Much of the treasure I’ve found on dusty old shelves, nestled in battered tea chests or poking out between the shinier, more gregarious, ‘antiques’ finds its way to my ‘Julie Kirk’ Etsy shop. Whether it’s individual vintage books and paper ephemera, or the art and craft kits I compile from reclaimed supplies, there’s a world of unique papery treasure on sale there. Next to all of that you’ll also find my own book of collaged stories which is a hybrid: a shiny new item made from inspiring old source materials.
confessions of a treasure seeker
I love the idea serendipity; the surprise gifts the world arranges for you from time to time. I can even remember reading the word for the first time in an American teenage novel (probably by Paula Danziger, I was a huge fan) and looking up its dictionary definition when I was about 11. Years later it’s serendipity and the wonderful chaos of a chance discovery that keeps me turning up to browse, mooch and drift through charity shops, flea markets and junk shops waiting for treasure to find me.
Just like seeking inspiration as a writer, you can’t force it or demand that specific vintage treasures turn up simply because you want them; and besides, delight-on-demand wouldn’t really be quite as delightful, would it?). Instead you have to be open to unearthing serendipitous gems in whatever form they choose to take on any given day. One day it’s a 100 year old copy of Hamlet for 50p, while another it’s a near pristine 1980s batwing jumper, or a teacher’s pre-war lesson plans, or a stack of heart-stoppingly divine sheets of 1960s Christmas wrapping paper, or a notebook filled with someone’s favourite quotes and poems, with old newspaper cuttings and correspondence tucked inside. It’s the things you could never even dream of seeking out deliberately that feel like the biggest treats when you stumble across them.
While I keep some of what I unearth intact, safe on a shelf to admire and enjoy, I use some of the papery gems in my creative work. From using book pages to create the word collages in my book of Snipped Tales, to the themed collages which featured in the project I co-hosted with @kirstyneale in 2016; a collection of 100 collages which you can view on our Instagram exhibition @thecopyandpasteproject, in using materials with an existing history, a patina, a back-story, I am inspired so much I can hit the creative ground running.
The treasure-seeking, the dance with serendipity, the creating with ‘found’ supplies, the documenting the everyday in my writing … it’s all part of my mission to wipe the dirt from the hidden jewels, to shine a light on the overlooked, and to reassess the undervalued; after all, isn’t it only what we’d wish for ourselves?