Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Folk Tree

Walls of The Folk Tree are evenly coated with art.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in Pasadena with my friend Alma.  We had just finished a Saturday morning seminar (those are always painful) and we were planning to go to Green Street for lunch.  Before we headed out, she asked if we could first stop in one of her favorite little shops, since were were so close and it was on the way to the restaurant. 

She proceeded to tell me how amazing this little Folk Art place was and how each piece was hand made and no two were alike and I would be totally amazed at the treasures I would behold (my embellished wording, her enthusiasm).  Even if we were just in for five minutes, that would be enough for her.  She was obviously smitten, and who am I to turn down shopping?  It was just across the street, so I figured even if I didn't like it (I'm not a huge fan of Latin American Art), at least I wasn't being totally inconvenienced by travel.  I know that's not a very friendly thing to say, but I was hungry.

For some reason, I really like this one.  I think it's the due
to the apathetic man in the feathered hat.

The Folk Tree, as it is called, is a charming little shop crammed with an unimaginable number of things, all of them from Mexico or Latin American Artisans.  Punched tin lanterns, papier mache objet, charms, pottery, votive figures, sculptures, and the like, start on the floor in baskets and crawl up the walls and onto the ceiling where they are suspended like aged meats.  It was like traveling to a wonderful Bazaar with art direction by David La Chapelle and no aggressive locals barking at me. 

I jokingly asked the sales girl what inventory was like, and she replied with the sort of nervous laughter that makes Jack a dull boy.  I shared with her my tale of getting shanghai-ed into doing inventory in the Lingerie department at Nordstrom, and the though of me untangling thong underthings sent peals of laughter through the shop.  I think we had a connection...I think we had a moment there.

A canopy of tin stars in the Gallery space.
The art, which is really what it all is, from the smallest clay trinket to intricately painted hand carved sculptures, shows the chutzpah, creativity, and dynamism of the Latino culture.  Alma would pick up random pieces, some of them no more that brightly painted tooth picks and bits of clay, and wax poetically about their individuality and the cultural heritage behind it and the joie de vivre that it reflected. 

It really was amazing to see how something beautiful could be made out of what we would consider nothing.  But there it was, a brightly painted skeleton of a burro wearing a sombrero and grasping a rose between its exposed teeth.  My hard heart, the same one that has a soft spot for English antiques and Oriental carpets, grew three sizes that day and began to appreciate something I would normally have dismissed as loud and vulgar (I know, the irony is glaring, isn't it?).
Rocky, the proprietress, travels frequently to Mexico to bring these little treasures to Pasadena. She also collaborates with notable Artists such as Sergio Martinez, Enedina Vasquez, and Victor Hernandez and coordinates exhibitions held in the gallery at the back of the shop.  At the time of our visit, she was prepping the space for a Saints and Sinners show.

Hand made jewelry on consignment from the artists.

For those of you looking for a new and unique place that has as much character as it does content, you should definitely check out The Folk Tree.  It's got the artistic quality you have come to expect from Pasadena, but it's delightfully located away from Colorado Blvd, so you won't have to put up with maddening parking or rogue pedestrians.

A polychrome wood carving that's pure whimsy.
The two baby Opossums swing independently.

I'm a sucker for pottery.  These pieces with their natural forms
and Olive green glaze I found especially striking.

The shop is a repository of Dio de los Muertos art.
Yes, that is a skeleton of a dog wearing a Mexican wrestlers
mask and cape. 

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