Meggs—Chapter 10, Arts & Crafts

One of the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement was the understanding that artists should not be removed from society to explore their interior creative genius unsullied by the world around them; rather, the work of creative practitioners and the communities in which they live and work will benefit from their presence within and relationship to society. The world does’t need more stuff, rather it needs beautiful stuff that works, make art that matters.

Golding Pearl letterpress used by the Roycrofters

Overview of The Arts & Crafts Movement

Influences on The Arts and Crafts Movement

Man Versus the Machine

The Industrial Revolution quickly spread throughout Europe and America, having a profound effect on agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transport and all aspects of daily life. Some saw the advent of industrialization as society being taken over by the “souless machine.” Inspired by Englishmen William Morris and John Ruskin who believed that a healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers, the Arts and Crafts Movement spread to the United States as Elbert Hubbard formed The Roycroft Community in East Aurora, New York. Hubbard, along with Gustav Stickley—the Craftsman; Frank Lloyd Wright—the Prairie School and Utopian communities like Byrdcliffe in Woodstock, NY, brought these European Arts and Crafts ideals to America encompassing virtually all of
the crafts, most notably; ceramics, furniture design, architecture, metal work, and publication design.

Objectives
Compare and contrast the main themes, ideas and goals of the Arts and Crafts movement vs. those of the Industrial Revolution. Be prepared to discuss what the positives and negatives are as they pertain to the individual and society.
  • First, understand the effects that the Industrial Revolution had on Europe and America, and how the Arts and Crafts movement countered, or reacted against these effects.
  • View the Video “Elbert Hubbard: An American Original”

Consider these Questions:

  • Ron VanOstrand, a Roycroft master artisan stated “The Japanese say that to be handcrafted is to have a bit of the human in there.” What does he mean?
  • William Morris, once said, “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”  What did he mean by this? Why did he compare art to education and freedom?
  • Thomas Pafk, another Roycroft master artisan stated that the movement was “trying to protest against the industrial revolution, where everyone was losing the handwork that was involved and the artistry that’s involved in making things. The whole feeling, the whole philosophy was getting back to the artist—type work, getting back to doing things with your hand, being honest. Every piece that you’re making, you’re producing with your head, your heart, and your hands.” What does it mean if you do something (create art, sing, do school work, work at your job, do athletics) with “your head, your heart, and your hands?” Why do you think this ideal was, and still is, important to the Arts and Crafts artisans? Is there anything in your life that you try to do with this same ideal, why or why not?
  • The fear of the “soulless machine” and the industrial revolution was a catalyst for the Arts and Crafts movement as well as a concern throughout the 20th century. Many Science Fiction stories deal with this fear and question what will happen to the human race as machines become more prevalent in our society. Examine the way this idea of the “soulless machine” will affect our future through literature and film. Examples: Lang’s “Metropolis,” Orwell’s “1984,” Gilliam’s “Brazil,” Chaplin’s “Modern Times,” Pixar’s “Wall-e,” adaptation of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron “2081,” or Asimov’s “I-Robot.”
  • Discuss how the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century may have caused or lead to the Green movement of the 21st century.

Private Press Movement

 

 

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