Problem-Solving for Non-Collectors: Accumulating, Decorating & Collecting, Part Seven

After wrestling (if that’s the correct metaphor, or sport) last week with the onerous burden of “too much stuff,” I wondered how one extricates oneself from such situations.

In the previous entry (Dec. 31) I trotted out such high-minded terms as “connoisseurship.”

Despite barely knowing the word’s meaning.

And suppose you don’t speak French, what’s an accumulator or decorator to do?

Luckily, I have an expert in my hip pocket: Mr. Robert Johnson.

As a young man, fresh out of RPI and with a brand-spanking new job as an optical engineer at Eastman Kodak, Mr. Johnson faced a similar situation in the mid-1950s.

His problem wasn’t that he had too much stuff; he didn’t have enough.

He needed a lamp. So a friend took him to Shop One, then located in Rochester’s Third Ward on Troup Street. Just across from RIT’s Student Union.

And there on display was a lamp. All wired up, with an electrical plug, and a shade.


He bought it.

Just so happened the lamp’s ceramic base had been created by Frans Wildenhain, one of Shop One’s founding partners. Johnson knew little about ceramics and nothing about Wildenhain.

“I didn’t appreciate the lamp’s importance,” Bob told me. “I just liked the lamp.”

And it was ready to install in his Prince Street apartment. Two perfectly good reasons for making the purchase.

On subsequent trips to Shop One, he found himself drawn to Wildenhain’s work. He bought another example. And then a third. Soon, his apartment became a little crowded with “Wildenhains,” as he likes to call them.

“After a while,” he continued, “I had no place to put them. So then I thought: ‘Oh, I’ll become a collector.’ And that’s how I solved that problem.”

Simple, huh?

Mr. Johnson collected “Wildenhains” for the next quarter of a century, the artist’s most productive and artistically ambitious period.

And in 2010, he donated his collection of 331 “Wildenhains” to RIT.

Nice. Really nice.

The Johnson collection comprised most of the 150 objects on display at the exhibit ( .

If you’re interested, there’s an interview with the very charming and dryly humorous Bob Johnson in the exhibit catalog. And, all the ceramics on exhibit, photographed by Sue Weisler, are presented between the same covers.

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