Friday, February 24, 2012

On Pepper Mills

Posted by Darin Hayton on 02/24 at 05:15 PM

An article in the NY Times yesterday, “A Family History, Liberally Peppered” reports on a family that has been collecting pepper mills for the past 27 years. They now have more than 600, though they deny any hopes of accumulating the largest collection.

Mr. Hoffman and his collection of pepper mills (Source: screenshot from “A Family History, Liberally Peppered”)

Like all objects, these pepper mills have been extracted from a world of utility and have been placed into a system in which they function as art: “It becomes more about buying an art piece than a functioning piece.”

This collection of pepper mills might have started haphazardly, but now like any collector, they only acquire objects that meet certain criteria: “it has to be one they don’t already own, it needs to have a grinding mechanism and it should be attractive, Ms. Hoffman said.” Frequently, these pepper mills become markers for their personal history, small pieces in an ever growing Renaissance memory palace of which they are the rulers. The Hoffmans narrate their lives moving from one pepper mill to the next.

In this, the Hoffmans’ pepper mills are much like the Luddens’ salt and pepper shakers and Harley Spiller’s spoons. Through the collecting and arranging of these objects each person constructs a personal identity.

Tags: collecting, collections, personal museum