An heirloom is a valued possession passed down through the family through succeeding generations. The collecting of heirlooms could be thought of as an accumulation of memories and associations - the souvenirs of people and places in the past. My next collector lives and works in a rural setting in Colorado. She channels her creative and intellectual energies into refining those memories of her rural family background which she cherishes. Her collecting forms an integral part of a celebration of these memories. Kayann Short's rural finds and photography can be seen in her etsy shop Stonebridgeworks.
I live at Stonebridge Farm on Colorado's Front Range with my partner John Martin. Stonebridge is a 102-year-old organic farm with a CSA in its 22nd season. We grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers for about 250 members. I have a PhD in Literature and have just published a book Bushel's Worth: An Ecobiography a memoir of reunion with my grandmother's farming traditions and a call for local farmland preservation.
What do you collect?
I collect a variety of things but what they have in common is that they are all vintage. I love older things, especially from the 1930s and 40s, because they remind me of my grandmothers in North Dakota. Both had pretty vases and flowerpots in their farmhouses and both sewed a lot. I talk about some of the things I've inherited from my grandmothers in my book, "A Bushel's Worth", like sewing baskets, buttons, aprons and jewelry. I also write about the things I salvaged from the farmhouses after my grandparents were gone like light fixtures, doors, and even Burma Shave signs! My biggest collection right now is matte white pottery that I layer with bird postcards, real nests that I find around our farm, and bird jewelry. Lately I've been collecting vintage hardcover books about farming, gardening, and nature. I love their covers AND the words inside.
How did you get started?
I collected Madame Alexander dolls when I was young and sewed clothes for them. When I was in high school, I started going to rummage sales to find vintage jewelry. When I had my own home, I began collecting Fiestaware and McCoy pottery. I have a yellow Fiestaware bowl of my Grandma Smith's. She called it her potato salad bowl. I didn't even realize it was Fiestaware until after I'd started collecting it.
What attracted you to collecting them, in other words, why?
I collect old things to honor their designs and colors and the crafting behind them. I don't like to buy new things because I think they lack the soul found in older pieces. I like to imagine a vintage bowl or book's former life. I feel like my collections have been handed down to me to care for until I pass them on to someone else.
What are the best and worst aspects about being a collector?
The best aspect is the joy I take in using, reading, or wearing my collections. I also take joy in how vintage pieces fit with our old farmhouse. New things just wouldn't feel the same! The worst is my new worry about what might happen to my collections in a disaster. Our region just suffered a terrible flood. Our house only took on water in the basement but many of my friends and neighbors had water and mud running through their homes. In the face of all this loss, I realize that my collections are just objects, but I would be sad if after all the years they've been around, they were destroyed or lost.
What is the holy grail of your collection? That is, what is it you are keen to get your hands on that you don't have?
I keep looking for old copies of Thoreau's Walden because there's so many different versions and designs of his iconic book. I don't have one particular one in mind and I certainly can't afford a first edition, but it's always fun to look.
Finally, how do you think your collecting has impacted on your life?
Collecting gives me a deeper connection with the past--both my own family's history and cultural history through vintage design. I enjoy shopping at some of the great antique stores in our area like the Front Range Mercantile. I'm a big believer in serendipity so I love the little surprises I find along the way.
Thank you Kayann! Do you collect something? I'd love to hear from you!