The Arts and Crafts movement that swept the United States and Great Britain from roughly 1880 to 1920 was a response to the industrialization of the late 19th century. It was a call on the part of thinkers, poets, artists, and designers to return to a handmade aesthetic, in which craftsmanship was paramount, design was nature-inspired , and construction methods were straightforward, simple, and undisguised.
English art critic John Ruskin had actually articulated the movement’s founding principles several decades earlier. He considered the prevailing Victorian aesthetic decadent and argued for working conditions that considered the happiness of craftsmen. Pattern designer William Morris put Ruskin’s theories into practice when he established Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861 to create everything from furniture to wallpaper to fabrics to tapestries.
Another craftsman to put the ideals of Arts and Crafts into action was Charles Robert Ashbee, who established his Guild of Handicraft in 1888 in the slums of London’s East End. The goal was to produce furniture, metalware, and jewelry in an atmosphere of fair wages, good working conditions, and cooperation.
Most British artists of the day did not take the movement’s social side that far. Instead, they contented themselves to producing furniture, ceramics, metalwork, and jewelry that hued to the visual principles of the movement, which got its formal name of Arts and Crafts in 1888.
Liberty & Co. in London brought the movement to the masses with chairs, plant stands, bookcases, and buffets, mostly in oak and mahogany. Individual designers of the day included William De Morgan, whose earthenware vases often suggested Persian influences.
Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh, also considered a practitioner of Art Nouveau (which ran concurrently with the Arts and Crafts period), was another leader. From his Glasgow workshop, he produced handsome desks and other pieces of furniture. His high-backed chairs, especially the ones with trellis backs, are considered his signature.
Robert “Mouseman” Thompson arrived on the scene a little later. His charming gimmick was to adorn a carved mouse on the side of every piece of furniture he made...
In the United States, the Arts and Crafts movement was warmly embraced. Gustav Stickley published a highly influential magazine called The Craftsman from 1901 to 1916. Through his Craftsman Workshops in Syracuse, New York, he also produced furniture and metalwork.
Two of Stickley’s brothers, John George and Albert, established their own firm, Stickley Bros. Co., in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1891. After John George left to start yet another Stickley company with yet another brother (L. & J. G. Stickley in Fayetteville, New York with brother Leopold), Albert carried on at Stickley Bros., eventually labeling his pieces with a tag that read "Quaint Furniture."
Leopold and John George produced pieces for one of the 20th century's greatest architects, Frank Lloyd Wright. Today Wright is more closely associated with what we now call the Prairie School, a type of architecture that emphasized horizontal lines and eschewed ornamentation. But at the turn of the 20th century, he was considered one of the leading practitioners of Arts and Crafts. Importantly, Leopold and John George were not above using mechanical techniques to produce their pieces. Thus, they embraced the aesthetic of Arts and Crafts if not its social and philosophical underpinnings.
Louis Comfort Tiffany was perhaps even more famous than Stickley, although like Macintosh, his style straddled Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau. Some of the finest examples of the former are his lamps with ceramic bases by Grueby Faience Company of Massachusetts.
Speaking of ceramics, the oldest pottery in the United States, Fulper Pottery Company, also became a proponent of Arts and Crafts with its 1909 Vasecraft line. Rookwood Pottery was a breeding ground for numerous Arts and Crafts ceramists — at one time or another, Artus Van Briggle, Matthew A. Daly William P. MacDonald, Albert Valentien, and John D. Wareham were all on staff.
More difficult to categorize was George Ohr, the so-called "Mad Potter of Biloxi, Mississippi," whose deformed and pinched vases fairly drip with candy-colored glazes. Newcomb College pottery from New Orleans went the other way, promoting simply-shaped vases and plates, usually with floral decorations in soft, pastel glazes.
Regions developed their own specialties. New York was the home of Roycroft, which excelled in copper objects for the home, handmade books, and fine wooden furniture. In Northern California, Arequipa Pottery of Fairfax imported future Fiesta visionary Frederick H. Rhead to design its pieces from 1910-1912. Dirk Van Erp was another San Francisco Bay Area artisan of renown: His metal vases featured his trademark "warty" surface produced by hand-hammering.
In Southern California, Pasadena was the center for Arts and Crafts. In 1908, architects Charles Sumner and Henry Matthew Greene designed what many consider to be the movement’s architectural masterpiece for David and Mary Gamble. A year later, tilemaker Ernest T. Bachelder established a school devoted to the movement.
Meanwhile, in Chicago and Boston, jewelry in the Arts and Crafts style was very popular. The Kalo Shop opened in Chicago in 1900. And in Boston, Frank Gardner Hale and Edward E. Oakes were among that city’s leading jewelry designers.
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Hardy in demand at Locke premiereBurnham and Highbridge Weekly News, April 16th
Blinders is set, in a bid to turn the spotlight back on what he called "the great city", claiming it had become ever more "invisible" since its creative and manufacturing heyday as the workshop of the world and the birthplace of the Arts and Crafts...Read more
Eco living: meet the eco-friendly country homesTelegraph.co.uk, April 15th
These homes reflect the zeitgeist just as other beautiful country houses did in their time, from William Morris's Arts and Crafts movement to “Capability” Brown's harmonious marriage of architecture and landscape. Rules for new buildings. Under...Read more
Mr Lloyd and his loomABC Online, April 15th
The Arts and Crafts movement's call for 'honest' furniture helped to maintain the popularity of the styles. Wicker was also used for car bodies such as the French Hugot of 1897 and American Gadabout Model G of 1915, presumably for cheapness and...Read more
House of the Week | Kensington Queen Anne Victorian for $1.295MWashington Post (blog), April 11th
For the next 20 years, she took what had been a blank canvas and, using themes from the British Arts and Crafts movement and the British Aesthetic movement, created a showpiece. The grape motif in the cornice molding, the geometric patterned wallpaper ...Read more
The Bohemian Brownes of the Arroyo SecoKCET, April 10th
While the most familiar symbols of Southern California's Arts and Crafts movement remain architectural -- the Gamble House of Pasadena being the most prominent of examples -- fine printing was a craft that flourished among the movement's adherents...Read more
Look Inside the Arts and Crafts-Inspired BLVD. CocktailEater National, April 3rd
Millwork, hand-painted wallpaper and hand-carved doors nod to the late-19th century Arts and Crafts Movement. Art Deco lighting, antique mirrors and swan corbels add to the decor highlighted by art from Marion Peck and Glenn Barr. Have a wander about...Read more
Town By Town: Buyers stay in Rose Valley, if they find itPhilly.com, March 30th
Tuesday March 25 2014 Rose Valley, the Delaware County borough which embodied the arts and crafts movement of the early 20th century. Here, a home on Possum Hollow Lane and Porter Lane.( ED HILLE / Staff Photographer) ED HILLE / Staff ...Read more
New Art and Craft Beer Bar Opening in Greenwich VillagePR.com (press release), March 28th
Designed by architect Jorge Arias, the space conception and millwork details take us back to the days of the Arts and Crafts movement. From the hand crafted wooden table tops and fireplace mantle, to the bronze light fixtures, to the classic Bradbury ...Read more