Form Follows Function? | Mingei International Museum
Steven and William Ladd, Detail of Beaded Bag from <em>Water Tower</em>, USA, 2003, archival board, fiber, beads, metal.
Image: Steven and William Ladd, Detail of Beaded Bag from <em>Water Tower</em>, USA, 2003, archival board, fiber, beads, metal.

Some objects reveal their intended functions immediately; other functions are more difficult to decipher.

Highlights

This tea whisk is less than five inches long. It was made from a single piece of bamboo that was split with a knife into inner and outer tines.

Tea Whisk (chasen)

20th century Japan

A favorite of Museum Director, Rob Sidner, this whisk was made from a single piece of bamboo that was split with a knife into inner and outer tines.

This “plyformed wood” leg splint was designed as a valuable contribution to World War II by Charles and Ray Eames. It was made from one piece of wood bonded by resin glue and shaped by heat and pressure. This splint was designed to fit the shape of the user's buttocks, thigh, calf, and heel.

Leg Splint

c. 1943 USA

This “plyformed wood” leg splint was designed as a valuable contribution to World War II by Charles and Ray Eames.

This water tower also contains a beaded bag, scarf, netting necklace, and tape necklace when open. This water tower bag is teal and light blue and abstractly depicts a water tower.

Water Tower

2003 USA

Is this functional, or is it part of a fantasy?

This spinning wheel was made by Shakers, a communal and celibate Protestant community known for their spare, functional, and elegant forms. This spinning wheel is no exception. The large spinning wheel rests on a thin undecorated bench with three legs.

Spinning Wheel

pre-1820 USA

This wooden spinning wheel hails from the only Shaker community in Connecticut, located in Enfield and known as the City of Union.

This lacquered leather and brass hat storage box was made for a Qing official’s court hat, and includes a round jewel insignia at the top.

Hat Box

20th century China

This lacquered leather and brass hat storage box was made for a Qing official’s court hat, which featured a round jewel insignia at the top.

This cast iron mechanical toy bank features a young girl sitting on the bench petting her dog. The dog is in a seated position and is the same height as the girl sitting on the bench. The girl is wearing a read dress with a blue bow and possibly a straw hat. Underneath the girl and the dog are the words "speaking dog".

Mechanical Toy Bank “Speaking Dog”

c. 1885 USA

Cast iron mechanical toy banks were popular in the last few decades of the 19th century, as a fun way for children to learn the art of thrift.

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