Does anybody know what folk art is?
Does anybody really care??
Well, em, yes. I do!
There I said it, I frickin’ love folk art. I love all its eye-catching hand-painted, hand-sewn, hand-finished qualities.
For anyone who doesn't know what separates folk art from any other form of art, here is a brief summary and a link to the Wikipedia definition of folk art.
For me, folk art is an art form that uses indigenous or local materials and techniques. It can be highly decorative and utilitarian at the same time. For example the Snugs or tea cosies that I make have a very useful purpose (got to keep the brew warm with our drizzly Irish winters……. and summers for that matter) but I have embellished, embroidered and hand-detailed them to such an extent that they have become a work of art. They are individual and sometimes commissioned for people’s specific tastes and interests. I hope to elevate a useful & practical item to a thing of beauty, something to be cherished and admired on a daily basis.
Another part of folk art that I really love is that the techniques used are often skills passed down through generations. I have learnt to sew and knit both in school and from my mother. Her mother is a keen knitter also. I feel linked to my past through the work. I use skills to fashion art bears and tea cosies that they used to make thick socks, scratchy jumpers and warm blankets. The craft is not lost because I can carry it forward. We may make different things but we talk, consult and learn from each others individual abilities.
Sometimes I feel FINE ART is viewed from a distance, in wide white gallery spaces, in expensive auction rooms and in over produced print replicas that bear no reference to the size and scale of the real work. It can be exciting and aspirational. I feel that FOLK ART can be a slightly warmer or more relatable form of fine art. It can be small or inexpensive. It can be made with familiar materials like wood or wool or wire. It can be made using skills we learned as children. But it can be full of so much character, the character of a town or a county or a country or even a family.
For the most part I consider myself a folk artist, sometimes with reluctance, sometimes with conviction and sometimes I don’t think I am an artist at all. I’m not a lover of labels in life but I can see the value in trying to help people to understand what you are about. I balk less at folk art as a label because I do feel it has some merit, it feels, as I said; more warm, less like exclusion and more like inclusion. It never feels very cool to me and since I have never felt particularly cool myself, I feel at home. I invite you now to come and get folked with me.