Shenandoah Valley Folklife

By Scott Hamilton Suter | Go to book overview

chapter 8
Folk Art and Craft

As in all cultures, Shenandoah Valley folk art exists within the realm of traditional crafts. The decoration of useful, everyday items has long been a way to lighten the load of the hard work required to subsist on farms or toil in the city. In all cases, folk art reflects the beliefs and acceptable motifs of the community that produces it. Folklorist John Michael Vlach asserts, ‘‘The essential characteristics of folk things stem from their communal nature. Because they are shared expressions they are not unique but typical and even commonplace; they are not usually monumental but ordinary and familiar; they are not singular but precedented, formulaic, and duplicated; they are not the product of a lone instant but are repeated continuously.’’ This communal nature can be found in all traditional items constructed in the valley. From Germanic birth certificates to hand-built rifles, the stamp of valley craftspeople and artists is evident.


Fraktur

Still found tucked in Bibles and attached inside the lids of hand-built chests, fraktur paintings are among the earliest examples of folk art in the Shenandoah Valley. The term fraktur refers to the illuminated manuscripts that were created in the valley and other primarily German areas of the East Coast to observe births, baptisms, or marriages or as house blessings, bookplates, and other commemorative documents. Always highly decorated, fraktur reflects a direct cultural link to medieval calligraphy coupled with the traditional decorative motifs found throughout the Pennsylvania culture region and thus the Shenandoah Valley. The colorful paintings often include tulips, pomegranates, hearts, distelfinks, and parrots. Seldom

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Shenandoah Valley Folklife
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part One - Settlement 2
  • Chapter 1 - People of the Shenandoah Valley 3
  • Part Two - Performance 14
  • Chapter 2 - String Music 15
  • Chapter 3 - Belsnickeling, Kriskringling and Shanghaiing 29
  • Chapter 4 - Folk Narratives 35
  • Part Three - Social Institutions 42
  • Chapter 5 - Folk Religion 43
  • Chapter 6 - Folk Medicine and Beliefs 54
  • Chapter 7 - Fairs and Festivals 63
  • Part Four - Material Culture 70
  • Chapter 8 - Folk Art and Craft 72
  • Chapter 9 - Architecture 85
  • Chapter 10 - Foodways 92
  • Conclusion 99
  • Appendix 101
  • Bibliographical Essay 104
  • Bibliography 112
  • Index 120
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