Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arts and Crafts Movement: Britain

Towards the end of the nineteenth century many outspoken and influential writers, artists, and reformists began to rebel against the overly ornate, machine-made, Victorian style and strive for more simplistic, man-made pieces. This brought about the Arts and Crafts movement. 

One of the pioneers of the Arts and Crafts movements was John Ruskin, an art critic, writer, and social reformer who believed that the beauty of an objects was found in its construction. The method, the materials, and the struggle of the artist were to him just as important as the finished object. He disliked the “perfection” of the objects made by machines because he thought that it was not personal and the workers creating them lacked joy and pride in their work (Raizman 107). Ruskin concentrated more on the spiritual benefits of design than the technology, production, or beauty of the products. 

A contemporary of Ruskin’s, William Morris, was also a big contributer to the Arts and Crafts movement. Morris was not only a designer, artist, and craftsman: he was also a poet, novelist, publisher, socialist, translator, and public speaker. He too disapproved of the emphasis placed on money, material goods and the over- indulgence of the Victorian Era. He began his interest with design through the interiors of his own house (Red House, designed by Philip Webb). Rather than buying the furniture for his house in shops, William Morris and his friends decided to create the pieces for his home which later lead to the firm Morris, Marshall, and Faulkner (109). The firm moved away from the creation of furniture and toward the design of patterns for ceramic tile, embroidery, wallpaper, carpets, and printed fabrics (111). He refused to use machines to creates his patterns which were focused on nature and were two-dimensional. Despite his best efforts to “overthrow” the use of the machine, his hand-made design were more expensive and took more time to create. He realized that man would have to learn to work along with the machine to be successful. 


Do you think that even because they realized that they could not completely do without the machine, the Arts and Crafts Movement was still successful? 

Do you believe that as a society we have once again turned our backs on hand-made goods and opted for more cheaply made machine products? (EX: buying products from IKEA instead of from local craftsman)


jmboga2 said...

To answer the first question, I think it we could go back and ask the supporters of the arts and crafts movement the same question, they would say it was successful because it is what they believed in, regardless of other trends and eras that occured. Obviously the discovery of ways to make products quicker and cheaper is going to appeal to a larger group than making everything by hand which is costly, because middle class people wanted to live with a taste of luxury as well and could only do so by the means of machines. I respect the views of these designers, because imagine if today we lived in an arts and crafts style, things would be completely changed.
I think our society has turned our backs on hand made items. In today's economy, if something is inexpensive but has a good look, we are more inclined to buy that then something double the price. By nature we want to keep pushing boundaries and explore new ways to produce and that is something we are programmed to follow and technology will always win in any situation.

meagan_mckee said...

I think the Arts & Crafts Movement succeeded in working with the machine, rather than letting it do all of the work. After the invention of machine, I feel it would have been impossible to learn to completely ignore it. Realizing that working with it, however, was a great achievement. The designs stayed true to their creator while still maintaining the ability to be made semi-quickly and efficiently for the purchasing by the public.

I think we have 'turned our backs' on many of the local craftsmen of today. With the economy as it is, we are always looking to spend less and less on goods. I think this is ironic however because of our 'obsession' with 'going green'. Green should not only encompass our grocery purchases and influence our means of electricity, but also who we support locally. We buy fresh farm fruit locally; why not furniture as well?

Angela said...

Despite the failure attempt of producing man made products, William Morris was successful in spreading his point of views and ideas with the world. Therefore, since the Arts and Crafts Movement lasted a decade, Morris had plenty of time in the spotlight. It was impossible for Morris to keep up with the continuously overgrown technology. Even though Morris had a lot of power, love and ambition put into his work, now-a-days it is about the quantity of items rather than the quality. The larger quantity of something than the more can be sold. I think that the Arts and Crafts Movement was successful in the spreading of new ideas such as wallpaper and fabric designs.

I do believe that society has turned their backs on man made goods. Man made items take more time and the crafters want the money earned for the time spent, in other words their more expensive. Even though more expensive things are anticipated to last longer because they are built of better quality, it is all about what people see on the price tag.

Vinti said...

I definitely believe that the Arts and Crafts Movement was successful. In fact, it became very popular during its time and we still wow at some of the designs of the time period. For example, the work of Frank Lloyd Wright was, and still is, greatly admired. The Mission style furniture also took very deep roots, since we still see traces of the style, a lot of them being machine made though.

Yes, we have turned our backs on hand crafted items. But, history shows that design trends are cyclical. Old will be new again, with value added from the present. Like Meagan said, currently we have an obsession with green design due to diminishing fuel resources. I believe that in the future we will use more and more natural materials.

Elizabeth Harr said...

The Arts and Crafts Movement was still very successful even though the machine was still used. Like Jess said if we went back and asked the supporters and reformers of the arts and crafts movement they would say it was successful because it is what they believed in. What the arts and crafts movement did was to bring back hand-made articles. They had completely gotten away from them with the introduction of the machine. By using a combination of both machine and hand-made everyone was able to enjoy the merchandise available. The machine was very important because it let the middle class enjoy the furnishings of the period and live in more luxury. While, the hand-made furnishings were still used and highly expected from the upper class. The arts and crafts movement wouldn’t have been the same if they had completely rejected the machine.

As for today we are repeating ourselves. Yes we have turned our backs on the hand-made goods and definitely opted out for the machine made products. This however is different from the arts and crafts movements’ solution. Because of technology the machine has become very efficient. Meaning that the objects produced by the machines are very high quality. Yes hand-made objects are a high luxury object and are nice to have. But if you can get the same quality and look from a machine made object for a lower price then why not. The price and cost for the objects is the deciding factor especially with today’s economy. Most everyone is going to go for the cheaper object. This is just how it is since money has become the center of our lives. I believe that even though we have turned our backs on hand-made objects its okay. With the technology now available we will always be moving forward with new ways to making things cheaper.

Robin said...

I share the opinion of the other posters that the Arts and Crafts movement was successful. The movement got people to think in new ways aesthetically. It put a value on using natural materials and forms that has persisted into many areas of current design. It paved the way for emphasis on structure as a visual element. And, it broke the strangle-hold of excessive ornamentation.

Machine made products are here to stay, I think. You can't really participate in modern society if you don't use machine-made items. But I think we will always have hand-crafted items, too. The artistic creative impulse is too powerful in the human spirit. Increasingly that impulse is expressed through technology, but I imagine we'll use and like our hands, as a species, for a long time. And, we'll value items produced by hand, even if we are selective about when we spend our money on them.

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.