Collecting to Inspire Your Creativity

Last week I visited the Magnificent Obsessions exhibition at The Barbican. This is a showcase of the large and hugely diverse collections of post war and contemporary artists.

What I found most inspiring about this exhibition was the range of objects and the vast places they were picked up. Many of the collections weren’t expensive paintings or rare artefacts in glass cases but things found in everyday places that inspire the artist. I started to look at the objects I have accumulated over time and could see how a small collection could be formed.

How to start a collection?

Collections can be anything from vinyl records to china elephants that live on your mantle piece. The important thing is to pick things you are drawn to and that you may want to hold on to for a long time.

Why collect?

For most of the artists in this exhibition their collections were used as a way to research and inspire their work. You could easily see the connection between the pieces they collect and the art they produce. It can also give your work more depth looking at primary objects as well as Internet based research.

Another good reason to collect is for fun! I love going to carboot sales but with all the mass of stuff it can help to look with a bit of a purpose. This could be looking for a general theme like objects from a certain time period or something really specific like black and white photographs with animals in.

And for me it was always a sort of archaeological or paleontological dig growing up. You know, when you’re going to somebody’s yard sale you’re imagining their life history as you look at the things they are selling.”

Jim Shaw, Artist. Taken from Magnificent Obsessions Catalogue


Where to look:
Carboot Sales
Car Boot Sale

Image from Ashley Heath Car Boot Sale

If your looking for variety or not sure what you want to pick up car boot sales are a brilliant way to find what your looking for and also a allot of what your not. Do a bit of research to find the best in your area as often they can be quite wide ranging in terms of what you can find. Have a look below for my list of some of the best in the UK.

Charity Shops

As with Carboot sales it’s definitely worth having a good look around your area for what’s out there. As it’s all donated stuff it’s good to revisit some, as a great-donated piece could be right around the corner.

Charity Shop


With so much now existing online places like Ebay can be a really good source for hidden treasures and collectible pieces. Like carboot sales and charity shops there is also an element of skill, with a lot of good value pieces if you look in the right places.

Ebay Logo

Best UK Car boot Sales
Car Boot Sale

Image from Capital Carboot Sale

Capital Car Boot Sale: London

Indoors and outdoors all year round Carboot Sale. Weekly indoor and outdoor Sunday carboot sale, flea/second hand and vintage market.-Open to public 11.30am-3.30pm-Open every Sunday. £5 form 10:15 £1 11:30 onwards. More information HERE

Ashley Heath: Dorset

One of the largest car boots in the Dorsit area with up to 700 stalls and parking for 5000 cars. Walkers get in free. More information HERE

Big Ben: Hertfordshire

Free entry. One of the oldest and best established car boot sales can get very busy on a Sunday. More information HERE

Hemswell Sunday Market: Lincolnshire

Mixture of new and used goods. Can pretty much find anything imaginable here. Over 800 trading stalls. More information HERE

Good luck collecting!


Find out more and book tickets for Magnificent Obsessions HERE

Young Barbican Logo


Check out Young Barbican it’s free to join and there are lots of opportunities for cheap tickets if your 16-25.



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