Do you ever wonder what some of the tags, terms and genres you encounter on travels around Folksy actually mean? The Kapowder Room Secrets is a fortnightly column in which Konnie Kapow investigates the various themes and styles to be found in the wonderful world of Folksy!
This fortnight I am looking at a very important element of culture and its implications for craft and design – Folklore.
Strangers used to gather together at the cinema and sit together in the dark, like Ancient Greeks participating in the mysteries, dreaming the same dream in unison.
So, what is it then?
The dictionary definition of folklore is, The traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. Fairy tales, legends, proverbs, morals, rituals and songs all have their roots in peasant culture and in the absence of facebook, twitter and Nintendo Wiis for their entertainment,
“farm labourers and household workers relied on the telling of tales to shorten the hours devoted to repetitive harvesting tasks and domestic chores.” Maria Tatar, The Classic Fairy Tales, Norton, 1999
Folklore is pretty much inescapable, you’d be hard pushed for example to find someone who hadn’t at least heard of Red Riding Hood although perhaps not everyone would be able to attribute her to Charles Perrault or The Brothers Grimm as Little Red Cap. Many modern stories are at least influenced by morals, stories or legends which started their lives as folklore. Indeed, many of our Seasonal Holidays and Festivals have their roots in folklore.
Though we may not realise their relevance in our modern world, they’re traditions that we carry with us forever such as mayday or Halloween. Amanda, Spiral Moon Fantasy
It’s also worth noting the educational value and morality lessons within Folklore:
Most of these stories were first told in a time long before the existence of modern science, and maybe they were a way for people to try and make sense of the world around them. There were no scientists to explain why the sky is blue, where fire came from, or why the storms come and destroy tender crops. To have no, or very little, understanding of such powerful things must have been frightening. It’s within human nature to try and rationalise our fears and, to my mind at least, this attempt at rationalising nature lies at the heart of many of these stories. Kate and Crow, Catbird Craft
What does the term ‘folklore’ mean to some of our Folksy sellers?
Folklore is more than tradition – it is stories about life as it has always been. The oldest stories are the ones that speak to our most basic fears or desires, or that teach us lessons in how to grow. Jane, Goblin Market
To me, Folklore is a very universal term appertaining to all sorts of Pagan beliefs from Druidry, Witchcraft, Wizardry, for example to myth and legend. Traditional tales, beliefs, morals, old wives’ tales, passed down through hundreds of years, often in an embellished magical way that even in today’s modern world still bears a lot of meaning and relevance – especially to those who look for a certain ‘spiritual something else’ in their lives. Sandra, Silverwater
Many folklore stories over the years have been changed and adapted through imagination creating something of fiction but based upon true facts! It’s a bit like the game ‘Chinese Whispers!’ As generations come and go the stories get more bizarrely distorted sometimes transforming them into an Urban Legend. Ashley, Mystic Magic
I think it’s a kind of knowledge passed down through stories and superstitions with close links and admiration for nature and the magic it can provide. Hannah, Old Wives Tale
What does ‘Folklore’ look like?
I bet you had at least one book of fairy stories when you were little!? I know I did, I remember being given a particularly beautiful one by my aunts (talented gift buyers!) with beautiful watercolour illustrations of woodland scenes, fairies, elves, castles and princesses. Nature is very important in folklore so flora and fauna are common.
Dark forests with twisty trees, winding footpaths, villages with a wishing well in the middle, far off castles, little boys being turned into piglets by a witch and frogs turning into princes. Ailsa, Coucou Heart
Often however, folklore imagery can be pretty dark and a bit frightening. I keep coming back to fairy tales as an example although they’re only a small part of folklore but it is probably worth noting that many of them were originally very dark and gruesome before Disney got hold of them! The original Sleeping Beauty for example is raped and impregnated while she’s asleep rather than woken by a kiss, the Pied Piper drowns all the village’s children and the three bears? They found her and ate her!
One of the most important things about folklore however is that it is imaginary. In particular, the fact that folklore by tradition has been passed on by word of mouth rather than recorded it’s up to the beholder how they create the images.
[What folklore looks like] depends on what part of the world you are looking at, and which community you are looking to. It can be the traditional dress and artistic works within a community, or even the artistic expression of an urban community in modern times, I think graffiti will become part of urban folklore in the future. Natalie, NOfkants Curios
What makes it so popular?
Folklore is always popular but there does seem to be quite a lot of it about at the moment. I’m seeing trailers and posters for a film called Red Riding Hood, there was also one relatively recently about the Brothers Grimm starring Heath Ledger, The Shreks and various other horror movies.
As with many of my recent articles for this column I think the answer to this comes back once again to nostalgia, people’s fascination with the past. Who was it who told you the stories and sang you the songs? It was probably your parents, grandparents, people who might not be around anymore or it might remind you of school, of things you did and games you played as a child.
I think everyone is interested in how we got to where we are today. We have documented history and then we have myth and legend for the times when things weren’t written, only told. Beliefs and religions shape the way people live and think and I believe a bit of wonderment, magic and time to dream and think is good for the soul. Believe in what you want to and whatever gives you peace. Children certainly benefit from stories that inspire their imaginations and I see no reason why adults shouldn’t do the same. Sandra, Silverwater
It is fluid and can be understood and interpreted in multiple ways. There is nostalgia for our own childhoods, but it is also a language to discuss life, loss, marriage, virtue, transgression and all the other tribal necessities. They endure because they are parables. Jane, Goblin Market
Who / what are your favourite folklore characters?
Robin Hood, Merlin. Colin, Dragonwood Crafts
The Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Ashley, Mystic Magic
Personally I like the traditional folklore stories from my childhood, of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel. My Mother’s family were Austrian and Swiss and the traditional versions of these stories, rather than the Disneyfied modern version interests me most. Natalie, NOfkants Curios
Krampus was/is a mythical beast that was said to accompany St Nicholas in early December. He would frighten children by rattling rusty chains and bells, all in the hope that they would behave themselves over the coming year. Krampus is an unmistakable beast who I’m sure would have frightened anyone who encountered him. Crow, Catbird Craft
Why does ‘Folklore’ work well within a crafting context?
Oh me! Me! I know! Is it because it in itself is craft?!
Yes I rather think it is! Folklore is the creation of stories, of ideas and rituals which has grown organically through time hence folklore lends itself beautifully to hand crafted wares. I’ve got a tear in my eye just thinking about it!
Because craft is primal. Mass produced items just don’t have the essence of who we are as creative beings. An artist gives something of themselves in every piece that is made. Folklore is primal too. Amanda, Spiral Moon Fantasy
Animals and wildlife are an endless source of inspiration for me and link very easily within the folklore realms. As do trees, bees, flowers and almost anything else that links with nature. Hannah, Old Wives Tale
Crafting is in essence (to me) a practical way of keeping folklore alive. There are stories to be told about each piece of art whether that be a knitted bear or a giant sculpture made of found materials! Kate, Catbird Craft
Folklore is so rich with imagery, whether of the fairy tale kind or a more handcrafted look of old embroidery, unusual costumes, and treasures. This is all very inspiring to the crafter / maker. Ailsa, Coucou Heart
So there you have it! A huge thank you to all of the talented sellers who contributed their time and thoughts to this article! Don’t forget to check out their shops and some of the fantastic folklore creations within. I’m off to catch up with those Brothers Grimm!Camelot by Silverwater Gothic Steampunk Crow Necklace by Coucou Heart Solstice – Masquerade Mask by Mystic Magic Wildlife Greeting Cards by Old Wives Tale Painted Deer Hind Skull Cervus Elaphus OOAK by Catbird Craft Midsummer Fairies Cushion Cover by Goblin Market Celtica 7×5 Print by Spiral Moon