“At the turn of the last century, the Arts and Crafts movement transformed not only how objects looked, but also how people looked at objects. It provided a framework for essential issues that are still debated today: the conflict between standardisation and individuality, the question of whether a one-of-a-kind handcrafted object is superior to a mass-produced one, and the problem of defining what kind of design most benefits society.
Britain, the most industrialised country, was also the first to generate a movement to counter what was seen as the malevolent effects of mass production. John Ruskin, William Morris, and others championed “joy in labour” - the moral and spiritual uplift that would come with the revival of making objects by hand. The improvement of working conditions, integration of art into everyday life, and an honest “aesthetic” resulting from the use of indigenous materials and native traditions were also central to the movement’s philosophy. At the end of the nineteenth century, these Arts and Crafts ideals were appropriated and adapted by the avant-garde throughout Europe and the United States.”
This is an extract from “The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America” by Wendy Kaplan, introducing an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The philosophy is as relevant today as it was then. Most objects today are mass produced, and one-of-a-kind handcrafted items, particularly furniture, are beyond the reach of many consumers. There is a growing demand for well designed, artisan, one-of-a-kind products that are also affordable.. A viable way of meeting that demand is to find beautifully made antique and vintage furniture, and to re-purpose it for modern everyday use. The sense of creativity and individuality that comes from doing that gives real pleasure. Ruskin and Morris would have approved.