20
Sep
10

A Soundtrack of Mexico City

As we have been going about our shopping and exploring in Mexico City these past few days, we have been carried along by the sounds of this place.  At San Angel artisan market, we were met with the playfully instructive demonstrations of the toy violins by Guillermo Figueroa as he chose the best ones for us to buy.  And was that a cat screeching in the wriggling black bag  the gentleman was holding as we were carefully selecting the Lorenzo paintings?  Our horror turned to annoyance when the cat screech turned to a parrot caw; he had a noise maker in his mouth.  Those sounds followed us through the day as did the drone of “botaneros, botaneros, botaneros” by strolling women relentlessly hawking decorative wooden cocktail picks.  The unheard sound of salsa music entertained as we watched the dance class through the large plate glass window of a second story building while we wiltedly waited for our taxi at the end of the shopping day.

The remaining  days in Mexico City  have been punctuated by fireworks’ whirrs and pops left over from the bicentennial celebration of the Independencia, and soothed with the sounds of classical guitar at a corner cafe as well as the smooth tenor notes of a strolling singer in an antique gallery.  And our nights’ sleep have been jolted by brake squeals, drunken conversation, and bad rock bands from the bar across the street.  But we were lulled back to sleep with quiet memories of Jorge Marin’s empty angel wings filled by a mother and child on a boulevard near Chapultepec Park

Jorge Marin's sculpture "Alas de la Ciudad", 2010

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08
Jun
10

Vote for our window!

In order to set the mood for the Decatur Beach Party on June 18, the city is sponsoring a window decorating contest with a beach theme.  So– what is the Beach Party?  Live music, dancing on the square and 60 tons of sand– sound like a good time?  You know that Decatur knows how to party!

Our entry for the Window Decorating Contest?  We have composed a global sunbather above, complete with an Indian paper mache head, thangka
hands and feet and a hand-made paper fan from Thailand.  She is sipping a strawberry drink from an antique lassi cup, enjoying some French Caribbean music and reading Flight of the Mermaid under a Mexican sun.

A number of businesses all over downtown Decatur have entered.  Come on over and take a stroll around to view the windows and vote for your favorite!  To vote for Mingei’s window, text “Dec mingei” to  80672 .  Only one vote per hour from each number!  You can vote until June 18, when it is time for the  Decatur Beach Party!

03
Jun
10

Gail Goodwin’s Mingei goodies!

You may know Gail.  She has been working with Mingei for a very long time, is a docent at the Carlos Museum, a writer,  retired teacher at Westminster, extremely active member of the Atlanta International Club– and a number of other organizations!  She also manages to travel extensively and always finds time to scour local markets for hand-made textiles.

Here are a few photos from her home and a few words about why she loves Mingei!

Tired of the Container Store look?  Tired of mall styles dictating your decor?  If you yearn to escape the commercial and reveal your true soul in your home, walk into the spirit-filled space of Mingei World Arts in Decatur.  At Mingei, you will tap into cultural creativity from ethnic groups around the globe.

An old basket sits atop a graphically striking textile.

New products emerge from recycled materials and vintage artifacts adapt to new uses.  Rare handmade objects are art for display.  What you can do with Mingei “stuff” is limited only by your imagination.

A yak butter container holds dry flowers.  A Hmong spirit lock fills a small wall space.  A chapati rolling pin or a weaving shuttle becomes a towel rod.  A dowry chest is a colorful coffee table.  A hand-worked shawl dresses a window or accents a sofa.  A framed page of Tibetan script or Miao baby head cover enriches the look of a living room.  And whether or not you use your Tjap as a stamp, it makes a unique doorstop.

Framed enbroidered baby head covers grace the wall above Gail's sofa, which holds a collection of luscious pillows. The coffeetable is draped with a woman's hand woven headcovering.


Come to Mingei to birth your creative soul and transform your home!

–Gail Goodwin

02
Jun
10

How are you using your Mingei treasures?

Gail Goodwin's house is full of textiles and other gorgeous pieces from her travels with her husband Clark, supplemented by items she has picked up at Mingei.

Calling all customers!  Every day things leave the store and go into your wonderful homes or find their way into other homes as gifts.  Sometimes you tell us about the wonderful, unique ways you are using the dewali oil lamps, old buttermilk pots or cannon balls you acquired at Mingei.  Occasionally,  you sent pictures or an invitation so we can see for ourselves the creative and functional way you are using your “artifactual”  Mingei finds!

Here’s your chance to be featured on the Mingei blog.  Please send us your photos of Mingei items in context, and write us a little about what you have done and maybe how you were inspired.  The first one will be posted directly!

Thanks in advance!

07
May
10

Mingei bites. Mingei flicks. Mingei reads.

There are far too many little sticky notes behind the counter, full of all of your suggestions.  Rather than keep all your ethnic eatery,  restaurant, foreign film and  book recommendations to ourselves (or worse, have them get stuck to the back of the bank statement and get lost in a manila folder forever), we decided to make a place for them on our blog.  Look to the right side under “Community”, and you’ll see the pages awaiting your contributions!

01
May
10

Vintage Bobbie whistles from Burma, courting balls from the Hmong

Yes, really.  We are putting them out today.  We have four vintage whistles used by the Rangoon police while the British were still in Burma, now known as Myanmar.  Where else in Decatur will you find these?  There are only 4 of them at $30 each, so you’ll have to act fast!  Maybe the ideal Mother’s Day gift for keeping the youngsters in line or to call everyone to the dinner table?

And we also have the essential tool for playing pov pob, a Hmong courting game played by young folks in Laos.  What do you need?  A single simple cotton ball, made from scraps of indigo batik fabric.  Girls and boys line up to face each other and toss the ball back and forth to those who catch their eye.  If no one tosses to you, or if someone drops or refuses to catch your toss– heartbreak.  The game is played during Hmong New Year at the time of the full moon in November.

We’ll soon be posting more about the Hmong people and about some of their beautiful crafts and artifacts we have in the store.  In the meantime, you may want to read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman, the Mingei Book Club selection for May.  It is available at Mingei for $15.00.  We will meet at the store on Tuesday, May 11 at 7:30 pm.  Everyone is welcome!

23
Apr
10

The Nats are coming

Nats?  Nats, not gnats.  Gnats will be in Georgia soon enough.  What are these “Nats”  and what planet do they come from?

A vintage Nat that passed through Mingei once upon a time

Nats are nature spirits that pre-date Buddhism in Burma, but are now worshipped along with Buddhist traditions or at least acknowledged and placated by people who also practice Buddhism.  They are spirits of mountains, of lakes and trees, of birds, but also the spirits of  people who died violent or premature deaths, otherwise known as “green ghosts” in Burma– spirits who suffered traumatic deaths and therefore cannot leave this plane.  There are countless nats, but they were consolidated by an 11th century Burmese king into a more manageable pantheon of 37.  Many families or communities may honor and tend to additional nats, however.  Many of these are local nats they feel must not be ignored.

Nats are very powerful, and easily disturbed.  They appreciate receiving offerings.  In fact, if you are not attentive to them, they may cause mischief, or worse.  When a large number of traffic accidents take place on a certain stretch of road, a shrine may be built to the Nat thought to be causing the problem, in hopes that the accidents will stop.

Nats can also be helpful to those who honor them.  Shrines to Nats are commonly built in homes, at crossroads, and at central worship sites.  People offer them gifts, food and drink to keep them happy and helpful.

If you’d like to set up your own Nat shrine, or just enjoy a beautifully carved figure and the interesting cultural and religious traditions they represent, have we got a Nat for you!  At least, we will soon.  After many years of not being able to find good-quality Nat figures in Thailand, where they find their way from Burma or Myanmar, several of our vendors had wonderful examples,  so we gathered quite a few.  We are very excited about the quality and affordability of these Nat figures  and look forward to sharing them with you.

When they arrive and are unpacked,  we will post the stories of these particular Nats ( as we can determine) and their photos.

In the meantime, to put you in a “natty” mood, you may want to read Amy Tan’s novel Saving Fish From Drowning or the amazing memoir by Pascal Khoo Thwe called From The Land of Green Ghosts (A Mingei Book Club selection from last year.  Both are available at Mingei and both are fascinating views into Burmese culture, and Nats.




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