A Curious Collection

Chloe Chapman

From a very young age I have been absent-mindedly collecting odds and ends, stuffing them into my pockets and taking them home. The most common objects were small rocks that had caught my eye; perhaps they fit perfectly in my hand, had an interesting stripe or even a hole. Often, they were of natural origin – seashells, bones, seedpods etcetera. But I did not shy away from the manmade, my collection was interspersed with rusty nails, fragments of pottery and smooth sea glass. Up until lockdown, I had not really paid it much attention, in fact I daresay I had not even noticed that what I had could be called a collection as it was spread around my room, mostly thrown in old shoeboxes under my bed with unwanted Christmas presents and old schoolwork; but after a room cleanout and some sorting I began to group together all the bits and bobs. And I felt inspired to start more consciously collecting more objects, going looking for small, interesting things both in places I spent time in and places I would not usually go. If this were a film, there would now be a montage of me squatting in the mud near a lake, battling through dense undergrowth to look under rotting logs, lying on a stony beach sifting through pebbles and halfway up a rocky cliff on a roadside in France. Suffice to say, over the next few months I stained pretty much all the jeans I own but accumulated quite a large collection of objects that I found fascinating.  

I was then faced with the task of how to sort them, store them and display them. Inspired by Victorian apothecary cabinets I bought lots of tiny glass vials with little cork lids and grouped my collection by type in each jar. Of course, not everything was small enough to fit, but by December 2020 I had filled over 60 vials. However, I was not satisfied with just putting them away in jars, and I began to experiment with meticulously arranging them in patterns and photographing them. Some of my favourite outcomes were the simplest, for instance I took feathers from a Goldfinch that my Grandmothers’ cat had brought in, and it was a black and white line up of just four tail feathers that I found the most striking.  

It is hard to describe how I feel about this collection of found objects … there is the wonder I have at the intricate and varied beauty of the natural world, and the awe I feel when I think about the sheer history of some of the objects, like fossil fragments, and the natural force that was used to form things like the sea glass. And of course, this is a record of the places I have been, like a collection of souvenirs. I hope to continue to grow my collection in the future, and never lose my appreciation for nature. 

Snail Shells – Sea Glass – Pebbles – Driftwood – Bracket Fungi – Sea Urchins – Seeds – Dead Coral Fragments – Feathers – Seaweed – Dried Leaves – Insect Galls – Dead beetles – Knucklebones – Sea Shells – Locust Wings – Teeth – Tiny Pinecones – Fossils – Lichen – Dried Mushrooms – Fur – Claws – Whiskers – Moths – Broken Pottery – Snakeskin – Pollen – mermaids purse – fungi – solitary wasps nest – insect wings – Seedpods – ochre rocks –  

Words: Chloe Chapman, BA Fine Art, @chloealice__

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