Collections come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever it is, a collection can take on a life of its own. And it says something about the person behind it. That’s our latest theme — The Collector: why we’re drawn to collect stuff, and what we’re willing to do in pursuit of it.
First, the co-owner of a Tacoma bar shares how he came to acquire a small collection of glass art from Dale Chihuly. Then, we meet a woman who makes jewelry out of animal bones. A man shares how his obsession with a certain tree led him on an intense trip to Chile in pursuit of seeds. We meet a Seattle librarian who is helping catalogue more than 30,000 zines from across the country. Next, we learn about the man who collected — among many things — recordings of ferry horns. Finally, one of our own shares what he’s learned from a collection of letters from past girlfriends.
On top of the old bar inside The Swiss in Tacoma — towering above 31 tap handles and customers enjoying a burger or some live music — sit eight brightly colored glass vases designed by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.
To some, they might seem out of place. But to the owners who acquired them from the artist 25 years ago, they feel like an essential part of the place. Listen to this story, part of the full episode above, about how The Swiss became home to these valuable pieces, which are worth more than $250,000.
When something dies, you do one of two things: bury it or let nature run its course. Amanda Joe didn’t want to do either when she passed the small pink bodies of dead birds en route to school one morning as a child.
Now, Joe makes a living out of death: by culling forests for bones she can turn into jewelry and sell online.
It’s fun. It pays the bills. And it’s given Joe a perspective on death that may strike you as beautiful — or a bit uncomfortable. Listen to this story by Sound Effect’s Max Wasserman.
IN SEARCH OF SEEDS
Dan Tucker has a thing for trees, going back to his upbringing here in the Northwest, surrounded by lush Douglas fir forest.
Eventually, he became fixated on a certain type of freakishly different trees — you might say obsessed. He wanted to see what the so-called monkey puzzle trees looked like in their primeval forest habitat. He wondered what their edible seeds tasted like. And he was curious whether he could collect enough seeds to plant a grove of monkey puzzle trees on his own land on San Juan Island.
That obsession would lead him to the highlands of Chile on trip where he would literally bleed for his seed collection. Listen to his tale.
Before Facebook and Instagram, before blogs and before the internet, some creative people with something to say put time and effort into making their own magazines. They’re called zines.
Seattle librarian Abby Bass is one of the people tasked with cataloguing more than 30,000 of them from across the country. Learn more about the Seattle Public Library’s “Zine Archive & Publishing Project,” or ZAPP for short.
In the first half of the 20th century, before Washington state took over most of the region’s ferry lines, there was a signature sound you would hear as ferry boats came in to dock.
And it had a name: “A warp and two woofs, it’s a long and two shorts,” says Alan Stein, a historian at the online encyclopedia of Washington state history, Historylink.
Sound Effect producer Posey Gruener talked to Stein. He introduces us to a man named William Thorniley, who collected (among many things) recordings of ferry horns.
Everyone who has made a long-distance move in their life — when they decided to take with them only what they could fit in their car — has been tasked with deciding what is absolutely necessary. On Sound Effect producer Kevin Kniestedt’s multiple cross-country moves, he made room in the mid-sized sedan for a sentimental item or two.
Those included a small wooden box his grandfather made when he was young. At first, it included some poker chips and a deck of cards.
Eventually, Kevin filled it with letters from past girlfriends. Listen to hear what he learned after rediscovering this box.