24 September 2010

Arts and Crafts Movement: Reviving Hand-Craftmanship



The Arts and Crafts Movement developed in the second half of nineteenth century England as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Manufactured goods were often poorly designed, using inferior materials and produced by abused factory workers. One of the first proponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement was William Morris (1834-1896). The artist, textile and wallpaper designer, writer and socialist promoted hand-craftsmanship for the decorative arts. Associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, his Peacock and Dragon woven woolen fabric was inspired by Morris' interest in Medieval European and Middle Eastern textiles. Another English artist who followed the movement was Walter Crane (1845-1915). Influenced by Morris he believed that decorative arts should be available to all classes and promoted public exhibitions through the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Crane produced paintings, decorative arts and children's books including The Marquis Of Carabas: His Picture Book. Charles Robert Ashbee (1863– 1942) was the son of a Victorian gentleman who collected erotica and a German mother who embraced the new aesthetic of the Pre-Raphaelites. Ashbee founded the Guild and School of Handicraft specializing in jewelry, metalwork, enamels and furniture. Located in East London the guild revived traditional crafts and provided employment to a deprived area. The brooch designed by Ashbee depicts a ship and is fabricated from gilded silver, gold, enamel and turquoises.

15 comments:

  1. I vote for a second Arts & Crafts movement!

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  2. I second that! Adore that era of creativity and the Art Deco years following.

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  3. Yes, I am having a reaction to all of our current mediocre mass produced design!

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  4. A revival of the Arts & Crafts, not to mention the Aesthetic movement is in high order. I am back in school, and I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to witness the general disinterest in the CRAFT of art, specifically drawing skills. ...If it can be downloaded that is considered adequate. The results are often bold, but lack the intimacy and warmth that comes from actually observing and witnessing your subject.

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  5. There is a form of Arts & Crafts revival of sorts. The 'Slow Movement' seems to be gaining ground and has been highlighted in a number of exhibitions and published articles across the globe. It may not be the same aesthetically as the Arts & Crafts movement, but anything that emphasizes the hand-made should be both supported and encouraged.

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  6. To Anon 1:29 p.m. a headline in our morning paper: Are we raising generation of nimcompoops? The story was about the lack of life skills this generation is not amassing as it goes totally digital. I had a little garden folly made by an artist. I call it my prairie temple—think log cabin with a whiff of Palladio—and even the screws are set in a pleasing triangle pattern. He crafted the metal braces for the "temple top" joinery. The lattice roof shoots beautiful shadows at different times of the day. It pleases me every time I look at it.

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  7. Thank you HBD, this posting has produced a lively conversation on facebook between various bloggers. I think that it speaks to how many of us are feeling. Best, Kendra

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  8. Sarah Ann Filler12 November, 2010 19:09

    There does exist an awareness that we have gotten away from authentic experience, as well as things we live with. The real difficulty here is that now that many basic-life expenses have gotten so out of wack with reality..housing, health care, college expense - it's hard for people to justify spending the extra money - even though in the end many know they are getting getting less for their money.

    The promise of availability of product, 'low cost design' and 'cheap' offered by the internet turned consumers into 'cheapest price' shoppers and invariably quality and the middle market who values it is being severely challenged. The same thing happened with fashion. Worst of all, everyone that I speak with feels the same way, but feels helpless in stopping the course. To turn it around would be a much-needed miracle.

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  9. Not to put too much of a pessimistic turn on things, but the original Victorian Arts & Crafts movement was only supported by the very wealthy who could afford to indulge in hand-craft. After the First World War for various political and social reasons their support was largely withdrawn and the Arts & Crafts movement collapsed.

    Hand-craft by its very nature is labour intensive and crafts people have to charge higher sums in order to make a living. Believe me, after having tried to do the same after leaving college, it is extremely difficult to achieve anything without some form of support system, whether that comes in the form of government subsidy or sympathetic gallery venues. That is why the 'Slow Movement' along with such enterprises as Elaine Lipson's 'Slow Cloth' are so important and need suppport and a much wider venue.

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  10. Leonard D Greco Jr12 November, 2010 19:13

    I appreciate both John's and Sarah's concern, but there is a middle way. Morris was too Utopian, yet we needn't despair. There are ways of bringing authenticity into one's life, be it canning the abundance from your farmers market, to refashioning furniture to suit your needs and taste. Without sounding crunchy-Martha, we can take advantage of the benefits Industry offers, yet still satisfy a need for authentic expression. Of course time is required, but we all"waste" time in some way or another.
    Great to chat with y'all

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  11. Sarah Ann Filler12 November, 2010 19:16

    ‎"We are dangerously without culture and that is why we are in the mess we are in because nobody is thinking." Vivienne Westwood.

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  12. It is interesting that with the general down-turn in most economies, many are having to re-evaluate their lifestyles, dreams and ambitions. Whether this is a short term policy, I rather suspect it is, it will still turn around at least a proportion of the population who will sit down and wonder what our contemporary wold is all about. For people to question their surroundings can only be a good thing.

    As to antiques in general my opinion has always been that why should I buy new which uses up so much of our finite resources when I can recycle and reuse what has already proved useful and attractive to so many people before me. I love the sense of history and provenance that antique or just plain second-hand can deliver.

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  13. sarah Ann Filler12 November, 2010 19:23

    Yes John, with far superior construction and honestly a sense of 'presence'. To make an analogy, a newly made reproduction of something loses much in it's mass production. It's missing a soul.

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  14. The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art recently had an exhibition of period Arts & Crafts bookbindings by the world renown Toof company which is still operating in Memphis, Tennessee.

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  15. Dear DC, Thank you for your comment. I was unaware of Toof & Co and am enjoying learning about their exquisite work, Best, Kendra

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