Belinda Kyle is a collector. Pottery, jewellery, spoons, skulls.
“This one was used for medical students,” she explains, “And based off a real skull which is why it’s assymetrical.”
Belinda holds up a small skull, this one is an eraser. The larger, anatomical model lurks by her shoulder.
Originally from Australia, Belinda has called Shiga prefecture in Japan home for the past 14 years. Enough time to amass an impressive array of objects and to be on first name terms with local artisans, many of whom make sure to send her postcards and pamphlets advertising their upcoming exhibitions.
Belinda rents a small room in Hommachi93, a Merrell Vories designed building in Youkaichi city (八日市), where she holds a gallery for her themed exhibitions. The warm, aged feel of the 100 year old building, along with the glass fronted, wooden display case Belinda brought in to showcase her collection give the feel of stumbling on an eccentric professor’s office, or a doctor’s waiting room. Apt, as the current items on displays were chosen based around the theme of anatomy. Disembodied limb brooches sit alongside ceramic teeth; the small intestine winds about the rim of a sake cup, while a lucky spider crawls across a carved wooden foot.
Having joined Belinda on her shopping excursions, been hosted by her on picnics and even once getting the chance to see her full collection at home, I have had the chance to appreciate her taste in quirky, and eye for the unusual. My most favourite thing about Belinda’s exhibitions is that they reward second, third and fourth looks. Like EyeSpy book, or Where’s Wally perhaps, each time you notice something different and cool.
The same can be said for Hommachi93, the beautiful, vintage building which also houses small jewellery and clothing shops, as well as a cafe with excellent, spicy chai. Youkaichi town, and Shiga prefecture in general too are full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered on an easy day trip away from Kyoto.
While the current collection focuses on anatomy, exhibitions over the past 3 years have shown Belinda’s impressive selection of sake cups, Kokeshi dolls, teapots and items with an insect theme and she has more in mind for the future.
Belinda’s collection is open most days (the schedule of the building changes from time to time) from midday til closing (midnight). If you’re lucky the collector herself might be present to give some deeper insights into each piece.