Craft and IndustrialisationPosted: June 22, 2011
The Art and Crafts movement is generally agreed to have started in 1860 with the work of William Morris in England where it expanded throughout Britain and into North America and Europe enjoying a long eminence as a movement until 1930.
The lifespan of the movement persisted for such a period because it a genuine reaction to a change and persisting deficiency in culture. The idea of craft, which was viewed by some as a revival of medieval guilds and the notion of the artisan, was developed very much in parallel to the recent industrialisation of means of production. Some understood craft as an overwhelming cultural force where design and its resultant environment are directly responsible for the harmony of its inhabitants. Importantly much of the movement centres around culture and the changing relationship between man and his work.
Morris a revivalist preoccupied with socialism, viewed craft as ennobling the people. Industrial culture was viewed as a subjugation of the people to the design and aesthetic to industrial methods. The craftsman would have the requisite skills to build a piece, whether a table, wallpaper, printing or a house from beginning to end. Subsequent craft societies that sprung up over the world appear to be centred around the independence of the craftsman and the emancipation from the industrial method where labour is divided according to process. This is consistent with socialist literature where the worker loses connection to his product. He is a contributor rather than a creator.
The dichotomy between man and machine is very much at the heart of the movement whereas initially it was a reaction against industrialisation later on many recognized the utility of industry for the purposes of craft.
In terms of design the movement although renowned for its ornamentation gives precedence to function while ornamentation is secondary. It rejected the excessive decoration of industrial products, the compromising of an objects function, the removal of man from his product and manufacturing’s claim to originality.