To were essential in defining the characteristics

To understand the Arts and Crafts movement it is key to understand thetheoretical background and the sources in which the ideology of the movementwas built from. The philosophy of the movement was derived in large measurefrom the writings of art critic John Ruskin, alongside writer and designerWilliam Morris, whose critical thoughts were essential in defining thecharacteristics of the movement. Ruskin’s(1819-1900) outlook on art was ofexcessive influence and public taste in at the time, with his writings beingessential to the theory background of the movement. He addressed the societalissues and explored the context of the Industrial Revolution, bringing socialconsequences forward to the working people and placed distinct emphasis oncraftsmen and their welfare.

Heavily focused on social criticism, Ruskin’swritings connected the moral and social health of a nation to thecharacteristics of its architecture and quality of work.  “Servile Labour” is what he considered thesort of mechanized production and division of labour in which was created bythe Industrial Revolution to be: It was in his belief that the success of ahealthy and moral society hinged on on the independence of workers who designedand made their own items. Followers of Ruskin held importance on the productionof craft rather than the industrial manufacturing which distanced itself withconcern for traditional skills, however they were debatably more disturbed bythe consequences of the factory-style system than by the machinery itself. Ruskin’sdeeper idea of rediscovering the principles of craftsmanship and restoring thepre-Victorian ideals of beauty were furthered in the writings and art practiceof Morris, whom was an esteemed designer of the time. Morris(1834-1896) wasknown for experimenting with a variety of crafts and the designing of bothfurniture and interiors.

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Being involved in not only the design of the objectbut the manufacturing as well, which later became as hallmark for the Arts andCrafts movement. While Ruskin had maintained the opinion that the distancing ofthe intellectual act of design from the manual undertaking or physicalconstruction was not only socially damaging, but aesthetically as well. Morrisadvanced the development of this idea by arguing that “without dignified,creative human occupation people became disconnected from life”FOOTNOTE; Upholding this by insisting that he wouldnot carry out any work in his workshop until he had personally prepared for andmastered the suitable techniques and materials.Morris did make furnitureand other decorative items for commercial purposes; however, his designs didnot stray too far from the ideals in which Ruskin wrote about, he modelled themfrom medieval styles and his patterns based on the flora and fauna – creating avernacular for his products constructed of traditional British values andlandscapes. Leaving work purposely unfinished was his way of not only conveyinga rustic aesthetic, but a means to display the raw beauty of the naturalmaterials and shine a light on the work of the craftsman. In result, the moralof staying true to materials, structure and function became a recognizable qualityof the Arts and Crafts movement. Morris revelled in Ruskin’s idea of “servilelabor” and put this forward in his practice through his philosophy of design-eventually developing his own idea of “handcraft” which was fundamentally workwithout any detachment of labour, rather than work without any sort ofmachinery FOOTNOTE.  Theyboth positioned a superior amount of value on the production of items made byhand, both believing that factory based work alienated workers from the ‘fruitsof their labour’ and disadvantaged them from the satisfaction and pleasure offinishing a piece.

Additionally, they critiqued the uprising of consumermentality and the consumption of good with poor design and quality, as well asthe entering of these goods to both the market and museum exhibitions.  Their philosophy was prompted by populist andsocialist ideals, subsequently resulting in the vision of art and design made “bythe people and for the people” with exceptional focus on the enjoyment of craftsmanship;With their aesthetic and critical ideals going on the form and shape the philosophyand style of the Arts and Crafts movement and new design shifts.Subtitle – Thecritique of Industrial methodology. As I spoke about above,William Morris strongly encouraged production by traditional craft methods: However,his standpoint on what place machinery held, was fairly inconsistent. At one point,claiming it to be “evil all together” (footnote 9) whilst remaining willingenough to employ manufacturers whom matched his standards, in order to assistwith the aid of machinery(footnote 25).  Idealising,he said that in a “true society”, where neither extravagances nor cheap garbagewere made, machinery could be perhaps be enhanced and be used to reduce thehours of labour(footnote 26).

Fiona MacCarthy, a British cultural historian bestknown for her writing on 19th and 20th century art anddesign, say that “unlike later zealots like Gandhi, William Morris had nopractical objections to the use of machinery, per se, as long as the machinesproduced the quality he needed” 


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