The old curiosity shelf

Art, crafts, bits of my life.

I’ve been sorting through things, clearing things out, all the while compressing three offices with five desks in them to one office with, well, three desks in it (desks have lots of useful drawers). So far I have given or thrown away an immense amount of memorabilia (including about half my collection of penguiniana), but I’ve also unearthed, or brought out of dark corners, assorted bits of artwork, silly stuff, personal treasures of Jacques’s and mine, and the like — and I now have some shelves and surfaces in visible spots where they can be displayed. My cabinets of curiosities, my old curiosity shelves, my shelves of wonder.

Here are two shelves (from a set of five) in the main room of my Ramona St. house. A somewhat dark photo (from Kim Darnell’s phone), but it will give you the idea:


Some comments:

the reproduction at the top is a photo of a small penguin figure lording it over an assortment of toy plaster foodstuffs

hanging down on the left is a set of dog tags (from a Columbus Army and Navy Store) for Jacques, with his name, Ramona St. address, and telephone number, in case he wandered off in Palo Alto (engineered by our Columbus doctor, who suggested we should get tags as love gifts for each other, an idea that J., not knowing the ulterior motive,  took to with enthusiasm)

top shelf, left, barely visible: a metal spinning disk with the actual penguin figurine glued onto it

a glass tube crystal-like structure made by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky

a fired pottery mask made by Max Vasilatos

a stackable wooden rainbow, like this one:


(apparently a great hit with 2-6-year-olds, still selling well; you wouldn’t believe how many rainbow toys there are!)

on the right, a tableau with a silver penguin, bearing a blue glass bauble and standing over a crystal cube (underneath) and a tableau of phallic salt and pepper shaker worship:


(discussion from 11/16/10 on AZBlogX)

on the second shelf, from the left: J’s Inuit carving of a seal, bought in New Brunswick years ago

a patterned Chinese chopstick box in the back

then in a box, at the back, a wood carving of “Bob, a white guy  1997” by Max Vasilatos

in front of it, another EDZ glass-tube construction and a jade elephant from China (there’s aso a jade turtle, but you can’t see it from here)

then in the back, a lacquer bowl with a different EDZ glass construction

in front of it, a small silver dachshund and a Scott Nelles cast-bronze duck paperweight that J loved (Nelles’s homepage here)

finally, Rainbow Bear, a stuffed teddy bear in a rainbow sweater, with a lot of Mardi Gras beads around its neck (party on, bear boy!)

off-camera on the right, a very weighty Venetian glass penguin couple, a gift from my father and step-mother to J and me

Below these shelves are two more, populated mostly by beautiful boxes of several different kinds, each containing more treasures, including J’s and my wedding-equivalent bands.

Elsewhere there’s a separate stand-alone shelf much like these. And a bigger 19th-century escritoire with more treasures in it.

On the top of a cabinet, a small stuffed mammoth and a stuffed Chinese dragon (I am a Dragon in the Chinese zodiac).

Then there’s the bedroom. On the G-rated side, there’s a long dresser; on top of it: a stuffed mammoth mother and child, a big plastic-replica mammoth, and a big plastic-replica elephant. On the X-rated side, there’s a tableau of three gay action figures (Leather Carlos, Tom of Finland’s Rebel, Army Tyson) worshiping three stones; photos and discussion on an AZBlogX posting today. And awaiting a new desk in that room, a set of three Mexican glazed pottery doves, intended to represent Ann, Jacques, and me by the friend who gave them to us.

Meanwhile, there’s art work of many kinds all over the walls. Everywhere.


The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel [serialized in 1840-41] by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. (Wikipedia link)

Cabinets of curiosities (also known as Kunstkabinett, Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, and wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings), and antiquities. “The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theater of the world, and a memory theater. The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patron’s control of the world through its indoor, microscopic reproduction.” [Francesco Fiorani in Renaissance Quarterly] (Wikipedia link)


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