I am very excited to share a short interview I just did with the fabulous Lisa Congdon. She recently authored a book entitled Collection a Day based on her year-long project and blog of the same name. I thought she'd be the perfect person to ask about starting a collection of vintage objects. Enjoy...
Why did you start your collections of vintage objects? where did/do you find them?
I started collecting when I was a kid. In the introduction to my book, I tell a story about how my mom started most of my collections for me. Dolls, plastic horses, etc. I wasn't necessarily collecting vintage items back then (though some of my dolls were antique), but I definitely got the "collector's bug". Plus I think I'm hard wired as a collector. No matter how hard I try not to collect, I can't help myself!
I started collecting vintage stuff about 18 years ago. I was in a relationship with another woman who was obsessed with collecting. She introduced me to the flea market and it was all over. From there I became obsessed with antique malls and garage sales too. I still go to mostly flea markets and antique malls (especially when I am traveling) and I do go occasionally to thrift stores. We have great thrifting in San Francisco.
What are your three favorite collections?
My favorite collections are:
:: my vintage mid-century Scandinavian + Japanese kitchenware collection
:: my vintage school supply collection
:: my tiny vintage portrait collection (I collect tiny tiny vintage photos -- mostly snapshots of people's faces)
Some of my collections are on display in my home and studio. They are a combination of my favorite collections and a few that are just easy to display or are really decorative. I have some arranged in shadowboxes in my studio which hang on the wall. In my apartment I keep lots of things on shelves and on my credenza, usually grouped together. Like, all my orange pottery is grouped together on one shelf in my living room. My enamelware collection is housed in my kitchen (of course!), along with my plate collection. Little collections are scattered in spots throughout the house. Collections that I don't use for display are stored in my studio in bins, boxes and flat files. I'm pretty organized around my collections. I take really good care of them, which is important. They are often really fragile or susceptible to damage from heat, moisture or sun light.
What advice would you give someone beginning a collection of vintage items?
I have three main bits of advice:
1 :: Find a few collections that really resonate for you. Choose to collect a few things that you really love. I think it's important to collect stuff that's sort of challenging to find. If what you collect is easily available in every antique mall or flea market, it might be fun for about a month--but you will get bored easily. Collect stuff that is unique. Part of the fun of collecting is the "hunt".
2 :: Take good care of your collections. Vintage items are really special, and I think collectors are stewards of the past in a way. Plus, if you ever want to sell your collections (or parts of them), the better condition they are in, the better. If you have a particular collection, research how to take care of the pieces. If you collect vintage kitchenware, for example, it's probably best not to use the pieces that are the most fragile or could easily be damaged--except maybe on a special occasion. Don't put vintage things in the dishwasher or washing machine. Don't use harsh chemicals to clean them. Use common sense.
3 :: Try to find stuff that is priced reasonably. Don't get sucked into spending a lot of money on vintage collections on Ebay and other high end antique stores. If you don't feel comfortable with the price, don't buy it!! Part of the joy of collecting is finding that perfect item at $3 -- especially when you love it and it might even be worth $50!
Thanks, Lisa! To get an autographed copy of her book, visit her shop. You can also see more of Lisa's illustration work on her website.