By Marian Connor

I was thinking about stuff. Last week I visited the Joseph Cornell exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. I was reminded of another exhibition, Magnificent Obsessions which I had seen a few months back at the Barbican. Both involved people who acquired stuff.

Magnificent Obsessions belonged to artists who collected tons of stuff for the sheer joy of owning them, they were enamoured by the things in and of themselves, to be enjoyed en masse.

Whereas Cornell used his acquisitions to transform them into art work, his collages are made from intriguing illustrations and photographs, his boxes used little items placed and suspended within them. His reuse created work that was interesting, it drew you in, evocative of a feeling that I couldn’t quite place, unrecognised and slightly uneasy, like the layers within the boxes, engaging, if a little unnerving.

We all surround ourselves with stuff, much of which is just an assortment of life’s flotsam and jetsam that happens to come our way, some though, we actively seek out.

My greatest weakness is books; mounds of them waiting to be read to reveal all manner of fascinating information, although many are about subjects I only have a remote interest in but was beguiled into purchasing by a random illustration that took my fancy or a wonderful book jacket.

I am also a sucker for a long list of other items, stationery, postcards, shiny things, textured things, odd looking things, fabrics, trimmings, buttons, beads, religious paraphernalia, little boxes, the list goes on. I enjoy simply looking at them, but I also figure you never know when you might want to use them to make something.

We all collect things, even if it is only the appurtenances of life, theatre tickets, exhibition programmes, travel maps. Freud thought collecting was a way to regain some of the control we feel when we have lost certain aspects in life. This can though evolve into hoarding, where the accumulation of things to try and allay anxiety and loss actually achieves the opposite by inhibiting us from conducting a calm normal existence.

Although I am certainly acquisitive but I am not a hoarder partly because although I enjoy them for what they are, I am drawn to refashion much of the stuff I have, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made things. Since the creation of our company, 8 in the Universe, I have a new found enthusiasm for reinvention to create printed matter for our talks and workshops as well as little treasures to distribute as aide memoire.

After looking at Cornell’s work I am even more inspired to make new things for our upcoming events, hoping that if my labours engender any feelings, as Cornell do, they are positive and inspirational.

I think making things is life affirming, whatever it is you choose to create, knitting, woodwork, baking, musical composition, it requires being in the moment, concentrating, planning and execution, allowing you to enjoy the pleasure of the process and the satisfaction derived when the project works out well.

All of us are wired in some way for creativity, marketing companies are very aware of this, the resurgence of colouring books geared towards adults as tools for relaxation and the renewed popularity of crafts all point to this. Why not follow your desire to create? If your life is full of stuff, why not look at it a fresh, don’t allow it to languish in a cupboard, take it out, enjoy it, interact with it, use it, re-arrange it, if need be recycle it to another home, but if you feel so inclined, why not flex your creativity and reinvent some of it into something anew? It could be very satisfying to discover the new wonders you could fashion. Enjoy finding out.

Here is a short film about Magnificent Obsessions.



Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust



I would like to mention a book, The Secret Museum by Molly Oldfield; it is about ‘enchanting things’ in the world’s museums that are hidden away. Such as, thousands of seeds in Sussex,  heart tokens from mothers to the babies they are giving over for care, golden bees housed in London and recordings of songs from lost peoples in Canada. All deliciously random and fascinating, here is an interview with the author.

Lastly I would like to give you a link to Bonker*s Clutterbucks, a company I came across earlier this year at a craft fair. They make wonderful boxes and ephemera from stuff, the result of which is a delight.


Image Tile/Header– Bone figure of a woman with lapis lazuli inlay. Upper Egypt 4000-3600 BC. This figure was found in a grave and is assumed to have a magical purpose in aiding regeneration. The image can be seen in the book, The Art of Small Things, by John Mack, 2007

YouTube – Magnificent Obsessions at The Barbican: curator and artist interviews via Time Out London – duration 4:16 mins

YouTube – Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust – duration 31 secs

Hyperlink – Interview: Molly Oldfield on being quite interesting and writing the Secret Museum – by Run Riot

Hyperlink – Bonker*s Clutterbucks

If we have whet your appetite for further discovery, keep in mind that we create interactive experiential workshops and events embracing 8 elements, exploring a myriad of ways to enhance your health and happiness. Oh yes and let’s not forget these are beautifully packaged with individually created accoutrements for your delectation. All delivered by us,  people to people, business to business.

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Photo of Marian Connor and black text saying "Always looking over the horizon to discover treasures to share. Often times whilst partaking of a fine red."