The theme of this year’s MayDay parade is ‘What we Feed, Grows’. And as I’m breathing in moist Spring air, fragrant with fertility, listening to the sounds of birds wooing each other; I have budding intentions myself. After Winter’s dormant research phase, idea-seeds have swelled, sent out roots and shoots, and will bear fruit in due course this Summer. If they are tended well and weather permits, creative outputs will grow, yielding their own form of nutrition. Filling a need for storytelling and meaning, the folk arts cycle with the seasons.
With a little bit of a push to pull it together for Art-A-Whirl weekend with a Strange Girls market at Twin Spirits Distillery in May, I’m feeling well positioned at the top of this year’s growing season. Introducing a few new materials into my basket of offerings, I’ve re-discovered printmaking, and am using the stencils I make for airbrushing ceramics in a primitive form of screen printing. I’ve also taken a shine to wood-burning, and have found the process of impressing signs and symbols via pyrography to be very meditative as well as beautiful.
Above: examples of pyrographic drawing, screen-printed patches & new talismans and amulets hand-formed and fired in the newly operational enameling kiln.
Expanding into things like print-on-demand, in order to broaden my appeal, and become more accessible to patrons, I’m also looking for ways to dive deeper into more time-intensive work. Sussing-out other folk traditions, artists and collaborators to play around with repeating patterns, visual storytelling and overlapping meanings represented in unlikely places. In the information-gathering stage of at least 10 years’ worth of work if the idea sticks, the outcome would be to synthesize new patterns from old, generating contemporary folk art forms that speak to shared values here and now.
There’s a lot of risk-taking that needs to happen for this trajectory to work. There’s always a risk of rejection bringing any vision into manifestation, but its multiplied by the number of individuals involved, and I’m imagining many of them. I’d like to see connections made between communities of elders still practicing traditional crafts, cultural centers who usually operate separately from one another coming together to find new leverage in shared resources, the creation of new stories addressing the need to orient ourselves within new contexts.
I’m formulating the words; ‘magical folk arts’ on my tongue, dissolving them and rolling them over again to paraphrase for someone else as I try to explain myself. Folk arts – because they are rooted in the landscape, a concrete place where we find ourselves physically grounded to the Earth. Magical – because they employ a degree of wishful thinking in order to suspend disbelief long enough to actually make something improbable happen. I think we’re lost without superstition in our lives, we require a sense of enchantment to balance out the madness of viewing the world through the narrow lens of empiricism alone.