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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Socialist diaries, diamond jewellery and some VERY naughty garden tools: The ...Daily Mail, October 19th
Indeed, as a groundbreaking new exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelite painter reveals, Morris was not only a socialist firebrand who almost single handedly sparked the arts and crafts movement, he also had decidedly risqué tastes in gardening implements...Read more
Evanston History Center hosts lecture on jewelry shopDaily Northwestern, October 16th
The Evanston History Center hosted a lecture Thursday on a 20th-century Evanston jewelry shop and its relation to the arts and crafts movement. Curator Mary McWilliams came as a part of the center's “Under the Buffalo” presentation series, which is in ...Read more
William Morris at the National Portrait Gallery: The radical who shaped our ...The Independent, October 15th
He, along with John Ruskin, was a leader of the arts and crafts movement which inspired a revival in traditional British textiles and an early exponent of socialist ideas. He initiated an “art for the people” movement and set out to “remake the world...Read more
Gorgeous Arts and Crafts homes that Effie Gray would have lovedTelegraph.co.uk, October 12th
He gave us the Arts and Crafts movement and so many wonderful houses full of light and decoration. Ruskin might have struggled to appreciate the female body, but as a naturalist he had a huge appreciation of the wild. As an art and architectural critic...Read more
Antiques by Terry KovelBuffalo News, October 11th
It made quality furniture inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. During World War I, the company made airplanes, gliders, tent pins and other military equipment. Furniture manufacturing resumed after the war. During World War II, production switched...Read more
Art in Kayenta provides weekend of artistry, entertainment, spiritsDixie Press Online, October 10th
Wood craftsman, Dennis Bertucci from Boulder, Utah has been restoring Arts and Crafts style furniture for 25 years and also designs and builds his own furniture inspired by pioneers in the Arts and Crafts movement namely Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd...Read more
Pasadena Heritage's Craftsman Weekend is steeped in historyThe San Gabriel Valley Tribune, October 9th
Their philosophy led to the Arts and Crafts movement, a push for handcrafted objects with simple designs and an emphasis on the quality of materials and workmanship. The trend spread from England to Europe and on to America, where it remained popular ...Read more
Sidney D. Gamble Lecture Series Presents Pioneers of Modernism: Arts and ...Crown City News, September 27th
The popular Sidney D. Gamble Lecture Series, now in its 16th year, offers thought-provoking lectures and introduces the public to prominent experts, author and historians who have special insight into, not just the Arts and Crafts Movement, but the...Read more