Object Stories


I Buy / Sell / Trade "stuff". Do you have a super well-loved “something”? An item that is too worn out, or too insignificant to anyone else to have any monetary value, but with too much sentimental value to throw out? Or some scrap of something; some piece of junk that you can't part with it because you never know when it will become worth its weight in silver (or gold!) because it is exactly what you need for some unforeseen project? I am collecting such items as part of an ongoing art project that will involve buying, selling and trading of these items, along with their stories. If you have an item that has a great story behind it I may be interested in adding it to my collection. Items can not have any significant resale value and shall be accompanied by a hand-written story telling the life of the piece and how it gained such personal value. These pieces will be saved from being thrown out, and the memories will be captured in the biography of the item that you write for me.

This is an ongoing project. If you are interested in buying, selling, or trading an item, or would like to share a story that comes to mind when hearing about the project, please contact me at alish@cocc.edu or comment on a post below.

See more participatory art on my website!

Here are the stories thus far.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Significance of context and value

Photos by Sarah Barr

What a perfect piece for the idea of something being so insignificant that it has no value to anyone else, but has significant value to the owner.  This piece of wood trim is from a fellow student of mine at the Art Institute of Boston.  I told her about the collection I was working on and she remarked that she had just the item for me.  She had recently come across an old case of tools that also had this little piece of trim from when she had remodeled the kitchen of their old house...the house where she had raised her young children, the kitchen full of memories.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Out of storage

Some friends of mine heard about the collection of treasured items I am working on and found this Fred Flintstone cake pan for me in their storage!!  I am anxiously awaiting the hand-written biography of the piece, but what I know thus far is that it was used to bake a Birthday cake for my friend's 3rd Birthday!  His mom saved the cake pan, but he doesn't think it was used again.  When his mother passed away his sister and he couldn't come to get rid of it, so it has sat in storage.  Now it has been added to the collection of well-loved, but valueless items.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pre-St.Patrick's Day Party

Such wonderful conversations this evening.  One woman I talked to about my collection shared that although she couldn't part with it, a Ouiga board immediately came to mind.  She had bought it at an estate sale, and it was the estate sale that related to my project of collecting well-loved, but otherwise valueless items. At this estate sale there was such a collection of items – a real portrait of the person who had collected them, but who had since passed.  She shared that it practically brought tears to her eyes seeing all of the items, some that only had value to the now deceased, and imagining all of the stories behind them.  

Another woman shared that she still had the first doggie toy for her dog.  The toy had been quite destroyed, but she couldn't come to throw it out as it was a reminder of such great times with her then puppy; and although she didn't state as much, it seemed that the good times with her dog were also tied to other significant life-events happening at that time.

A middle-aged gentleman shared that he still had “Mousy”, his now grown daughter’s stuffed animal that was so loved that, like the Velveteen Rabbit, all of its hair had been worn off and one arm had been torn off.  His daughter then found a piece of fabric that was cut to roughly the same shape of the arm, and she stitched it back on so that Mousy would have both arms again. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Meal of the Year" Fundraiser at Central Oregon Community College

This was the second time I engaged fellow diners with conversation about the collection of well-loved items I was creating.  One couple at the table knew that I was working on my MFA and asked how it was going.  I used this as an opportunity to share one of my current projects; thus they were made aware that this was actually an art project, but what element is the art was left unclear.

As with the first time I introduced the fact that I was creating this collection of items everyone began sharing, either amongst themselves, or with the table, about items that came to mind.  One couple had initially conversed just between the two of them, but then told me what they were talking about.  They both agreed that the the small scrap of baby blanket stored in a box in the closet of one of their grown kid's rooms was what had come to mind; but that it was too precious to give up.  Then they decided that maybe they would think about cutting off a piece of it for my collection.  The blanket had become a small piece already from all of the use and fingering by their son.  They shared that he would fall asleep rubbing it between his fingers.

A colleague of my wife's shared that he used to have an early 1970s polyester leisure suit that would be perfect for the collection, but that his wife had already given it away without his permission.  It was clear that this suit was very special to him by the way he became quite animated when talking about it.  He assured us that it would be perfect – that it truly would have no sale value, but that it had great value to him (presumably from the memories of the events he attended wearing the suit).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Farm-to-table Community Dinner

This was my first time sharing the project.  In fact, I had not planned to begin the project that evening until I was sitting at a table with a family I didn't know, my wife, and a friend of ours.  I realized that this would be a great opportunity to launch the project.  After sharing that I was collecting these well-loved items everyone around the table immediately began talking about items that came to mind for them.  One shared that she has a super-ball collection from her childhood.  She didn't really play with them much, and didn't have any particular criteria for her collection.  She just enjoyed them.  We wondered whether they would have any value to someone on ebay.com.  Another shared that she has some stuffed animals that have been very well-loved, but that she didn't know if there were any that she was ready to part with.  The father of the family across the table from me said that he would give me a car.  At first I thought he was totally joking, or that he was not understanding the concept of the collection I was creating; but then he explained that it was in this car that he drove his first born home from the hospital.  His daughter is now in high school and he gave her the car, but she won't drive it because it is too much of a "heap" and she is too embarrassed to drive it.  It also does not run dependably enough so he can't sell it for anything. As he put it, he "can't give it away".  His wife was excited about the project because she is a professional organizer (she organizes people's homes / lives).  She said that she has some clients who would definitely have some things that could be contributed to the collection.