Julian Trevelyan: A Travelling Suitcase of the (Creative) Mind by daintydora

I have been a mass-observer now for a few years, and had heard a lot about Julian Trevelyan's work as an artist, and specifically his suitcase of ephemera - tickets, receipts, newspaper and other similar paper-based enchantments. (And I adore paper-based enchantments.) In 2013 I took a day-trip to London to see the fantasticMass Observation: This is Your Photoexhibition at the Photographer's Gallery in London, and so I was able to view this coveted suitcase in person.

Julian Trevelyan's suitcase.jpg
Isn't the doily so perfectly preserved?

Julian Trevelyan was an artist and poet who documented street-scenes of northern English towns - specifically Bolton - through detailed collages crafted from the contents of his suitcase. I love this idea, and I love the fact that he was clearly an archiver of the times; a social artist and diarist through the medium of paper and glue as well as pen and paper.

With packing bags for a few trips away of late (including a spa break for my birthday), and trying to maintain my creative practices while away, I thought back to Julian Trevelyan's suitcase and how wonderful it must have been to travel about and just 'set up shop' to craft and create, wherever and whenever.

There is such a beautiful freedom in that for me, and although I try to recreate that carefree sense of creativity on the go in my own life, I always end up loaded down with sketchbooks and scrapbooks and maybe my laptop and knitting needles poking me in the eye.

Julian Trevelyan Collage.jpg

I also keep memory boxes and envelopes with tickets and receipts and postcards; collections in the physical realm that represent and trigger memories of days out, holidays, trips to the cinema, encapsulating an era, a time in my life, pockets of thought that can instantly be recalled just through the visual stimulus of the paper trail left behind.

They are like springboards to other creative practices such as art journaling and writing down my family story which is omnipresent in my mind.

But I can't help but compare the jam-packed, jumbled suitcase contents to memories all stacked together, filed in non-chronological order inside the creative mind. The mind of any creative person with projects and plans intertwined and multi-layered, multi-faceted, overlapping.

I wonder what Julian Trevelyan would have made of the modern technological world as a platform for artists, and for documenting life and art as we do now pretty much everyday in one way or another through social media, blogging, video, etc? I'd love to know.

Julian Trevelyan Collage Close Up.jpg
I cruised around and settled on the outskirts of town near to some cotton mills and reservoirs. At the time I was making collages; I carried a large suitcase full of newspapers, copies of Picture Post, seed catalogues, old bills and other scraps, together with a pair of scissors, a pot of gum, and a bottle of Indian ink. I was applying the collage techniques I had learnt from the Surrealists to the thing seen, and now tore up pictures of the Coronation crowds to make the cobblestones of Bolton. It was awkward, sometimes, in a wind, when my little pieces would fly about, and I was shy of being watched at it; but it was a legitimate way, I think, of inviting the god of Chance to lend a hand in painting my picture.Julian TrevelyanFrom his book, Indigo Days, 1957

What's in the suitcase? by daintydora

Recently I bought a beautiful and pristine red vintage suitcase. *Swoon*. It's circa 1950s/60s and branded 'Airport'. It even has the original keys! I carried it home feeling like a glamorous traveler embarking on a life-changing voyage.

Vintage Red 'Airport' Suitcase - themagpiediaries.co.uk

And then I mentioned it to my online Blog with Pip friends. Wow. I'm so glad I did! Because it sparked off lots of vintage-suitcase-love, shared stories, memories of previously owned and loved suitcases, and then thoughts of where they may have travelled before and since.

Thanks so much to Karen of Leaf & Petal for her suitcase-inspired short-story, 'Suitcase Tales'. I was hooked at the first line, amidst the image of those auburn curls...

To keep the suitcase-theme going, I had planned to weave my own little story inspired by my new red suitcase, but then I remembered reading this article a few days earlier, sent to me by a friend.

The article reveals how Jane Gillooly, a film director, came to find the audio tapes of a long and illicit love affair in a suitcase she bought on eBay. She had no idea what the tapes contained, but has since made a documentary telling the lovers' story. You can watch a trailer for the documentary: Suitcase of Love and Shame.

I find it fascinating that such a discovery is still possible, as we daily transcend and eschew the physical in an ever-digital world.

It got me thinking about the things both tangible and intangible that a suitcase can represent - from an easy way to transport clothes (arguably the key purpose of a suitcase), to a place to stash memories and treasures in the form of diaries, letters, photographs, memorabilia, music, tapes; encompassing a lifetime, a lifestyle, a hobby, a hoard, a collection of nothing or in this case, the love and shame of an affair.

Vintage Red 'Airport' Suitcase

But as people are encouraged to declutter and live a minimalist lifestyle, what becomes of the tangible reminders of life, love and everything?

Vintage Red 'Airport' Suitcase - themagpiediaries.co.uk

It's already been acknowledged that people hardly send letters anymore, and even the number of Christmas cards sent are dwindling.

Books are digital, music is digital, photographs are digital.

In our modern, busy lives, people are less and less likely to actually PRINT OUT their photographs, never mind spend time sticking them in albums and consider the 'story' of a particular occasion or period in their life.

Another blog friend, Sara, writing on her blog, The Imperfect Crafter, touched on this last week, and I have to agree: digital archives do not hold the same charm.

It is a sad fact that treasures and memories are increasingly 'invisible'. And if someone died now and left nothing but a trail of social media accounts, how could that be enjoyed by family members in the future? It would effectively be lost, as presumably, these accounts would be password-protected, and one day deleted. (Yes I know that everything online is being backed up and archived for future reference by the British Library et al, but STILL. That's not the point here. It's not information that is easily accessible to the average nostalgia-hunter, or in any way as appealing as it would be to find old letters, diaries, tapes, in a vintage suitcase...)

Luckily I've long documented the everyday with my geeky joy and pride in scrapbooking, so I say YES! to the physical ephemera of life, and if you're wondering where to keep yours, then I recommend a beautiful vintage suitcase. Or maybe a whole (retro) stack?

But what actually is in my suitcase?

Vintage Red 'Airport' Suitcase - themagpiediaries.co.uk

Well, I didn't buy it with any particular purpose in mind because that's the kind of magpie I am, but now you mention it, mine is stocked with scrapbooks and photograph albums and all the special little (paper) things that I want to keep.

And keeping things like this in a suitcase means it's all safe and neat and tidy. And transportable in case a quick getaway is required with all the treasures of my life.

I'd love to imagine that in the future my own children or grandchildren might stumble across my vintage (antique?) suitcase and spend an afternoon delighting in its contents. The very same suitcase that I bought one day on a whim, in the West End of Glasgow, with my Mum.

And perhaps they will even be able to read this very same blog post about it too.