COLUMBIA — As Cheryl Dake prepared to move into a new house in August, she packed at least 15 boxes of pottery, six stuffed with pieces by her favorite artist, Sue Gerard.
She packed five boxes with vintage hats. She packed about a dozen baskets with figurines and pen knives, brass bottle openers and small wooden boxes. With the help of her family and friends, Dake finished moving in eight days. The group could not fathom how one person could accumulate so much stuff.
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Dake is a collector of collections. At 61, she has acquired at least 17 separate collections of knickknacks and vintage clothing that she exhibits throughout her house. If she happens to stumble upon something unusual and affordable, she adds it to her collection.
"I don't go looking for things," she said. "They find me."
She began collecting baskets after she discovered one discarded in the yard of her old basement apartment. She now counts more than 40 in her living room.
She started scooping up hats from the 1930s and 1940s after selling vintage clothing at The Market Place on Business Loop 70, where she is the assistant manager.
"I don't really wear them," she said. "I just think they are cool."
She keeps rocks, something her grandmother also collected, from places she's traveled. She can identify their location just by looking at them.
"A lot of collections are memories when it is boiled down," she said. "They are little parts of people's lives."
Handcrafted items appeal to Dake as well. She said she admires anyone with a creative spirit. She is fond of Sue Gerard pottery because each detail was made completely by hand.
"It creates an invisible bond between me and the person who made it," she said.
She also searches for items that are functional. She uses her baskets to store collectibles, and she sips coffee out of a Sue Gerard mug every morning.
She does set parameters for the size of each collection and tries not to purchase items that are similar.
Nonetheless, Dake cannot help herself when she sees a fun hat or a new piece of pottery.
"When it speaks to me, I get it — if I can afford it," she said.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.