Folk art expresses the deeply held beliefs and shared memories of communities around the world in an often-unbroken continuum of motivation, motif, method and material.  The creation of folk art shows us how the past meets the present with ongoing exploration of ancient stories, regional adaptations and communal intellectual property.

Folk art also shows us how the future emerges from the past, with folk artists infusing their community’s cultural assets with personal expression, modern day messages and bold experimentation with new materials, motifs, functionalities, combinations and collaborations.

As IFAM continues to embrace, encourage and treasure traditional folk arts, it is appropriately expanding our institutional definition of folk art to include and encourage new INNOVATIVE ideas through the Innovation Inspiration Initiative funded by JoAnn and Bob Balzer.

IFAM is encouraging your experimentation and personal expression and invites you to include experimental work that adapts traditional methods into new forms and new uses.

Many examples of innovation have already been successfully included in past International Folk Art Markets.

  • A cooperative of Mayan women from Guatemala uses recycled T-shirts to create hooked rugs that feature colorful patterns drawn from traditional weaving.  These artists have created a new market opportunity, as well as a way to participate in global recycling efforts.  At the same time they greatly increased their earnings… by eliminating the high cost of wool and cotton materials.
  • Madhubani women in Mithila district of India decorate the floors and walls of their homes with paintings that portray religious and social themes.  This art form has been transferred to paper, as seen in the work of Manisha Mishra, creating a contemporary innovation that tells their story to a large audience.
  • Rachida Ousbigh and the Artisanat des Femmes de Khenifra, Morocco were making traditional djellaba buttons from dyed silk threads.  Some years ago they expanded their market by using the buttons to create jewelry that has a wide appeal to women all over the world.
  • Elliot Mkhize, a Zulu from South Africa, learned the techniques of weaving traditional coiled grass baskets from his grandmother.  After attending local art school, he began using colorful recycled telephone wire to produce baskets. Adding color to the exquisite geometric Zulu patterns created a new vitality and an expanded the global market for the Zulu basket weavers.
  • In Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Zarina Kendjaeva has collaborated with local Ikat weavers to provide a new type of colorful fabric.  She and her students apply their traditional Suzani embroidered patterns to Ikat weavings creating a new “look” with the idea of increased market opportunities for both traditions.  Zarina’s thinking has inspired other Central Asian artists to experiment with collaborations in search of new creative and market possibilities.