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Makers of Faith
People crowd around a colorful piñata in the shape of a cross, hung up among pastel-colored paper streamers under a tree. On the ground, an offering of pineapple and other fruit.
A piñata is decorated with Christian motifs by participants in Migration to Metropolitan Washington: Making a New Place Home at the 1988 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Photo by Eric Long, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Closeup of a pair of hands working on a cross ornament.
National Heritage Fellow Paula Rodriguez demonstrates the almost-lost art of straw appliqué as part of the New Mexico program at the 1992 Festival.
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
A man demonstrates wood carving for a small crowd around him.
Konstantinos Pilarinos, a Byzantine-style wood carver, demonstrates his work at the 2001 Building Arts program.
Photo by Dane Penland, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Two people at a makeshift kitchen counter demonstrate cooking a dish. Christmas decorations are strung up around them.
Welsh cooks Angela Gray and Gareth Johns prepare a traditional Christmas feast, despite the July heat, at the 2009 Festival.
Photo by Walter Larrimore, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Closeup on someone working on a loom, creating a striped red, green, yellow, and black cloth.
Kente cloth weaver Kwasi Asare presents this African weaving tradition as part of the program Crafts of African Fashion at the 2018 Festival.
Photo by Joshua Davis, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

From personal adornment and ritual regalia to murals and shrines, artists and artisans motivated by devotion and requirements for worship enliven expressions of faith through their craft. Some makers are professionals with years of training in a formal workshop setting. Others volunteer their time and skill as devotional acts, dedicating years, sometimes decades, of training to their craft. Either way, religion sets the stage for these artists to facilitate creative encounters through their art.

At home and in community halls, tables are filled with food made by hand for holidays, rites of passage, and celebrations. Some American food traditions were born out of and are sustained by religious communities. Whether preparing a Christmas dinner or volunteering at the langar (community kitchen) at a Sikh gurdwara, makers of faith contribute to body and soul nourishing meals across the country.

At the 2023 Folklife Festival, we will invite a diverse collective of makers, both on and off the National Mall, who will demonstrate their work and share stories about being called to their craft, how they learned what they do, and the roles they and their creations play in ritual and everyday life. They will discuss the joys, challenges, and resonances of their practices through conversation and demonstration.