adorning our lives

Over the years I’ve become increasingly careful about what new items I bring into my home. I’ve spent several years paring back book collections and ornaments to remove anything I don’t truly appreciate.

I established my simple formula before Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy became a revolution, but from what I understand (as I haven’t read the book) it gels quite closely to her system. I ask myself is the item 1) functional or 2) beautiful? If it’s both it’s unimpeachable, but it should hit one of these criteria. What is lovely to one person is hideous to another, therefore this is a wholly personal exercise.

I’m not entirely without sentiment, however. And that’s okay.

I’m not a fan of utterly sparse environments, but if you enjoy an abundance of items it’s better if they all possess meaning. Shallow, disposable tat doesn’t last long in my home anymore – unless it adheres to one of the above rules of course. Value doesn’t have to equal high cost.

Recently I welcomed a new sculpture into my home.

This is a raku ceramic hare by Paul Jenkins. It sits perfectly on my hearth, gently glowing even in the dim light we are wont to get in a country prone to overcast skies.

It’s at rest, but alert. Ready to spring into action and run quickly if necessary.

More and more I appreciate those items that make you smile even if you only catch a passing glance at them during your daily tasks.

I love sculpture. When I go to museums it’s the sculptures that command my attention. There is something about the dimensionality of them: they are physically present in a different way than flat artwork – although it’s the roughness and layering of brush strokes on original paintings that truly bring them to life.

When I visited Japan one of the things I was struck by was the sheer number of statues, often part of shrines, which populated the cities and rural landscapes. Many of them are adorned with clothing. The sense is that they are cared for, and not just an embellishment.

I could write several blog posts full with photos from my Japanese trip. It’s a country I loved exploring. I remember my time there often, and with fondness.


Generally, I think people have familiar relationship with statues in their cities. In Dublin they are all given funny nicknames, which lends them a feeling of being old friends. And if you see them in the street everyday, don’t they become part of your regular crowd? They also subtly shift in tone and attitude depending on the weather and time of day.

Here’s a Dublin sculpture I photographed at night, recently. I think it looks better here than it does during the day. It’s ‘Proclamation‘ by Rowan Gillespie. It’s a mournful piece, and this comes across especially in the dark.

Statues have traditionally been a locus for mythic and religious reverence. In this fashion they are meant to represent the God/saint/mystic in person. To stand before it is to be in the presence of the sacred.

You do not need to believe to be moved by great art. That’s its transcendent power. It’s why throughout human culture we have not been satisfied with rudimentary living.

From the beginning bodies were tattooed with designs, clothes weaved and stitched with patterns, jewellery fashioned from polished beads or the most expensive gold, cups and jugs painted and glazed, and icons have been carved and carried into our homes.

We decorate our lives and living spaces almost as a biological imperative. An ancient nesting drive now expressed through human artforms.

Sometimes that urge gets kicked into overdrive and there is only the panic of filling up all the lonely spaces in our lives.

And perhaps in such cases there is solace in hoarding. Nothing is let go, therefore nothing is forgotten, or left behind.

We surround ourselves with meaning through our objects, and arrange them in groups and dioramas that bring us joy. And they become part of our household.

Especially the statues.