Showing the sum of the parts of a collection

June 06, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

It isn't hard to spot a committed collector. Look around in an antique shop or at a flea market. They're the ones with the gleam in their eyes.

Hard-core collectors are also unlike the rest of us, who generally consider an object's functional facets -- no matter how interesting, pretty or unusual it may be. The collector, on the other hand, doesn't even think about the uses of a piece that's to be added to others just like it.

Very often, collecting seems to be its own reward. It doesn't much matter whether the collection is stashed away like a secret treasure or proudly displayed. Having had many clients who collect, I know that storage or display can present some real problems.

The first factor to consider, of course, is how best to prevent damage to the objects. Fibers and lacquered pieces are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor climate control. But just about any item can suffer if it's exposed to too much heat or cold. Excessive sunlight and even the wrong kind of artificial lighting can also cause damage.

Not many homes offer museum-like conditions, so it makes sense to learn how to minimize the dangers. Keeping the pieces clean and rotating them from time to time are always recommended.

As a designer, I regard aesthetics, or the beauty of the objects, as the primary motivation for collecting. That doesn't mean, however, that only precious and expensive items are worth collecting. Everyday objects can have their own beauty, which it's possible to enhance by means of an artful display.

The photo shows how a collection of straw hats and baskets was arranged in order to accentuate their colors, shapes and sizes. The various items are closely grouped, allowing them to play off one another, while also clearly signaling that this is, in fact, a collection rather than a scattering of unrelated accessories. The idea is to include everything within a frame -- either actual or implied -- as a means of establishing visual order. In this way, the collection as a whole is given precedence over its individual components.

Here, the straw pieces are tightly gathered in both vertical and horizontal formations. The up-and-down and back-and-forth placements add to the collection's interest. A display of this sort is especially effective for smaller objects such as boxes, picture frames or seashells, which can be laid out on a table top as well as on the shelves of a cabinet.

/ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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