After the response I had about the door to the “Museum of Spent Time”, which featured in a Thursday Doors post back in September, I decided that I had to find out exactly what this place was.
When I first found this door, and read the accompanying sign, and peered at the figures in the window, my curiosity was definitely piqued. However, there were a few things that told me that this wasn’t an ordinary sort of museum. Firstly, the door faces into a small lane, which presumably doesn’t get a lot of traffic (vehicular, pedestrian or otherwise), so it seemed like an odd choice of location for a museum, assuming it was a museum that wanted to be found, and found by many.
Secondly, the sign is rather unassuming. I mean, it is eye-catching – the whole facade is eye-catching – but most galleries and museums I know have large signs to advertise the fact that they’re there. Similarly, there’s no sign anywhere near the entrance about opening hours. (I would later learn that the sign beside the door is not intended as an advertisement at all, but is, rather, more of a personal touch, like something one might put on a home.)
If you do a Google search of “Museum of Spent Time” (in inverted commas) you will receive barely a handful of results (my Thursday Doors post is now part of that handful), but it was through this relatively simple search that I discovered that this “museum” was actually a private studio, owned by sculptor Stephen Hart. It was a simple matter then to find his website, and subsequently a contact email address. With the view that the worst that could happen would either be getting told to mind my own business, or to have my email ignored forever and never receive a response, I decided to send him a quick email, explaining why I was interested in the story behind his door, and asking about the nature of the Museum.
To my delight (and, I’ll admit, relief), I received a very kind reply. As it so happened, Stephen was overseas when I began this correspondence, but he said I was welcome to visit once he was back. In the meanwhile, he referred me to a monograph he’d written about some of his sculptures. It was really quite fascinating, discovering the depth of thought and the philosophies ingrained in the sculptures. (Search his name and the title “Spent Time” to find yourself a copy.)
For anyone who doesn’t know, I should mention that I don’t have an “art” background, and know very little about sculpting, painting and other visual arts. I mean, I can appreciate when something looks good, or evokes a certain emotion, but the process of creating art like this is not at all familiar to me. And so, when I did finally meet Stephen last week, it was actually really fascinating to learn about his creative process, and about all the similarities between sculpting and writing.
The conception of an idea, drafting and developing, revising and refining, self-criticism and doubt, habitual persistence and perseverance; and then, at last, satisfaction – and pride perhaps? – and the realisation of what feels like a dream. And it all repeats and overlaps and continues interminably because life without our respective creative pursuits is unimaginable. It was really quite inspiring to discover all these common threads between sculpting and writing (and at one point we discussed running too). And to think that this conversation was the result of a long chain of events that led me to the door of his Museum… (a door that he made himself, no less!)
And what of the figures in the window beside the door…?
In his first email, Stephen explained that they were like drafts that he’d created in “the process of pursuing an idea”, like sketches or half-formed sentences. As someone who has a hard time letting go of rough drafts (even if the final version is vastly different – or perhaps because the final draft is so different), and as someone who is, at times, ridiculously sentimental, I understood completely. Their marketability or commercial value doesn’t matter; it is what they represent – his creative process and spent time – that makes them worth anything.