Welcome to the General Objects section of the Lee Coleman Collection.
These are objects from the everyday lives of many cultures. These objects were collected by Lee from the earliest days of his interest in mingei.
“I know, it looks like a museum—well, that’s exactly what I want it to be—a gift to the city of Berkeley, for being the best place in the world for a soul like mine. But I’ll need help to do it.”
The rug is a Shirvan piece from Karagashli, demonstrating that design is no guide to where or who did the work. In this case, Russian workshops in the early 20th century created pieces for Europe and American (the Communists desperately needed money), using designs from further west in the Caucasus. This story is one reason why collecting middle eastern carpets can be such fun. The cabinet is from Japan, but the glass panels were missing, so I built them. On the floor is a Japanese stoneware shallow bowl, and on the right is a chagama or cast iron hibachi and kettle for the tea ceremony.
Underneath is a tile to protect the floor. This set is precious, being a gift from my dear friend Matsunaga Minae of Tokyo.
This is the fireplace in the living room. To the right, on the wall, smaller artifacts are arranged. Much of the furniture here was built by Lee. His latest project, and certainly one of his most ambitious, is the rocking chair, inspired by the one in Gamble House in Pasadena, the work of Charles and Henry Greene. In front of the fireplace, the rocker is a graceful melding of form, function, and beauty. Images of the rocker and other pieces are in this gallery.
To the outside observer, it seems clear that every artifact is displayed with great forethought. Those artifacts in the downstairs alcove are no exception. Tucked beneath the large leaded glass window on the landing to the second floor, in the afternoon, the alcove is aglow. At that time of day, the rich colors and textures of many of the objects are stunning.