The article explores the problems which emerged in professional art education during the 20th century in order to explain the reasons for the unpopularity of artistic creation dealing with local visual identity in Estonia in the last decade of the century. The article also investigates the activities of artists who worked at interpreting and collecting tangible heritage at the beginning of the 20th century. The application of empirical experience and artistic categories in linking folk art and professional art is examined in the folklore-related creative and pedagogical work of Kristjan Raud. The methods and goals of interpreting folklore that dominated professional art education at the beginning of and in the second half of the 20th century are compared. The possibilities of fieldwork methods available for examining the repertoires of the authors of artefacts in traditional communities and for their use in the search for sources of inspiration are explained. While in the last few years, elements of ethnology and folklore have experienced a rising trend in the world’s high fashion, design and contemporary arts, Estonia has devoted little attention to its own traditions in the 21st century. The deeper roots of the problem lie in the limited understanding of culture and history among the younger generation and the lukewarm interest of art politicians in artistic creation that deals with the local identity. Estonian artists working at the beginning of the 20th century were transmitters of tradition and had more direct ties to folklore as a source of inspiration. Kristjan Raud encouraged his young colleagues and art students to participate in the collection of folklore and traditional objects in villages and most of the prominent artists of that period made at least one fieldtrip to collect tangible heritage for the Estonian National Museum. Raud emphasized that the artefacts decorated with the patterns of previous generations were inspired by profound ideas and were not arranged randomly. He was convinced that the previous generations expressed in their creative work old spiritual values, profound feelings and the experience of everyday life, they had great artistic talent; Raud also pointed out the educational, developmental and artistically directing influence of tangible heritage. Artefacts symbolise a certain skill of thinking and writing in oral culture, a visible expression of the ethnic language and mentality. Fieldwork provides an artist an opportunity to examine the practical needs of the authors of tangible heritage, and in addition to preferences in taste, to also get a better view of the mindset, traditional environment, the existing norms and creative practices of the transmitters of tradition. Texts presented in visual form “speak” in a coded language, which is acceptable in the community, and reflect the creative process of the members of the community who have created the artefacts as a composite system. On the one hand, the messages these artefacts convey are regulated by standards that are shared by the community and mutually agreed upon, while on the other hand they convey autobiographical visual narratives of the producer. The important factor here is the relating of professional art education, creation, and fieldwork to issues of the unexplored authorship of Estonian tangible culture and the context of creative self-expression practices.