I’m asked quite frequently about ‘collecting’. Seems simple enough, you just gather items together that you find interesting and you could call it a ‘collection’. But the question is more complicated than that. If you want a deeper meaning to the things that surround you – then that will take some time.
Most seasoned collectors will tell you that they may have made a few embarrassing acquisitions along the way – usually in the beginning stages of collecting.
The best defense to a poor collection is to not have a collection – well, not at first. No, you want to gather information about the art or object that you find interesting. Perhaps buy just one example of what you think you would like to collect.
And then Read
For example I have always been very interested in pottery. I purchased my first piece some 30 years ago in a gallery in Minnesota – made by a local artisan. Years later I found great interest in English Studio potters of the 1920’s. Bernard Leach and his circle were very interesting in my opinion – so books on the subject started to fill my bookcases. Even with all that knowledge on my bookshelves, my first piece of Leach pottery was not exactly what I thought it was. It was from the pottery (St. Ives – in Cornwall, England) – but not by the master Bernard Leach. Experience is the best – if somewhat painful teacher.
After a couple more years of study and seeing a few exhibitions of his work I felt confident in my purchasing decisions.
This is an example of one of his signature bottle vases in my collection. This was a typical decoration of his – a Tenmoku glaze with a finger wipe decoration.
Another is this large Frog & Moon bowl he did in the 1940’s. This was purchased from a London Auction house years ago.
The bottom with the Potter’s Initials and the St. Ives pottery seal.
Other potters will then reveal themselves with further research. As in this Richard Batterham lidded bowl. His work is rarely signed or stamped, but his signature style and techniques make his pottery fairly easy to identify. Buying from reputable dealers or auction houses also reduce the risk of a poor purchasing decision.
And as your knowledge grows so will the scope of your collection. This potter Tatsuzō Shimaoka was connected through relationships with Bernard Leach and Hamada.
Collecting should be a journey. One of knowledge, and of the hunt and finally understanding what it is that you collect. With this approach you will find a much richer appreciation and joy in not only sharing your objects but also your knowledge through your collection.