3 December 2021

When collecting knows no bounds - except more shelf space

| Sally Hopman
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Man and woman on couch

Collectors Trevor and Beth Reid at their Gowrie home. Photo: Sally Hopman.

In some ways, Beth and Trevor Reid collected each other.

Married for nearly 50 years, they do everything together and have a bond few other couples can boast – they simply love collecting “stuff”.

There’s not an inch in their Gowrie home without something on it. A cupboard that looks like it would explode if opened, floor space, walls … almost everything has something in or on it.

Ask them what their favourite thing to collect is and they’ll tell you it has to have a story – and in their eyes, be beautiful. It’s all about aesthetics. Like the grain in a piece of wood. The workmanship in a piece of art from Indonesia. The provenance of a book. Storyboards of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea.

Collecting is in their blood.

“We both grew up in homes with lots of old furniture,” Trevor said. “We love stuff that has lasted, if something has a history, I just find I’m more comfortable with it.”

“I just always want to know the story behind stuff,” his wife added. “I’ll pick up something at a trash and treasure and I just can’t leave it there. It needs a home.

“When Trevor was working at the National Museum as a host, I’d check out the op shops and trash and treasure. He’d ring me at lunchtime to ask if I’d found anything.”

Collection of pottery

A section of the Reids’ Australian china collection. They also collect porcelain from all over the world. Photo: Sally Hopman.

The couple love Australian china but also collect ceramics from Germany, The Netherlands and United Kingdom. They love textiles – both are exquisite quilters and Trevor is also a master at macrame.

Trevor collects rolling pins because he can. How many does he have? “I don’t know, probably about 100, I have one that dates back to the mid-1800s.”

Their collection doesn’t just stay cocooned in cupboards and drawers. They use almost all the pieces, like the coffee grinders, pyrex dishes, plates, cups and bowls that inhabit the kitchen.

“Beth knows where everything is,” Trevor said. “She can also tell you when and where everything came from.”

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In the next room you’ll find a collection of buddhas, oil lamps and crosses, “the ones you find on nuns’ belts,” Beth said. “Not because they’re religious, I just like them.”

They frequent trash and treasure markets, ops shops, recycling centres – wherever other people have left their stuff. But not so much as they used to because they’re running out of room.

“The pickings now are different,” Beth says. “Stuff is still out there, but you have to be lucky.

“What we do now,” Beth says, “is when we sell a quilt, we’ll say to each other, what can we buy with the money from that?

“I find that once you find one thing and buy it, you start seeing the same thing in other places – so you have to get them too.”

Glass vases on window sill.

The Reids also collect what they call bud vases which they have positioned on their kitchen window sill to catch the light. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Trevor said people were often “gobsmacked” when they came into their home.

“Sometimes when I go for a walk at night and you can see into people’s houses, the rooms have nothing in them. I just see a lounge suite and a coffee table and maybe a print on the wall – look at this,” he says, pointing to his lounge room which has room for little else but oxygen.

The couple has never not collected. Beth worked as a public servant in Canberra, including a stint at Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“It’s funny because I worked in the policy area running computer systems, yet I was always interested in arts and crafts,” she says.

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Trevor’s background ranges from high-end retail to running after-school care programs to a stint as a hippy.

“I grew my hair, wore one of those Afghani coats …”

So is there anything they want to collect that they as yet haven’t?

“No,” says Beth, laughing. “We are not going to start anything new. That would be bad.”

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 shopman@region.com.au, and you may well see your collection displayed right here for all to enjoy.

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Collecting could be called tidy hoarding.

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