Made by hand and cherished for generations, these ornaments are as
sturdy, uncomplicated, and enduring as the people who created them.
Sometimes referred to as “naive art” or “working class art”, folk art is
produced by everyday people rather than artists or artisans. Though
many excellent reproductions of vintage folk ornaments are now
available, the originals were generally handmade by a member of the
family and used to decorate the family home.
Classic American folk art features simple shapes that are cut,
carved, molded or sewn from ordinary inexpensive materials such as wood,
paper, clay, tin, and cloth and then embellished, usually with paint or
embroidery. In many cases the ornaments were utilitarian as well as
decorative, such as woven baskets, painted boxes, and candle holders.
The simple shapes and “touchability” of this style of vintage
decoration makes it a great choice for homes with young children. But
these classic forms also pair beautifully with clean, sleek modern decor
and they even make a surprisingly sophisticated addition to trendy
industrial style design.
Here are some tips for giving your holiday decorations a vintage folk art flair:
Think simplicity and restraint
Unlike the “more is better”, over-the-top profusion typical of Victorian
holiday decoration, naive art is very much a “less is more”
– Rather than arranging a dozen items on the mantel, choose just two or three that have some real meaning to you.
– Forget the glitz. Forgo bright, super-shiny surfaces and anything
that’s glaringly artificial. Anything that’s too perfect is totally
wrong for this style, which is the epitome of warm and homey.
Natural materials and warm, soft colors
Decorations made of wood, fabric, paper, clay, tin, and other everyday
materials are the classics of this style. Paired with simple
arrangements of greenery, fruit, and candles they create a calm,
creative, and welcoming holiday atmosphere.
– Try making unexpected combinations. Arrange birch branches, boughs
of fir, and dried flowers in a big earthenware jug or galvanized pail,
or put a pair of fat candles in the middle of a wooden serving tray and
surround them with lemons and magnolia leaves or sprigs of pine.
– Homespun fabrics (or fabrics that look homespun) are a great way to
add Christmas color. Make a super-simple table runner of a yard or two
of muted red and green plaid fabric, or cut strips of fabric to make
bows to put in arrangements or on the tree.
Highlight your heritage and your handiwork
One of the best things about folk art is its that its not only created
by every culture everywhere, it’s constantly being created. “Everyday
art” that is characteristic of your heritage is an excellent addition to
this type of decoration, and it doesn’t even have to be specifically
holiday-themed. Creating simple ornaments yourself is also an excellent
way to create some lasting traditions in your own family.