Tuesday 27 September 2011


I keeping hearing about people downsizing and getting rid of their stuff. I take my cue from an 80+ year old American neighbour of ours, Jack, who sadly died recently.  He used to invite me on little jollies, to meet up with a chap who found interesting objects and furniture in China. He imported it to a warehouse about 20 miles from where we live. Jack would invite me to drive down with him and we would delve into the tea-chests looking at the unusual things he had brought back to sell.  We would return home with the back of the car laden, mostly bought by Jack, and I would think, yes, he is still interested and has a zest for life - no downsizing for him.
Most people collect things, be it antiques, modern glass, cars, pictures, the list is endless. We start collecting at a very early age. Children collect treasures, little hoards of pebbles, shells, and stamps. Why do we do it? I realise that we make collections because they are of interest to us, may be they are aesthetically pleasing or we simply like or admire the object.
Is it a security blanket to have our things around us, or just some inherent thing in our psyche that urges us to collect? 
My latest collection is inspired by the great 17th century woodcarver Grinling Gibbons.  I have always admired his fantastic, majestic, swags of fruit, nuts, and flowers cascading with fish and birds.  Mostly he worked in lime wood, and Horace Walpole (Strawberry Hill) is said to have remarked that there is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers. Horace Walpole was known to have worn the wooden cravat carved by Grinling, and now on display at Chatsworth house.
courtesy The Gothic Imagination - University of Stirling
However, I really love his carved pea pods.  Carved pea pods are thought to be his signature or trademark. Legend says that if he left a pea pod open, showing the peas, then he had happily been reimbursed for his work, and if it was left closed, he had not been fully paid.
courtesy Camster2 via Wikipedia

When Hampton Court Palace had a fire in 1986 much of Grinling Gibbons work was destroyed.  This lime wood pea pod was made by one of the wood carvers employed to work on the restoration
Small collection of silver and ceramic pea pods
Apprentice piece done at the Royal School of Needlework in single thread silk. It was the Royal School of Needlework that embroidered the wedding dress for Kate (Duchess of Cambridge).


  1. Your collection of pea pods is delightful! The great thing about a unique collection like yours is that one isn't very likely to get inundated with pea pods from well-meaning friends. When I owned a live rabbit, I knew to announce to one and all that I was NOT collecting rabbit knicknacks!

  2. Hello Mark - I am pleased that you like them. Stand alone pea pods are incredibly hard to find - I do not come across them very often.

  3. Hello Rosemary:
    It is interesting, as you say, to ponder why we surround ourselves with the things that we do. All that we know from our extremely eclectic collections is that we should not wish to be parted from them and, try as we might, the collections do, almost imperceptibly, keep on growing.

    Your pea pods are so delightful and what fun to be on the look-out for them as they must occur so infrequently. The work of Grinling Gibbons is wonderful, now to have a few of his carvings would suit us very well!!!

  4. Hello Jane & Lance - H would never go out an buy an object for himself, but he is happy to get them for me. Books, yes, objects, no.

  5. Oh, gorgeous piece, Rosemary. I shall never downsize: beautiful things are a joy to see and feel and possess, and they improve my quality of life. I am a confirmed upsizer. This is a little awkward right now because Big Al, my nephew, is intent on helping me dispose of my beautiful things.

    Grinling Gibbons is a new one on me. If our beloved (albeit hatstand)Walpole loved him, then he's a friend of mine too. I shall clock his work as I wander round Strawberry Hill and take copious pictures: although there seems a really tactile quality to his work from your pictures.

  6. Dear Kate - as far as I can remember there is no Grinling Gibbons work left at Strawberry Hill. Sadly the collection has been dispersed which must count as a tragic loss to this country's cultural heritage. I have managed to find an image of the cravat which I have now incorporated into the post. You can see beautiful examples of Grinling's work in St. Paul's Cathedral and many of our stately homes.

  7. Dearest Rosemary,
    Very lovely pea pods you have and as you said, they are extremely rare.
    We have always found it interesting to collect pieces for dear friends that they love. One friend, a former FBI agent collected whales and we've carried many home with us, little pieces of pewter, silver or ceramic but all very unique.
    As for me, I love roses and angels and our home is filled up with many in different materials, also silver ones.
    Sending you hugs and admiration for your style and class and writing skills.

    1. Dear Mariette - this post is one of my earlier ones, but I did appreciate reading your kind comments and hearing about your own collections.


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