Monday, February 5, 2007

Aesthetic Movement: Britain: Arts and Crafts

The Arts and Crafts movement was partly founded based on the ideas of John Ruskin, a writer. He believed that with the technology that we had gained, we were losing the most important parts of design. Design wasn’t as personal as it had once been, everything was produced in bulk, and was losing quality as well. Ruskin’s ideas were based on Gothic Revival ideas because Gothic Revival emphasized craftsmanship. However, where Ruskin’s ideas differ is where Gothic Revival is bringing back that original Gothic style, the Arts and Crafts movement brought on a new style and was completely original. The Arts and Crafts movement was very small, mainly because of how expensive it was. While the ideas were great, people simply didn’t want to buy hand crafted products anymore when they could buy the same thing of lesser quality for significantly less. A huge part of the Arts and Crafts movement was shifting away from the Victorian era of design. Most of those associated with the Arts and Crafts movement hated the bulk and clutter of the Victorian era. They disliked how heavy it was and how it lacked functionality, so they created something handcrafted and simple to break away from that. Arts and Crafts designers were regarded as craftsman, because the introduction of machines left people to learn the machines and not crafts, which turned these designers into the craftsman as well. Since the Arts and Crafts design focused more on functionality than formalities it led to designs such as the Red House designed by Philip Webb. The Red House was designed based on the functionality of it. Everything was placed a certain way for a specific purpose, not just to make something look good. Webb was a designer that took his ideas from that of William Morris. Morris was a huge influence in the Arts and Crafts movement. He took his ideas from Ruskin and brought them to a new level with his designs. Even though these designers thought they were technically taking a step back in time by using hand crafted things, they were taking a huge step forward in regards to design. The designs of the Arts and Crafts movement really pushed into modern designs because they were focused on the function and quality, which was completely different than the gaudiness and clutter of the Victorian era. What do you believe caused such a rapid shift from the Victorian era to the Arts and Crafts movement? And do you believe that the shift to the Arts and Crafts movement affected the future of design?

Aesthetic Movement: Britain: Arts & Crafts

To put it in it's simplest possible definition, the Arts & Crafts movement was started by artisans who believed that machines were taking the human element out of too many things. John Ruskin, one of the founding visionaries of the movement, believed that art was connected to the human soul, and a machine could not express what the human soul created. Pioneers of the movement shunned mass production and began to focus on individuality and hand crafted goods that everyone could enjoy. But this led to a problem that was a major hurdle for the movement, hand crafted items were too labor intensive to be made affordable for everyone and in enough quantities for the masses. Even though the focus of this movement was using simple, natural materials, there was no escaping the fact that machine made items were more affordable and could be made in quantities that made products available for the masses.

This brings me to my main question on this topic. Do we see any parallels between what was happening in the Arts and Crafts movement and what is happening today with our ever advancing technology. Take for instance AutoCad and Computer 3D Design. Today, we can create complete construction documents, beautiful 3D renderings, and 3D models of our architectural designs. AutoCad and other programs save us time and money, they increase the accuracy of our drawings and they allow us to churn out much more information than we could by hand. But, buy relying on the computer, have we taken out the human element of our designs? Have our graphic communications become too clean, too sterile, possibly too good? Sure, we can create a 3D "walk through" of a space on the computer, but does that cold computer model show the soul of a design better than a carefully hand rendered set of drawings? Does the fact that our hand put those lines on the paper convey our message better than any plotter could? Does a mouse allow our vision to be expressed more accurately, or does it impede our ability to truly put our heart and soul into our designs. If the founding members of the Arts & Crafts movement were around today to see our technological advancements, would the start pointing and clicking, or would they be saddened that yet another set of machines have taken the human soul out of design?

Aesthetic Movement: US: Craftsman Movement

The Aesthetic Movement quickly spread to the United States from England through the followers of William Morris and others. As a response to the excessive ornamentation of the Victorian Era and the analogous of mass production during the Industrial Revolution, the Craftsman Movement strived to redefine the taste of design in America. It continued the ideas of vernacular design from the Gothic Revival while removing heavy decoration and replacing it with organic, clean, simple, lines and forms. The Bungalow style became the popular design of residential homes, characterized by “ a one-story house…with porches, overhanging eaves, walls of shingle or stucco, and minimal ornamental detail,“(A History of Interior Design). Examples of the style were seen in the architecture of Charles Summer Greene, Henry Mather Greene, and Bernard R. Maybeck.
Guilds were formed to advocate the idea that real artist beauty was being lost in the machine produced goods and the uniqueness of hand made goods was being forgotten. Using these goods in homes was first introduced by Gustav Stickley, with Mission style furniture characterized by “ simple furniture, generally of massive form and made in solid oak, assembled with craftsmanly wooden joints, iron hardware, leather cushions, and other details. Ornamentation was minimal or non-existent,” (A History of Interior Design). After popularity of Stickley’s designs grew, soon factories were producing Craftsmen furniture as well as other goods. References were made to the past in the form of historically imitations that were being produced. While exotic influences came from Japan as artifacts were collected and displayed in homes.
While tasted had mature since the Victorian style, the Craftsman Movement soon became “art for art’s sake”. Interiors and exteriors were covered in “jarring colors and patterns;” according to R.W. Edis in Healthy Furniture and Decoration, that might cause “nervous irritability”. The artistic overflow of the style then paved the way for the next movement Art Nouveau. However the Aesthetic Movement had an enormous impact on design for years to come and is the inspiration for most modern design. How do you feel the Craftsman Movement in the United States has impacted design today?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Aesthetic Movement: US Craftsmen Movement

The Aesthetic Movement was a change from heavy, and very ornate style to simple with little to no ornamentation. The designers of this period appreciated hand craftsmanship and design for a purpose. It was hard for them to give in to machines making everything even though it was faster and less expensive. I know that anyone would prefer something hand crafted and carefully thought out but it was so expensive and time consuming. William Morris wanted to develop household objects that were thoroughly artistic but inexpensive at the same time. It seems like it would be hard to make something that was well designed and inexpensive by hand for "households" of that time. Would you want to pay more for something that was hand made or pay less for something that would look very similar but have flaws at the same time?That would be difficult to decide because I would obviously want the hand crafted well designed one but if that was not in my budget, I would not really have a choice.

Even Charles Eastlake published a book Hints on Household with household tips in it that manufactures tried to replicate furniture from that he suggested in his book. They referred all of the furniture to him which made him mad because the furniture did not turn out the way he had intended it to. He did say that good taste should not be expensive but was that possible during that time? Could the common person afford good taste?Do you think that he was being reasonable....

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.