Roger Crowley has always been a collector, you could say. As a kid, he inherited a group of miniature horse statuettes that his father had collected when he was a child. Now, he's on to more "sophisticated" things, curating groupings of art and housewares in the only way one truly can -- slowly.
"These pieces have been a very long process of accumulating examples... over the course of twenty-plus years," Crowley tells HuffPost Home of his finds, which are too numerous to put on display in his New York City apartment, but perfectly situated on the pages of decorators Fritz Karch and Rebecca Robertson's recently published book, "Collected: Living With The Things You Love".
Ironically, Crowley's approach to decorating is on trend -- that is if you give credence to the concept of "slow decorating" that's floated around design circles in recent years. The term, which bears resemblance to, well, regular decorating, cropped up in the wake of the slow furniture movement and its slow-living predecessor, slow food.
Although family history and curiosity and, in Crowley's case, space, might influence how a group of one-off items come together into a "collection," Karch and Robertson point to a particularly fascinating driver in their analysis of the different personality types that assemble them. "For most enthusiasts, collecting is a nonstop, all-encompassing, 24/7 endeavor. They live and breathe their passion on a daily basis...," the duo writes. "The seasonalist, in contrast, concentrates their collecting efforts on a single occasion, be it a holiday (Christmas), a time of year (fall), or a sporting event (the America’s Cup)."
According to Karch, Christmas is the favorite among seasonalists. "Whether common and kitsch or rare and extraordinary, you will usually see some form of Christmas decorations on any shopping or scavenger outing," he says. Take this collection of pillows upcycled from Christmas hankies, for example.
Photo by Antoine Bootz
In an excerpt from "Collected," Karch and Robertson delve deeper in to the seasonalist psyche:
What makes this collector especially fascinating isn’t the curatorial methodology or the decision-making process behind selecting this particular snowman or hula-girl bobber versus that one. It’s when and how they choose to showcase their treasures: in a full-on, over-the-top manner—but for a limited viewing. Seasonalists are typically rational, sensible individuals with a disciplined approach to homemaking and decoration. They’re forever seeking out ways to simplify their environment and streamline its maintenance, and collecting runs counter to that impulse. So they develop a fetish that periodically comes out of the closet—literally and figuratively. A collector who inhabits a tasteful earth-toned abode festoons every surface with hundreds of rabbit-shaped plastic candy containers every Easter. A buttoned-up banker showcases his equine bibelots only during the Kentucky Derby.
Ultimately, the particular season collected is really just a stand-in, a symbol with deeper connotations— whether romance, community, patriotism, or family togetherness. A defining moment of childhood is the frequent cause: Their whole adult life is about maintaining the magical glee of Christmas morning. They can never get past the memory. And why should they, with such a tantalizing trove of collectibles to recapture it for them once a year?
But then there are more offbeat exhibitions making the rounds on the "seasonalist" set, like Crowley's collection of Halloween-themed Bacchus jugs.
Photo by Dana Gallagher
"I used to work in ceramics... and I was delighted by the modernity of them and the craziness of giving character to an inanimate object," he says of the jugs made in the early 19th century by British potters.
Karch believes collections begin when there's a "common instinct of curiosity and an active imagination." He adds, "We're drawn to the sensational and or nonsensical, or the potentially useful and possibly practical. The attraction to the unknown and unfamiliar is very seductive."
We're certain charm is a factor, too, after browsing the collection of Thanksgiving turkey plates one Michigan collector keeps on display year-round.
Photos by Troy House (left) and Sang An (right)
But while there are inherent similarities between Crowley's years of flea market hunting and others' time-intensive personalization of a space, there is one big difference: It isn't really much of a community affair. "Some of the things I collect are very esoteric and I'm not sure there are that many people going after the things I'm looking for myself," Crowley jokes. "That's just fine with me."
Excerpt reprinted from Collected: Living With The Things You Love, with permission from Abrams Books.