From ship’s figureheads to pincushions, quilts to a giant straw man, British Folk Art at Tate Britain revels in the quirky history of the hand-made and shows, though they may often have been disregarded by the artistic establishment, just how popular folk artists and makers in Britain have always been.
And there’s no doubt that the maker community in the UK is still thriving – though now the tools at their disposal may have expanded to include mobile phones, digital cameras and online marketplaces – traditional crafts such as embroidery, knitting, carving and weaving are having an explosion of interest. From evening classes, and pub craft meetups to YouTube instruction videos on everything from needle felting to making your own potter’s wheel, it seems that people are looking for ways to engage their hands as well as their minds.
In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk from 2004, he expands on his theory that being engaged in an activity like crafting can make you happy – that the feeling he calls ‘flow’, where your brain and body are harmoniously immersed in a task, is akin to meditation in the benefits it can reap for today’s stressed and tired minds.
So if you think you could do with a bit of R&R come down to Tate Britain this weekend and take part in a taster work shop, talk or family activity inspired by the British Folk Art celebration of all things hand-crafted.
Have you always wanted to whittle your own eating implements?
Join expert spoon-whittler Barnaby Carder and carve your own spatula. And as wedding season approaches, this could make a brilliant hand-made wedding present.
Got any ideas for a message that could adorn your hanky?
Sarah Corbett, director of the Craftivist Collective will teach you absolutely everything you need to know to hand stitch a message of love, a philosophical musing, or merely a reminder to put this in the linen bin, and not on the floor, on to a cotton hanky.
Looking for a sign?
Then look no further. Animaux Circus will give you all the tools you need to design and paint your own brilliantly-lettered sign.
It’s the Sample things…
Traditionally a sampler displayed an embroiderer’s needle skills. Artist Ling Chiu will help you upcycle a sampler to show off your crafty leanings and eco-credentials.
Want something to occupy the kids’ restless fingers?
Pitch up in the Digital Learning Studio and make digital drawings inspired by the funny faces and strange places in the exhibition or spend the afternoon playing with circuits, software and sewing to make your own electronic object.
Want to know how to turn your bedroom crafting into a business?
Hear from artists and makers sharing tips and tricks for promoting you and your work online.
Paid workshops include exhibition entrance in the fee. Under 12s visit the exhibition for free.