It’s holiday market season!–that broad array of color and texture creating a wealth of visual imagery to excite the mind. In the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day the range of special market events expands to the point of overflowing on my plate of possibilities.
Have you ever noticed how certain stalls at these markets always draw a crowd? The creative energy seems to vibrate from work infused with warmth and spirit of the maker and resonates with the avid gaze of the passerby enticing a closer look. Sometimes it’s the tactile nature of the materials, or the exact tonal choice of the colors, or the intricate application of skill that lights up your brain, that great processor, and you respond– I must have this!
I particularly admire the embroidery handwork discoveries I make in antiques stalls and consignment shops. The interaction of threads and cloth and the choice of stitches made with an eye to composition tell a story about an unknown artist. Many of these finds don’t stray too far from their origins so you are possibly handling a piece of your local past. Perhaps a girl amused herself with a whimsical design on winter days too cold to play outside or a young woman planning for her future chain-stitched in a spirit of hopefulness. When a sense of humor shows in the subject choice or the jaunty nature of the stitching I am entranced by that glimpse of individuality.
Many cultural traditions keep their arts alive in collectives, groups of women who teach and learn and work together for a share of the profit and the opportunity to aid their community with clean water, sanitation or schools. These groups are driving contemporary folk art traditions into new territory and attracting attention in nontraditional settings. I like knowing my gift dollars are counting in more ways than one.
Especially at holiday time these bright and cheerful items make a thoughtful gift and displayed on a table or in a frame they continue the life of the artist no matter how long ago or far away.
Here are a few online sources:
International Folk Art Alliance
Vital Voices Global Partnership
National Museum of Women in the Arts
This is the second in a series on Fiber Arts
Photos by Claire Mauro