Lifestyle | Kateigaho International Japan Edition

A toast to mingei: Shining a light on new uses for objects both venerable and hardworking

Every piece of Japanese folk craft that comes into Montgomery’s possession seems destined for a new lease on life. Here on the shore of Lake Lugano items that are no longer used in everyday life in Japan, or that might even be at risk of being thrown away, find new purpose and bring new charm.

Weaving art into life: Mariangela Montgomery collects Japanese woven baskets, which she often uses for her fresh flower arrangements. | HIROSHI ABE
Weaving art into life: Mariangela Montgomery collects Japanese woven baskets, which she often uses for her fresh flower arrangements. | HIROSHI ABE

The lamps in the photograph on the right, for example, are made from 19th-century tea kettles decorated with lacquer designs of animals and fish. Such kettles are now rarely used in Japan outside the tea ceremony, but Montgomery has found a place for them at either end of his sofa.

A dog's life: Jeffrey Montgomery treats dogs Rupert and Coco as part of the family. | HIROSHI ABE
A dog’s life: Jeffrey Montgomery treats dogs Rupert and Coco as part of the family. | HIROSHI ABE

In the photographs below, clear frames enclose katagami paper stencils long used in dyeing kimono. Montgomery has approximately 400 of these in his collection. He displays them and other Japanese articles alongside antique furniture from southern Switzerland and northern Italy, and decorative pieces from England.

Taking flight: Jeffrey Montgomery has a penchant for animal imagery — this flock of migratory birds, below two more paper stencils, was carved by Guy Taplin. | HIROSHI ABE
Taking flight: Jeffrey Montgomery has a penchant for animal imagery — this flock of migratory birds, below two more paper stencils, was carved by Guy Taplin. | HIROSHI ABE

Everyday Japanese utensils made from natural materials blend in beautifully with the rest of Montgomery’s Swiss home. This proves how versatile folk crafts can be and how they benefit from loving use.

Cows, chests and checkered carpets: English ornamental cows and a Tibetan carpet with blue-and-white coloring go well with a framed katagami paper stencil. The chest was made in southern Switzerland in the 18th century. | HIROSHI ABE
Cows, chests and checkered carpets: English ornamental cows and a Tibetan carpet with blue-and-white coloring go well with a framed katagami paper stencil. The chest was made in southern Switzerland in the 18th century. | HIROSHI ABE

This is the third installment in a four-part series on Jeffrey Montgomery’s mingei folk crafts collection.