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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City Hall Insiders: 'Mayor Furiously Lobbying' to Bring Down Historic Bartlett ...City Watch, September 29th
Second, it is a unique example of an Arts and Crafts movement, Colonial Revival style building. Third, it is a rare, significantly intact representative and reminder of the historic development and character of the neighborhood.” On September 10, 2014...Read more
Shops, Fonthill Castle, museum are top spots in DoylestownThe Sentinel, September 28th
among his many other talents and interests, was known a leader in the turn-of-century arts and crafts movement. First-time visitors to Mercer's abode, Fonthill Castle, may recognize his handiwork if they've visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol in...Read more
Evolution of craft to be discussed Oct. 5 at Whatcom Museum's Old City HallBellingham Herald, September 27th
in conjunction with the ongoing “Reaching Beyond: Northwest Designer Craftsmen at 60” exhibit at the museum's Lightcatcher building. Herman will trace the evolution of craft from the 19th-century American Arts and Crafts movement to the present day...Read more
Historic Toledo mansion for saleToledo Blade, September 27th
Over-the-top Victorian design was on its way out, while the arts-and-crafts movement was nearing its peak. In the Tillinghast Willys Bell home, that's represented by a Gothic-inspired Tudor design that has a number of arts-and-crafts elements...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
Artists take up residence at historic Gamble House for AxS Festival 2014The Pasadena Star-News, September 22nd
Allen and the artists spent a year and a half conceptualizing and creating the show, which included lots of research into the history of the home - the architectural style of the Greene brothers' work, the arts and crafts movement and the Gamble family...Read more
The Fine Arts Building: Art, Artifice, and Illegal Operations in L.A.'s ...KCET, September 2nd
Pasadena's Ernest A. Batchelder, one of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement and the "nation's premiere designer of decorative tiles," 3 supplied countless custom tiles for the exotic lobby. Anthony B. Heinsbergen created the paintings and murals...Read more
Arts and Crafts MetalworkMaine Antique Digest, August 29th
David Cathers, the author of books, catalogs, and articles on Gustav Stickley and the Arts and Crafts movement, wrote the introductory essay that puts Arts and Crafts metalwork in context by discussing 19th-century sources of design. He believes that...Read more