Sibella Court

Cabinet of Curiosities

"I was invited to choose one object for Curators of Cool, but upon seeing the extent of the Natural History departments of Queensland Museum, I decided I would choose one idea that has long fascinated me.

'Cabinets of Curiosities' became particularly popular in the 1800s as seafaring types began traversing the globe & bringing back their unusual treasures, seen by civilised societies for the first time.

Well-heeled & deep-pocketed amateur collectors began collating a mixture of natural specimens & other strange curiosities to display & show off to other like-minded types. They were often displayed in glass-topped or fronted cabinets that had easy access, as these collections were all about show & tell, touch & feel – an open arena for speculation & discussion.

As collections grew these cabinets would often expand to encompass the entirety of a whole room. Curiosities would be displayed everywhere, from the more formal cabinets, to the ceiling, floor & wherever they fit. This was before science was science, and there was no categorisation other than the aesthetic & temperament of the keeper of the collection. There was a haphazard casualness to it all that I love.

Although mine are behind glass, imagine them without, for you to pick up & marvel at each precious piece. I have chosen my specimens purely on aesthetic. They are a mix of sizes, shapes, colours & textures that raise my curiosity. They encapsulate a time when specimen collecting was a job for the adventurous, hardy types that travelled up mountains, across seas, through dense jungles in plinth hats armed with all the paraphernalia needed to capture & transport their prize specimens."

Equipment you may need for a field trip & display

"Flower presses & herbaria, specimen jars, gumboots (or a sensible shoe), glassine bags, test tubes with cork tops, petri dishes, sketchbook & pencil, artists roll, shears & scissors or a knife that folds, belt with pockets or cargo pants, butterfly net, alarm clock (for early morning foraging), boxes & cannisters with clear tops, labels & tags, pith helmet, entomological pins, arsenic, camera, vasculum, fern trowel, magnifying glass, paper tape, album, gun & ammunition, sling shot, leather collecting bag, large knife, binoculars.

I refer to natural history constantly to inspire my colour palettes, shapes, patinas & many things in between for the spaces & products I create. After fossicking through the vertebrates, corals, fish & molluscs departments I had to edit my selections to the ones on display."

About Sibella Court

Sibella Court is an interior stylist, owner of The Society inc. store in Sydney and author of best-selling books including the award-winning ‘Etcetera etc’, ‘The Stylist’s Guide to NYC’, ‘Nomad’, ‘Bowerbird’ and 'Gypsy' (launching this October). She creates commercial interiors in Australia and internationally, holds regular workshops, is a contributor to leading interior and fashion magazines, has designed a 110-paint colour paint range and chalkboard paints, a decorative hardware range, soap and nail polish ranges.

She spends her time exploring for inspiration across the globe in backstreets, markets & fairs discovering new artists, designers & products and spaces for her shop & commercial designs – often travelling with the Anthropologie Home Team, with whom she regularly collaborates. Sibella is currently working on further books, bars & restaurants, a surfboard range, exciting collaborations and an island resort in the Maldives.

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