Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BSBDES304A - Source and apply information on the history and thoery of Design

Arts and Crafts Movement

The idea behind the Arts and Crafts Movement was to connect back to nature and natural objects that were designed and crafted by the people for the people. The vision of this movement was to see that the everyday worker not be brutalised by the conditions in working in a factory but rather a craftsman take pride in his skill, thus giving the worker the benefit of exhibiting his fine craftsmanship.

The goal in this design movement was to enhance individual lives by providing employment amongst society. Unfortunately the labour that went into the creation of a handcrafted object was overwhelming and was reflected in the prices, making it only available and affordable for the wealthy. Throughout this era the designers manufactured many forms of decorative art such as furniture, metalwork, glass, ceramics, wallpapers and textiles. 1(Parry, 1989, pg8)

For the Arts and Crafts Movement what influenced the designers was their connection with nature and their natural surroundings, finding inspiration from this was the driving force behind the idea of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Combining the British floral forms, the designers of this era showed an undying love for the countryside, demonstrated through their work with patterns showing originality and an illustration of their passion for nature. The British passion for flowers and floral arrangements was to be coincided with ideas of the designers from the Arts and Crafts era. Taking inspiration from the seasons the designers focused on the natural colours of the countryside and the growth patterns from each individual flora. Further focusing on maintaining the natural form of each plant was the basis in every design. Designers used the natural colouring of the surrounding flora for their designs maintaining a successful harmonious design or pattern.

Common characteristics seen in the Arts and Crafts Movements designs are sensuous and natural motifs. The common use of Willow boughs and Acanthus leaves provided the backbone and structure of designs see through this era. As a common theme designers used their natural surroundings to create inspiration and theme throughout their work, as seen in commonly throughout the work the use of vines and flora to create such designs but also the use of fauna was integrated into designs as well, for example ‘Purple Bird’ By William Morris and manufactured by Alexander Morton & Co.

The most prominent and influential designer in the Arts and Crafts Movement was William Morris. Morris’ individual patterns and designs created the foundations of the Arts and Crafts Movement and proved to be the most influential throughout history. Morris spent his life devoted to the movement and the creation of designs that surrounded him. This fascination with nature and the natural world consumed Morris’s life, as his early explorations began with embroideries and hand drawn wallpapers. His early printed textiles, for example, ‘Marigold’ and ‘Vine’ show repeats influenced from designing wallpapers, tiles, whereas his embroideries from patterns of repeating vertical and horizontal bands to single mirror-imaged compositions. 2(Parry, 1989, pg6)
As Morris’s designs became more and more well known throughout Britain and Europe it triggered an interest in the fashion industry, with the use of foreign plants such as palms and brightly coloured flowers such as fuchsias and hydrangeas. As this interest progressed the designs were being used in mass commercial manufacturing, as a revolt against this Morris chose plants such as Marigolds and Jasmine.

“William Morris’s versatility and originality as a designer of patterns have provided to be his most enduring monument, but it was through his views on society and manufacture that his influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement was felt the most. He believed that the importance placed on new technology in industry since the later eighteenth century had resulted in the gradual erosion of the role of the craftsman and the subsequent loss of traditional skills.” 3(Perry, 1989, pg10)

The second greatest influence on William Morris’s designs as a pattern maker was his fascination with historical art, which is proved to have a substantial influence in his designs for carpets, woven textiles and embroideries. In 1861 Morris became his own manufacturer creating his own business for production, Morris and Company. All of the good produce from his company were all hand woven from tapestries to carpets.
As an influential leader in the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris was a co founder of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, which provided a union in the decorative arts world not seen since the Middle Ages. Many influential designers, craftsman and manufacturers of the era as an initial revolt against the Royal Academy and its inhibitive display policy set up the Exhibition Society in 1887. The many members of this society adopted many of Morris’s ideas and designs to further the development of an original and new artistic movement.

Along side William Morris another great influence in the Arts and Crafts Movement was John Ruskin. Ruskin was one of the most influential and greatest social revolutionaries and conservationists the decorative art world had seen. Ruskin’s writing and poems provided the art world, in particular William Morris with inspirations for artworks. Ruskin dedicated his life to the theory about the relationship between life and morality. Ruskin studied, religious, moral and political views throughout art history and as a rebellion against the aesthetically displeasing industrial revolution, John Ruskin put forth many theories that inturn became very controversial amongst a conservative society.

"We are always in these days endeavoring to separate the two; we want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, as we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen, in the best sense." – John Ruskin 4(

Together Morris and Ruskin campaigned against modern art and the poor quality of working life due to the Industrial Revolution for better living standards amongst society. Between Morris’s inhibition and passion for art and Ruskin’s characteristics of being a paternalistic conservative was the driving force behind promoting the Arts and Crafts ideas such as promoting the beauty of individual craftsmanship and seeing their work in a wider context of social reform. 5(

If not for the Arts and Crafts Movement and all the great artistic influences during that period today’s graphic designers would not have the basic foundations and understanding for the natural world and it’s surroundings and the understanding of the use of colour and how it can create simplicity and inturn complexity. The generation of simple motifs have been used for many centuries and come from an Arts and Crafts origin and are seen in modern day 21st Century designs. If not for the Arts and Crafts Movement revolution and protest against the Industrial revolution, and the use of natural elements in the designs the Art Nouveau movement wouldn’t not have been recognised internationally as a decorative art. Therefore the Arts and Crafts Movement has effected artists and their work all around the world for centuries and without this, the greater understanding and appreciation for hand made materials and objects would not exist and society would be consumed with industrial manufacturing.

Referencing List

Sourced: 1.08.2010, Wagga Wagga City Library
Parry, L. (1989). William Morris, And the Arts and Crafts Movement, A Source Book. Published, Studio Editions

Sourced: 1.08.2010, Wagga Wagga City Library
Rawson, P. (1987). Design. Prentice-Hall Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Sourced: 5.08.2010, Arts And Crafts Movement, Grey Cells Technologies

Sourced: 6.08.10 Museum, Arts and Crafts Movement