Secret Stash: Textiles, Hoarding, Collecting, Accumulation and Craft

I’m excited to have an essay in this wonderful new volume edited by Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch.

“Secret Stash: Textiles, Hoarding, Collecting, Accumulation and Craft.” In The New Politics of the Handmade: Craft, Art and Design. Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch, eds. Bloombury Press, 2020, pp. 181-98.

Excerpt: “These introductory narratives present the complexity of hoarding. In this essay, I look first at the history of hoarding and bring this discourse up to date to examine the recent pathologization of hoarding as a mental disease through its 2013 acceptance into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Second, because my interest is specifically in textiles, I examine the mass accumulation of yarn, textiles and other goods by crafters. Though fabric and yarn stashes can result in feelings of guilt, they are also understood as storehouses, loaded with the memories of past handmade items and the potential for future projects. Descriptions of craft hoards complicate understandings of hoarding as a ‘curable’ mental illness. Third, I consider how artists such as Mitchell have used hoarding and/or the representation of hoards as a strategy to address excess, waste, emotional attachments to objects, and overconsumption. In the final section, I bring these threads together to ask whether the increasing presence of hoarding is simply symptomatic of changing patterns of consumption, and whether ‘hoarding [is] less of a mental illness located in the brain and more of a socialised phenomenon located in the world at large.’[i] In other words, given the ease of accumulation under late capitalism, is it possible to think about hoarding as a creative response to the amount of stuff circulating in the world as much as it is a pathology? Does it provide a way of thinking through the full (long) life cycle of consumer objects, from their making through to their eventual disintegration? And can we do this by acknowledging that the line between hoarding and over-consumption is a porous one, granted seeming impermeability only insofar as the ambient accumulation of material objects symptomatic of late capitalism is pushed to the background? My overall goal here is to complicate the over-simplified discourse around hoarding through a discussion of the pleasures and guilt of ownership, collecting, and use….”


[i] Scott Herring, The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2014), 5.

About Kirsty Robertson

Kirsty Robertson is Associate Professor of contemporary art and Director of museum and curatorial studies at Western University, Canada.

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