Traditionally Folk Art is the work of untrained craftsmen. There is a strong functional and practical element to Folk Art. Utilizing the long winter hours, farmers would build new tools and whirligigs for the farm while the women would gather together and create quilts.
Folk Art reminds us that art has a place in the simplest of homes. Combining a love of color and an inventive spirit with a creative flair, Folk Artists are perhaps untrained and yet demonstrate imaginative, artistic talent.
Primitively crafted and often roughly painted, Folk Art offers a bit of charm and whimsy but is meant to be practical and utilitarian and for me using reclaimed wood for Folk Art satisfies my need to be creative. I enjoy taking a cast off piece of wood, cutting, painting and repurposing it as something whimsical, fun and playful. Folk Art pieces are fun to create, and of course it’s very gratifying if others enjoy them as well!
The simplest and most common example of Folk Art is the wind-driven whirligig. The word whirligig is derived from two Old English words whirlen (to whirl) and gigg (top) meaning to literally ‘whirl a top’.
By the latter half of the 19th century constructing wind driven whirligigs had become a pastime and art form. Craftsman from the southern Appalachians continued to produce whirligigs into the 20th century. During the great depression there was resurgence of whirligigs by craftsman and amateurs which was attributed to the need for ready cash.
A wind-driven whirligig transfers the energy of the wind into either a simple release of kinetic energy through rotation or a more complicated transfer of rotational energy. The whirligig can be either a simple or a more complicated mechanism that produces repetitive motions and/or creates sounds. The wind simply pushes on the whirligig turning one part of it and setting it into motion by using inertia.
An example of a simple whirligig is the button whirligig, (also called button spinners). Button whirligigs are simple spinning toys made with a button and a string or thread. They work by looping the ends of the thread and twisting and pulling with both arms, causing the button to spin. They were simple toys. In America, they were popular during pioneering days and during the Depression Era because they were inexpensive to make, yet very entertaining. Children of the great depression from the southern Appalachians and Ozarks remember a button and a string as the primary spinning toy of their youth.
Create a button spinner yourself by following these simple directions:
YOU WILL NEED:
Thread or string
1. Cut a 24-inch length of thread or string.
2. Thread the string through the holes in the button.
3. Tie the ends of the string together.
4. Insert the middle finger of each hand into the loop at each end with the button in the middle.
5. Spin the button to twist the strings and continue twisting the string until it becomes wrapped around itself all the way to your fingers.
6. Pull the strings taut to let them begin to untwist. Release the pressure and then pull the string taut again to keep the whirligig spinning. Apply gentle tension to the string by pulling your hands apart. The button will begin to spin.
NOTE: Pulling and releasing the string tension keeps the button spinning. Speeding up the action causes the button to make a whirring sound.
Enjoy some simple fun!