Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Ornamental tack or treasure?

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[Written by Isabelle Hunt-Deol (she/her)]

[Image Credits: Isabelle Hunt-Deol]

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: what some may describe as “tack”, I call “treasure”. Throughout my university years, I’ve turned into a bit of a collector of all sorts: kinder egg surprise toys, beer placemats, tote bags, shells, pebbles and just little items that mean a lot to me. My collecting habits do not stem from an uncontrollable desire for things or an obsessive need to collect. Instead I choose to adopt items from streets, parks, parties or venues because I want them to bestow a cultural significance in my home.

And so it goes. Whenever I move to a new place, take a weekend trip, go on holiday or even just a wee adventurous excursion, I feel the need to take something home with me that I can stick to my wall or place in front of my mirror, next to a road sign which reads “Beware of falling snow” in Finnish. It is a hobby much like collecting souvenirs, but mine are not manufactured, they are reflective of the way I see the world. A pure white pebble that caught my eye, shimmering in the sun whilst I was strolling across the Pont des Arts can have a major significance for me. I see the world through things often unthought of, sometimes left behind. It is possible that I am romanticising something unnecessary, but I love to fill my life with strange found objects, decorating and embroidering my home.

My home is built on memories, sometimes overcrowding the space, sometimes messy and chaotic, but soft and comforting nonetheless. For example, a couple years back, I visited the Amazon rainforest, and picked up things from the forest floor, thinking they were “natural” gifts of the forest. These ended up in a plastic bag, and a box somewhere which I found a few years later. When I opened the bag hoping for some beautiful treasures of the Amazon I was instead hit with a horrible eggy stench and a few dead insects laying on a pile of black leaves suffocated in soil, a cremated twig and a black mouldy fruit-like object. At this moment, I thought, maybe I had gone too far.

My mother’s house is full of piles of books, obscure paintings, carelessly placed mirror frames, elephants, drums, broken instruments, an Indian board game, carrom, hanging on the wall, vintage optical equipment covered in layers of dust and decorated jars and boxes full of Vaseline pots, spectacle cleaners, key chains, pens that have been out of ink for years. Growing up in this home, the chaos and clutter would frustrate me, especially when looking for my gymnastics kit or my maths homework. Maybe this is the same for a lot of big family homes, but the chaotic misplacement of objects added to the constant struggle of looking for my belongings. Whenever my friends would visit they would say how much they loved my “homely” or “cosy” house, but, at the time, I couldn’t understand where they were coming from. Somehow, however, my mother’s discombobulating lifestyle has filtered into my own.

So what is it, I wonder, about ornamental tack that makes a house so “homely”? Maybe the feeling that you are living in a collection of your own memories of times long passed, that they will be with you wherever you are. My room is full of inanimate objects that hold the importance and value of a frame full of photos. My home belongs to me and it is something I have created, it has evolved to match my taste, and it is a space I have claimed as my own. I use it to express myself, how I feel, the colours I love, the shapes that fit nicely in certain places in order to create an overall aesthetic. I have created a space I feel a part of, a space that I feel at ease in and an environment that I enjoy. It gives me a sense of freedom and selfhood.

My home is my identity, my home is my plain white canvas, my home is my nest. I will continue to fill it with objects, each one holding a special significance. To me, that is the value of ornamental tack. It is what makes my home my home.


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