Make Art out of Tchotchkes

If you’ve been hearing about de-cluttering, you will see it is linked to the winding down world of acquiring material stuff; since goods are cheaper, rich people don’t need to own a lot, that’s for the (poor) masses. Minimalism (see NY Times, Feb. 17, 2015 back page editorial by Pamela Druckerman) is the new feng-shui of home design. Space is the thing to show off.

For once, I’m ahead of the design curve. I’ve been de-cluttering for years now. Don’t count all the unread books still on my shelves, they are part of an overall design (in my head). This summer’s paint job for the first time in umpteen years threw my apartment de-cluttering act into high gear.

Well, it started before that when my mom moved in 2012 after my dad’s death from her  spacious Long Island home to a crisp, new apartment in a senior living community. Luckily, four adult children and their families were able to divide, toss, or re-assign all that she couldn’t take with her. This is how I came to inherit a large number of tchotchkes. No one else wanted them.

A ‘tchotchke’ is an item of dubious purpose and some artistic but mostly sentimental value. My dad, an artist himself, had coffee maker tchotchkes, miniature wooden furniture and other objects (possibly to use in still life painting) tchotchkes, tiny amber glass bottle tchotchkes, and the usual repurposed gift and indescribable tchotchkes.

I didn’t want to clutter up my freshly painted shelves and sills with my dad’s tchotchkes when I had enough of my own. So I created little diorama-ish tableaux–a green vase, a quartz crystal, Dad’s medieval candle stick holder that never held a lit candle, stuff like that. Art work was hung by color or theme above the tchotchke assemblages. Old crafts handbooks might refer to these as “home arts” pieces. I prefer “found art collage.”

So if you want to start de-cluttering, make it fun. Turn it into a creative art project. But be mindful that emptied spaces do not necessarily bring emptied minds. That requires some effort, intention, or meditation, the subject of other posts. In the meantime, start with one small step, one tchotchke at a time. What can you toss or assemble today?


About sheilaklewis

As a writing coach, meditation teacher, writer, and academic tutor, I'm passionate about words and the silent spaces between words. In this context, I run book clubs and writers' groups where the resonance of carefully crafted words can spark readers and writers to share their own stories. Connecting through conversation; making memories matter; embracing editing and revision, and imaginative wordplay are some solo and collective outcomes. I came to what I call my "Meditate Write Now" practice after years of art-making, writing grants, curriculum, children's stories, and more. Meditation kept my mind from meandering too far off point and also led me to write from the still point within. May our paths cross in creative journeys across time and internet connections! Other details: My husband and I are the parents of two amazing sons and one daughter-in-law, and smitten grandparents of Micah (born December, 2013). I don't drive, and have lived in the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for too long.
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2 Responses to Make Art out of Tchotchkes

  1. AJ says:

    This tchotchkes post brought to mind the work of constructivist artist Kurt Schwitters. His aesthetic, his absolutely perfect composition and his sense of what tchotchkes to combine with others has long amazed and informed me. You created a wonderful, vivid image in this blog when you talked about the tableaux and assemblages you made with family artifacts. This was most refreshing.

  2. sheilaklewis says:

    Thanks, AJ, for reminding me of Kurt Schwitters. I knew there was an art connection in there somewhere, you so ably found it. It is an art making activity, and there’s always the temptation to do more with tchotchke assemblage beyond simple visual enjoyment. That’s what “tchotchke art” evokes for me. I suppose it’s a step up from cereal box art. Enjoy your own creations! Folks, see for some visual treats.

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