Following Britain’s Industrial Revolution, a design movement emerged as a way to create products that not only had integrity but were made in a less dehumanizing way. The movement was coined “the Arts and Crafts movement” and it had a huge impact on how Victorian society viewed production. The movement reformed the design and manufacture of everything from buildings to jewelry.
A key leader of the movement was William Morris, a renowned designer. He is quoted as saying, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Strawberry Thief, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., 1883, England. Museum no. T.586-1919. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bullerswood Carpet, William Morris and John Henry Dearle, about 1889, England. Museum no. T.31-1923. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
William Morris strived to create beautifully constructed everyday objects in a harmonious manner that kept the craftsman connected to the consumer. He pushed back on factory work, in hopes to return to small-scale workshops. Morris wanted to rid the working class of repetitive tasks so that they might engage directly with the creative process from beginning to end.
The Arts and Crafts movement thrived in rural communities and created employment for local people, such as amateurs and students. And it also created an environment in which, for the first time, women as well as men could begin to take an active role in developing new forms of design, both as makers and consumers.
Below are a few examples of objects produced during the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Altar table, deigned by Phillip Webb, made by John Garrett and Son, 1897, England. Museum no. W.4-2003. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Screen, designed by John Henry Dearle, manufactured by Morris & Co., 1885 – 1910, England. Museum no. CIRC.848-1956. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Necklace, designed by Charles Robert Ashbee, made by Guild of Handicraft Ltd., 1901 – 02, England. Museum no. M.23-1965. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Lamp, designed by Arthur Stansfield Dixon, made by Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, about 1893, England. Museum no. CIRC.277-1961. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Decanter, Charles Robert Ashbee, 1904 – 5, England. Museum no. M.121:1, 2-1966. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Coat, Marshall & Snelgrove Ltd, 1895 – 1900, England. Museum no. T.49-1962. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Clock, designed by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, made by Frederick Coote, 1895 – 1901, England. Museum no. W.5:1, 2-1998. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Although the movement did not withstand the test of time, the sentiment of handcrafted and delicately made objects continues to today.
“V&A · Arts and Crafts: an Introduction.” Victoria and Albert Museum, https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/arts-and-crafts-an-introduction.