant Things and she thought I should record them too. Which is why I dug my old hair out of the attic. It was good fun, having a reason to rummage. I found lots of contenders and am going to enjoy sketching some of them this week. Here's the first one I did: 


It was a wedding present from my mum and dad. Unfortunately, it never worked properly, so was eventually stored away: too beautiful and too significant to be parted with.

If you feel inspired and fancy a bit of personal rummaging, Sophie says that she would love to see your sketches, so please do send them to her by email.


5 comments:

Diane said...

Been going though my home collecting and disposing of items this week from my closet and drawers to shelves and bookcases. Time to let someone else enjoy what still has life. And time to clear out things that no longer have any use in my life. They have given me joy and now need to be removed. I will sketch anything special, gifts from loved ones, and then pass them on. I think we all end up with too much stuff and need to reassess every once in awhile.

I need orange said...

When my daughter was little, it was easier to persuade her to part with things if we took pics of them first.

(Things like decorated hard-boiled Easter eggs, that really can't be kept indefinitely.......... :-) )

I'm trying this with myself, to see if it will help me pare down.... Drawings -- even better.....

Lynne the Pencil said...

So true Diane - I am trying to use charity shops and Freecycle more in recent years, letting objects of use have a new life with someone new, rather than sitting in the dark and dust. Some things are hard though...

Drawing things is helping though. It's a great idea to use the technique with children too - it really gives a sense of celebrated worth, which I can imagine would resonate well with them.

Lisa Richards said...

I laughed when I saw your severed braid. I had one just like it in a drawer. While doing some decluttering I realized that I found it kind of disgusting. It reminded me of a dead animal or something.

Lynne the Pencil said...

Know what you mean - I always feel it's just slightly like having a severed hand in a box!