The collector: Marlene Little - Photographer, Textile Designer, Curator, University Lecturer. Birmingham (UK).
The collection: Plastic grass.
Tell us the story behind your collection…
With apologies to Cartier Bresson, particularly in relation to the accompanying snapshots, the decisive moment was a cold, windy day in Melbourne, a shop (Super Square Pty. Ltd. Importer and Wholesaler of Ladies Bras & Underwear, Mens & Kids Underwear & ..) As if that wasn't enough, there was also a sale sign blowing in the breeze. They reeled me in. It was a big barn of a place entered through a narrow corridor... and there it was next to the Australian flag. How could I resist buying this Chinese grass... in Australia, a country of drought... and transporting it to the UK? The shopkeeper was rather camera shy, but I want to share this important moment of the first purchase. I've been three times in all. On the second trip I found a stack of floral grass at the back of the shop, and on the third - Super Square Pty. Ltd. was no more!
It's a crafty product - though used prolifically for visual merchandising installations (and not for sale), every now and then a retail shop pops up with the foresight to stock it and reels you in - Melbourne, Paris, Berlin, London, Istanbul...
Why collect these?
What is it you like about them?
Their presence, but the lack of maintenance demands is also a positive.
How long have you been collecting?
Since 2007 (the 27 July to be precise).
How many do you have?
25 and still searching.
Tell us how your collection is displayed...
No expense is spared on the storage and display system. They are stored in plastic tubs and savoured at odd moments... especially when the motor mower is playing up and the cutting of the grass /moss /lawn is problematic.
Which one is your favourite?
That has to be the broad leafed grass with fabric crocuses from Berlin - a visual feast with a staggering 9cm profile, closely followed by Melbourne's pink ribbon-wrapped, acetate packaged grass with white roses and variegated leaves from Keen - but the enjoyment of this piece is limited. The chi chi packaging contributed to the highly inflated price, and having carried this bulky but fragile item from Melbourne to Birmingham without crushing it, I'm loathe to dismantle it, so I peer at it longingly through the acetate.
What’s still missing from your current collection? Is there a particular piece that you don’t yet have that you would really love?
Part of the intrigue is I don't know. I turned a corner in a back street in Istanbul - there was a hardware store with a battered cardboard box in front of the shop with... miniature floral grass - 13cm square instead of the usual 24cm. Who'd have thought there would have been miniatures (and no, it wasn't a canny shopkeeper cutting them up - they had been formed in that configuration!)
Do you have any other collections?
Plastic grass faces competition from my other obsessions /delights - the joy of discovering clothed buildings (3 last week), and of course there's always the endless permutation of the British Beach Hut.
Is your collection out of control?
It's a mini collection at this point, we still fit into the house, and I haven't had to think of a mezzanine for the garden, so there's a long way to go.
Are you obsessed?
Plastic grass (and clothed buildings and beach huts) make life worth living.
Images © Helen Powell with the kind permission of Marlene Little.