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)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Craftsman Movement & Frank Lloyd Wright

In rebuttle to the ostentacious Victorian style, the Craftsman movement emerged in Amercia, practically making a 180 degree turn from the gaudy heaviness of the Victorian era. Several individuals contributed to the development and spread of this style but Gustav Stickley is often recognized as the leader (Pile 275), and Frank Lloyd Wright is remembered for his work developed in his style.

Stickley made huge strides in the popularity department of the movement by starting a magazine called “The Craftsman,” featuring current Craftsman homes and furniture (Pile 276). Stickley’s own personal furniture style included very simple design; natural materials like wood and leather, hand crafted joinery, and very little if any ornamentation (Pile 276).

Stylistically the Craftsman movement was the stripping away of everything Victorian. Where before there had been rich embellishment and deep carvings, now there were smooth surfaces, clean geometric lines, more natural materials, and detail only from the constructed form. It came to sometimes be called Mission because of its close resemblance to furniture made previously for the California missions (Pile 276). Stemming off of Stickley’s work, Elbert Hubbard established Roycroft, producing mission furniture and posing a direct competitive threat to Stickley’s sales.

Frank Lloyd Wright, though pursuing a continuation of the Craftsman style, had a more narrowed approach. He strongly considered the relationship between the plan of the home and what was seen throughout or experienced within its walls (Mallgrave 135). He strove for an organic quality to the house, all of its elements naturally coming together to form a unified whole, considering the aesthetic to be an expression of the structure as a solution to a problem, rethinking the concept of style (135). To him, the final product should be an expression too, of the process employed to construct it, and not a cover up act. It should be one in unison with its environment, and not devoid of context (135).

In analyzing the Craftsman movement, do you think this trend could be one that might catch on again today or have we leaned too much toward the Industrial Revolution’s steel skyscrapers, prefabrication, and machine-based construction to come back around?

Relating back to some of the questions discussed during the sections on the Industrial Revolution and the development of fossil fuels, what effect do you think a continuation of the Craftsman’s push toward natural materials like wood, and hand- rather than machine-crafted elements, would have done for our current situations (such as pollution, dwindling amounts of natural resources and our undeniable dependence on them, global warming, etc.)?

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.