Coffee Table of Curiosities
I purchased this lovely coffee table from Ikea a few years ago (but I cannot remember the name, unfortunately). It is the perfect place to display all those little curiosities that I collected over the years and it keeps the dust away. The large drawer pulls out to either side, so that you can access the cubbies.
At the bottom of each cubby I placed a doily from my stash that I found at the Kloof SPCA in Durban, South Africa. These are such beautiful collectibles. Someone’s mom, aunt, grandma or sister spent HOURS making these dainty creations. Some were created by candlelight in the more rural districts of South Africa in the 1920’s and 1930’s before electricity became widely available. It is such a shame to see them being discarded like cheap Chinese imported mass-produced rubbish.
My own grandmother (Victoria Delport) crocheted a whole drawer-full of doilies for my trousseau when I was a very little girl. She only had 20% sight in her one eye, and was almost completely blind in the other. She would sit and crochet with her hands near her eyes just to see what she was doing. This kind of dedication is priceless and I hope to pass on some of my grandma’s doilies to my children one day.
In each cubby is a word made of wire – body, mind, joy and soul. I tried to group items together that illustrate my thoughts around each word.
The Body cubby contains various items: shells, coral that washed up on various beaches I’ve visited, a resin mannequin figurine, antique photo of people on a beach, my pieces of ammonite I bought at a rock and crystal shop in Clarens, Free State, South Africa. There are also little plates of food created by amazing artists in Thailand – miniatures that are perfect in every detail. The clay they used, is very flexible still and I would never be able to make something so intricate. Lastly, there is a porcelain lid of a Victorian toothpaste pot that I dug up with my grandparents and parents in Kimberley, South Africa, in the 1970’s. The Government allowed private persons to go and “dig for a day” and you could keep whatever treasures you found. The old miners in the diamond boom town used to throw out everything in their little shack when they found a big stone. Then they’d show off and buy everything new! There are amazing things waiting to be unearthed in those old dumps.
The Soul cubby has a brass chain necklace of interlocking rings draped over the doily. Sprinkled all over, are my dice collection. I have various novelty dice, role-playing dice and odd dice that have escaped their board games over the years. The little broken porcelain doll on the left is another treasure I found in the mine dumps at Kimberley. She had porcelain lace over her skirt (now only bits remain) and her head is missing. She is wearing fashionable black stockings and showing a lot of leg! There are a few antique photos of random children, as well as beaded flowers. The tiny plastic dolls belonged to my mother and date back from the 1960’s. I played with them when I was a little girl. I love their over-sized heads. The dice represent the astronomical odds of incarnating in a body with a specific family and soul purpose. I believe in reincarnation and the chain necklace represents the interlocking lifetimes that we inhabit with our loved ones in varying cycles. There is also a little opium pipe that I found in a vintage shop (apparently belonging to another artist), but to me, it represents the human search to reconnect with our spirit and to leave our bodies behind. Souls inhabit bodies and discard them when they no longer serve their purpose. We are always near our loved ones, whether in spirit or human form, and I take comfort from knowing that we are never truly alone.
The Mind cubby is full of curiosities that display the creativity of the mind and the things that stimulate the mind. There are a few hollow duck eggs from the little ducks that lived on the pond outside my villa in Springs 10, Dubai. Some mornings I’d find the eggs already broken by the children and dogs roaming around the area. So I picked up as many as I’d find, hollow them out and save them. Some managed to hatch, but the crows in the neighborhood would peck the ducklings to death and fly off with the carcasses. It was very sad to see mother nature in action, but there was nothing we could do for them. There is also a Rubik’s cube – a puzzle I have never managed to solve! Some functional tools and interesting gadgets (goodness knows what they were used for!), as well as an ivory button hook from the early 1900’s. The pewter heads were all that remained of some decorative/patriotic statues and the bases had long disintegrated in some moldy box in a storeroom. I’d like to think that philosophy won’t disintegrate so easily, but continues to grow with modern thinking. The animal horns, quills, shells, eggs and mineral slices are all things that humans like to study and represent intellectual thought.
Lastly, we have the Joy cubby. The bottom has a crocheted doily oven glove – how cool is that? Somewhere, a lady actually made this pretty thing to be messed up in the kitchen. It has a few stains on, but that just shows that it was used and much loved. There is also a miniature tarot deck (they are in the tiny box attached to the little book). I love tarot decks and collect them – they are beautifully illustrated and are miniature works of art in themselves. There is also a rubber mold of a wooden hand. I made the rubber mold myself, so that I could reproduce the hand in other materials. But I was a bit too enthusiastic with the rubber and it is very thick and difficult to work with as a mold. Still, it makes for a pretty odd ornament! There are more beaded flowers – beads are a source of joy and I love looking at them and making things with them. The palmistry book cover and brass palmistry model represent hands and the magic of creating something with my own hands. I become totally immersed in crafts and arts using my hands and they bring me much joy as well. The antique photo is of a lady riding an elephant in a circus, wearing an extravagant beaded costume. I love making costumes (again, handiwork!) and all things creative. There are also 5 carved wooden Netsuke beads that I bought in Thailand. These are Japanese beads used as toggles for a pouch that hung over the belt of the kimono. They are very decorative and can fetch high prices in the antiques market. Mine are all little faces, modern, but very intricately carved and beautiful little works of art. The glass bottle stopper was a gift from my dear friend, that she bought for me in Venice. I love glass and beads and glass sculptures. I think if I ever went to Venice, I’d bankrupt myself just to buy glass! Lastly, there is a little set of antique lace gloves. It is hard to think that ladies had such little hands and were only allowed to do needlepoint and sewing. Thank goodness women now have more freedom to choose their artistic pursuits.