Red poppies showcase collectibles
The cozy and eclectic interior of Brenda Alexander-François’ home is filled with objects bearing or related to red poppies, roosters and Buddha.
It is the red poppies, however, that make up Alexandre-François’ main collection. Much, if not most, of its porcelain, a good percentage of which is antique, is adorned with poppies.
“I started collecting poppies when I was about 23,” said Alexander-François, “and I still collect them. They make me smile.”
His first acquisition in his red poppy-themed collection and the one that started it all was a large Georgia O’Keeffe poster of a brilliantly red poppy.
“I started collecting because of this huge poster. And when I met my ex-mother-in-law, she told me that I needed a collection, that all women needed a collection. I thought it was silly, but I loved this picture so much that I just started collecting poppies,” she said.
“You know, the Victorians loved poppies and they had poppies in every little one – they had a gadget for everything, and everything had poppies in it. A lot of my stuff was from the 20s, 30s, 40s.”
Alexandre-Francois’ favorite poppies are the big red poppies with black centers, she said. Her favorite china pieces are adorned with them and she has several card table poppy paintings that she and her husband have restored.
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Like many collectors, Alexandre-François’ collection is in some way part of his identity. Her former mother-in-law as well as her friends and family all contributed to her collection by contributing items adorned with poppies.
“She (my mother-in-law) brought me poppies from all over the world,” said Alexandre-François.
“My biggest poppy shopper now is my daughter-in-law, she brings me something – it’s kind of a hobby for her, poppy hunting for me,” she said.
Around the house of Alexandre-François, there is also an abundance of roosters.
Rooster images, rooster timer and rooster clock among others. The rooster collection started more or less around the same time as the poppy collection, she said.
“When I was growing up, we lived in town. We lived in Little Rock. And all of our family members lived in the country and they were farmers. My mom wouldn’t let us go out in the yard, and I didn’t know why. And then one day, I saw a rooster and a hen fighting,” she says.
“I didn’t even know a rooster was male and a hen was female…they weren’t fighting, they were mating. And that was just the most shocking thing to me, that they were beat while doing it. So, because of their tenacity, I loved roosters.”
There is personal and spiritual significance to Alexandre-François’s three collections, perhaps most explicitly his collection of Buddha statuettes, ranging from a reclining, laughing Budai in his front parlor to a tiny, impossibly ornate room no more one inch tall.
“In my early twenties…there were Buddhists who came to my door…they were Hare Krishnas…they had this beautiful book…the Bhagavad Gita…but it was $30. Well, I mean I had two kids, I couldn’t imagine in the 70s spending $30 on a book. And I told them I just couldn’t afford it, but I did. ‘ve kept in my hands the whole time, looking at it,” she said. .
“And when they left, they said ‘you take it.’ And, because of that, I got interested in Buddhism. Not necessarily as a religion, because I’m not a religious person. But just the whole concept – I like the basic Buddhist principle of being kind… I think it’s… a beautiful way to live, just to be kind.”
Alexander-Francois said she has largely stopped collecting, considering what will happen to her collections as she gets older.
“Someone is going to have to take care of all this – all my stuff. So I don’t collect as much as I used to. In the past, if there was a poppy, I would buy it. If it was even a dodgy poppy, I’d buy it – if it was red. But I’m a bit more demanding now,” she said.
That’s not to say she won’t add a piece to one of her three collections if they’re impressive enough.
“It has to be something unusual or just incredibly beautiful – totally irresistible, breathtaking,” said Alexander-Francois.