In the 1970s, Angela Plant had just come back from working in New York and was living in Bondi. Walking to the bus stop one day, she saw a dead owl on the ground. It looked only newly dead, otherwise perfectly formed and an excellent example of its species. She picked it up and put it in a plastic bag before taking it to a man she had heard of in Darlinghurst.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Angela, who has been collecting owls since the 1970s. “It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
“He told me it was a perfect specimen, so he ended up stuffing it for me and I kept it.
“I wasn’t sure if it was something I was really allowed to do, so after I had it for about 10 years, I decided to donate it to a museum.”
When it comes to collecting, Angela Plant is pretty wise. After the remarkable encounter at Bondi, she still remembers vividly today, her love for owls has grown wings. She still collects today, although she admits she is more picky with what she brings home because, as is the case with most collectors, sometimes they can take over your house.
“I think I have about 500 owls now,” said Angela, who now lives in Canberra.
She has toy ones, many made from china and others of every shape, colour, size and breed. They’re perched on wherever there’s a flat surface in her home, but mostly on a bookshelf she found years ago – made for someone else’s collection – but fits her owls perfectly.
“It started for me when I was living in New York,” she said. “I was looking to collect ‘something’. I walked into this shop and saw an owl – I guess that was it.
“Many years later, I’m still collecting owls, but I’m doing it a bit slower, you have to. I try to say no when I see one, but sometimes it’s hard to.
“I don’t know what it is about owls, but I do love them. Maybe it’s their big eyes; they can look almost sad.”
With more than 50 years of collecting, Angela’s owls are many and varied. One of her favourites is a Japanese one that when you tip it forward, its eyes pop out on stalks. Then there are others you just want to take advice from because they look so smart. She has them in china, soft material, as salt and pepper shakers and as art, on tiles, in frames or as coasters, all providing joy for an individual reason.
Do you love collecting? Historic, kitsch, tasteful, weird – there’s no judgement here, except we are not immune to tacky (hint, hint).
Just email a few details about what you collect and why to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may well see your collection displayed right here for all to enjoy.