What is a Primitive?

Posted by Douglas Tuck on

This is one of the most mis-represented words in the antique business! When you Google or search on the term in ANY site (includeing this one) most times you will get hand crafted NEW items. - Go ahead - try it!

Dictionary .com describes the word:
- being the first or earliest of the kind or in existence, especially in an early age of the world:primitive forms of life.
- early in the history of the world or of humankind.characteristic of early ages or of an early state of human development: - primitive tool making
In Fine Arts:
  1. an artist of a preliterate culture.

  2. a naive or unschooled artist.

  3. an artist belonging to the early stage in the development of a style.

  4. a work of art by a primitive artist.

I saw this on "The Spruce" , a home decorating site and describes what primitive decor is very well:

"In the decorating world, the definition is a bit more subtle but retains the flavor of the formal definition. First of all, a primitive piece of furniture or décor is handmade. Secondly, a person without formal training or craftsmanship made it. Third, most often, a primitive item is utilitarian: furniture, dishware, tools, and cooking items are all considered primitive. And lastly, a primitive item is old—generally, old enough to qualify as an antique. It’s the combination of age, lack of pretense, and practical purpose that gives a primitive item, whether furniture or some other household good, its well-worn, simple appearance, NOT intentional design. Primitive is not a style; it’s more a description of age and production method."

When you see a nice item on a shelf or in a add, there are more than one - it is likely not a true primitive. Often terms such as rustic or country are used to descrbe a look or decor. This is fine, but is not necessarily a primitive. A true primitive should meet all the criteria mentioned above.
So dont overpay for an item simply because it says "primitive"! They are actually hard to find and are probably not in gift shops!
As always- "keep your head on a swivel and always be pickin' "
- Doug
Vermont Picker 802

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