British Folk Art

This exhibition on at Tate Britain, London, showcases objects drawn from collections across Britain which have been considered as ‘folk art’ of one kind or another. It is the first major historical exhibition of British folk art at a national art museum and takes in an array of genres and media from the 17th to the mid-20th century, when folk art became more commodified. These include monumental ships' figureheads, elaborate embroideries and quilts, giant trade and shop signs (my favourite part of the exhibition), paintings and collages. Some were made by professional craftsmen, some by amateurs, most are anonymous. A number were created in the context of commercial, working or military life, others were designed for the home. All sit outside or at the margins of what is generally considered to be fine art. But there is a long history of such objects also being of artistic interest, whether as the expression of a collective identity or a highly individual creative imaginations.


As a country girl from Wales, I realise that I have some wonderful examples from my Great Grandparents of patchwork and woodcarving, which were practical items as well as highly decorative items.