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The History Of Arts And Crafts

The definition for craft is, the making of decorative or functional objects, generally by hand. Hand and power tools may be used, however, in making some craft items. The term crafts also refers to the objects made. The function of crafts is generally concerned with crafts as creative hobbies, practiced primarily in the home with a minimum of specialized equipment. Crafts as so defined, have certain functions. In a world that is becoming increasingly mechanized and standardized, they give people the opportunity to work with their hands and to express their individuality.

Crafts also are often used in occupational therapy; for example, a patient might be taught a craft to develop weakened muscles or to help in gaining use of an artificial limb. An emotionally disturbed person might be taught a craft that would serve as an outlet for feelings. Craftwork also provides the disabled with purposeful activity that diverts attention from their handicaps. Many hobbyists find themselves going into business. A craftsperson who perhaps has at first sold craft items only to friends or at local bazaars may find that increased demand leads to a wider clientele and sales by mail order, at crafts fairs, or through a shop.

There is a fine line of distinction between crafts produced by amateur hobbyists for their personal satisfaction and crafts that in the hands of gifted artisans approach or can be considered art forms, generally made with a view toward the use and enjoyment of others. The difference between hobby-produced crafts and formal decorative art objects lies in the degree of innovation in form and technique and in the intention of the artisan. Crafts can be grouped by technique or medium.

Under the headings that follow are brief descriptions of some of those crafts most popular with hobbyists today, with indications of the degree of skill and basic equipment required. The type of craft that I will be studying is known as handicraft. Strictly speaking, handicrafts are occupations that involve making usable or decorative products by hand. Before the Industrial Revolution all such products were handmade, often in the home. The age of the machine nearly did away with the traditional crafts by fostering mass production.

During the mid-19th century, however, a reaction against the machine took place in Great Britain. Called the Arts and Crafts Movement, it urged a new appreciation for decorative, handmade products. The movement did a great deal to bring about today’s interest in handicrafts, often as a hobby, for limited production of quality goods. Whether as a hobby or a vocation, handicrafts encompass activities that require a variety of skills. They also usually require some equipment and, because they do, the term handicraft may seem misleading. Knitting, for example, requires the use of needles.

Among the common handicrafts are model building, needlework, lace making, pottery, woodworking, scrimshaw (whale- and walrus-bone carving), ornamental metalworking, glassblowing, and the making of stained glass, jewellery, and mosaics. Handicrafts as a hobby have become a major industry. There are packaged kits for models of ships, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, military vehicles, human anatomy, birds, and animals; painting; mosaics; needlepoint; embroidery; and crafts that use plastics, wood, leather, textiles, metal, cork, wool, yard goods, and laces.

Kits for chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and the earth sciences represent the sciences. Some hobbyists reject the use of kits as too commercial. They use their own materials, often-discarded goods, for their craft. A quilt, for instance, can be made from squares of colourful cloth sewed together. Rugs can be made on a handloom from old rags. Newspapers, paste, and powdered glue are the basis of papier-mache for masks, puppets, float displays, and other artefacts.

Design is the lines, shapes, or layout of any product, whether for use or show. Most fields of design have been influenced by the struggle between practical and artistic consideration. The theory of functionalism, which was popular in the early 20th century, maintained that the requirements of use and economy, rather than aesthetic consideration, should determine optimum design–an idea that was particularly influential on industrial design, but also had an impact on the design of such things as typography.

The term ‘design’ is now used in such phrases as interior design or set design, where it implies a special regard for the requirement of appearance and improvement of marketability by imparting an attractive appearance or one in line with current fashions, within the margins of variation imposed by the requirements of use and economy. The importance of consumer appeal in design is shown by the recent expansion in the field of graphic design. The field of design goes beyond painting and drawing, sculpture, architecture, and handicrafts. It includes thousands of mass-produced objects that were designed for everyday use.

Many industrial designers’ products from chairs to stereo equipment–are exhibited in art museums. Throughout the ages people have designed things to meet their needs. The armour worn by knights was designed to protect them in medieval warfare. Birch bark canoes were designed to meet the needs of the American Indians. Skyscrapers were designed to provide the best use of valuable ground space. As new materials and new methods are found, new designs are created to make use of them. As needs change, new designs are made to meet those needs. The telephone in use today could not have been designed 100 years ago.

The modern telephone, with its swift automatic dialling, is convenient to use. It blends with office or home furnishings. The design of the standard modern telephone housed in strong plastic makes it simple, usable, and compact. Its surfaces are smooth and easy to clean and come in a variety of colours. The first step in design is to consider the use of the object. This determines its shape, material, colour, and size. Its parts need to be large enough to do their work but no larger. It has no needless ornaments. This is design for use, or functional design. Modern functional design appears in many homes today.

This is especially true in the kitchen, because clean, simple lines save work. Manufacturers of refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines combine the talents of fine engineers and designers to produce machines that are beautiful as well as useful. People are slower to accept improved design in some home furnishings. The common dining-room chair, for example, is often still made of straight slabs of wood. It is heavy to lift. Its shape has little in common with the shape of the human body. After a time it becomes uncomfortable. Designers have been developing lightweight chairs.

These conform to the natural curves of the body and support it with ease and comfort. The moulded plywood chair designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen in 1940 is a classic of contemporary design. This quality of good design extends to the styling of clothes, the sleek lines of automobiles, the patterns of superhighways, and the planning of growing cities. In these and in other areas people use their creative abilities to design things for better living. Most professional designers specialize in a specific field such as dresses, furniture, automobiles, or books.

These people usually have special training and experience in that particular field. Yet, to some degree, each of us is a designer. The choices we make in our clothing, the way we set a table, arrange flowers and furniture, and decorate the walls of our homes–all these involve planning and organizing to meet our needs. These may be functional needs of the body or they may be non-functional needs of the spirit, but each is creative. There are two important types of designs created by people. First are designs, which are made for flat, two-dimensional surfaces. Second are designs made for three-dimensional objects.

Two-dimensional designing includes such activities as drawing, painting, and producing surface patterns on fabrics, rugs, and wallpaper and in advertising layouts. Three-dimensional designing includes sculpture; architecture; handicrafts such as jewellery, pottery, and leatherwork; clothing; and machine-made objects such as automobiles, stoves, chairs, and pencil sharpeners. Design is also found in nature. The pebble, washed by the rains of the ages, wears to a beautiful free-flowing form. There is design in the swelling, spiralling form of seashells and the upward soar of a pine.

There is design in the arrangement of petals on a flower, the spacing of leaves on a stem. People have studied the basic rhythms in natural forms so that they might also design pleasing relationships. To make anything, whether it is a painting, a chair, or a house, suitable materials must be chosen. These might be wood, stone, metal, glass, or paint. The materials must then be organized within an area or volume. To do this we use the elements of design. These are line, colour, value, space, mass, and texture. The arrangement of these elements is determined by the principles of design–proportion, rhythm, and balance.

There are several elements of design, such as line, which defines the shapes we use in design. Lines may be straight or curved, delicate or bold. They may be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Their directions can suggest movement, mood, or emotion. Another is colour, colour has three basic properties. They are hue, value, and saturation. Hue refers to a particular colour such as red, blue, or yellow. The hue of an apple is red. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. Some colours, such as yellow or orange, are light in value. Some colours, such as purple or brown, are dark in value.

We can lighten the value of a colour by adding white or darken it by adding black. Saturation, also called chroma, refers to the purity of a colour. If we wish to decrease the saturation of a colour, we dull it by adding a mixture of other colours. Colours also have other important qualities. Those, which contain yellow or red are warm colours. They seem to be solid, advance toward us, and expand in their size. Cool colours are those, which contain blue. They seem to be spacious, withdraw from us, and contract in size. Colours can affect our emotions. Some colours make us feel happy and excited. Other colours make us feel sad.

We surround ourselves in our homes with the colours we like. Value is the amount of light reflected by a surface. If there is little contrast in the amount of light reflected from surfaces near each other, the eye has difficulty in distinguishing them. A sharp contrast of light and dark values is necessary to attract attention. Even with brilliant colour contrasts, a painter must carefully balance the distribution of lights and darks throughout his picture. A drawing or any type of design in one colour requires careful consideration of light and dark values. There is a real space in which we move about.

The architect is concerned with dividing this space by walls, ceilings, and floors. There is also the illusion of space, which can be created on a two-dimensional surface by drawing or painting. Mass is the three-dimensional volume, which occupies space. It may be the actual mass of a sculpture or a building or the suggested mass on a two-dimensional surface in a drawing or painting. And finally, Texture, texture is the nature of a material’s surface. We usually notice texture by our sense of touch. However, we also “feel” texture through our eyes after we are familiar with its touch.

A texture may be smooth like satin or rough like burlap. It may be hard like stone or soft like butter. The architect is interested in varying the texture of walls on a building. He may contrast the texture of rough brick with polished marble and smooth painted wood. The painter may emphasize texture in his painting by applying his paint more thickly. The weaver uses contrasts of yarn; for example, heavy and light, coarse and smooth. The basic principles of design are that if the elements of design are thrown together without plan, the result is confusion. The elements must be carefully organized into a unified design.

This is done by following the principles known as proportion, rhythm, and balance. The principle of proportion is concerned with relative measure or amount. The effectiveness of a design depends upon the good proportion of its elements. There may be different sizes, shapes, and lengths of line. The relationship between these differences is proportion. In design proportions are sometimes determined by structural needs and sometimes by visual appearances. Occasionally it is a combination of both. For example, the architect must determine the size and shape of windows for his building.

He decides after considering how much light is needed inside the building as well as the appearance from outside. In a portrait painting, the artist must decide how large to make the figure and where to place it on his canvas. The potter decides how large to make the mouth of a bowl or of a vase. These are all problems in proportion. Artists have learned much about good proportions by studying nature. Many centuries ago the Greeks discovered the formula of nature’s proportions as it occurs in such living things as plant forms, shells, and the arrangement of seeds in a pod.

This plan of proportion is based upon a curious relationship of numbers known as the summation series. The series is built by always adding the last two numbers in the series to get the next. Let us start with the numeral 1. By adding 1 and 1 we get 2. By adding 2 and 1 we get 3. By adding 3 and 2 we get 5. Continuing in this manner we get the series 1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34-55 and so on. This series of numbers has what is called a rhythmic progression, because the relationship between each succeeding pair of numbers is about the same. The proportion of 3 to 5 is almost the same as 5 to 8. The plan of proportion appears frequently in nature.

In a pineapple, for example, the scales are arranged to form two sets of spiralling curves running up the fruit. One of these curves is quite steep and its spiral is counter clockwise. The other, a more gradual spiral, runs clockwise. By counting the scales on the two sets of spirals we find that their numbers are in the same proportion as the summation series. The general proportion of 3 to 5 is often used. There are many proportions, which are pleasing to the eye. It is the artist’s job to develop interesting proportions whether the object is a clock, a dinner fork, or a sewing machine.

Rhythm is movement, which we feel in looking at a design. It often results from a repetition of forms, which flow, in a given direction like the upward thrusts of a picket fence. Rhythm may be seen in a polka dot design or in a checkerboard design. The simple shapes and spaces between them are always the same. We call this a static rhythm. It has no variety and is therefore somewhat monotonous. Other types of rhythm have more variety and interest. Instead of a single shape there may be a group of related shapes whose height, width, or depth may change as well as the space between them.

Ocean waves are an example. You may have seen two children on a seesaw. If they are the same weight, they balance each other when they sit the same distance from the centre. This is equal, or symmetrical, balance. If a heavier child wants to seesaw with a small child, the larger must move closer to the centre to be balanced by the weight of the small child. This is unequal balance. Nature provides us with many examples of equal and unequal balance. The formal symmetry of a pine tree is an equal balance; but the irregular, unequal jutting limbs of an oak are also in balance.

In designs made by artists we also find examples of equal and unequal balance. If two shapes are about the same size and colour, they will balance each other if placed about equal distance from the centre of the design. However, if two shapes are unequal in size, the smaller will need to be placed farther from the centre to make them appear balanced. The artist learns to deal with many problems of balance. He learns how to balance each of the elements of design: line, colour, value, space, mass, and texture. He finds that horizontal lines can be used to balance vertical ones.

A small area of complex shape will balance a large area of simple shape. Small areas of bright colour balance larger areas of dull colour. There is no mathematical formula for determining balance in design. Through experience and practice the artist develops an ability to feel when all the parts of his design are in balance. A design achieves unity when (1) it has pleasing proportions; (2) its parts are so organized that we enjoy following the rhythms of the patterns; and (3) we feel it is in balance. We enjoy looking at designs that have unity. Painting is perhaps the most popular of the visual arts.

More children and adults draw and paint today than ever before in the history of the world. Whether a painter works in oil or in watercolor, he has only a flat, two-dimensional surface on which to express his idea. On the other hand, composition may be formed by lines, shapes, colours, and textures, which have no relation to nature or man-made objects. One type of picture composition is not necessarily better than another. Each is an individual and original expression by the artist. Its merit rests on his skill in handling the elements and principles of design.

The beginnings of painting go back thousands of years to the works of prehistoric humans. Realistic drawings and paintings of animals believed to be more than 20,000 years old were discovered in the caves of Lascaux in southern France In spite of their fine craftsmanship and remarkable realism, there is little if any planned design in the total effect. The earliest known paintings, which had planned design, were Egyptian. The forms used in Egyptian paintings were not what the eye sees. Their paintings of the human figure were distorted and used only the simplest proportions, but they were carefully composed

Simple arrangement and exaggerated outlines, leaving out all details, give force and strength to a composition. The emphasis upon making paintings flat with a two-dimensional linear pattern appears in many periods. Even in the 20th century, many painters feel that they should limit the depth to which the eye can be led. This is true whether the painting is realistic or abstract. Painters first began to achieve a feeling for visual reality early in the Renaissance. Giotto, born in Florence in about 1266, was the first great artist to make his figures look human and to give them an emotional quality.

He organized compositions so that each figure became an active part of the design. In the 15th century the great Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi discovered the laws of linear perspective. The discovery enabled painters to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional canvas. This was an important milestone in painting but it created new problems in design. Now artists had to develop new ways of leading the eye into space and yet provide a return to the picture surface. They solved this by the arrangement of lines, planes, textures, colours, and values.

With the invention of the camera, which more accurately reproduces nature, interest in realism declined. New efforts were made to achieve other qualities in pictures that emphasized imagination. Artists began to think of painting as a more personal expression of the artist rather than a picture of what was seen. Cubism, for example, was an attempt to create a new way of seeing things. It reduced objects into planes and rearranged their parts so they might be seen from several positions at the same time. Twentieth-century painting in America and Europe has become increasingly abstract.

However, whether a painting is realistic, abstract, or completely non-objective, the same principles of design are used. If the painting is two-dimensional, its design is a controlled movement of surface patterns. If the painting is three-dimensional, the design is so organized that the eye is carried rhythmically into space and back again. Sculpture is a three-dimensional art. It deals with the arrangement of solid mass and space. The choice of material affects the design in sculpture. If a sculptor works in a hard brittle material such as stone, the sculpture must have a compact design on a firm base.

Because this material tends to chip, the design must be simple, without great detail. ‘Child with a Cat’, by William Zorach, is an example of sculpture carved directly in stone. Wood permits more complex carving. Wood can also be shaped and bent, if it is given the right type of treatment first. With planning, the carver can make grain an effective part of the design and add to the surface beauty of the work. Clay is soft and lends itself to more delicate designs. Metal can be melted and cast in molds to reproduce sculptures designed in clay. Metal can also be worked directly with cutting tools and welding torch.

In this new type of sculpture, formed of bars and rods, open space is as important an element as solids in the total design. Throughout the ages human beings have felt a need to surround themselves with carved images. Prehistoric humans carved bone and ivory into sculptural forms. They used both animal and human shapes, often with amazing craftsmanship. Designs in primitive sculpture reappear in modern sculpture. It is interesting to compare the two pictures of sculptures of heads. An artist of Gabon made the mask. An English sculptress, Barbara Hepworth, did the second sculpture.

Each reduces the head to a simple egg shape. Facial features are primarily accents on an otherwise abstract shape. Ancient Egyptians produced a great amount of sculpture carved of hard stone such as basalt. Only portrait heads were accurately reproduced. The figure was always rigid and stiffly erect. The Greeks developed a highly realistic type of stone sculpture. Their figures twisted and turned, forming compositions that were pleasingly curved. The purpose of architecture has always been to provide some type of shelter. It might be a tomb, a temple, a factory, or a dwelling.

The plan, the method of construction, and even the final appearance of a structure should be determined by its purpose. The oldest known examples of architecture are in Egypt. Some of the most important structures were built as tombs. They were made of great stone blocks and are now called pyramids. Egyptian temples were thick walled, with heavy pillars. The Greeks developed a much lighter, smaller type of architecture in their temples. Out in front columns supported a portico. In some of the more important temples, such as the Parthenon, the columns circled the entire building.

Greek architects designed the columns and their parts very carefully. Certain excellent designs became famous and were known as orders. These were called Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The Romans needed huge public buildings such as market places, public baths, and arenas. To provide large open spaces, they built curving masonry walls. These turned inward until they met in a rounded arch. The Romans were the first to build with concrete. They used it for huge domed buildings such as the Pantheon and vast amusement centres such as the Colosseum. Roman architecture achieved a feeling of strength and dignity through its massiveness.

In the Middle Ages religion was the centre of life. There was need of cathedrals that could house throngs of people. This led architects in northern France to design a new method of construction. It used pointed stone arches held up by slim pillars and narrow ribs. This permitted large open areas on the sides of buildings. These were filled with stained glass windows. It was called the Gothic style of architecture. During the early Renaissance, architects returned to Greek and Roman methods of building. The walls, however, were more open with windows and doors, and they became more elaborate with surface decorations.

By the early 19th century there were so many styles based on the past that the art of this period was known as eclectic–composed of elements drawn from various sources. As early as 1848 cast iron was used for a building constructed in New York City. By about 1855 architects had developed a type of construction that used a skeleton of metal–cast iron. Cast iron made possible floor spans of greater width than ever before. A second important material was concrete, which the Romans had used. By 1900 concrete had taken the place of a great deal of masonry and wood.

The development of structural steel and plate glass revolutionized the walls of shops and department stores. They afforded far more height and light. The invention of the elevator in 1852 made the dream of the skyscraper a possibility An American architect, Louis Sullivan, pioneered in modern methods and design. Handicrafts are items used in daily living that have been made by people with their hands. These include tools, weapons, vessels, jewellery, and fabrics. The finest of these blend the useful and the beautiful. People have always desired objects, which function well and are pleasing to the eye at the same time.

The earliest stone implements of prehistoric cave peoples were made only as useful objects. Gradually there appeared a feeling for proportion and balance. Such a refinement took place in the shape of the hand axe and other items. The pottery of prehistoric peoples was simple and rugged. Some was decorated with lines, spirals, zigzags, and dots. These often served to strengthen the structural lines and surfaces. Later, primitive artists developed quite elaborate designs based upon animal and human forms. Egyptian artists developed great skill in designing and making their handicrafts. They learned to cast, hammer, and solder gold.

They made elegant vases of alabaster. Small toilet articles such as cosmetic boxes were carved from wood. The perfecting of ceramic glazing made possible handsome beads, pendants, scarabs, figurines, and even architectural decorations. In Crete the potter was of special importance since his wares were articles of commerce. Greece also developed pottery to a fine art. The Greeks used only a few basic shapes but gave special attention to refining proportions, contours, handles, and decorations. Probably no other people have used the human figure in pottery decoration as much as the Greeks.

Handicrafts flourished during the middle Ages. Luxurious fabrics were required for church vestments and castle tapestries Vessels for church services and jewelled ornaments were also much in demand. Enamelling on metal, an art that has been revived in the 20th century, was highly developed During the Renaissance handicrafts alternated between the decorative arts and the useful arts. Among the decorative arts were enamelling, tapestry work, and gold work. Outstanding among useful handicrafts were ironwork, furniture, and glassware. One of the high points of the 16th century was the perfection of glass blowing in the city of Venice

In the 17th and 18th centuries furniture making developed as a handicraft. After the massively carved and gilded furniture of the period of Louis XIV came a period of transition. It introduced lighter, more graceful forms. Cabinetmakers began to use more curved designs. Later, craftsmen copied both Greek and Roman styles. These included the use of lyres, urns, festoons, and decorative animal forms. Among the famed English cabinetmakers were Thomas Chippendale, the Adam Brothers, Thomas Sheraton, and George Hepplewhite. ; The Industrial Revolution brought the use of power machinery in many fields.

These machines began turning out objects cheaply and in large quantities. The ease of production led to many abuses. Manufacturers, lacking in art experience and training, often produced unattractive objects. Because the machine could reproduce ornaments easily, decoration was used to excess. It was applied to everything, often hiding defects in structure. Mechanized ugliness led to the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and America. The movement was founded by William Morris of England He insisted that only handmade objects were really beautiful, and he encouraged a return to he simple handicrafts of the past.

The movement failed to achieve its goal, but it did succeed in calling attention to the need for good design in industry. Competition in the mass sales of identical objects was probably the chief cause of the final union between art and industry. During the 1920s manufacturers first felt the need for expert advice on designing highly competitive articles such as home appliances. The new industrial designers created better products by following three basic design principles. First, materials should be honestly used. For example, metal should never be painted to look like wood.

Second, all forms should be kept simple in their shape. One of the best arguments in favour of this principle was the ease of cleaning simple surfaces. Third, products should be designed in such a way that their appearance expressed their function. A bed should not be disguised to look like a bookcase. Some of the influential figures in the development of American industrial design were Norman Bel Geddes, Walter Dorwin Teague, Henry Dreyfuss, Harold Van Doren, and Raymond Loewy. They made America “streamline” conscious.

Streamlining originally implied a bullet or tear-drop shape. Now everything from a pencil sharpener to a radio has been designed for this effect, though it may bear no relationship to its usefulness. The idea of simplifying exterior surface on all types of machine-made objects has gained favour. Surface interest is provided by the contrast of dull and bright, and by the simple beauty of such materials as porcelain, enamel, glass, copper, aluminium, brass, and steel. Any added ornament is closely related to the structure and seems to be an actual part of the object itself.

A poet and painter, William Morris was first of all a practical, working artist. He designed houses, furniture, wallpaper, draperies, and books–and built or made them as well. His efforts in behalf of good design and quality craftsmanship gave rise to the Arts and Crafts Movement, which influenced taste and raised standards of workmanship throughout Europe. He was also an ardent, hard-working social reformer. Morris was born on March 24, 1834, in Walthamstow, a suburb of London, England. He went to Marlborough College and later to Exeter College, Oxford.

At Oxford Morris began a lifelong friendship with Edward Burne-Jones, later a famous painter. After college, they joined a group of Pre-Raphaelite painters, headed by the poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1859 Morris married Jane Burden, whom he had often painted. After his marriage Morris began his career as a decorator. He disliked the elaborate furniture of the day and decided to design and make his own. In 1861 Morris, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and others started a business in London to make such furniture as Morris chairs.

They also made curtains, rugs, tapestries, wallpaper, and stained glass. Much later Morris started his Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith, where he turned out well-designed books. In the 1880s he became an active socialist and taught that work without joy was fit only for slaves. He died on Oct. 3, 1896, in Hammersmith, near London. The arts and craft movement, a British social and aesthetic movement of the latter half of the 19th century that aimed to reassert the importance of craftsmanship in the face of increasing mechanization and mass production.

It had its basis in the ideas of Pugin and Ruskin, the most influential of the writers who deplored the effects of industrialization, but it was left to William Morris to translate their ideas into practical activity. His hand-made products (books, furniture, textiles, wall-paper, and so on) were successful aesthetically, but his ideal of producing art for the masses failed. Nevertheless, he influenced craftsmen, teachers, and propagandists (such as C. R. Ashbee, who founded the Guild of Handicraft in 1888), and in the early years of the 20th century the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement spread abroad, notably to Germ

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