This photograph is of an amazing seashell I have – a Carrier Shell.
During its life the creature gathers bits, shells, coral, stones, and “glues” them to its own shell.
I love this on so many levels. As a gatherer and collector myself, I know the thrill of gathering and the beauty I see in my collections. But I also hear the message that balance is important. Too much of anything is as problematic and challenging as not having enough. I’ve come to know over the years how truly important it is to me to only have those things that bring me joy and happiness.
Years ago I belonged to an online group of artists who in exploring our commonalities and differences noted how we each seemed to struggle with our relationship to “stuff.” A resolution was adopted and plans were made to ship off unused things to those who needed and wanted them for their work.
In practice I don’t think this worked as well as theory seemed to predict it would. I think it’s probably difficult for artists in general, and those working with mixed media in particular, to release things they feel they might “need” someday. There seems to be a natural hoarding gene at work. Of course eventually chaos and overwhelming disorder become an issue and at that time stuff gets moved on. Often it is thrown out in a pique of cleaning and organization inspiration.
But I’d like to think there are better, and more eco-friendly ways than adding to trash piles. I was inspired by a mailartist who at monthly gatherings at her home, set aside a table where anyone who wanted to contribute something they wished to give away could simply drop it off and other attendees could freely take what they were drawn to. And so I came up with what I affectionately term my Potlatch Pail.
Strictly speaking potlatch is a custom among certain Native peoples, wherein during a ceremonial feast celebrating a marriage or other major acquisition, the host distributes gifts. In practice it can be a very elaborate display with an openly competitive edge used to display the host’s superior wealth. But I believe the practice certainly had its origins in the very honorable goal of redistribution of wealth among the community so all share more equally.
I keep a basket (aka Potlatch Pail) in my studio in which I place things I’m ready to release – CDs, jewelry, art, art supplies, whatever – and anyone is free and encouraged to take whatever they’d like.
Because I believe, like the Carrier Shell, we should only carry what we love.