Me is We

Dutch designer, photographer and soul-searcher Birgitta de Vos talks about the Future of Folk.

From a handful of rich and powerful leaders into power to the people. From externalized power to internalized power. From large multinational companies to small local initiatives. From a society in a state of adolescence to young adults with ripening notions of responsibility and interconnectivity.
The industrialized consumption society of the last 50 years is in a state of transformation. Of course the current economic crisis lends a hand, but even without it, people have inevitably become saturated with ever more products of the nearly identical function/price/color/size, which reappear in an “in today and out tomorrow” cycle. 
These products are presented to us in a finished state, mostly with great marketing tools. We do not know where they come from. Or who produced them. Or how long it took and where they were made. The winds, the sun, the rain, the hands of many people are key factors, before a product comes into our hands, but we don’t realize it. We just buy items in the shop today and dispose them tomorrow. 
It is a great luxury to be able to have your dreams come true in just a few seconds of shopping. However, this is an illusion: a superficial illusion that can only satisfy us for a short instant of time. Underlying needs for nourishment -- for compassion, passion, friendship, beauty, love, and expressing our creativity, are not met. We do not become better beings by buying that special brand of car, sweater or fridge.
Technical developments gave us a digital and virtual world. This immaterial world influences our imagination and supplies us with even more illusions and dreams. Yet, it also leads, on the other hand, to a wish for a different material world. We look more and more products, experiences, or matters that truly touch us, that are life changing, that are “for real,” that are eternally ours, that grow with us, on us and transform us.... that make us better people.
It looks as if we are maturing out of our marketing based society where consuming is our second nature. We more and more want to know where products come from, who made them, what they consist of and what happens to them if we dispose of them.
Lately many designers and artists are taking up crafts, and by doing so hope to make unique pieces and products with soul – different from folk art in the past, which had no name and was made anonymously. Some of today’s folk art is made by stars and has a price.  The rest of today’s folk art is made by traditional practitioners in the home-places of craft, or by newcomers eager to reacquaint themselves with a sense of authenticity.
The search for authenticity does not stop with DIY crafts.  Religion is also in transformation. We don’t follow leaders anymore: we want to find our own truth. We don’t trust and believe anymore what a small minority tells us. We dig into our own past or search still living indigenous healing and believing systems. We cross borders and explore exotic rituals to find meaning in life. We are addressing, in unexpected ways, our suspicion that we have lost touch with our true nature, and of why we are here, of how our existence may just bring the universe into a better state of being.  Much as we have spent the last century learning how to ridicule ritual, we are now reviving it.
The pharmaceutical industry is also challenged in 21st-century society. Amazing life-extending and healing methods were discovered in the last decades, but regardless of this progress we also see a contemporary movement away from chemical and industrialized products. A fast-growing stratum of society wants to find the true source of their imbalances, and the proper holistic approach to healing the entire soul, instead of just the body or parts of it.
The future of folk art addresses the impulses that are changing consumption, religion, and even ideas of healing.  The future of folk art lies is in finding a way to express who we really are. 
If designers and artists embrace the handmade, the knitted, the embroidered, the crocheted and the patch-worked – all the traditional patterns and ways of making products -- and they can ask high prices for them, it tells us that there is a ‘market’ for this kind of more personal approach. That there is an inner need by many people to have products made with soul. That they support and need products that give them a feeling of cherishing, caring and authenticity. Products that feed their soul instead of their ego.
It is of course not by buying expensive products from artists and designers that we obtain ultimate satisfaction. This can only be by participating, by co-creating the universe, by acting out your part, by doing your thing! The thing that makes you feel good. The thing that you can do best. That thing that only you can do! The thing that makes the universe smile! The thing that is so easy to do, that you think anyone can do, but yet if done by you, no one can copy.
Folk art of the 21st century is a highly individual act. It is our way to express ourselves. It is an inner search, a going-within, and it is an awareness of our interconnectivity. It is multicultural. It is eclectic. It is a mix and match of high and low techniques. It is crossing borders. It is without borders. It is diving into the past and linking it to the future. It is timeless. It shows that we are human beings, that we can make mistakes, that the imperfect parts are accepted as part of the perfect whole. Folk art is not dusty and nostalgic; it is modern and can only blossom when we are in a certain state of development. When we are growing up, when our daily needs, like water, food and shelter are being met and when we are happy with who we are instead of searching to fill gaps of personal and emotional insufficiency. Folk art of the 21st century is what the Hippies were to the 20th century, but instead of sprouting up in just a few city parks in a few brief summers of Love, the flowers of folk art have a rich international soil to grow on -- across many seasons.
Birgitta de Vos creates products, concepts, objects and books with love, and in harmony with the nature within and around us. Visit



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