Meet the Collector: Tree Fern Prints and Skillets and Insects (Oh My!)

John Tidwell’s bathroom is not exempt from becoming a showcase for one of his collections: vintage tree fern prints!

As part of our ongoing Everyone Is A Collector series, we’re highlighting collector extraordinaire John Tidwell, Philadelphia-based collector who treats the art of collecting like an ongoing project of establishing his own historicity— one that evolves with time and place, and reflects his own personal experiences. He talked to us about what draws him towards his subjects of collection, and what collecting means to him.

What is it that you collect?

Rocks, Buddhas, political buttons, stamps, coins, cast iron skillets (Griswold), exotic textiles, 78 rpm blues records, 33/3rd Rock, Jazz, Classical World music, Jim Flora record albums, old family photos (mine), imagery for decoupage, signed 1st edition fiction/non-fiction, ethnic masks & figures, old tree fern prints/postcards, old wood boxes, animal skulls I embed in plastic, insects I embed in plastic.

Tell us everything about this collection! What attracted you to this? What do you like most about it? Which one is your favorite?

For reasons never very clear, I have collected a variety of quirky things that I suddenly developed a fascination with. My  love of old blues 78rpms (another collection) introduced me to Columbia & RCA Records illustrator Jim Flora, who gave jazz and big band albums in the 1940s and ’50s a uniquely artsy look.(https://www.jimflora.com).

Tree ferns were another obsession, which like malaria, returns from time to time, and is only thwarted by the climate of the Northeast. Now I content my fernophilia by perusing the one-and-only authoritative book on tree ferns, and playing my drum, made from the trunk of an Australian tree fern species. 

When did you start your collection?

Since I was a kid (I am 58 now). Different ones at different times— all are ongoing, as occasion and finances permit.

What inspires you most about having your collection in your home?

They are a reflection of me, a mosaic of my interests, tastes and obsessions. To see my apartment is to see who I am. They are friends from my life that conjure memories or provide use.

John Tidwell is a writer and teacher by trade and an artist by vocation. He has lived in the wilds of West Philly for three years, since relocating from Silver Spring.

In his mixed media work, Tom Herbert explores various concepts of abstraction through the use of repeated pattens and shapes. His use of fractured elements to create designs gives his work an kinetic energy that keeps the viewers eye engaged.
Tom Herbert
Tom Herbert

In his mixed media work, Tom Herbert explores various concepts of abstraction through the use of repeated pattens and shapes.…

In his mixed media work, Tom Herbert explores various concepts of abstraction through the use of repeated pattens and shapes. His use of fractured elements to create designs gives his work an kinetic energy…

In his mixed media work, Tom Herbert explores various concepts of abstraction through the use of repeated pattens and shapes. His use of fractured elements to create designs gives his work an kinetic energy that keeps the…

Gerri Spilka’s award winning work has been exhibited in numerous art and textile shows in Europe, Canada, and the US. Trained in this order, as an artist, social scientist, and architect and urban planner, not surprisingly, Spilka’s fabric work continues to investigate themes grounded in these ways of knowing the world.
Gerri Spilka
Gerri Spilka

Gerri Spilka’s award winning work has been exhibited in numerous art and textile shows in Europe, Canada, and the US. Trained…

Gerri Spilka’s award winning work has been exhibited in numerous art and textile shows in Europe, Canada, and the US. Trained in this order, as an artist, social scientist, and architect and urban planner,…

Gerri Spilka’s award winning work has been exhibited in numerous art and textile shows in Europe, Canada, and the US. Trained in this order, as an artist, social scientist, and architect and urban planner, not surprisingly,…

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery.  I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse myself in the experience of painting, never quite knowing where it may take me or what the outcome may be. Sometimes my struggles while paining a subject may lead to failure, and if I still have a strong conviction about my feeling for  the subject, I start again on a fresh canvas or panel and get what I want. I love oil paint and it has never lost its magic or made me want to change to a different medium.  The lusciousness,  luminosity and expressive nature of paint, how a gesture or mark can be beautiful in itself and at the same time form part of an image is why I keep on painting and drawing...
Helene Halstuch
Helene Halstuch

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery. I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse…

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery. I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse myself in the experience of painting, never quite knowing where it may take me…

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery. I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse myself in the experience of painting, never quite knowing where it may take me or what the outcome…

Keith Breitfeller paints color fields with oil paint on canvas. The gradation is meditative and spiritual.
Keith R. Breitfeller
Keith R. Breitfeller

Keith Breitfeller paints color fields with oil paint on canvas. The gradation is meditative and spiritual.…

Keith Breitfeller paints color fields with oil paint on canvas. The gradation is meditative and spiritual.…

Keith Breitfeller paints color fields with oil paint on canvas. The gradation is meditative and spiritual.…

Karen Freedman is recognized for her vibrant abstract geometric paintings that explore the interaction of color and its ability to alter perception.
Karen Freedman
Karen Freedman

Karen Freedman is recognized for her vibrant abstract geometric paintings that explore the interaction of color and its ability…

Karen Freedman is recognized for her vibrant abstract geometric paintings that explore the interaction of color and its ability to alter perception.…

Karen Freedman is recognized for her vibrant abstract geometric paintings that explore the interaction of color and its ability to alter perception.…

previous arrow
next arrow