Grandma Joyce’s Beautiful Stuff!

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My students know I am a huge fan of Topal & Gandini’s (1999) Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found Materials. It’s a title I evoke often in conversations about bringing meaning and extending the pedagogical purposes of using found materials in art education.

My husband is also intimately familiar with my love of beautiful stuff although, from time to time, he still questions the stashes of junk I keep around the house. When he does, I remind him of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Hector the Collector.”

Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring.
Pieces out of picture puzzles,
Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,
Twists of wires, worn-out tires,
Paper bags and broken bricks.
Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,
Gatlin’ guns that wouldn’t shoot,
Leaky boats that wouldn’t float
And stopped-up horns that wouldn’t toot.
Butter knives that had no handles,
Copper keys that fit no locks,
Rings that were too small for fingers,
Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.
Worn-out belts that had no buckles,
‘Lectric trains that had no tracks,
Airplane models, broken bottles,
Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul‹
Loved them more than shining diamonds,
Loved them more than glistenin’ gold.
Hector called to all the people,
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked…and called it junk.

Yesterday Cora had an authentic encounter with beautiful stuff when she spent time with her grandmother as she started some craft projects for holiday gifts with a friend. G-Ma and Ruth pulled out bags and bags of beads, baubles, doo-dads and thing-a-ma-bobs which they thoughtfully glued around the edges of decorative mirrors they found at the church sales they frequent. Cora bounced between their table and her toys, pulling things from their stash and integrating them into her play. It really was a beautiful thing.

I’m just sorry I didn’t take more photos.

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