One of the most pleasurable parts of starting a new piece of work is gathering materials. I work with non-precious, ordinary, mundane ingredients. I'm a collector of "stuff", so I have a lot to choose from. I'm a receiver of many "gifted" objects. People I know give me what they are about to throw away. When they ask me if I'd like their discards, I almost always say yes. Even people I do not know see my work and send me or bring me donations. My challenge is to imagine how I can use them. It encourages my creativity. Yes it does.
My work is about repeated elements. So, I need to gather a quantity of something. Recently, I had an idea for a vessel to be made with keys. I had a bunch myself, (you know, in the back of the kitchen drawer, having mostly forgotten what they belonged to). I asked friends and relatives for theirs and still didn't have enough. I decided to post a notice on the bulletin board of the building where my studio is. Soon I got piles in every variety, more than I could fit into my piece. I'm still getting them. They are common objects in people's everyday lives. Everyone has some. No one has thrown them away. I had such a sublime experience while working on this piece, reflecting on people's locked spaces, on the many kinds of keys that come and go in our lives, how long-lasting keys are and how necessary they seem to be as an entry to so many aspects of our lives.
And then, there was the time that I put out the "call" in my network for fortunes from everyone's different Chinese restaurants. Funny, we none of us throw them away. We all save some. We all value them, but not too much. I got tons of contributions.
And, there was the occasion when I asked all my women friends and friends of friends for some shoulder pads. This is another item that I am surprised still exists in their closets. Almost every one told me the same story of hanging on to them, not wanting to throw them away, but hoping to "use" them somehow. I now have more shoulder pads than I could possibly use in a lifetime of work.
I value each and every person who has contributed to my work. Somehow, it makes my work more meaningful to include a small amount from a multitude of different lives. It takes a village...
written by Adelle Platt, February 17, 2012