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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Cummer exhibit examines pottery's role in women's statusFlorida Times-Union, October 9th
The early Newcomb pottery was largely influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, Keris said. The forms of Southern landscape, such as magnolia, crepe myrtle and Spanish moss, could be ...Read more
ART PREVIEW: Looking back at Arts and Crafts through potteryDiamondback Online, October 8th
“We have this really wonderful collection of hundreds and hundreds of pieces of art pottery and glass made in the U.S. … in the height of the Arts and Crafts movement,” said Bonnie Campbell Lilienfeld, the museum's assistant director of curatorial...Read more
Fun with flocks at River GalleryCascadia Weekly, October 6th
His handcrafted cedar boxes and small “coffins” derive from coastal tribes' traditional containers, seen through the lens of Giovane's fascination with Celtic art, the American Arts and Crafts movement, British Art Nouveau design and—get this...Read more
Pier approach project narrows field of architects to fiveTampabay.com (blog), October 6th
The committee also kept Alfonso Architects of Tampa, which is designing the city's $70 million American Arts and Crafts Movement Museum. The seven-member committee, made up of city staff and civic leaders, will meet again on Oct. 16 to rank the five ...Read more
Tompkins Rygole's Woodridge house evokes Arts and Crafts architecture with ...Dezeen, October 4th
There seems to be a confusion in this article between "vernacular" and "arts and crafts". I, personally, don't see any reference to the arts and crafts movement in this house – a movement that loved ornamentation. A flemish bond isn't very unique – it...Read more
Arts and Crafts silverware set to go up for auction in DerbyshireDerby Telegraph, September 27th
Silversmiths Omar Ramsden and Alwyn Carr are two of the most iconic designers and makers of the Arts and Crafts movement. Omar Ramsden was born in Sheffield in 1873 as the Arts and Crafts movement was emerging in England. He was originally in ...Read more
Home Guru: The Appealing Features of the Arts and Crafts Style HouseThe Examiner News, September 23rd
The Arts and Crafts movement evolved around the turn of the 20th century as a backlash against the fussy style of the Victorian era, instead subscribing to a more natural aesthetic and traditional craftsmanship. While Testa's house is modest on the...Read more
'Arts and crafts' sideboard takes up residence in MuseumScoop.co.nz (press release), September 17th
Ancient legends and medieval tales were a key influence in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Jessie carved her sideboard with a sea wyvern (part serpent, with dragon wings and lots of tails instead of feet) and a close look reveals a heraldic dolphin which...Read more