Found - October 25, 2020

Found: Paintings on the Wall of Rainforest Mountain House

By Stacy Suaya

Sally Smith is a sustainably-minded fashion designer specializing in Japanese textiles. She is also the owner of Rainforest Mountain House, one of our BoutiqueHomes in Queensland, Australia, which contains a beautiful array of watercolor paintings that recently caught our eye. We reached out to her to find out more, and were elated by her poetic recounting of finding them.

“For seventeen seasons my three children and I lived full-time in Japan. Landing on the first of January 2016, it couldn’t have been a more picturesque arrival. The snow was fresh and thick. We were off to a good start!” Sally remembers. The family still maintains their traditional wooden house (and Sally’s studio) in Minamikomatsu Shiga on the lake of Biwa, but left Japan for Australia due to Covid restrictions on March 22.

“Wandering the temple markets of Kyoto, it is an absolute treasure trove of authentic Japanese antiques, curiosities, textiles as well as many unknowns to me,” she continues. “I’d be there at dawn, three times a month, snow, sun, or rain…heart pounding as I was on the hunt for the most extraordinary finds. My eyes darting in all directions trying to take in as much as I could, my pace urgent to cover much ground, but not to miss anything either.

“I was drawn to a cardboard box amongst it all. The glimpse of fragile paper poking out the top. Oh, what joy upon opening the box. Watercolors of kimono designs, covering everything from traditional landscapes and Sakura to fat puppies, frogs, and cranes in flight. The mathematical calculations of the print placement on the narrow kimono bolts so when assembled, not an inch of cloth would be wasted (the Japanese are experts at math). So I respectfully made an offer, the vendor accepted and I was now the owner of these beautiful, fragile works on paper.”

The vendor, Ogino san, where Sally found her watercolors

One of Sally’s designs, modeled by her daughter, Astrid

Sally purchased Rainforest Mountain House in April 2019, in anticipation of returning to Australia in the future, but remained in Japan until March, when the Australian government advised all expats to return home. She grabbed what she could carry of her beloved Japanese textiles, mostly the interiors of kimonos because they were the lightest. She has been painting the fabrics ever since. “It was a rushed departure, but they had the beauty of a life lived, and as of that moment, an unknown future and second life ahead. I just knew I would find a way to repurpose them. I’m painting them in colours inspired by the landscape in the far north; its diversity is truly breathtaking.”

We too are inspired by Sally’s vision of giving artful items second lives.

To learn more about Sally’s work, click here. book a stay at Rainforest Mountain House, click here.