By Jill Garber
I am not sure if a passion to collect things is genetic, but it would not surprise me if it was!
My grandmother was an antique and collectible picker. She drove through the countryside in Michigan stopping at farmhouses to ask if they had any china or glass they wanted to sell. Though she was never wealthy by any means she always had her savings and by the end of her life had acquired an enviable collection of Flow Blue which she thoroughly enjoyed using as she shared stories of where she found each piece. Collecting was her passion which she combined with her wits to raise three children on her own and eventually open a resale shop in Hollywood where she sold gowns that belonged to stars like Lana Turner, Judy Garland and Mrs. Frank Sinatra.
My mother’s wedding gift from my father was an English mantle clock bearing the saying “Time is Money” they found on a road trip through Canada shortly after they were married. Together they hunted for American primitives and furnished the California ranch style house they built just before I was born. Mother even found hand made wall-to-wall rag carpet, which was the talk of all of my friends when they came over to play. Our lamps were made from old coffee grinders and cast iron hitching post finials, which my grandfather proudly transformed for her. Wonderful old copper kettles decorated our knotty pine kitchen. Mother funded much of her collecting by selling to dealers just like my grandmother did.
I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect, they are much more interesting.
What was so special about our house and my grandmothers? They were the homes of collectors who were passionate about the hunt, and they built their lives piece by piece around these “gems”, and decorated with pure love.
By elementary school this collecting, buying-and-selling thing was totally ingrained in me! I understood that if I wanted my own money, I should treasure hunt for things to sell. I found that I could use my artistic skills to create my own “products”, and before long I was like a little traveling salesman selling my repurposed creations throughout our neighborhood. By high school I had developed my business skills and refined my collecting style to Art Nouveau, and I still have the very first embroidered silk shawl I found at the thrift shop, which I bought with money earned designing my hand wrought sterling silver jewelry.
These are some of my most precious memories. They involve the people I love so much and miss. But when I look around at my own house filled with things I have collected over my own life, I am reminded of all of them. Like angel spirits, they are still here with me smiling down and I can almost hear them say “good find Jill! “ as I sort through my collection of antique linens, bits and jewels to create something beautiful with them.
In collecting we build a life piece by piece and create memories that last for generations