The Arts and Crafts movement has its roots in the late nineteenth century and remained popular until around the year 1910. It was certainly halted in its track like many artistic movements by the time of the First World War. The movement has its origins in England which was, at that time, regarded as the most industrialized nation on earth. Leaders of the movement like William Morris favored a return to and re-emphasis on handicrafts and the superior craftsmanship of the artisan as opposed to more industrialized modes of production.
Morris was interested in the writings of John Ruskin and developed his aesthetic principles based on tenets of nature and simplicity. Morris also believed that the industrial process alienated the designer from the labor force that produced the finished pieces. In many ways, he strove to support the work of the artisan and laborer which were often in conflict with the mechanization of industrial processes. In his opinion, arts and crafts could be combined as all were art that could be showcased in the home.
The movement was particularly popular in both England and America and influenced various forms of design from architecture to pottery to wallpaper to jewelry. Moreover, many examples of Arts and Crafts handicrafts embody a definitive functionality. The artisan’s emphasis was on the item’s function, simple decoration, and also quality. Underpinning the movement was the sense that the work of the handcrafter was superior to the work of the machine.
While Morris achieved great notoriety in England, Gustav Stickley became associated with the American Arts and Crafts movement because of his furniture and also the magazine he published in 1901 called The Craftsman. Like Morris, he espoused ideas of simplicity, functionality, and also encouraged the use of local materials. In America, the Arts and Crafts style home like the bungalow style became immensely popular during the early part of the twentieth century. Ideals such as high-quality craftsmanship, simplicity, and affordability were hallmarks of the movement in both countries and appealed very strongly to the middle classes.
Many designers and artisans were associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. Aside from Morris and Stickley, other primary figures attached to the movement include Louis Comfort Tiffany, Charles Robert Ashbee, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Dard Hunter. Today, many Arts and Crafts period items are highly collectible and still valued for their excellent workmanship. Many items like furniture, tiles, jewelry, metalwork, and pottery are also collected by museums and galleries for their exceptional quality.