For a while I have been meaning to write about the fascination I have for beautiful crockery and china in general (especially although not exclusively Chinese and English), how over time I have collected and treasured a few pieces, and how my heart aches every time a cup breaks. I wanted to write as well about how sometimes I think they have a soul and their leftovers don’t belong in the rubbish bin, about the idea that they are future heritage that I or someone else has been building, and how miserable I felt the day I broke three porcelain pieces in a sole unfortunate clumsy movement.
I don’t really know the reason for this fixation, but it may be related to a nesting instinct; a desire to belong and have a story, or at least incorporate pieces of somebody else’s into one’s own.
Once at the Persa Biobío market in Santiago I found an old black and white photo album. It caught my attention because its content was not, as often, studio portraits – posed and made for posterity – but casual, playful, intimate pictures. The people on it seemed to be a group of siblings or friends. A walk by the Valparaíso port, a trip to the countryside. A woman laughing, half-body dipping in the sea water. Felt my heart ache with the same broken-china-piece pain I described before. I realised those intimate archives had reached the time of being of no significance to anyone alive, ending up for sale on a cloth in the street. After negotiating for a while I got them home with me – apparently the valuable was the album and not the content.
In London, charity shop second-hand bargains are the closest I have seen to those of a Persa market. I like to imagine the former owners that would donate their discarded objects, forming the odd/outdated/with signs of use/sometimes beautiful/sometimes quirky collection that makes me feel like walking into a familiar territory.
When I left Chile something that hurted (apart from leaving behind family and friends) was departing from some objects and furniture I had a special attachment for. I realised some of them had been picked among discarded others every time I moved, joining me from house to house for almost 30 years. That bundle was everything I called home. It was altogether an impossible to store bunch, but passing most of it to people I love helped making my peace with that.
Walls can change, but what makes a new environment familiar are familiar objects. In the two years and 5 months I have been in here, I have already lived in 3 different pre-furnished houses. It took me a year to realise that despite not having a definitive home, it was not necessary to live only with what could fit in a suitcase. It took me two to stop calculating the weight of books before buying – to check if I could take them back with me.
This is not an apology to hoarding or materialism. I don’t plan myself to live held back by an overwhelming backpack of valuables, or stockpile what I don’t really need (or someone else may need). I am just trying to understand what makes a space into a home. In that view, having an attachment to certain objects that contain a story does not mean getting lost in a maze of things, but holding onto a desire of identity. Pre-designed interiors offered by the market are a convenient alternative, which in their descartable nature nevertheless eliminate an opportunity for posterity. I look forward to one day taking back some of my books and pieces of crockery to a charity shop for someone else to appreciate them.