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camping becomes collecting

By: Jeffrey Moss

When I was growing up, my family spent part of the Summer "up at the lake," in northern Wisconsin. It wasn't camping exactly, but the house on Sand Lake, situated much closer to the shore than houses are allowed to be these days, and surrounded on three sides by woods, felt like it. There was always a roaring fire at night. And sometimes s'mores around the fire ring right down by the water. The commingled aromas of coffee and frying bacon are indelibly etched into that part of my brain which does all the associating of smells with experiences. So even though we had comfy beds to sleep in, and a big oak table with claw feet to gather around, it was camping.

My family loved to fish. Hours were spent in the green rowboat about a hundred feet off the dock, worm connected to hook connected to line connected to bobber connected to staring eyeballs. That was about catching perch for frying. But the special trips were for larger prizes—walleyed and northern pike, large- and smallmouth bass, and the biggest prize of them all: musky. The wall-mountable muskellunge. These hunts needed little excuse to happen at any time of day, but the real buzz was the dawn excursion. And there was always a thermos of coffee, tucked under one of the benches.

 I wish I could point to a particular thermos and say "that's the one that always went out with us," but, like shoo-flys, thermoses were pretty much tossed out and replaced when they got old. But the thermoses of many a family expedition made their way to antique shops, junk malls, garage sales. I was propping in Galena, Illinois for a holiday shoot, years ago, when I found a thermos in an antique shop and couldn't let go the feeling of nostalgia it inspired in me. This collection doesn't include that memory-shaker, but it did lead me to build this collection over a couple years.

The great thing about these coffee and hot chocolate keepers, aside from their power to arouse nostalgia, is that their designs are so graphic, and driven by palette, and sit so well next to each other. When gathered into a collection they dazzle, and invite touch and inspection—the opposite of precious. It's fun to evaluate the various patterns and stripes and colors and try to place them in a particular era or decade. Andy Warhol's collection of cookie jars would have approved ... like all great collections, they're fabulous conversation starters.

I love the idea of a huge collection of patterned thermoses, one that would fill an entire wall. I'd love to dig in to how they're presented, arranged, how they would talk to each other from a design perspective. But that's intellectual. I suspect the real reason I envision a collection that size, whether in a modern city setting or rustic country one (or vice versa!), is because I love to be wrapped in the memories these objects provoke.

Pour out a cap of coffee and take a gander—here's to nostalgia.

Happy collecting,


For purchase details, visit their page in the Collections & Objects Shop, and I invite you to check out our growing Collections & Objects Pinterest board for more inspiration.

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