Welcome to The Heirloom Project

What is our inheritance? In popular usage, an “heirloom” is something, perhaps an antique or most popular some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members (wikipedia).

A piece of furniture,  property,  a photo album,  an object; it could be a physical attribute, a gene which determines the way we have to live our lives, when we die or whether we create our own family, religious beliefs, the way we dress, articulate or carry ourselves.

Whatever it is, it will have an impact on our lives in some way or other. The way we see ourselves as people, our history and identity can all be part of our inheritance.

How do I know what I looked like as a child? Simple, my father laboured for hours creating photo albums with humorous titles and speech bubbles. I am partly shaped by my history, what my parents/grandparents/extended family passed on to me in the shape of objects, behaviour and emotional responses.

In this project I am trying to investigate the links between those ‘hand-me-downs’ and how that has made an impact on ‘us as individuals’.

I hope that by presenting these images and stories the viewer will start to ask questions about their own inheritance and how what has been passed down to them has influenced  their personality, identity and how they view the world.

I would be very grateful for your contributions, please follow the link to participate. This project is about and depends on your contributions.

Joakim

This pair of jugs were always there in my Grandmother’s kitchen, a place of security and inspiration. They had belonged to my Great Grandmother, and I was sometimes allowed to carefully hold them. I loved to trace the vivid turquoise edges and the golden painted flower patterns while my Grandmother would tell me stories of my Great Grandmother, her Mother. who danced and sang on stage, had long flaming red hair, and who took in other peoples washing when her husband was killed in the first world war. Sometimes she shared two boiled eggs between four children for tea. Her floor was so clean that you could eat off it, and she later sent a parcel every week to London and my Mother when my Grandmother married an RAF Officer, my Grandfather and moved to London. I now make ceramic and bronze sculpture and decorated plates.

My Grandmother always said that the jugs were to be mine, as I loved them. They sit in my far less tidy kitchen (though I love cleaning floors) and are for me a symbol of strength and beauty, gaiety, courage and love.

Julie Goldsmith
Artist

I inherited this bible after the death of my grandfather, Manuel Simeão da Silva, but the most important thing I inherited from him was his stories. My memory of him wasn’t so much as an ardent bible reader but as the adventurous young man he once was and for his playfulness.

He lived in another state and I was about 4 years old when I first met him. I remember him swinging me on a hammock, feeling terrified by his wrinkly face and dark skin every time the hammock swung close to his face. He was a cafuso, his mother was Brazilian Indian and his father an African.

It was only later when he came to live with us, after my father’s death, when I was 11 that I got to know him better.

He had mellowed by then; he wasn’t the severe man I had heard about. In fact, I think his old age regression matched my age at the time.

He was a great storyteller, telling me the wild tales of his youth and how he was quite the Don Juan. There were many stories about travelling through the jungle, and in particular his encounter with a dangerous snake. How he had eloped with my grandmother and how her father contracted bounty hunters to kill both of them.

It was only much later that I realized I was the only one he told those stories to. At times, I would get bored of listening as he repeated them over and over again. In hindsight I can see the wisdom of the repetition, because I can now remember those stories.

Viviane Carneiro
Psychotherapist

My “grandma” was a professional ballet dancer and these beautiful faded pointed shoes were passed on to me. I suppose there couldn’t really be another item that could so perfectly describe her and her entire life which was devoted to the ballet world. For me they bring back memories of rifling through her wardrobes which were stuffed with tutus, feathered creations, Russian inspired costumes, lots of sequins and glitter – so exciting for a little girl (still is!). I also have memories of her dancing, stretching and teaching in her living room right up until the last few months before she died. And so I take these pleasures into my own life, and try to fill it with dancing, and beautiful things as much as possible.

Olivia Gregory
Creative Director

These objects were lovingly made by my grandfather. He offered me the bowl and I received the two salt pots after he passed away. I use them everyday and they remind me of why I miss him so much. He never took himself too seriously and always managed to effortlessly connect to people through a beautiful sense of humor.

Katarina Nielsen

This miniature pin cushion was given to me after my grandmother passed away when I was 16.

She used to work as a seamstress and i remember playing with it as a child while she was busy making me rag dolls.

It sat in a drawer for years like most memories are left untouched in a part of your mind until you need them around you again...

Elise Dumontet
Photographer

I think of myself as being pretty unsentimental about objects of the past. However, old cameras are an exception. When I was in my mid-teens and very interested in photography, my father helped me to buy a second-hand Mamiyaflex camera. At the time, the cool buy would have been a Rolleiflex twin-lens, but that wouldn’t have given me a camera with bellows and the word ‘Professional’ inscribed on the front of the body.

The bellows were important because they gave me a link with the past and big-format photography. I also regarded the huge weight of the Mamiyaflex as an asset: the owner of such a monster would have to be more than an amateur to be prepared to lug it around the streets.

Today, the Mamiya C33 Professional sits as an ornament in our bedroom, looking across at our bed. Some might think that a bit kinky, but for me it reminds me of my father and a celluloid past which has almost disappeared.

Neil Hedges
Founder, Fishburn Hedges, the public relations group

These turn-of-the-century opera glasses belonged to my paternal grandmother who I never met as she died the year before my parents married in 1962. My father, who died four years ago, was a conductor, his father both a cellist and a tailor. He talked about my grandmother from time to time, sad that my brother and I never knew her. My entire childhood was steeped in music; both parents would sing Mozart, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven to us, I learned to play piano and flute, my brother, the trumpet and then the drums.

While my mother only gave me the glasses when my father died, they remind me of the first time he took me to the opera: I was seven and it was to see Carmen. I remember being utterly enchanted by the melodies and the drama, but was so sleepy by the interval he had to take me home to bed. The opera, as with all the music he introduced me to, has remained in my head forever.

Becky Sunshine
Journalist

I inherited Cassie from my mum years ago - guess I kind of just took her one day, as she had been shoved in a cupboard for years, and was wearing no shoes, no knickers, no top, just a rather chunky, unattractive knitted pink skirt and braces, and even though the smile (obviously) remained intact, looked somewhat chipped and neglected! I felt a bit sorry for her. She was my mum's first doll, and sported hair ‘back in the day’, but like a well loved grandad, I'd only ever know Cassie as a baldie! But the broad metal staples that held three strategically placed tufts of hair remain in her head - another reason to feel for her!

My Mum passed away a few years back, so Cassie's presence in my home has taken on even more significance. I like to move her around a bit, so that I never quite take her for granted! Although most visitors think she's rather creepy, to me she's always just my Mum’s Cassie, and I think she looks really rather magnificent in all her naked, ebony glory, albeit a bit chipped!

Suzanne Stankus
Creative Director/ Stylist

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