As a child I remember the joy of opening a small red leather box, always fearing the lid would snap shut on my fingers, to see the little frog nestling within a bed of cotton wool. I’d enjoy placing the frog in the palm of my hand, so light I could hardly feel him sitting there, looking at the carving and peering at the colour of his jade eyes, a beautiful opaque green. Given to me by a great aunt, I never had the opportunity to meet, my frog was always kept safely by my mum amongst her other boxes of precious objects. Even now having left home almost twenty years ago, I don’t keep my frog with me, he seems too precious to take him away from the safety of my childhood home. I still enjoy opening the frog’s box when I return home and now love sharing him with my daughter. She too enjoys unwrapping him from his cocoon and placing him on her hand, feeling the carving with her fingers and the smoothness of his body.
The encouragement I received as a child to look at paintings, ceramics, furniture, sculpture, books has spurned my appreciation for the beauty of objects. It has also led me to think about how objects are made, the material they are made from, where they’ve come from, and who they’ve been owned by. I feel very fortunate to have found a career I love, one that allows me to handle and discover the stories behind objects on a daily basis. Enjoying the feeling of the little frog in my hand has never gone away and is something I hope my daughter continues to enjoy as her love for art flourishes.
Dr Alice Strickland, curator for the National Trust. She is currently working on a project considering how the organisation can display their most significant collections. Her doctorate considered British women war artists of the Second World War and she has been awarded a Paul Mellon research grant for a publication on women war artists of the First World War. She recently contributed to a series of books on Modern Women Artists writing about Laura Knight.