Folk Economy

While most business reporting focuses on stories of the ”new economy,” Western Folklife Center Media decided to focus on the people who make a living using traditional skills and creativity, asking basic questions: How do these economies work? Who are these people who choose to make a living this way? What do they gain, and what do they sacrifice by choosing to survive through a life of independence and tradition? The Folk Economy radio series was produced for Marketplace on Public Radio International in 2000 and 2001.

Torah Scribe, Brooklyn, NY
Drawing on instructions laid down by Moses in the Old Testament, a modern-day scribe carefully creates a Torah for a New York synagogue, using ink and parchment that he prepares himself.

Mariachi Corner, Los Angeles
We accompany Mariachi musicians as they try and drum up business on a street in East Los Angeles that has come to be known as the Mariachi Corner.

Tinman, Salt Lake City, NV
Our story examines the ancient trade of the tinsmith, and whether the automation that computers have brought to this occupation has robbed the modern tinman of his craft, and his heart.

Zuni Jewelry, Zuni, NM
Hal Cannon visits the workshop of two jewelry makers at the Pueblo of Zuni, where Native Americans have made and worn their own jewelry for millennia.

Barb Wired, McDermitt, NV
Meet the students of an innovative teacher in rural Nevada who have bridged the digital divide by forming their own internet company, and bringing high-speed internet to their isolated school.

Split Decision, Salt Lake City, UT
An innovative snowboarder named “Cowboy” uses Utah’s “Greatest Snow on Earth” to develop and test the Split Decision, a new board that opens up the backcountry to snowboarders.

 Banner image: Rorie Holford; Folk Economy images, photographer unknown.