Angie: collecting, stuff and memory

Angie loves collecting. Her spare time is spent at car boot sales, markets, in second-hand stores of all persuasions: the more bargains, the better. At one point she collected those glass vases and ornaments with the dots on that were popular in the 1950s. She has a feeling, but isn’t quite sure, if her grandma had them…. she feels like she remembers them, even though she has no specific memory. But her collections change, she just looks for the hook that catches her imagination.

Angie doesn’t throw stuff out easily. She’s no TV show level super-hoarder, but she doesn’t feel the need to constantly update her decor. Her stuff represents the time it has spent with her: it holds memories. Why erase that for the sake of fashion? When Angie’s father died she found she couldn’t sift through the second hand for a while: realising that much of this stuff probably came from estate sales, it was the scattered and often rejected remnants of a life lived to its conclusion.

Back in 2012 I spoke to Angie as part of my quest to try and untangle my thoughts on Vintage, from my thoughts (and feelings) about the second hand. Almost all (not you Walter Benjamin – you handsome devil you) of my academic sources seemed to suggest that people loved Vintage as another depthless postmodern fad, as a joke, as an aside. ‘But, but, but.. that’s not IT’ I would argue with my supervisor, my colleagues, my (bored) friends, ‘some people really do LOVE this stuff; they are CONNECTED to it’. I know I loved it. I know that for some strange reason I had always been drawn to girls magazines from the past, clothes and shoes from the 1960s – even though I wasn’t born until 1980.

Angie pretty much nailed it. Objects and places held emotional resonance. There was the whiff of a memory, an intimation of the state of childhood. There were half-remembered kitchens of aunts and grandmas, and in the present, the cushion that your daughter sat on when she told you something important.

Here are some thoughts from Angie.

On why she collects what she calls ‘feel good things’:

“Just things that make me feel happy to look at them or happy to touch them even, there’s nothing, I don’t think there’s anything that’s of any value because I’m not really interested in that, I’m just interested in things that I enjoy having around and just look at and think, ‘aw, yeah’.”

I really think there is a movement out there for the appreciation of the second hand as a source of happy feelings. Really epitomised by Pretty Nostalgic and The Nostalgianeers, their collective movement of lovers of the old: and not necessarily the ‘vintage’. I really must go and see them in Wales and talk!

Angie on ‘home’:

“Oh it’s my sanctuary, my home, it’s my family focus, it’s where I feel I relax and it’s just really really important to me.”

The idea of home is something that really interests me. The meaning of nostalgia is something like ‘sickness for home’ after all. I think for me, it’s a notional home: I grew up in the US as a British ex-pat – England seemed like the answer to my problems. I wonder if that’s what I’m still searching for. Now though, having been back in the UK since I was 9 years old, I yearn sometimes for the smog of LA – watching Columbo can be full of Proustian moments.

On updating the decor, or not:

“I’m kind of thinking I really ought to get some new cushions, mine are beginning to look a bit old but I’ve had them a long time and I’m fond of them and they’ve got memories and I don’t want to just go into a shop and buy some more. And then buy some more in a years time because this theme doesn’t, it’s not the theme any more that I want, no I’m not that kind of shopper. I mean, I just find it amazing that a lot of these shops selling new stuff are full of people who are quite happy to buy and do a décor one year and then completely change that the next.”

I think that even if second hand shopping is still a form of consumerism, it is some attempt at an alternative form. I think that people are on some level genuinely trying to resist the pressure to follow fashion: fashion as the moniker of the commodity market. But I think we get tripped up in the process, and just often end up buying more stuff…

On the perils of ‘rose tinted’ nostalgia:

“I think it probably does because I think everything is so fast now, there’s no sort of like anchor point, you know, reference point where you can sort of feel there’s that sense of security because it’s all new, it’s all moving forward so quickly. I mean I feel that obviously because it’s faster than anything… although you know, I lived through, my parents lived through big changes and I’ve lived through big changes because, the sort of austerity and make do and mend thing – after the sixties people just didn’t want that, they wanted, they didn’t want victorian terraces with the draughty windows, they wanted new houses and plumbing that worked and houses that stayed warm and I have to be very careful to guard against these rose-tinted glasses looking back to how wonderful it was, when actually in the winter it was cold because we didn’t have central heating and you couldn’t get your washing dry and you know, my grandmother did wash by hand or Monday was wash day and it took the entire day!”

VERY important. I was always obsessed with the sixties, but then my mum told me about her experience: sitting around one Elvis record, drinking a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Man, we are so wrong about how we imagine the past sometimes.

On the sixties:

“I can remember thinking in the sixties, with the pale faces and the big dark eyes and the pale lips I can remember thinking ‘god nothing will ever look as good as this, ever’”

I may not have lived through it Angie, but I have to agree with you there. I have never fully understood why, but I love the sixties look. Maybe it’s because I am imagining my mother when she was younger, and some primal part of me feels the need to replicate that. Maybe it’s just fucking cool.

Lots to muse on here: I will be back with more on these themes!


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