The collector: Tim Parsons, designer, writer, lecturer. Currently based in Chicago.
The collection: Coat hangers.
The story behind the collection...
In the late 1990s while studying at the Royal College of Art in the Design Products department, I came across a box of hangers discarded on the street in South London. Some were familiar but others were quite unusual, with strange crooked shapes, extraordinarily long hooks or company names embossed into their wooden surfaces. Struck by the variety of characters expressed by this one type of product I appealed to friends to bring more into college, however strange or ordinary, so that I could make a record of them. It was a kind of ad-hoc, research about the personality that can be imbued into everyday objects. I didn’t intend it to become “my collection”, but many of the friends who brought in hangers for me to photograph said I could keep them, and as word got out, I began receiving them as presents. I made a small flip book called “50 Hangers”, a tongue-in-cheek reference to all of the 50 Products / 50 Lights / 50 Tables books that populated the design sections of bookshops at the time, and eventually I had to concede that I did actually collect coat-hangers!
What is it you like about them?
Seeing so many differently designed objects of the same kind is a fascinating window into the minds of their designers and into the way that subtle inflections of line and form can have a big effect upon the impression an object makes.
How long have you been collecting and how many do you have?
I’ve had the collection since I found the box which was about 13 years ago. I own around 50 and have pictures of about 80 altogether.
Where is your collection kept?
It’s in the wardrobe, hanging clothes!
Do you have a favourite?
I have a particular soft-spot for the ones which double as clothes brushes. It’s one of the few examples of a multi-functional object that works well. The brush is in the right place at the right time – in your hand, when you’ve just put your jacket on.
Are there any designs you don't yet have that you would really love to add to your collection?
I have to admit, I don’t really search them out – they sort of find me!
Do you have any other collections?
I’m a hoarder of anything that provides a useful reference for design work, be that material, form, texture, finish. I wouldn’t call it a collection because it’s completely unstructured, but my wife and I occasionally make groupings that we put on display, just for fun. I think we must have been curators in another life!
Are you obsessed?
I actually don’t think I’m obsessed, but I also don’t want to part with any of them! As long as we have wardrobe space I think I can claim it’s a useful collection!
Do you have any further reading recommendations to share with Obsessionistas readers?
Yes, there’s a great book Cintres (hangers in French) by Daniel Rozensztroch which has many more unusual hangers, nicely photographed. One of my brush-hangers made it into that book.
Images © Tim Parsons and used with his kind permission.