Sunday, September 21, 2008

Aesthetic Movement C

The Victorian era made way to mass production; to increase efficiency but leading to the decrease of true designs. Much of the designs love was lost in the level of skill and heart put into the making of each designs. Most of the furniture and work being created was hot off the industrial belt which wasn’t of the best quality. The expanding consumer oriented middle class was losing sight of the care put into the designs looking just to increase their status by accumulating as much “stuff” as possible like furniture dripping in detail and ornamentation. Although the factories made way for many job opportunities, and new way of supplying demand it led to some conflicting attitudes. John Ruskin placed his concerns in his writings and William Morris put his in activities like, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The pair placed the issues of design and production within a new ethical framework based upon an almost religious attitude linking craft, art, and social reform. They criticized the dehumanizing aspects of mechanization and increasing division of labor in factories which were dedicated to the social benefits of handicraft (Raizman 66). Ruskin’s main emphasis was on the moral and spiritual benefits of craft rather than upon accommodating the technology of production of the contemplation of beauty. Morris started a firm which designed furniture and stained glass windows by Philip Webb and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and had an embroidery workshop run by his wife. Such furnishings established a link with craft traditions only minimally affected either by contemporary commercial considerations or by the use of machine tools and techniques (Raizman 109). This proved to be a successful means of production through affordable labor costs of production methods and vision for a society based upon meaningful satisfying work. Would you be a fan of Ruskin and Morris or would you push for the efforts that the Victorian Era created? The Victorian Era created a huge new class to gain importance but Ruskin and Morris soon learned that status came at a high cost in losing the connection between the designs and the designer. Would you put value in the work of the artist or in the status the piece of furniture gave to you? Would you settle for less (bad quality, one of thousand produced) because it was more (easier to obtain, gave you status because you could have lots “stuff” since it was affordable)?


Veronica said...

I think that what the Victorian Era created is not to be hated or rejected. I also believe that Ruskin and Moriss are too visionary and their ideas do not reflect in the modern society.
The Vicotrian Era brought several and great changes to our society, not only in design, but also in society and technology. The industrial revolution was a step that mankind would have achieved sooner or later. Thanks to it, people started to see their lives differently and also live them differently. Thanks to the Victorian period and the Industrial Revolution, people started to care more about their lives, future and social status. It is during this period that people cared for the very first time about hygene, privacy and comfort, ideals that were never even considered during the Middle Ages. Ruskin and Morris seem to be big fans of the Middle Ages and they wanted a return to its idealogies, which involved a complete rejection of machinery and mass-production. I agree with them on one side that the Victorian style was just too much: too much decoration and simply too much "stuff" (that was now affordable thanks to machines). I disagree with them however that machinery brought only disadventages with it. For instance, more things were affordable thanks to machines, and just because they were worse in quality, it did not imply they were bad.
I also believe that Ruskin and especially Morris, who handcrafted all his products at the cost of producing goods that were very expensive, could not see beyond the wealth they gathered. Morris's house was big, well decorated with furnitures and accessories that were handmade and extremely costly. These goods could not be afforded by the lower classes, and the lower classes were by far the majority of the population at that time. If on one hand they meant to create a society that appreciated fine, handmade goods that looked back at the simplicity of the Middle Ages, they were also so much surrounded by these valuable objects that they could not understand how great machinery was for the poor. For the first time they could also afford a better house, and thanks to the opening of new factories, more labor was available and they also could hope to jump up higher on the social ladder - opportunity that was not even conceived during the Middle Ages.
In conclusion, Morris and Ruskin were pushing to get back to that ideal that design and designer should be stronger connected to each other, and I believe it should be that way too. However, I don't think that rejecting machines and what the Victorian Era brought along is the right thing to pursue.
A society that appreciates both hand-made and machine-made goods would be ideal, and a designer that appreciates both hand-made and machine-made items would allow to create a more balanced design.

AinsleyW said...

I find the Aesthetic Movement particularly relevant to today's decision between whether to buy cheaply or environmentally responsibly. Or on a less socially-conscious level: whether to buy quality or bare necessity.
We're faced with this every time we go to Target, basically. Superstores like Target and Wal-Mart usually have several version of the one thing we want to buy so that we the consumers are left with the difficult decision. It could be between a sheet set made with organic cotton (but expensive) and one that is 200 thread count and half the price (but produced sustainably). Or it could be between buying an alarm clock that's $6.95 and ugly or a much more attractive one that will last a lot longer for $35. I really struggle with this!
But as we saw with the inevitable failings of the Aesthetic Movement to really take over, Money Always Wins. I will only buy the 'green' product or the higher quality product if I can afford it.
It always comes down to money. I may have supported the Aesthetic Movement in theory (if I lived then) but if I was a poor college student like I am now I wouldn't be able to afford to support it monetarily.

Kayla.E said...

Well i would have to agree with Morris and Ruskin for the most part just for the simple fact that if an artist or designer spends their time, talents, and money to create something it should be appreciated. I'm not saying that you should worship the designer or their design, but a piece of art is a piece of art no matter if it is a piece of furniture or a paiting. Don't get me wrong the Victorian Era had a huge impact on our culture. The advancements in techinology have been crucial to our productivity in this day and age. I'm sure that most people back in that time period valued status and what people thought of them over the efforts of a designer and for people who did not know a thing about designing it wasn't a big deal to them. So for myself yeah i wouldn't care to have some stuff to help my "status" and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if thats what you want. I'm all about saving money but when it comes to buying stuff like furniture that are supposed to support and last a while i would much rather spend extra money on a piece of furniture that i know will hold up in the long run as opposed to getting something cheap. And more than likely that "cheap" piece of furniture will break or not hold up as long and then you will end up having to buy another anyway, and instead of spending good money on one item you've spent more on both.

Sara Watson said...

Both styles had both good and bad points. I'm more of a fan of Arts & Crafts than Victorian. One of the things that could have made the aesthetic movement better would be the use of the machine. Machine manufactured goods are more affordable. If there was a middle ground between great hand-crafted and machine made, I'm sure it would have done really well. Part of the reason the aesthetic movement didn't last was because of the large price tag. Spending so much time and effort on a piece makes it very unaffordable to the middle class, which at this time was booming from the Industrial Revolution. As Ainsley said, price affects what we buy, whether it be groceries or green products.

Kelsey said...

Its hard to say whether the middle class ever really knew what "true design" or craftsmenship was during the Victorian era. I think they might have known OF things, but they didn't exaclty know quality. Besides all the new "things" being designed, although cheap, were new and hip. Just like the store Forover 21, their clothes are so cheap, and they are going to go out of style tomorrow, but we still buy them, because right now, its all we can afford and its in style. I guarantee if a fashion designer or writer/critic frown upon the assembly line knock offs, yet we still buy them. The question is whether this takes the craft out of designing. I believe yes and no. There is always a level of design which must take place. So Im riding the fence, I am both a fan of Ruskin's for his writings about arts and crafts moral obligation and of Morris for his joy of working directly with the craft. Although in an ideal society, for me, we would be making our way back to an arts and crafts era, it has become increasingly hard (especially when the stock market crashes and gas prices are through the roof) like Ainsley said, because of money.

Christa Mueller said...

As far as aesthetics and theory, the Arts & Crafts style and period is one of my favorites. But personal preference aside, I believe both the Arts & Crafts and the Victorian era to be of parallel importance. Yes, they had opposite philosophies but they allowed us to explore both ends of the spectrum. We can learn valuable design lessons from the successes and mistakes of both eras. The Victorian Era brought us the machine, plenteousness, and exploration of creative styles. But they also brought us poor working conditions and lesser quality goods. The Arts & Crafts era brought us quality and a renewed pride in our craft. But with this it brought unaffordable products. This rise in price came about because the retreat from the machine led to higher cost of labor. However, many Arts & Crafts designers realized that there cannot be a total abandonment of the machine, that it actually is beneficial. What would eventually come about is a compromise between designer and machine, the ability to create quality design in an efficient and affordable manner. This never would have come about without the exploration and philosophies of both eras.

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