Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category


The Unexpected

I was enjoying the best muesli of my life on my last leisurely morning in Leh. It was heaped in a bowl with fresh mango, bananas, and apples, tossed with a rich, homemade curd, or yogurt. This magical muesli was full of nuts, crunchy flakes, and roughly cut chunks of fresh coconut still edged in little bits of husk. It was one of those chunks that brought tears to my eyes and a resounding crack, which I realized was my tooth and no nut. Damn. A trip to a Delhi dentist flashed before my eyes, and I was soon perusing the US Embassy list of dental professionals and sending emails to several friends who had lived in Delhi to get recommendations. My plans of cruising Chandi Chowk by bicycle rickshaw and hitting some favorite clothes shops seemed foiled.

As the day wore on, it seemed that perhaps my tooth was not cracked as I had feared, but was markedly looser. Even when my double dose of Advil wore off, I was not in pain. Chewing on the opposite side of my mouth and avoiding stout muesli seemed a good option until I arrived home in 10 days. My plans were restored.

Two days later, with a tattered clipping from a flight magazine in my sweaty fist, I was searching for some travel writer’s suggestions for Old Delhi’s best Indian sweets. The holy grail of this search was tiranga sohan halwa from the 200 year old establishment called Ghantewala. It was irresistibly described as a buttery confection chock full of almonds, pistachios, cashews, almonds, and cardamom. Surely, I could chew those nuts on the left side of my mouth… This was not to be missed.

We made our way up and down the chaotic Chandi Chowk, jostling other shoppers, being jostled by push carts, cows, dogs, pilgrims, motorbikes, rickshaws, and workers carrying impossible loads on their heads. We popped into several sweet shops and tried their specialties, but Ghantewala was not to be found. When we asked one plump lover of burfi at one stall where Ghantewala was, she shook her head, not understanding until we showed her the clipping. “Ahh!,” she exclaimed. “GHHAntewala!”, hitting the first consonant as if clearing her throat. She waved up the street in the direction we had just come. “GHHAntewala!”. We headed back through the mass of activity we had just passed through. Alas, no tiranga sohan halwa to be found.

Time for a change of plan, and there was the hive of activity that is the Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, the Sikh temple in Old Delhi . Turbanned guides swept us along with pilgrims cueing to wash their hands and feet before filing upstairs to sit on carpets and pray in an airy, rose-scented marble worship hall above. Refreshed, we made our way to the mezzanine overlooking the ever-changing bustle below. There, seen just across the way on a small side street, was Ghantewala! We could see the sign, though it looked as if this 200-year-old-establishment was closed; a metal door was pulled down over the entrance.

Once back on the ground, we pushed our way over to the sweet shop storefront. In front of the shop, a chai wallah and some other vendors seemed permanently installed, as if the 200 year-old-shop had been closed for at least the last 50 years. The sign was worn, but right there it heralded that this was the home of the elusive tiranga sohan halwa. Perhaps it was only closed this morning? Had it gone out of business after such a long run? I made my way to a saried chai customer, and gestured toward the closed shop. “Ghantewala???” I shrugged.
She nodded, stone-faced, and turned toward the storefront. Her eyes locked with those of a young man. She nodded. He nodded. She waved us toward him and returned to her tea. We made our way through the crowd to where the young man had been standing. He was quickly headed toward a worn, painted green door next to the closed metal gate of the storefront. He pushed the door open and led us up a narrow staircase with deeply worn stone steps, into the darkness. Did Ghantewalah have a second floor office? Did they have stock there? Where the hell were we going?

At the top of the steps, we were in total darkness. Our young guide flipped a large circuit switch on the wall, and then a second, and the space flooded with fluorescent light. There were two large posters on the wall: “Root Canal Project”, with garish pink illustrations of gums and yellowed teeth, and a blinding set of “Dentures”. There, now no longer in darkness, a smiling man in wire-rimmed glasses and a crisp linen kurta sat at the counter, awaiting patients. Apparently, he was waiting for me.




Summer 1974

On my morning walk around Lake Avondale today, I found myself thinking about the summer of 1974. That summer, I took my first trip out of the US. I had saved all my birthday and babysitting money for years to travel to Spain with a group of fellow high school students to spend most of the summer living in a dormitory at the University Complutense in Madrid. We had Spanish classes in the mornings, roamed the gritty city in afternoons, and in the evenings discovered sangria and discos with the oh-so-sophisticated Spanish college students that shared the summer campus. In July of that year, Francisco Franco fell ill, and we spent several anxious days on emergency standy-by to leave; our group leaders worried that his death would spark campus riots and nation-wide upheaval. That August, we sat up late one evening to watch President Nixon speak, and resign. We were stunned and then mocked by our Spanish Professor the next morning. “ You are tired today? Americans, so strong!” he said curling his cardiganed arm and pumping his fist.

It was not the much commemorated anniversary of that resignation that sent me into nostalgia today, but rather Holland Cotter’s great piece in the New York Times today in which he “curates” a show of the art and architecture that changed his way of seeing through the years. In “A Lifetime of Looking, Magically Recovered,” he imagines gathering all those discoveries in an exhibit chronologically arranged according to his life, beginning with Vermeer’s The Concert, a painting he discovered at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston while he was a college student, a painting which sadly was stolen in 1990 and is still missing. He takes us on a tour of the African masks, the Haiga Sofia, the installations and sculptures and other finds that shaped him, ending with a description of the Great Mosque at Djenne, Mali seen in changing light through a day and into the night.

So, as I walked around the lake this morning, I began to think of what I would collect in such an exhibition, but perhaps since I have been a gatherer of thrift store items and market finds rather than an art critic for the New York Times, my thoughts turned to the summer of 1974 when I first travelled and purchased my first travel souvenirs. That summer, aside from gifts, I bought a damascene pendant that I believe is scratched but is still in the bottom of my jewelry box, a now spotted white embroidered shawl which I am certain is in a trunk somewhere, a set of six etched wine glasses (three of which survived my college years), and a talavera plate and cup. The cup now holds pens and such on my desk, and the plate is stacked in a cabinet with other plates and platters more recently collected and more recently used. These were very serious purchases, chosen with utmost care and teenagerly consideration of what it meant to own such things, to be judged by these choices. I remember acutely the feeling that I was defining myself by these early purchases, that I loved them, and that I had begun the adult process of making a home by choosing these objects on my own. 

talavera cup talavera

Thankfully, I learned to take myself and my purchases much less seriously, but I do recognize that the summer of 1974 set me on a path of travel and shopping that has enriched my life these last 40 years and more than filled my house.


So, dear readers, dear fellow collectors, what were your first adult purchases? Do you still have and use them or have you cast them off and begun again?  — Ann



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


Nangkwak, Thai deity of luck and money

Yes, we succumbed. We have a prim little vintage brass Nangkwak figure bought in Thailand many years ago from one of our favorite antique vendors in Chiang Mai, but in the Wararot market a few days before leaving this last time, we saw her. There she was in all her plastic splendor– dressed in red glitter and waving her battery-operated hand, beckoning us to come closer. It was love. Now, she sits on our counter, in all her kitschy goodness, welcoming you to Mingei.

Nang kwak, Thai spirit of prosperity

Who is Nangkwak? This beautiful woman is a prosperity spirit evolved from the Siamese pre- Buddhist rice goddess Mae Po Sop, who was herself born of Hindu goddess of prosperity Lakshmi. She is typically depicted dressed in red, waving customers into her shop in the Thai manner, with her hand facing down. In her left hand, she holds a pot of gold. Our new little version waves like the Japanese Maneki Nek waving cat.

The Thais are big on prosperity charms– tiny fish basket amulets, gold leaf to tuck in your wallet, a figure of King Rama the Fifth, two tailed lizards. Several of our vendors there have given us or persuaded us to buy all of these in the past, and we have dutifully hung them inside our entrance. And, hey– maybe they are working!

If you need a little of your own charm, we have tiny glittery figures of Nangkwak- minus the batteries– you can take home or to your office. We also have tiny brass figures of her as well as tiny fish baskets for catching money and gold leaf in hand-made paper envelopes.

May 2010 be prosperous for all!


Mingei hits the road!

Ellen and Ann fly away tomorrow to shop for Mingei in Thailand and Laos.  Please follow along here to see what we find!  It is a long trip, so we don’t expect to get to updating for another couple of days.  Check back at the end of the week to learn of our new discoveries– and see if we made our tight connection in Tokyo…


Betsy Hall Valentine’s trunk show!

Betsy is moving to Hawaii around March 1, so this may be the last time to get her goodies around here for a while!  She has been busy this week making wonderful things with some gorgeous rubies and chrystoprase from the Tucson gem show for the trunk show!     She is also bringing some lizard clutches and  lizard clutches and plenty of earrings–great earrings!  If you are unfamiliar with Betsy’s work or want a refresher, visit her website at  See you Sunday!  Vanetine’s Day.  1-4pm.


Welcome to Mingeity!

Welcome to the Mingei World Arts blog, Mingeity!

Mingeity is a word we have coined to describe  the serendipitous, exuberant community that gathers in our store, the delight felt when a customer finds just the right oddball item for a special gift and the voracious curiosity of our customers.

Check here regularly to see what’s new, learn of our new projects and keep up with our buying trips and other adventures.  Let’s go!

Ellen and Ann

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 27 other followers