Kathy Blum started collecting jewelry about a decade ago and now has a large collection that includes such things as Victorian brooches and lockets. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Curiosities come out of curios and cupboards for Langley museum exhibit

Langley Collects features local people and their collections of unique items

Carved nuts turned into elegant jewelry, miniature irons used by salesmen in the days before electricity, vintage stitched samplers with special messages – a diverse display of items are to be found at the Langley Centennial Museum as local collectors showcase their goodies.

The exhibit Langley Collects gives people a chance to see what some local folks have in hallways, curio cabinets, boxes in attics and garages.

Kathy Blum has never counted the number of pieces in her collections. On display at the museum are whimsical animal pottery pieces by UBC educator Mollie Carter.

That collection started because Blum found a small mouse figurine at a thrift store. Research on the internet led her to find more pieces which are now on display.

She started one of her largest collections about a decade ago.

“I started with the rhinestone jewelry,” she said. “It reminded me of what my mother wore, had in her jewelry box, and what my grandmother wore.”

Then other items started catching her eye. When she first started seeing the dark yellow jewelry items, she thought they were plastic but she’s now an avid collector of what turned out to be amber. Then there was corral, bone, jade, and historical jewelry that she started appreciating.

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For her, the highlights of her collection are the pieces made with unique items such as butterfly wing, shell, finely detailed carved nuts, and feathers. There’s even Victorian mourning jewelry that includes human hair woven into intricate designs.

But don’t expect to see Blum dripping in jewelry whenever she sets foot outside her door.

“I don’t wear a lot of it, maybe on special occasions,” Blum said.

The exhibit runs until Jan. 16 at the museum in Fort Langley, and most of the collectors were there for the show’s opening Sept. 26.

George Otty inherited his collection from his father who amassed more than 900 miniature sad irons (metal irons heated on the fire or stove). Often mistaken for children’s toys, the irons were actually salesmen’s samples, easier to carry around to make sales to merchants. Barry Leinbach’s items on display include pieces that harken back to Expo ‘86 because of the memories they evoke. He said his main collecting criteria now is “does it bring a smile to my face.”

The idea for the show came from the husband of museum curator Kobi Christian. Grant Christian’s collecting passion is poker chips. Kobi figured there would be other people as passionate about their collections and put out the word around the community to find subjects for the exhibit.

Janice Copley’s collection started because someone was passionate about her.

Her samplers came from all manner of sources – thrift stores, international trips, and more.

“Seeing how much I enjoyed them, my husband started gifting new ones to me on special occasions, birthdays and holidays,” she explained.

Most are done with cross stitch but one of her prized pieces has embroidery, which is not commonly used on samplers.

“It’s more solid,” she explained about embroidery. “You get more drama.”

The samplers date back to the 1800s, including one of the first samplers she acquired because it was made in 1857 by an eight-year-old boy as a gift to his mother. Like most samplers done by children, it has letters and numbers stitched onto it.

“Children often stitched samplers at school as paper was in short supply and this was a way to display their knowledge,” Copley explained.

She’s never counted how many samplers that she has but they cover the walls of her home and there’s still more in boxes. They convey messages of love, hope, friendship, and even humour. For Copley, collecting is about appreciating the effort that is required to complete a piece.

“Because I do it myself, I can really appreciate the work, the hours and hours,” she explained.

• Learn more about the museum


Mollie Carter taught at UBC in the 1940s and 1950s and also made pieces for HBC. Her fanciful nature scenes, marked Molla - Vancouver BC – are now highly prized by collectors such as Langley’s Kathy Blum. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Kathy Blum’s jewelry collection ranges from foil backed cut glass items popular in the 1940s and ’50s to modern abstract and even ancient pieces. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Janice Copley, a docent with the Langley Centennial Museum, is also a collector. Her treasures include dozens of stitched and embroidered samplers from many eras. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Janice Copley’s samplers date as far back as the 1800s. Some of her vast collection is on display at the Langley Centennial Museum. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Samplers collected by Janet Copley are part of the new exhibit at the Langley Centennial Museum. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

The new exhibit at the Langley Centennial Museum features the collections of local residents such as Barry Leinbach, who has amassed many Expo ‘86 items. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

George Otty’s sad iron collection is unique because they are all miniatures, made to be salesmen’s samples. Several unique irons are on display at the Langley Centennial Museum. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

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