Stop in at one of the libraries around the Beltway next week and you'll find a lot more than books - specifically, you'll find displays and demonstrations of tole.

Of what?

Tole is one of several styles of folk-art painting once used by our ancestors to decorate their tin (tole, from the French word tole, for sheet iron) trays and pitchers, their wooden benches and chests, and even the walls inside their homes.The art is under-going a revival just now, and the displays at the libraries are sponsored by the National Capital chapter of the Tole Society. Members of the society say that by using "method painting" - in which the teacher guides the student stroke by stroke - anyone can learn their art.

"It's much easier to teach a method than to teach someone to be artistic," jackie Shaw explained recently at her Cabin Craft East headquarters in Gaithersburg.

"We have very few failures. It's an artcraft that anyone can do. Some people come to us who have dropped out of fine-arts courses. They develop their technique and then go on to create their own style. Some go back to fine-arts school, some to into advertising and some just do it for a hobby."

Shaw started teaching in her home five years ago and now is a partner in a wholesale distributorship of a line of decorative painting supplies.Shaw has also written eight instruction books on the subject and has done a series of lessons for public TV.

But it's not her own career she wants to talk about. "It's exciting to watch this method of painting catch on and open up new talent," she said.

In a portion of her combination warehouse, classroom and craft shop, visiting master Sigmund Arseth was teaching beginners and advanced students the Norwegian art of rosemaling (flower painting).

"Sigmund recently gave a demostration at the Smithsonian of a modern style of decoration he has developed, building on the techniques and the spirit of the antique rosemaling," Shaw explained.

It isn't just the Norwegian art that members of the Tole Society will be demonstrating next week. The art form is a revival of folk arts of many countries, and includes the innovations of present-day practitioners.

The techniques include "country painting" or primitive stroke designs, stenciling, theorem painting (stenciling on fabric), reverse glass-painting, Pennsylvania Dutch-style painting, painting on canvas and others.

Tole Society members teach various aspects of their art through the Fairfax County recreation department and the Montgomery County adult-education program, as well as through certain area crafts shops.