Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Inspiration - Arts and Crafts/Craftsman Style

I've been greatly inspired lately by my research on the style of furniture and design known as Arts and Crafts in England and Craftsman here in the US!  I had this style in mind when I embroidered this recent bread cloth and I'm currently working on an applique and embroidery table cloth that I drew on the Craftsman style for.  And you'll be seeing more!  So I thought everyone might want to know a little more about it .... 

William Morris
The Industrial Revolution in the 1800's brought a big change to the design of household goods available to the general population.  Now, items could be mass produced and sold more cheaply.  Sounds good, but there's always a downside, isn't there ... Artists and designers were not happy with the lack of artistic quality that went into the now available designs, craftsmen weren't happy with the lower quality of the goods and with how they couldn't compete with the low prices.  Workshops began closing their doors, the countryside lost out to the cities as manufacturing of goods became centralized, and many lost their livelihoods.  In England, artists, designers, craftsmen, and social reformers came together under what became known as the Arts and Crafts Movement to try and bring about changes.  Workshops based on the old medieval guilds were formed, classes were taught (especially in the countryside), and outlets were developed for the sale of these handcrafted, more thoughtfully designed goods.  Artist and textile designer William Morris was one of the leading figures of this movement in England.

William Morris, Woodpecker Tapestry, 1885, wool on cotton linng

William Morris, Bird and Vine Wallpaper

Gustav Stickley
When the movement reached the United States, it became known as the Craftsman movement and designer Gustav Stickley became one of the driving forces.  Through his monthly magazine, The Craftsman, the principles and styles reached
across the country. 

Although there were no "rules", there were common themes and aesthetics that drove these styles.  Objects were simple in form, well made, and you could often see how they were constructed.  The quality of materials was high and the workmanship very fine.  Plants, animals, birds - nature in general were common themes whether the materials were fibers, wood, pottery, glass, metals, ....

Katharine Lord.  Lace fan mount. 1910.

Poppyland fabric by Liberty, c. 1912 - 1913.

Rookwood Pottery, Thistle, c. 1910

George C. Haite, Crocus, block printed on cotton and linen blend.

CFA Voysey carpet

Gustav Stickley settee, 1905.  Oak and rush.

Gustav Stickley linen press.

Pauline Wright Irby Nichols, tablerunner, c. 1916. Linen and embroidery floss.

Joseph Fortune Meyer, vase, 1904.  High glaze on buff clay body.
If you want to learn more about Arts and Craft/Craftsman style and see some beautiful examples, these are good sites:

The William Morris Gallery (London) website

The Victoria and Albert Museum website

 The William Morris website - yes, the company is still in business and selling textiles!

The San Diego Museum of Art has a nice video introduction to a Stickley exhibit they hosted a couple of years ago.

And if you are especially interested in textiles, you might want to check out Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement by Linda Parry.  I highly recommend it - and Amazon carries it!

Happy Creating!  Deborah


  1. Lovely article, Deborah. I've always found the Craftsman designs fascinating and beautiful, however I never bothered to research it and find the link to William Morris. Thank you!

    The Craftsman movement in the US makes me think of Virginia Lee Burton and the Folly Cove Designers located in Massachusetts. If you haven't, you should look at some of their beautiful work, which is not dissimilar from Craftsman. Lee Burton (author of 'Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel' among others) was a driving design force in the group and it's such a pity that she never found time to finish off her 'how to make a good design' notes. They would have been a joy.

    Thanks for this inspiration!
    All the best,

    1. I've always loved Virginia Lee Burton's books - Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was one of my favorites when I was little! And thank you so much for the info on the Folly Cove Designers - I now have a new source for fabric inspirations. Beautiful work - and it looks like they definitely were inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement!