Privilege Blog

Do You Collect Thingies?

I have explained previously that High WASP families are a little odd about their houses. For all our focus on aesthetics, and our well-demonstrated love of high-quality clothing, we prefer a little shab at home. Fabrics fray, paint cracks, entire living rooms stay put for decades. We don’t buy for change.

But we do love our little thingies – what another culture might call tschotckes. Long name, thingamabobs. My grandmother’s snuff bottles. My mother ‘s Murano glass candies. My father’s collection of various hearts, and pigs. Why pigs I cannot say.

We collect, perhaps, because collections allow the New to augment without changing altogether.

In any case, this Christmas my mother gave me three glass butterflies. I’d spotted them in a catalog, some visit or other. My mother’s prone to spontaneous generosity.

I just love glass in a house. The light, the refraction, the reflections. Hostess posted about her collection of old floats. Butterflies and floats both travel a long way, gathering impact in numbers.

(One last High WASP aside. Although we appreciate that these come from Baccarat – the history, the quality, the brand – we’re not going to keep the little red stickers. We know both beauty and disdain, like any other culture.)

People may even think of me when they see a fritillary somewhere. “Mariposa,” in Spanish, “Papillon,” in French, “Hu die,” in Chinese. Beautiful words.

If I follow our family tradition, these butterflies will move around a bit. I’ll acquire a few more over the years. Tomorrow I may change my mind. My home, not so much.


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48 Responses

  1. When I was little I used to have a huge collection of cute little figurines. They don’t so much suit me anymore, but I still have them on a shelf somewhere.

    My husband is more the collector, although his collection is slightly macabre. He’s slowly been amassing a collection of animal skulls and bits and pieces. Right now it’s fairly small, just a wolverine and a bobcat skull as well as a few sets of antlers.

  2. From a family of collectors. My mother has my grandmother’s collection of tortoise shell, inlaid with silver and mother of pearl tea caddies, as well as antique samplers. She has her own collection of antique American folk art.
    I have collections of old ice fishing decoys, old goose decoys, and Catalina pottery step vases, made in the early 1900’s on Catalina Island. I’m not actively collecting now, but when I did, I enjoyed the thrill of the “hunt”. I do love your glass butterflies, and also love the Lalique fish.

  3. I am such a magpie – ohhh pretty, ohhh shiny! I have some odd silver pieces I’ve collected at auctions and thrift shops, and of course, books. But I agree about glass. It can be so amazing and assume many forms.

  4. The glass butterflies are very pretty. We collect antique/vintage globes and now the cabinet is full – they’re popping up all over the flat, it’s getting a bit out of control to be honest!

  5. Your butterflies are elegant and beautiful. No surprise.

    After the comments on your last post, I hesitate to reveal I like to collect vintage barware. But I only have a moderate amount, I swear. (Too soon?) Anyway, it’s true. Starting with what I got from my grandmother, I’ve picked up pieces here and there, but nothing impressive by true collectors’ standards.

    I once met a woman who collected Victorian oyster plates. While I did not care for them so much aesthetically (a little too fussy and ornate for my personal taste), I was a wee bit jealous she collected something so interesting. By default, it made her seem more interesting.

  6. I love the butterflies, and as a collector (Precious Moments figurines – those that are not overtly religious, anyway – along with some nice Jim Shore sculptures, and Santas and snowmen for That Time Of Year) I hope you find the appropriate place in your home for them, and add some more. Especially in green, since it is my favorite color.

  7. Beautiful objects. My twins were not quite two when they were learning Iriquois. They picked out a beautiful blue betta.(Siamese fighting fish). They named him Odalanna (phonetic). It means butterfly. That fish travelled across the country with us and lived with the boys to a ripe old age. Thanks for happy memories this morning.

  8. i’ve developed a fixation on vintage trophies, and a smattering of them now lines bookshelves and other flat surfaces. my current favorite is a little sterling fellow: the 1932 viceroy’s challenge air race trophy from the aero club of india and burma.

    i am also a fan of Sudden Collections, such as 2012’s Sudden Collection of Rubber Eyeballs (I bought a few dozen of them around halloween last year and hid them around the apartment). my husband has been finding them in shoes, boxes of cereal, bottles of scotch, underwear drawers, and salad bowls ever since.

  9. Phew, I was terrified the little red stickers were staying. That would have destroyed my equilibrium for at least a week, perhaps longer.

    The collection of collections on the maternal side (and here at the Prepatorium) is lengthy. Art, art glass, mid century modern artifacts, more. And then there are the bulldogs (not living), about which I shall not speak.

    Fab topic Miss Privilege,

  10. Those butterflies are so well executed and quite desirous…
    I can see why you chose them in the first place and why you’d like more.
    Thank you for the mention, as always you are so gracious.
    I am wondering if they can suspended because they would look amazing on a small tree with fairy lights and not just for Christmas.

  11. I have a few owls. . . and somehow, there’s been a dog thing that just evolved. I rather try to keep people from noticing too much, actually, because then it can turn into a gift thing and one’s own trusted taste is no longer the arbiter. . . Fine if everyone who might give you gifts has taste you absolutely trust (as with your mother), not so good if you have a tough time getting rid of gifts from loved ones and your collection sprawls into territory you couldn’t have forecast. . . . I hope you never have to know what I mean, but perhaps some of your readers will recognize the phenomenon. . .

    1. What a beautiful gift from your mother! So thoughtful.

      I’m a sucker for old Belleek, old opera glasses, old Staffordshire figures…are you sensing a theme? But what I call collections, the Merry Husband calls dust-attracting knick-knacks. Eye of the beholder, and all that. :)

    2. Oh heavens yes, having people notice an early phase collection is dangerous.

      At some point, both my mother in law and my mother noticed that my Christmas tree was adorned with wooden nutcrackers (a combination of childhood fondness for the ballet, and a very rambunctious cat who liked to pull ornaments off the tree.) However, no one wanted to give me the little tiny ornament sized ones as Christmas presents, and suddenly I have two whole totes of charming 12″ high wooden nutcrackers, none of which I have bought, and which I pull out a fraction of once a year, but feel horribly guilty about getting rid of.

      However, my collectors item of choice is and always will be books. Old books, new books, poetry, literature, pulp science fiction, math… Taking me to a book store is like taking a five year old to a pet store and asking her to pick just one puppy to take home.

  12. My only collection these days is antique/vintage wireware. (Check out my Pinterest album titled Wireware.) I find that at age 60 that I am changing and wanting fewer things about me, more open spaces.

    Ultimately, our largest collection will be our books and even those, after we read, them, don’t need to stick around permanently.

    I’ve kept a few items that I love–mostly folk art or handmade items that for some reason appeal to my sense of aesthetics.

  13. Thank you for the unexpected mention Lisa.
    The butterflies are so special.
    I have a small collection of silver balls, silver ball-boxes, bought during the years I have blogged. I think it is complete now.

    Over the years, I have collected this and that, only to get rid of what I have collected sooner rather than later.

    Trying to simplify my life, living and the stuff I have.

  14. Love that you’re still blogging and also your pretty blue butterfly. I’m from a family of collectors–I’ve done everything in my power to pare it down, but the knick-knacks still overtake my sense of style every time!

    xo Mary Jo

  15. I have a small collection of little animal figurines made in various earthy materials – wood, soapstone, etc. It just sort of happened. They sit on the windowsill in my office.

    My grandma and mom have a few of those sparkly crystal ball things you hang in the window; I have two and am sure I will end up with more.

    These collections, as it were, are not really things I try to augment. People just give me things or I find something nice in an antique store and buy it without really thinking.

    1. Snap! I have little animals too, they live on the kitchen window sill. They’ve all been gifted rather than purchased, which makes them more special. I also have a little collection of clear glass/crystal votives, in various textures and effects.

  16. Ok. I’ll chime in. I collect pewter “thingies” and salt dishes. My mother was one of the original minimalists. She hated knick knacks. I therefore try to keep my collections in check.

    Love those butterflies. Go for the green one!

  17. Books! Rather wide-ranging in topics and genres. A bit of a focus on dictionaries across time. Lots of poetry. And for three authors, attempting to get a full set of first editions (Maurice Walsh, Mary Grant Bruce, M Oldfield Howey). I am fond of saying that there is no such thing as too many books, only not enough bookshelves.

    I’ve also got a collection of electric kettles – old ones with ceramic or bakelite lids. Fortunately I’ve run out of room to display them, so that has hit a limit.

    Old varieties of roses in the garden.

  18. I hesitate to even say anything since my grandmother –who once had a smartly-curated little collection of owl objets– let on she liked owls which inevitably snowballed into getting awful owl everything for years until she stomped her foot and begged them to stop.

    I collect antique silver and enamel travel shield charms for my travel bracelet. It takes a bit of doing since I usually have to purchase them after the fact, but it’s so much more elegant than shot glasses or magnets. I’m also a sucker for old silk umbrellas. Now I just need a decent umbrella stand. The one I currently have comes from my grandmother and is shaped like a –you guessed it– owl.

    1. Rhiannon, I’m with your grandmother, I hate it when people notice I’m collecting something. It’s as if they now have permission to never think about an appropriate gift again. You’re collecting expensive porcelain angels from a particular artist? Suddenly they are sharing shelf space with plastic dollar store angels and you’re expected to wear that nice angel printed sweatshirt that auntie gave you. No one ever asks about the focus of the collection, anything remotely similar will do.

  19. These butterflies are so pretty.
    I’d be a little nervous about them though because of earthquakes. Be sure to keep them well secured in case of little shake-up.

  20. I will follow Erika with ….. a large collection of books – at least 1,500 hardcopies in my 550 sf apartment. An undergraduate in history and a masters and profession in architecture, added to a passion for cookbooks and fiction with a curiosity in pretty much anything leads to a lifetime of books everywhere. (thank goodness for kindle or the situation would be much worse!).
    I have, what I consider a small thing for ‘china’ – four sets (everyday white porcelain, a select collection of diner-ware, my grandmother’s depression glass and a set of porcelain designed by a former office). I need to finish a renovation to get my mothers Royal Copenhagen plus the silver flatware which I’m lusting to own. IMHO the ‘china’ of it is less of a collection and more a ‘necessity’ ….. as I read what I just wrote I realize it’s a bit ridiculous in a studio apartment. Goodness … it’s amazing I have room to walk around in my apartment! with the all the dishes and books! (let’s not even consider the shoes – which are less a collection and more a problem I can’t let go of)

  21. I collected pigs too, till I had children, and the notion of collecting vanished, perhaps due to my darlings’ various collections of toys, etc., perhaps because *they* became my collection :-) . But I do put coloured vintage glass cups (small tumblers) on my kitchen window ledges’ love how they invite the light.

  22. I love your butterflies, particularly in their guise as symbols of transformation and movement. And the stained glass–the more colorful the better :) –is so joyful. I’m sure they’ll lift your heart and spirit every time you see them.

    I have a very unweildy collection indeed: carved furniture and architectural elements (usually weathered teak) from around the world. Ditto beads and folk/indigenous art from various corners of the globe.

  23. Lovely butterflies, especially this time of year, when Spring is only a yearning (at least in my corner of the woods).

    Dear Hubby and I grew up in houses stuffed with all types of things, so we’re pretty minimalist. I do, however, collect Santa Clauses. Current count is somewhere around 120 – big, small, ugly, charming, gifted, purchased. They only come out at Christmas, and make a lovely decoration in the dining room.

  24. Exquisite colours especially the green Papilio.

    No collections unless you count art,collected many items in the past…Ida

  25. Cloisonne, a collecting interest sparked by a gift of a set of cloisonne eggs from my grandmother, is one of my newer activities. I have a hen and rooster collection I’ve taken up in recent years, through my travels. The hens and roosters live together in the kitchen, watching over the stove (a painting from my grandparents), the sink (a rag doll hen found while antiquing in Hyde Park, NY), and the cabinets (wooden painted chickens found at the Chicago Institute of Art). My husband collects 70s German lava pottery and antique brass instruments. We also have a large library of thousands of books. It’s fun.

  26. Your butterflies are charming and such a sentimental gift. I no longer collect (except pearls), because I want to live with less stuff, even if it is beautiful. But I can lose my mind over textiles and am continually having to exert discipline over acquiring linens or soft furnishings.

    I’ve given some lovely gifts and possessions away in the past two years, simply because, no longer having a big house, they would be in storage. But they found appreciative new homes.

  27. Oh but what is life without collections….and the metamorphosis of fads and pretty baubles to alight our fancies. Those are very pretty – I have a little baccarat froggie….and a heart – they both belong to my Prince.

  28. Dear Lisa, I loved this post. I think your butterflies are beautiful. They made me thing of these real-butterfly-wings (from conservation projects) trapped in glass that you can wear around your neck (you can see them here.
    I have a (small yet) collection of Murano glass candies. The first time I went to Venice, in 2000 as a backpacker, I got some for my mom. 9 years later, when I went with my then fiancé, now husband we got some for ourselves.
    I find the Ittala glass birds really beautiful as well.

  29. Boxes and beautiful perfume bottles. I’m particularly fond of my Joy bottles, in various sizes.

    To this day some of my family members think I collect tea pots. I don’t but have been given some really nice ones through the years.

  30. Oh you guys these collections make me so happy! I have formed pictures of each and every one, that I am carrying with me all the time to think about and smile. Thank you.

  31. I collect books (antique or new) about the last Tsar of Russia and his family. I have about 40 books at this point. From all over the world. Very special to me. I also collect art glass, not branded necessarily (though I do have one or two from Murano when my grandparents and parents went there), but from artisans like my aunt Gail. My grandmother collects the green collection of Herend figurines.

  32. I also collect glass; mainly Vintage Murano birds, lamps, and vases.
    I have also had several glass fish installations by a Seattle glass artist.
    Vintage Murano has become so high priced and is now widely faked, so if you’re a novice tread carefully, as the copies now are abundant. And I thought fake purses were rampant!

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