What is Folk Art?


Folk art is not art as most people would think. You would not find it in the galleries of New York. You find it in people’s homes, garages, and attics. The best way to describe folk art is to say it is the craftsmanship of people from a local area which depicts the everyday life and times they shared. From the weather vane on the barn to the handcrafted rag dolls the children played with, that is something you can not put a price on.

Traditional, high end art is produced by a talented painter or sculptor whose personality or life may be depicted in the piece. This was not created by a named artist but by ordinary people who needed certain things. These items were used everyday. They were created to make life simpler or more enjoyable. The people who created them would never have dreamed of selling them at some upscale auction house. The items were passed out to family and friends. There was no price tag.

Quilts are a popular form of folk art. The seamstress was making a bed cover for her family. If she was adept with her needle, there may have been detailed embroidery done on the piece or appliqué work depicting scenes from the area. Some of the quilts were made for special occasions such as the wedding quilt. The rings symbolized the union of the two getting married. These handcrafted quilts and blankets are in great demand in today’s market.

The tradition of folk art continues to this day. People are still creating things to make their lives easier or more comfortable. Toys are created for the children. Some pieces are created for the sheer beauty of it, like wood carvings. Local craftsmen who are proud of their heritage are picking up the tradition and starting to teach the younger ones how to do things, like basket weaving or tin smithing.

There are festivals all across the country celebrating the heritage of different regions. Many local craftsmen set up displays to show off their handy work and creations. Some offer these items for sale to the visitors. Many of these festivals are held in the fall. This is traditionally when the lives of these true artisans would slow down. The planting and growing being over, this was the time when the harvest would start to be enjoyed. With more time on their hands many people would turn to their craft to past the time.

The American Folk Art Museum located in New York City has many exhibits from all over the country. There are paintings which depict the lives of the artists. There are many quilts on display. Some are of a simple design and others are intricately detailed. Visitors can view pottery and tin pieces made in the 18th and 19th century. Certain markings made on the pieces have allowed the artisan to be traced through the years. It is interesting to see the styles each master craftsman used to create their works. Toys and painted board games are on display to see what the children of the times played with.

Folk art is a reflection of the past history of America. It shows the history of this nation. Every piece is a part of the heritage of the United States.

Source by Hal Lewis

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