I guess the over arching concern I have about contemporary folk artists is that some of them are almost too commercialized. There can be almost a "production line" feel to their creations. That's not to say, a new collector shouldn't collect them but I would exercise caution in terms of how many contemporary pieces I have in the collection. The price of folk art from artists who are commercially successful will be higher than the works of an unknown artist and therefore more expensive.
|Skating on the Mill Pond, S. B. Armstrong 1944. Found in an Ottawa antique store.|
While in the main still affordable, many contemporary folk artists command prices of $500 and up for some of their works. In my budget, that's still a significant "spend" requiring fairly careful thought before pulling the trigger.
Contemporary folk carvings are fine but I would go slow because they are for the most part quite plentiful in supply and your collection can grow too quickly. It's fine to have one or possibly two carvings by the same contemporary carver but I would also look for traditional folk art pieces. Items with some age that are harder to find and of limited supply. In some cases they'll be unique items by unknown artists which is exciting. Not to be mercenary, but the latter works will have more value now and in the future. It's nice when you decide to remove an item from your collection and in the process make a profit on the transaction.
Personally, I like to find artists that haven't been discovered beyond their immediate family and friends. And, surprisingly, there are many folk artists out there who fit that category. I would estimate that I have discovered at least ten to fifteen folk artists over the years that were unknown in folk art circles. Assuming you can buy their work from them, and I have discovered that isn't always the case, their work will be very reasonably priced. More importantly, by purchasing their work, you are giving them a vote of confidence and acknowledgement that their work is important to you personally.
|The Blueberry Picker, Gerald Chamberlin c. 1965. Picked in west Quebec.|
Define collecting boundaries. By that I mean, establish a personal set of standards for the kinds of folk art you're going to buy and collect. For example, I stop short of work that is too crude or rough in its execution. There is a point for me where naivety becomes just too primitive. I stay away from folk paintings unless they include people and or animals.
Set your sights on owning a painting by a folk artist that is higher up the food chain from where you're currently buying. For example, paintings by the great Nova Scotia folk artist Joe Norris currently change hands in the $3,000 to $8,000 range. They are not inexpensive but still within reach of most collectors.
|Cove Scene by Joe Norris, 1981. The owner was given my business card by his mother.|
You can and will find folk art just about anywhere so make sure you widen your search. Most antique dealers handle traditional folk art so that gives you another reason to attend shows and visit their shops.