Different Forms of Folk Art Around the World

Folk art is colorful, expressive and reflects the cultural life of our community. It has a strong influence on some of the art even today!

Folk art is not only aesthetically pleasing or used for decorative purposes but can also be utilised in some way or the other. Some forms of folk art are widely known all around the world whereas others may be unfamiliar outside of their respective countries or even regions. Furthermore, some countries may have even drawn inspiration from or their folk art might have been influenced by another country or region.

Find some of the different forms of folk art from different countries around the world –

Gzhel (Russia)

Gzhel is a style of Russian ceramic. It gets its name from a picturesque area 60 kilometers southeast of Moscow, a village (in the Moscow Oblast). Here, pottery has been produced since the 14th century and it is known as one of the oldest and largest centers of china production in Russia. It is a true cradle of Russian ceramic.

According to Russiapedia, Gzhel is also the word for traditional Russian blue and white porcelain produced there since the 19th century – the region is famous for it. The area is rich with beautiful woods, it has crystal clear rivers and fabulous clay. Craftsmen could not find a better place than this. This made it seem like Mother Nature herself created this area for it. The distinctive blue on a white (tin-glazed) surface originated in the 1830s, as per RusMoose.com and today roughly thirty villages southeast of Moscow produce the unique Russian handicraft.

It is shipped both domestically and abroad. In the eighteenth century, Gzhel became famous. It was well-known for its wonderful majolica-colored clay with polychrome paintings on white glaze but it was the nineteenth century that marked the dawn of Gzhel’s Golden Era.

Image via Rusmoose.com

This was the beginning of Russian china as the craft evolved from semi-faience to faience and later to porcelain with the items painted in deep-blue being a special interest with local craftsmen as well as entire factories bring involved in production of blue and white tableware, vases, toys, animal and bird figurines and statuettes of horsemen or dancers.

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However, a deep crisis came at the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, states the Russiapedia website. That was when Gzhel’s art was about to disappear but only after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and a nationalization campaign throughout the country did the craft see its revival.

Today Gzhel is at its peak as the designers and potters, many of whom descend from generations of local craftsmen, are trying to keep traditional shapes and decor, notable for their folk features, as per Russiapedia. “The youngest masters, preserving old traditions, enrich this precious heritage with their own finds. As it was before, today all the pieces are hand-made and hand-painted,” states the Russiapedia website.

The place Gzhel produces many things. This includes tea, coffee and dinner sets, samovars, vases, candlesticks, clocks, lamps, statuettes and figurines of more than 2500 varieties. Its porcelain enjoys far-reaching popularity. It is famous both in its native country as well as far beyond Russia. It has many art lovers and connoisseurs around the globe. These art lovers yearn to get one or two precious pieces for their collections.

The blue and white Gzhel porcelain is of high quality. However, it is relatively cheap compared to its English or Chinese equivalent and one can easily buy any piece of Gzhel’s china art through the Internet.


Huichol Beading – (Mexico)

Huichol gourd bowl | © Rosa Menkman/Flickr (Image via Culture Trip)

Huichol art is a relatively wide umbrella term. It is most commonly believed to include the production of beaded and string art. This folk art is always brightly colored. It features symbols, animals and designs which are centuries old. The Huichol Beading is of great significance to the Wixáritari people, however, nowadays, these artworks are principally produced for commercial purposes. It uses mass-produced yarn and beads.

“Although Huichol folk art would originally have been made from natural objects like shells, seeds and even coral, amongst other semi-precious stones and items,” as per Culture Trip. “The Huichol people of Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas and Nayarit, Mexico, known in their native language as Wixáritari, are globally recognized for their fantastically intricate, spiritually significant and brilliantly colorful bead and string folk art, which command high prices and even higher respect.” reads the Culture Trip website.

This folk art is typically seen in the form of jewelry and bowls. It is also seen in the form of masks and wooden animal figures. The wax-and-yarn artworks tend to be wall hangings. They are popular amongst Durango-based Huicholes in particular. According to Culture Trip, “the one consistent thread running through all modern Huichol art is the religious significance of each piece, as well as its status as a valuable source of income for Wixáritaris.”


Chinese Kites – (China)

Image via China Highlights

Kites were invented over two thousand years ago and in about the twelfth century, the Chinese kite spread to the West. They were invented by the Chinese. It also reached the oriental. The Chinese traditional culture is integrated with the kite craft. “According to historical records, kites were first used in the military,” as per ChinaCulture.org.

According to the website, “In the mid-Tang Dynasty (618-907), in which the society was stable and peaceful, the use of kites was gradually changed from military to entertainment.” There was innovation in papermaking. With this, the raw material of kites changed from silk to paper and it became popular among civilians with a richer variety of forms. It reached the peak point in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and participation by the literary, the making and the decoration of kites underwent great development, as per ChinaCulture.org.

Kite making became a profession due to the large demand with The Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties, becoming the peak period of the Chinese kite. According to ChinaCulture.org, Literators at that time made kites by themselves and they underwent great development in size, design, decoration, and flying skills. They sent them to relatives and friends as a gift. They regarded it as a literary pursuit. With the growing popularity of these kites, in recent years, kite flying has been publicized as a sports activity as well as entertainment.

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China has a large area of territory and as a traditional culture and folk art, kites have formed unique styles of different regions during its development. The most famous ones are the styles of Beijing, Tianjin, Weifang in Shandong Province, Sichuan, and Guangdong Province.

The art of Chinese kites has developed endlessly. It took place alongside the long history of China’s cultural traditions as each kind of folk art (kites) had its strong and powerful point. This is due to its strong affinity with each rich and colorful historical period, as per ChinaCulture.org and it states that “the specific kite art firmly relates with the music, dance, drama, folk-custom, and religion of their respective areas.”


Jadopatia Painting – (Jharkhand, India)

Image via Maati Ghar

The Jadopatia paintings are made with natural pigments. They are made on cloth, metal, wood, or leaves. It is a type of folk art that has been practiced generally by the Santhals in Jharkhand (India) for centuries. Here, artisans make scrolls called ‘Jado’ or ‘Jadopatia’. These are drawn with natural inks and colors and are used to help people tell stories in the form of illustrations. Jadopatia paintings depict scenes from the faraway afterlife. This includes the beliefs in tiger Gods etc. This form of folk art is vertical scroll paintings.

Jadopatia was performed on cloth in earlier days. However, later these paintings were done on paper. As per Indian Folk Art.org, the scrolls of traditional horizontal scrolls were made into vertical scrolls, With this, its length saw a reduction too. This was done to allow more than one scene to be shown. The “use of color is very subdued and mainly limited to earth tones such as brown, yellow, and orange,” according to the Indian Folk Art website.

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Most ancient scrolls were made from waste paper and paper was scarce at the time. Good quality paper was not available. The Jadopatia scrolls were made up of sheets of paper that were either joined with glue or sewn together. They were often wrapped in fabric so as to protect the scroll’s contents and the scroll was secured with a string at each end. Pieces of bamboo were sewn in. In this way, they can act as rollers. This was done so the scroll could be wound tightly around them.

Jadopatia scrolls were sometimes short and consisted of two or three panels. Whereas, others could have fourteen or more panels. These scroll paintings “were mainly prepared for Santal audiences by a Hindu painter caste known as jadupatuas and collected in the Santal Parganas,” as per the Indian Folk Art website. Bunches of goat’s hair are used as brushes by the ancient Jadupatuas. They are tied to a small stick and earlier they were painted using natural colors made from vegetables or minerals.


Pysanka (Pisanka) – Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Ukraine)

Image via Martha Stewart | Credit: Gail Lambka

Originating as a pagan tradition, the Ukrainian Easter egg is known as a pysanka egg. It immediately catches your eye and is characterized by its unique and intricate designs. They have become so popular worldwide that you can even discover them on Instagram!

Nowadays, they are widely admired for aesthetic reasons. However, historically they were thought to be very powerful that would bring fertility and good harvests in the new season. According to House Beautiful, “This was partly due to the eggs still having life inside of them (fertilized chicken eggs were used), as well as their unique colorful ornamentation.”

“According to the Ukrainian Museum, in ancient times, women and young girls would design pysanka eggs each spring,” as per the House Beautiful website.

In fear that strangers could cast a spell on them, the pysanka eggs were painted in secret. Natural dyes were used to paint them with geometric motifs as well as animal and plant elements all seen as common designs on pysanka eggs. “Christianity would later contribute elements such as crosses, churches, and fish to their designs, too, states House Beautiful on thor website.

Every color used in the design on the Pysanka – Ukrainian Easter Egg had a different symbolic meaning. The color red symbolized the sun, life, and joy. Wealth and fertility were represented by the color yellow. Green was a symbol of spring and plant life.

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At that time, the pysanka eggs were chicken eggs. A special wax-resist method known as ‘batik’ was used to decorate them. In this method, an instrument called a ‘kistka’ would be used to “write” the design using wax. (In Ukrainian, pysaty is the verb to write, which is how the name pysanka came to be, as per House Beautiful).

The craft is still practiced by some in its original form. However, other artists have taken up hand-painting wooden eggs with intricate pysanka-inspired designs. The main advantage of the latter is that these can be displayed year after year without rotting.

“Although contemporary artisans continue to employ ancient symbols and traditional colors on the egg, the pysanka is no longer considered to be a talisman, just a beautiful folk art object,” reads the description from a pysanka exhibit at the Ukrainian Museum, as per House Beautiful.

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Sources of the images in the Featured Image:

Gzhel via rusmoose.com

Beaded Huichol Art via Culture Trip

Chinese Traditional Kite Craft via ChinaCulture.org

Jadopatia Painting via indianfolkart.org

Pysanka (Pisanka) – Ukrainian Easter Eggs via House Beautiful


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