The Arts and Crafts Movement began primarily as a search for authentic and meaningful styles for the 19th century and as a reaction to the eclectic revival of historic styles of the Victorian era and to "soulless" machine-made production aided by... [more]
The Arts and Crafts Movement began primarily as a search for authentic and meaningful styles for the 19th century and as a reaction to the eclectic revival of historic styles of the Victorian era and to "soulless" machine-made production aided by the Industrial Revolution. Considering the machine to be the root cause of all repetitive and mundane evils, some of the protagonists of this movement turned entirely away from the use of machines and towards handcraft, which tended to concentrate their productions in the hands of sensitive but well-heeled patrons.
Yet, while the Arts and Crafts movement was in large part a reaction to industrialization, if looked at on the whole, it was neither anti-industrial nor anti-modern. Some of the European factions believed that machines were in fact necessary, but they should only be used to relieve the tedium of mundane, repetitive tasks. At the same time, some Arts and Crafts leaders felt that objects should also be affordable. The conflict between quality production and 'demo' design, and the attempt to reconcile the two, dominated design debate at the turn of the twentieth century.
The Oregon Public Library in Oregon, Illinois, U.S.A. is an example of Arts and Crafts in a Carnegie Library.
Those who sought compromise between the efficiency of the machine and the skill of the craftsman thought it a useful endeavour to seek the means through which a true craftsman could master a machine to do his bidding, in opposition to what many believed to be the reality during the Industrial Age, i.e., that humans had become slaves to the industrial machine.
Myers Free Kindergarten building in Auckland, New Zealand.
Cowper Rose, Randwick, Sydney, Australia
St Ellero, Burwood, Sydney, Australia
Interior of Standen
The need to reverse the human subservience to the unquenchable machine was a point that everyone agreed on. Yet the extent to which the machine was ostracised from the process was a point of contention debated by many different factions within the Arts and Crafts movement throughout Europe.
(This conflict was exemplified in the German Arts and Crafts movement, by the clash between two leading figures of the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), Hermann Muthesius and Henry Van de Velde. Muthesius, also head of design education for German Government, was a champion of standardization. He believed in mass production, in affordable democratic art. Van de Velde, on the other hand, saw mass production as threat to creativity and individuality.)
Though the spontaneous personality of the designer became more central than the historical "style" of a design, certain tendencies stood out: reformist neo-gothic influences, rustic and "cottagey" surfaces, repeating designs, vertical and elongated forms. In order to express the beauty inherent in craft, some products were deliberately left slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect. There were also socialist undertones to this movement — most explicitly, and primarily, in Great Britain — in that another primary aim was for craftspeople to derive satisfaction from what they did. This satisfaction, the proponents of this movement felt, was totally denied in the industrialised processes inherent in compartmentalised machine production.
In fact, the proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement were against the principle of a division of labour, which in some cases could be independent of the presence or absence of machines. They were in favour of the idea of the master craftsman, creating all the parts of an item of furniture, for instance, and also taking a part in its assembly and finishing, with some possible help by apprentices. This was in contrast to work environments such as the French Manufactories, where everything was oriented towards the fastest production possible. (For example, one person or team would handle all the legs of a piece of furniture, another all the panels, another assembled the parts and yet another painted and varnished or handled other finishing work, all according to a plan laid out by a furniture designer who would never actually work on the item during its creation.) The Arts and Crafts movement sought to reunite what had been ripped asunder in the nature of human work, having the designer work with his hands at every step of creation. Some of the most famous apostles of the movement, such as Morris, were more than willing to design products for machine production, when this did not involve the wretched division of labour and loss of craft talent, which they denounced. Morris designed numerous carpets for machine production in series [show less]