‘Smiling at the Storm: East Anglian Folk Art’ by Peter Tolhurst



From the author of the perennial bestseller This Hollow Land: Aspects of Norfolk Folklore, comes a book on an enthralling and timely subject, the first of its kind to focus on this region.

Flourishing in the gaps between fine art, crafting and the work of the keen amateur, folk art blurs the line between the functional and the aesthetic. It is frequently the preserve of unknown artisans working in long-established traditions – gansey knitters, stonemasons, signwriters, pargeters and blacksmiths – elevating utilitarian objects with a decorative dimension.

Although not always intentionally anti-establishment, folk art often can’t help but be; it is of the people and in the public realm, a personal expression through industry, reflecting the maker’s landscape, community, folklore or heritage.

Smiling At The Storm: East Anglian Folk Art is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated work on the subject, which will inform and delight both historians and amateur enthusiasts alike.

A celebration as well as a study, it is a gorgeously produced, full-colour examination of the many strands of this rich tradition. Alongside artisans and craftspeople, the book commemorates other ‘outsider artists’ including fisherman John Craske with his astonishing collection of wool pictures, and Lorina Bulwer, creator of the disturbing ‘protest letters’, embroidered during her incarceration in the Yarmouth workhouse.

It also tells the story of people passing through the area; from the Napoleonic POWs near Peterborough whose bone toys were sold at the prison gates to the anonymous stone scratchers leaving their marks on church columns.

A tribute both to the craftsmen and women of a pre-industrial time as well as the museums that have preserved much of what remains, Smiling At The Storm is an ideal read at a time when the spirit of folk art is soaring (consider the popularity of programmes like The Great Pottery Throw Down, The Great British Sewing Bee and Britain’s Best Woodworker).