Lessons from folk art, part 3

I am on the road for the first week of July, so I'm revamping a blog post I wrote on my personal blog about my encounter with the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe during a cross-country trip I took with my lovely first wife a few years ago.  Enjoy!

Our third idea flows from the first: why aren’t we all folk artists?  Why aren’t  you? Unlike the idiots who stand in front of a Pollock or a Mondrian and say, “Herrgh, I could do that” (Protip: no you couldn’t),  you can make art.

I confronted my lovely first wife with this proposition and she demurred.  She doesn’t have artistic talent, she said.

Look at these masks, I said:

Are they polished?  Are they “professional”?  No.  Do they have glaring “flaws”?  Is it obvious that the humans who made them had no artistic training?  Yes.

Are they beautiful?


So why not you?

Look at this:

It’s part of a headdress for a Catholic festival procession.

Now look closely:

Do you see it?  The maker of this has taken a piece of gold fabric and stitched trash, ladies and gentlemen, onto a religious article.  (Not coincidentally, this flows from  our idea #2.)  The maker has taken whatever was to hand—broken glass, beads, charms, keys—and splashed it onto that pretty fabric in an almost random manner. It’s gorgeous in its simplicity/complexity.

What do you have lying around the house?  Do you, on your morning walk, leave lying in the street the makings of a pretty thing?

Something more modern, perhaps?

This is a machine-stitched tapestry from Africa.


Got a sewing machine?

Got a Jo-Ann or a Michael's?

A huge part of our reluctance to plunge in and make stuff is the fact that we are college-educated, middle class Westerners.  We can’t make a thing like these things.  It wouldn’t be “right.”

Wait, what?  Why not?

We’d expose our “untalentedness” to others.

Really?  If you made something as beautiful as any one of these things, you’d be the envy of others.

But as over-educated, middle class Westerners, shouldn’t we be expected to produce more polished, academic work?

Well, I suppose if you went to an academy

Enough.  Go make a thing.