Meet the “anti-Marie Kondo” collector and curator of tiny things, Jane Housham
From her vast archive of random small-scale objects, the Hitchin-based artist creates satisfying collections based on colour, form, function and material.
- Olivia Hingley
- 12 October 2023
It’s hard to deny that there is something satisfying about the process of collecting. Finding something you’re passionate about, and turning it into a physical representation of your tastes, your styles, or maybe something even broader, like a potted history presented through objects. For some people it’s stamps, the small graphic squares telling stories about the nations they’ve travelled from; for some it’s books and records, and for some it might even be trainers – lined up in boxes, often crisp and unworn. Though for Jane Housham, it’s something quite unique – “tiny things”; tiny cameras, tiny cars, tiny dolls and even tiny eyeballs. It’s safe to say that if something’s been downsized or shrunken for comic effect, play, or ornamentation, you’ll likely find it in Jane’s vast collection.
Like many obsessions, Jane’s started in childhood. Growing up in Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales, Jane says that when she was little she didn’t have many friends and instead spent her time playing with very small dolls – Dolly Darlings and rubber Ari dolls – making them clothes out of scraps of fabric and building “flimsy” cardboard houses for them to live in with matchbox furniture. “If ‘curation’ is keeping and displaying things in an orderly way, then I was a curator from an early age: constantly putting things in order by size, colour, preference: exactly as I do now,” Jane says. Today, Jane’s “treasures” from childhood still feature in her collections.
When it comes to curating her collections, Jane applies a similarly organic approach. All of Jane’s smaller collection or “sub-sets” as she calls them, are temporary. These are the satisfying images you’ll find on her Instagram, which has amassed a rather hefty following. Each one is spontaneous, created without much planning. Usually Jane lets something in her collection catch her eye (haphazardly placed in boxes and drawers), or a new purchase from a charity shop or car boot sale can sometimes instigate a new idea. There’s no rhyme or rhythm to the way Jane curates them either – sometimes it’s shape, sometimes material, sometimes function, and sometimes, quite simply, colour. “It’s not terribly deep but there’s pleasure in an arrangement with a little idea behind it,” Jane says. Once Jane has collated a collection, she photographs them before simply “sweeping them away back into the sea of things”.
Despite this seemingly unsentimental approach to curation, there are a few that have stuck with Jane – the ones that have a personal resonance. One is a collection of plastic animals on wheels. The collection began simply with a sheep on wheels – Jane had discovered it at a car boot sale and her son soon became attached, playing with it as a baby. Some time later during a trip to the old Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, the sheep was part of a whole collection which – of course – Jane then set herself on collecting. Another is her colourful collection of badges for their autobiographical nature, each marking a different period in Jane’s life – “when I was a librarian at school, or a passionate campaigner at university, a pop fan, a show-off”.
The incentive behind Jane showing the world her collections is simple – to affect pure pleasure, “the little ‘tick’ you get in your brain when you see something that’s well put together”. From comments left on her posts, Jane is aware that people enjoy the colours, shapes and humour that her collections evoke, as well as the sense of nostalgia at their core. “I know people love to spot something they also used to have,” she says. What’s more, Jane hopes that her collecting might make people hang on to their own little treasures so that they can appreciate it in years to come. “I’m the anti-Marie Kondo”, she concludes.
Jane Housham: Toy Cameras (Copyright © Jane Housham)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.