Fairfax Resident Eric John Read’s Collections of Natural Beauty

For Eric Jon Read, objects found in nature are worthy of being displayed like fine art. Throughout his Fairfax home, gnarled branches and river-tumbled stones collected on outings around Marin and even in his own backyard are displayed in gallery-like fashion, hung from the rafters, adorning the walls and serving as centerpieces on the dining room table. Here, Read explains why he started collecting these natural artifacts and shares a few of his favorites.


Eric Jon Read


Natural art objects

Years collecting:

All my life, in one form or another. 

How many pieces?


Art Collection, Eric Jon Read

Where do you find them?

Out in nature, all over Northern California and primarily in Marin Country. For example, I found a spot up on the Stanislaus River that I dive and snorkel to find perfectly round, smoothly polished granite orbs; the result of hundreds of years of tumbling in the river.

Another source of inspiration, however, is the upkeep of our four-acre property for fire safety, which has turned into a more artful endeavor. I’ve uncovered treasures right in the backyard: deer antlers from a shed, artfully twisted red-barked manzanita branches that are perfect for a vase or tabletop still life and smoothly polished serpentine.

Where do you display them?

We have them displayed and installed inside and outside our home.

Art Collection, Eric Jon Read


I love to hike and explore with my wife and two kids, and during the pandemic I used my time outdoors to find and seek. Once I changed my perspective on how to view found objects, I started finding beautiful gifts from nature. Even as a child, I was obsessed with collecting anything vintage — watches, Bakelite pens, European advertising posters. On our frequent trips to Europe, I appreciated antique stuff that other kids didn’t get. It’s all squirreled away, neatly in a basement, uncovered and displayed on occasion.

As an adult, however, I shifted from collecting “things” to natural objects. The value and cool factor of manmade things began to feel like a lot of stuff for stuff’s sake, and it evolved into more pure love for nature’s infinite beauty in form, texture, color and composition — all the design elements that gave me the same buzz. An infinite display of beauty is just up the trail to be discovered and placed in the home in the same way you would have previously placed a piece of sculpture from a gallery.

Art Collection, Eric Jon Read

Tell me about a few items in your collection

I found a weathered piece of driftwood that resembles an animal head trophy. Other pieces that I really appreciate are the knotted wooden mobile in the kitchen, the giant arch and big sculptural knot in the fireplace room, the wooden driftwood arch on the kitchen balcony, and a natural bent-wood door handle on the gate. The little “wows” include a dish of agates from years of collecting with the kids, the memoirs of every little outing as they grew.

Favorite piece?

My favorite piece is a very intricate spiked redwood burl that has the characteristics of an extinct dinosaur, which I found on an outing with our kids in the Mt. Tam watershed.

Lotus Abrams

Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.