The Arts & Crafts Movement

The Arts & Crafts movement started in the UK around the late 1800’s and was one of the most profound and influential design artistic movements of the time. Although it started in Britain it spread like wildfire and became popular in America and all across Europe and  even worked its way over as far as Japan where it was called Mingei. Although there has always been heated debate if crafts are part of art, this movement was really born out of idealism. It considered questions of the time, and whether the modern trend to industrialization had an effect on the skills, workmanship, design of present day artisans.

New Principles of Art

The Arts & Craft movement began to set out new principles of how ordinary people worked and actually lived. It preached the reform of art and the acceptance of craft into art, changing the home into a work of art.

The Arts & Crafts Society

The whole movement sprung out of a society formed in 1887 called The Arts & Crafts Society. But it expanded the ideology of the Society to other likeminded workshops, manufacturers and societies. As the movement grew outside the UK, other countries adapted it to their own needs and produced totally different work, but it was still tied into the movement by the ideology that created it. The movement was unique, nothing like it had ever gone before, its core was of reform and the ideals of the present world and the design and materials used. It was about everyday life, its people and how they lived.

The Movement’s Origins

The industrial revolution and the manufacturing processes were left unchecked and unregulated for decades, but it was not until the mid and late 1800’s that designs changed and artists and architects started to take a different approach to creative arts. This new way of approach and thinking opened the door for the Arts & Crafts Movement. Possibly the two most famous names behind this new thinking were, William Morris and John Ruskin. Ruskin was a writer, designer and very much an activist, he wanted to see how society, labor and art all contributed and worked together.

Morris was an internationally respected designer and manufacturer, he was convinced of Ruskin’s ideas and put into place his ideology. Putting great value on the actual way the craftsmen worked and the joy they got from making things, that they understood the beauty of the materials they were working with. Ruskin and Morris were the catalysts for an explosion of new societies and guilds all over the world, following this new ethos. They took their ideas and molded them to suit their own designs and the ways their craftsmen worked.

For the first time ever, right across the globe there was a unified approach to art and crafts. They all shared this one ideology, a multitude of painters, architect, designers, sculptors working with the same principles. The Arts & Crafts movement was unprecedented, never in the history of arts and crafts had such one idea been accepted by all. And as the craftsmen and artists produced new work, the general public completely understood it and also embraced the movement. There has been nothing before or after the movement remotely like it, and it made its mark on history.