What is Primitive Folk Art?

Primitive folk art is a loosely defined category of folk art that is closely related to naive art and outsider art. Collections of primitive folk art are often referred to as primitives. Primitive folk art takes many forms including dolls, ornaments, crafts, paintings, textiles, and functional items such as shelves and furniture.

The primitive folk art style is characteristic of a historic or early Americana time period. Primitive crafts usually have a rough and simple look to them that suggests a lack of formal artistic training. Folk art is the art of the common people, and is therefore divergent from mainstream fine art styles. Traditional culture and primitive impulses influence primitive folk artists to produce distinctive styles and objects that cater to local needs and tastes.

Contemporary primitive folk art is created using new materials, but is designed to have an old or antique look. Examples of antiquing techniques used by primitive folk artists include coffee staining, tea dying, and sanding down paint on primitive wood crafts to create a worn, aged look.

Country rustic or primitive home decor often uses primitive folk art pieces displayed mixed with antiques. Primitive folk art blends well with antique decor for a fraction of the price.

Extreme Primitive Folk Art

Extreme primitive folk art is a sub-genre of primitive folk art that has, as the name implies, an even more extreme primitive look. Extreme primitives are characterized by extra rough construction, heavily stained fabric, and rusty appliqués. Extreme primitive folk art dolls are designed to look very old, simplistic, dirty, and ragged.

Popular Primitive Folk Art Themes

Primitive Folk Art features a number of recurring themes and characters. Some of the most popular are:

  • Primitive Angels
  • Barn Stars
  • Primitive Crows
  • Primitive Dolls & Rag Dolls
  • Pineapples – which mean welcome & good luck
  • Saltbox Houses
  • Primitive Sheep
  • Willow Trees
  • Primitive Wood Signs

This post is ©2008 by Stephanie Baker of Old World Primitives. You may not copy or repost this text elsewhere without express written permission, but but you are welcome to link to this post if you would like to share the information.