At first, my house was simple, even ordinary. Over the years, it has become a time machine where opening a cupboard or a box can send me off on a journey to far away places or to spend an hour with a dear friend, long gone. These days, my house is an archaeological dig conducted by the resident amateur who lingers over every artifact, pondering its meaning, remembering or reconstructing its history. The shelves and closets are filled with twenty-five years — no, a lifetime of acquisitions and fabrications. For me, they evoke so many different times in my life: my youth, my quests, my questions. I remember and send love back through time to the person I was, still am, no longer am.
[1. Egg Rack by ObjectifyHomeware 2. St. Roch Handmade Statue by InTheCompanyOfSaints 3. Sterling Sinver Hand Forged Baby Spoon by PiaStOnge 4. Artifact Series Print by SatchelandSage 5. Miniature Art History Books by LDelaney]
Although I aspire to empty closets and a pared down environment, I am thwarted by sentiment and inertia. I still keep my first, ragged dog training book, the child’s history of art with tiny black and white photos, a cat sculpture my sister made in fourth grade.
[1. Vintage Button Sample Card from SunnyButtons 2. Highfired Hand Beads by TheCraftyBead 3. Ceramic Sheep Sculpture by Hinomaru 4. Antique Mother of Pearl Brooch from MindiLynJewelry 5. Miniature Novaculite Stone Knife by RiverCaneArchery 6. Scissors Case by MakingCents]
I have always been drawn to miniatures and very small souvenirs. I create displays and dioramas to incorporate and honor old wasps’ nests, match boxes, beach stones, tiny pictures and sculptures, little glass bottles holding puppy teeth, my kidney stone, quirky mementos of travel, fascinations, and loved ones.
Along with all the accumulation of an ordinary life, my house is full of the detritus of an artist’s career. A suite of woodcuts made during my college years, scraps of hand painted silks, unframed work, watercolor brushes, several bone folders, exhibition catalogs, show announcements, friends’ portraits of my hounds, drawings, purchased relief prints (my weakness). What to keep? What to pass along?
Over the years, I have tried to be generous with what I have and give to those who can use or appreciate it. When I was younger, I could not understand why my older friends would give me such interesting things and thank me for taking them. Now, of course, I am the one thanking my younger friends.
Surprisingly, I do not regret too many of the things I tossed or passed along. The journals I kept throughout my twenties embarrassed me in my forties, and I made sure they went into the trash. Now, of course, I am more understanding of my younger self and wish I had kept those notebooks to trawl for stories and amusement. I would also love to have just a few of the carefully crafted clothes I made for myself to wear – a three-piece Christian Dior suit, a long kaftan made from cotton handwoven in Guatemala, a sweet floral dress with piping around the collar and pockets. Those either wore out, no longer fit, or passed from fashion.
A year or so ago, I began a project to touch and decide about everything I own. Since then, many things have gone on to new and better homes. I get bogged down sometimes (my project to scan all my slides is only partially complete). And, I do have to wonder – why on earth didn’t I stop myself before I ended up with several hundred pieces of Glidden pottery?
Cate Fitt, a.k.a. knitfitt, has been a member of Etsy since 2007 and is an experienced critic, curator and juror. She earned her MFA in fiber in 1978, later receiving an artist’s fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the years, she’s been a maker of one-of-a-kind hand-painted clothing, pottery, jewelry, and linocut and monotype prints. She lives in a little house close to the James River with two whippets named Moose and Peach.