"They were all to her as magic casements, some cracked, some gravelled with faults, but each opening out on that secret world she knew intuitively but could never visit."
So writes Laurie Lee in "Cider with Rosie", describing his mother's fondness for acquiring pieces of china, usually at auctions ; having been a housemaid to a grand family before marriage, she had developed an eye for fine china, and sought to beautify her somewhat run-down Cotswolds home with broken and shattered examples of Sevres, or Meissen. Then as now, items less than perfect commanded a fraction of what they might otherwise be valued at, even though their beauty and the skill with which they were made remained inherent in the object, for those willing to overlook obvious faults.
By a serendipitous chance, I discovered a new word this week - cathexis - which holds as much resonance for me as it did Mrs. Lee in the 1920's.
Cathexis ; the investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object or idea.
It explains something which I have never been properly able to identify, which is to say I have often wondered why certain items hold a special significance, without understanding why that should be.
The picture to the left is of my china cabinet, a photo taken in the dark hours before dawn when I was unable to sleep, and it contains many objects, the ones made of china all cracked or at fault in some way, and therefore worth little.
Consider the small Coalport cottages and church, attractively garnished with gilding and tiny flowers : yet each is chipped, or imperfect in some other way. It does not, in my eyes, diminish their appeal.
Every figurine in this cabinet is cracked or faulty or broken, and that has been their saving grace, for if they had been perfect and worth selling, they would have gone by now. The Japanese term "Kintsugi" describes the process by which broken pottery is mended using lacquer dusted with gold, silver or platinum. It is used boldly, with no attempt to disguise the cracks, and has an associated philosophy whereby it treats breakage and repair as part of the item's history. And perhaps, as humans, we can identify with this idea....
."The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject."
(Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics)
There is an association, or a story to many of these objects, the musical box on the lowest shelf a happy memory of Shrewsbury, the rosary to remind me of my wedding day.... the crystal ball, so pleasing to hold, smooth and cold like a piece of carved ice, full of iridescent shimmering rainbows like angels' wings. So many lovely things I still have, even though so many have slipped through my hands over the years. That most of them are broken matters not one bit. I am blessed.