I don’t remember where I first saw Nina Leen’s photographs of artists of the 60s, published in the LIFE Magazine under the headline „Old Crafts Find New Hands“ in 1966. Leen was born in Russia, studied painting in Berlin and emigrated – as so many – to the USA in the 30s. Like many of her female colleagues she was never included as a staff photographer at LIFE, but nevertheless provided countless covers and images to the magazine. In this series, she portrays the artists of the folk art revival of the 60s in the US.
The article that accompanies the photographs is an interesting read and, as always, history seems to repeat itself.
The whole movement runs startlingly counter to the drift of our times. Working with the simplest of tools (no electronics), using the oldest materials (no plastics), tending all the work himself from design through execution, the American craftsman today is busier and more highly regarded than he has been in almost a century. A revival of pottery, weaving, woodworking and metalworking is taking place everywhere throughout the U.S.
I love the atmosphere of the muted colors and her way of creating scenes that are filled with strong primary colors, mostly blues, reds and purples. The artists seem totally immersed in their work, always surrounded by signs of daily life, cats, children and random supplies.
The rich texture of the rugs and tapestries immediately makes me want to start weaving or knitting, explore the history of arts and crafts and the artists portrayed…
all images Nina Leen/LIFE magazine