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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Voyage to the Iron Reef
Easy Reader, May 25th

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were steampunkers and didn't even know it. To put it another way, it's as if the practitioners (William Morris, etc.) of the English Arts and Crafts movement had sat down together and designed all the sets and props for a...Read more

American food tasty, on trend in tiny, impeccable Huxley
San Francisco Examiner, May 24th

I noted the many tiny, thoughtful, pitch-perfect details: the way the drinking glasses fit in my hand, the décor's modern tribute to the arts and crafts movement, the deftness and knowledge of the servers. The place is tiny, with plenty of space to...Read more

Dreamstreets: A Journey Through Britain's Village Utopias review –model ...
The Guardian, May 23rd

Yallop has a tendency to deposit huge gobbets of background – on the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement, say, or the link between a town such as Port Sunlight and the garden cities of the 20th century – smack in the middle of her narrative. The...Read more

Als ik Kan: Relics of an American Utopia in Berkeley
KQED, May 20th

Today in Berkeley, California Historical Design is an outstanding source for original antique furniture and objects made during the American Arts and Crafts movement. At the corner of Adeline Street and Ashby Avenue, owner Gus Bostrom opens his store ...Read more

Arts and Crafts society learns of William Morris and Wightwick Manor
Tewkesbury ADMAG, May 19th

The aesthetic movement was more concerned with how thing look, in contrast to the Arts and Crafts Movement which is concerned with how things are made. The house contains many pieces by Morris and his circle, including the recently acquired preliminary ...Read more

Learn about NY's pivotal role in Arts & Crafts Movement
Almanac Weekly, May 19th

The Stone Ridge Library will present a lecture “The American Arts and Crafts Movement in New York State” by Dr. Bruce Austin on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Marbletown Community Center. This talk is free, open to the public and made possible ...Read more

Lecture on American Arts and Crafts Movement in Stone Ridge on May 20
The Daily Freeman, May 12th

DETAILS: In collaboration with the New York Council for the Humanities, the Stone Ridge Library is preenting a lecture and slide presentation titled “The American Arts and Crafts Movement in New York State” by Bruce Austin. The American Arts and Crafts ...Read more

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Copper.org, May 6th

Carson Sio's signature handhammered copper works and are making their mark in the Philadelphia artworld and beyond. His love for metalwork began as he was earning an Industrial Design degree from the University of the Arts. "I have always had an ...Read more