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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Art openings and events, Sept. 4-10: Art walksMonterey County Herald, September 3rd
Monterey Museum of Art-La Mirada: “Lasting Impressions — Pedro de Lemos,” prints, oil paintings, watercolor, drawings, calligraphy, pottery, leather and cement work from a California artist of the Arts and Crafts Movement. 720 Vía Mirada, Monterey...Read more
Walking ToursBee news.com, September 2nd
Roycroft Campus Basic Tour — Will give an introduction the arts and crafts movement, Elbert Hubbard, and the Roycroft Campus during this one-hour tour, 10:30 a.m., 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5; 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6; and 12:30...Read more
Affordability Keeps Owners from SellingSanta Clarita Valley Signal, September 1st
California is considered the center of the architectural arts and crafts movement and is home to the majority of Craftsman-styled housing. • Nearly half of homeowners have children residing with them, with 83 percent of children being minors. Bob...Read more
California Homeowners Caught in Affordability Squeeze Staying PutWorld Property Journal, August 31st
According to the California Association of Realtors, even with rising home prices over the past few years, many California homeowners who have considered selling are deciding not to because they are caught in an affordability squeeze that is compounded ...Read more
Audel Davis continues the Arts and Crafts tradition through his coppersmithing artBerkeleyside, August 20th
Apart from a few pesky crows that terrorize their coi fish by day, they have created a lush and quiet sanctuary, greatly influenced by the philosophy and aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts movement – a concept that took flight and reached its peak in...Read more
Arts and Crafts expert to speak in DavenportQuad-Cities Online, August 12th
He will present a talk, "1901: The Year That Set the Arts and Crafts Movement in Motion." Mr. Johnson first became an Arts and Crafts collector and author while living in Iowa City, where he operated Knock On Wood Antique Repair & Restoration. He moved...Read more
Exhibition offers lots of arts and crafts delightsHerald Series, August 12th
Locally, to see the work of the arts and crafts movement you need look no further than Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade, the summer home of arts and crafts pioneer William Morris, or Rodmarton Manor near Cirencester – said by CR Ashbee in 1914 to be “the ...Read more
Arts and Crafts furniture expert Bruce Johnson at GAHC Aug. 16Quad-Cities Online, August 6th
Arts and Crafts furniture expert, award-winning author and television personality Bruce Johnson will present "1901: The Year That Set the Arts and Crafts Movement in Motion," 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, at the German American Heritage Center, 712 W. 2nd St...Read more