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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Add curb appeal to your home inspired by architectureTiger's Roar, August 20th
Craftsman homes are influenced by the arts and crafts movement and often feature front porches with tapered columns, nature-inspired colors and exposed rafter tails and beams. To give your home a distinctive craftsman style, plain porch posts can be ...Read more
Delta Center for the Arts LH Horton Jr Gallery presents Visions In ClayCaravan, August 18th
From the Arts and Crafts Movement to D.I.Y. and the Maker Movement, artists, writers and educators have positioned craft as a way to counteract a variety of worrying trends. Additionally, every generation seems to have different ideas about craft's...Read more
Furniture craftsman reflects on career 'making things' in new bookWorking Waterfront, August 18th
As a writer and furniture historian he's aware of movements in design, particularly the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a craftsman himself he knows how to envision a chair or table, and how to bring it into being...Read more
2014 Craftsman Weekend: A Socialist Plot?Hometown Pasadena, August 17th
The Arts and Crafts movement emerged during the late Victorian period in England, the most industrialized country in the world at that time. Anxieties about industrial life fueled a positive revaluation of handcraftsmanship and precapitalist forms of...Read more
ON DESIGN: Mixing design styles to create an interior that is uniquely youMacon Telegraph (blog), August 13th
Craftsman style is an outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts movement, which began in the mid-1800s in England as a reaction to industrialization and stressed the importance of exposed natural woods, used in abundance. It is a very straightforward style...Read more
This Corbridge home was built in 1937 and is a fantastic example of the Arts ...The Journal, August 9th
Built in 1937, the property is a beautiful example of the Arts and Crafts movement and its period features remain virtually untouched. Geoff said: “We first viewed the house in 1985 and I was attracted to it then. I didn't manage to buy it, but when it...Read more
Parsippany couple helped preserve a piece of historyDailyrecord.com, July 29th
Craftsman Farms is the former country estate of early 20th century designer Gustav Stickley, a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement, and was intended as a farm and school for boys. “His initial vision was to have a place where young boys, after they...Read more
Five Minutes With... Bruce LynchEastern Wake News, July 25th
The Grove Park Inn holds a conference every year on the Arts and Crafts movement and we have attended some of those. We wanted to build a home on Cypress Street that blended in with the neighborhood. We have had people come into our house and ...Read more