On January 1, the San Francisco–based artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon began documenting her various collections on a new blog, A Collection a Day. A new day, a new grouping: vintage Boy Scout cards, delicate sewing notions, paint tubes, plastic charms, erasers, paintbrushes, pencil leads, even — strangely — multicolored buoys. “No, I don’t have a collection of buoys,” Congdon laughs. Or a collection of Victorian shoes, for that matter. As her website explains, while she photographs the collections that decorate her house and studio, “some are imagined; those I will draw or occasionally paint.” Scroll through her site, and you’ll find twigs and toiletries drawn with ink on paper, and, yes, buoys painted with gouache on Masonite. When she began the project on a whim, the plan was to fill a year’s worth of web space, even if she wasn’t sure she’d have 365 things to document.
Congdon, who co-owns the design boutique Rare Device in San Francisco and creates work on commission for clients like Pottery Barn and Chronicle Books, came late to the art and illustration game. She was 33 the first time she picked up a paintbrush, and she only did so because she was taking an art class through the extended education program at Berkeley with her brother, who was a student there in need of an elective. But collecting hooked her early on: “As a kid, I collected dolls and penguins — really dorky stuff,” Congdon says. “I’ve always had a love for old things. When I was little, I would go to my grandmother or aunt’s house and ask permission to touch the things on their shelves. I think I had a fantasy of being an archeologist, discovering the story behind old stuff.” It’s a habit she picked up from her mother, who at 71 is still a practicing artist. “Among other things, my mother collects nativity scenes, so at Christmas the whole living room gets completely overtaken,” she says.
Because the vast majority of Congdon’s collections are paper ephemera, originally intended for use in her work, she doesn’t tend to be particularly sentimental about them. “Part of being a collector is just the challenge and the weird pleasure you get from finding something,” she says. Eight of her favorite conquests are presented here.