Posts Tagged ‘carvings


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.


Who needs a tiger reading Blake?

Readers by Sergio Santos and Calixto Santiago

This is National Library Week, and have we got a library for you!

The green cabinet near the counter at Mingei is full of whimsical carvings of cows, mermaids, goats and dogs and other studious creatures reading.    All of these readers are from the village of La Union in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, a beautiful agricultural spot in the mountains which had no library until two summers ago.  That problem has now been remedied, thanks to the tremendous generosity of our customers and of fabulous and big-hearted local performers Carmen  Deedy and John McCutcheon who created a wonderful benefit performance for us at the Georgia Center for the Book.    To continue to support the village and their library, we sell the reading figures at Mingei and send 20% of the sales to the library.  To read more about this project, click the link on your right (under About Mingei World Arts)!

While the green cabinet is full– that’s all there is!  We have worked our way through the spares tucked away in the back and are down to what we have on display.   It is time to get those carvers working again so  we can get plenty more in time for the Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend!

Now here’s where it gets fun.  Is there is special someone in your life who really needs a snail reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking? or a red dog reading Clifford?  Because of our special relationship with the carvers, we are able to make special requests.  We would love to help you plan a very special gift, choosing the price range and carver for just the piece you want.  Since we are working with artists, sometimes the final product differs from the vision; sometimes it is better!  Come on in to talk to us about your ideas!  The figures begin at $35 for the beautifully detailed little pieces by Maximino Santiago and go up from there.  Most are $55-$60.  A fine piece by well-known carver Gabino Reyes could be $250-$300.  We work regularly with 11 carvers in the village, so there is quite a variety of styles– something for everyone.  Depending on your request, we may ask for a deposit.

We will be sending our wish list to Mexico early in May, so please make your requests by May 1.


Chiang Mai-Part the First

We are sitting at Wawee Coffee on the Ping River killing time until we leave for Luang Prabang.  We haven’t had time to catch you up on our shopping, shopping, shopping.  You really need to hear those lost 3 words as the staff of the guest house here great us as we stagger in laden with bag after bag after bag every day.  They haven’t even seen the mountains of textiles we have left with our driver’s wife to label each day.  Full disclosure, gentle reader, we have blown past our budget at each stop.  You will be pleased.  The laptop is running out of juice, but we will post pictures and more from Laos where the pace will be more relaxed.  Know that we have a gazillion scarves (cotton and silk), BAGS, and lovely carvings old and new.  See ya!

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

Join 27 other followers