The last week in February was our annual week-long celebration of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Like the Folk School, the Arts and Crafts Movement celebrates craftsmanship and skill. The movement began in England in the 19th century as a reaction to increased industrialization and resistance to the ornate Victorian style, and it resonated in America in the first half of the 20th century. Its tenets: hand craftsmanship with attention to detail, use of high-quality materials, and design that fulfills function in a visually simple way.
Designers during the Arts & Crafts period created simple forms and often used medieval, romantic, and natural motifs. Many classes during Arts & Crafts Week embraced these themes and values with their class projects. I took a stroll around campus to see what was happening in the studios mid-week, and this is what I found…
Resident Blacksmith, Paul Garrett taught an intermediate/advanced class on “Arts and Crafts Ironwork” for smiths looking to expand their skills in styles of Greene & Greene, Stickley, and Roycroft. The focus of the class was the creation of a table lamp with a mica shade. I stopped by Paul’s demo and was amazed to see how you can bend mica to your desired shape. The glow of the mica always reminds me of this time period. Paul also demonstrated how to forge a ginkgo leaf, a common motif of both Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau style.
Speaking of mica, earlier that day I visited “Hammered Copper in the Arts and Crafts Tradition” instructed by Bob Trout & Michael Houser. Bob is a Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan, specializing in hand-hammered copper. Students focused on making a copper table lamp with mica shade. I was impressed and amazed to see the attention to detail achieve through chasing and repoussé. Chasing is using a tool and hammer to sink or indent a design in the metal. Repoussé is achieve by working on the reverse side of the metal, creating a raised design on the front. See the photos below for examples of these techniques.
Next stop was Karen Reed’s class, “Fusing “Wright,” Inspired by Frank Lloyd.” Students created their own unique designs, taking inspiration from the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unlike traditional stained glass panels, students made fused glass panels with no lead, just glass.
Decorative tiles were a staple of Arts & Crafts design. Susan Bach’s Clay class: “Arts and Crafts Tiles with a Modern Twist” encouraged students to create designs on tiles with glaze techniques. Many students chose natural themes like trees, landscapes, and animals. By the end of the week the class made almost 200 tiles!
When I looked into Anne Murray’s Book Arts class, students had just finished making cloth books with limp bindings. Each student chose a colorful cloth design reproduction by William Morris to cover their book. The books reminded me of a perfect pocketbook to take with on a naturalist adventure or on a trip abroad. Students were working on lino cuts while I visited the class. Anne Murray explained to me that Arts and Crafts books were known for their design elements inside the book, such as book plates and decorative designs.
During Arts & Crafts Week it was so delightful to see the common thread of spirit and nod to the past. Our collective nod was not too much of a reach from the norm, every week at the Folk School we celebrate craftsmanship, handmade objects, and creativity.