We recently collaborated with Tate Britain at Field Day festival to celebrate the launch of their latest inspirational exhibition, British Folk Art. Now Kirstie Beaven, Producer of Interactive Media at Tate, takes a look at how you can trace Britain’s thriving maker culture back through the centuries and right up to date, plus shares a few folky Etsy finds…
It’s tricky to put your finger on exactly what Folk Art might be – but that’s just what Tate Britain curator Martin Myrone and artist Jeff McMillan have tried to explore in their new exhibition of incredible hand-crafted artefacts from across the UK.
From ship’s figureheads to pincushions, quilts to a giant straw man, and a selection of sculptures that hung outside shops advertising everything from bootmakers to breadmakers, British Folk Art revels in the quirky history of the hand made and shows, though they were often disregarded by the artistic establishment, just how popular the artists and makers in Britain were.
Known as the Tailor of Frant, business-savvy George Smart made his naïve collaged pictures such as the Goose Woman (pictured above) an important part of his business in the 1840s – though it may have started as advertising images, or creating portraits of customers wearing the clothes he had made for them, he soon realised their potential as artistic objects in her own right.
18th-century collectors clamoured for the extraordinary embroidered paintings of Mary Linwood, who remade old masters in painstaking crewel work. Today, some of Britain’s most notable (notorious) artists are embedded in Britain’s rich maker culture, from Grayson Perry’s pots to Tracey Emin’s quilts.
And clearly Etsy as a platform and a community demonstrates just how this culture of craft is still flourishing in the UK and around the world, bringing art into every day life and allowing artists and makers to meet their public directly. I think we can be sure that if the enterprising Tailor of Frant were around today, he’d be pleased to find a new global outlet for his work.
Here, we’ve picked a few fabulous Etsy objects that complement the exhibition at Tate:
Visit British Folk Art at Tate Britain 10th June – 31st August, find out more info at tate.org.uk.