Amy Spedden is ready to confess. “I’ve never talked to anybody about it before, so this interview has forced me to sit down and think about why I have all of these prayer hands,” she says. Her congregation of prayer hands — ceramic figurines of two human hands clasped in prayer — is a testament to her obsession with the obscure.
Prayer hands would traditionally sit on a mantel or a side table next to a person’s Bible to remind them to say their prayers at night. They are most often associated with Bible stories, but under Amy’s care they aren’t exclusively spiritual objects. Amy was raised Baptist and attends church occasionally when she visits her hometown, but her interest in prayer hands is more about collecting than communion.
“I love kooky religious symbols. I’m not very religious myself, but I guess that’s how I’m expressing it: through the power of prayer hands.”
Amy and her husband Pete Spedden are avid collectors. He loves old signs and seeks out vintage advertising at swap meets and auction houses. She goes for quirkier small items at flea markets and yard sales, always keeping an eye out for prayer hands in particular. Together they search for old-fashioned and unusual objects, with a special emphasis on religious oddities and vintage signs.
Pete and Amy have encouraged each other’s penchant for old things since the beginning of their relationship. Some of their early dates were at Penland Auction House at its former location on Craven Street. They got to know each other over the din of the bidders. “We found each other and then got comfortable and started nesting — but we were nesting by collecting all these crazy signs and knick knack-y items and antique stuff,” Amy recalls.
She cultivated her collection of hands as she and Pete transitioned from dating to marriage and then parenthood (their son Henry turns 3 in October). Amy guesses she has between 35 and 40 prayer hands in her collection, although some are in boxes following the family’s recent move from Asheville to Fairview.
Nearly two-dozen are displayed in a glass case in their garage. Amy hopes to move them someplace more scenic in the future, perhaps outside to create a prayer-hand garden. Some are pure white and others are painted in various skin tones. A tambourine painted with the image of a prayer hand sits in the middle of the case. It’s an arresting image, all of these disembodied hands joined in prayer.