I recently purchased an old-fashioned ice pack from my local Goodwill for 50¢. I didn’t need it for anything in particular, but I saw it and thought to myself, “Some day I’m going to need this for a show. If I don’t get it now, I won’t have it when I need it.” Plus, it was on sale. Into the cart it went.
I try not to do this too much. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my fiancé and two large-ish dogs, so space is at a premium. But, when I see something that really sparks my imagination or tickles my fancy, I at least entertain the thought of saying, “Yes, I will. I will take you home. I will tuck you in a corner or display you on a table. You may not be necessary or useful, but gosh darn it, I like you.”
I’m not a hoarder. I’m a selector. A collector. A connoisseur of stuff I enjoy. I love being surrounded by beautiful, strange, interesting things. I have objects arranged on almost every available surface in my home, and I constantly tweak those compositions to find just the right way for this candle holder to sit next to that little sculpture so that it looks right.
I drive my fiancé nuts. Our apartment was his bachelor pad before we met, and he does not like “stuff” nearly as much as I do. Before I moved in, his place was tastefully sparse, even minimalistic. The few decorations were mostly in tones of cream, black, and grey, and were placed in non-cluttered groups on one or two surfaces. Some surfaces he even left bare.
Now, there’s not a square inch of surface area left. Slowly, but surely, I have conquered and covered every space. He bears with me because he knows it makes me happy. But, for me, it’s more than that. Collecting and arranging things gives me a visual analysis of where my taste is at any given moment. It helps me play with ideas about composition and see what shapes, sizes, and textures look interesting together. It allows me to see and react to various juxtapositions and groupings, and to think about, in the back of my mind, why I either like or want to change them.
As an artist, it is vitally important to me to have this outlet. Collecting things and creating my small compositions is a creative activity that both gives me pleasure and helps me stay connected to my artistic energy even when I’m not working on a show. In the theatre we talk a lot about the importance of play, of letting go of formalities and norms in favor of spontaneity and unrehearsed responses. Doing so can be really hard. We are conditioned to behave in certain ways in society, and to treat work (even creative work) in a work-like manner. Getting back into the flow of playing often takes practice. Collecting, arranging, and rearranging of my objets d’art is one of the ways I practice.
So, take that, voice in my head that says getting-an-ice-bag-was-unnecessary-it’ll-just-take-up-room-you’ll-never-use-it-why-did-you-waste-that-money-even-if-it-was-just-fifty-cents. I like it. The object itself and my choice to buy it reflects my sense of whimsy and play. Even if I never use it, that makes the purchase worthwhile.