Design Principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts style started as a search for aesthetic
design and decoration and a reaction against the styles that were developed by

Arts and Crafts objects were simple in form, without
superfluous or excessive decoration, and how they were constructed was often
still visible. They tended to emphasize the qualities of the materials used
("truth to material"). They often had patterns inspired by British
flora and fauna and used the vernacular, or domestic, traditions of the British
countryside. Several designer-makers established workshops in rural areas and
revived old techniques. They were influenced by the Gothic Revival (1830–1880)
and were interested in medieval styles, using bold forms and strong colors
based on medieval designs. They claimed to believe in the moral purpose of art.
Truth to material, structure and function had also been advocated by A.W.N.
Pugin (1812–1852), an exponent of the Gothic Revival.

The Arts and Crafts style was partly a reaction against the
style of many of the items shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851, which were ornate,
artificial and ignored the qualities of the materials used. The art historian
Nikolaus Pevsner has said that exhibits in the Great Exhibition showed
"ignorance of that basic need in creating patterns, the integrity of the
surface" and "vulgarity in detail". Design reform began with the
organisers of the Exhibition itself, Henry Cole (1808–1882), Owen Jones
(1809–1874), Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820–1877) and Richard Redgrave (1804–1888).
Jones, for example, declared that "Ornament ... must be secondary to the
thing decorated", that there must be "fitness in the ornament to the
thing ornamented", and that wallpapers and carpets must not have any
patterns "suggestive of anything but a level or plain". These ideas
were adopted by William Morris. Where a fabric or wallpaper in the Great
Exhibition might be decorated with a natural motif made to look as real as
possible, a Morris & Co. wallpaper…would use a flat and simplified natural
motif. In order to express the beauty of craft, some products were deliberately
left slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts ideals
had influenced architecture, painting, sculpture, graphics, illustration, book
making and photography, domestic design and the decorative arts, including
furniture and woodwork, stained glass, leatherwork, lacemaking, embroidery, rug
making and weaving, jewelry and metalwork, enameling and ceramics.

Wikipedia - Arts and Crafts Movement

American Craftsman History

The American Craftsman style (along with a wide variety of
related but conceptually distinct European design movements) developed out of
the British Arts and Crafts movement going on since the 1860s.

Socialist William Morris founded the British movement as a
reaction against the Industrial Revolution's perceived devaluation of the
individual worker and resulting degradation of the dignity of human labor.  The movement naturally emphasized handwork
over mass-production, with the p
roblem that expensive materials and costly
skilled labor restricted acquisition of Arts and Crafts productions to a
wealthy clientele, often ironically derided as "champagne

While the British movement also reacted against the eclectic
Victorian 'over-decorated' aesthetic, the Arts and Crafts style's American
arrival coincided with the decline of the Victorian era. The American Arts and
Crafts Movement shared the British movement's reform philosophy, encouraging
originality, simplicity of form, local natural materials, and the visibility of
handicraft, but distinguished itself, particularly in the Craftsman Bungalow
style, with a goal of ennobling modest homes for a rapidly expanding American
middle class. 

In the late 1890s, a group of Boston’s more influential
architects, designers, and educators was determined to bring the design reforms
begun in Britain by William Morris to America. Its first meeting, to organize
an exhibition of contemporary craft objects, was held in January 1897 at the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Present at this meeting were local museum
trustees, including General Charles Loring, William Sturgis Bigelow, and Denman
Ross; art collectors and patrons; writers and art critics, such as Sylvester
Baxter for the Boston Evening Transcript; and artists and architects, such as
Ross Turner and Ralph Clipson Sturgis.

They succeeded in opening the first American Arts and Crafts
Exhibition in April 1897 at Copley Hall, featuring over 1000 objects made by
160 craftsmen, half of whom were craftswomen. Some of the exhibit's supporters
included: the founder of Harvard’s School of Architecture, Langford Warren;
social reformers Mrs. Richard Morris Hunt, Arthur Astor Carey, and Edwin Mead;
and graphic designer Will Bradley.

The exhibition's success led to the formation of The Society
of Arts and Crafts in June 1897, with a mandate to “Develop and encourage
higher standards in the handicrafts.” The Society focused on the relationship
of artists and designers to the world of commerce, and on high-quality

The Society of Arts and Crafts mandate was soon expanded
into a credo which read:

This Society was incorporated for the purpose of promoting
artistic work in all branches of handicraft. It hopes to bring Designers and
Workmen into mutually helpful relations, and to encourage workmen to execute
designs of their own. It endeavors to stimulate in workmen an appreciation of
the dignity and value of good design; to counteract the popular impatience of
Law and Form, and the desire for over-ornamentation and specious originality.
It will insist upon the necessity of sobriety and restraint, of ordered
arrangement, of due regard for the relation between the form of an object and
its use, and of harmony and fitness in the decoration put upon it.

In the United States the Arts and Crafts style incorporated
locally handcrafted wood, glass, and metal work creating objects that were both
simple and elegant. In architecture, reacting to both Victorian architectural
opulence and increasingly common mass-produced housing, the style incorporated
a visible sturdy structure, of clean lines and natural materials. The
movement's name American Craftsman came from the popular magazine, The
Craftsman, founded in 1901 by philosopher, designer, furniture maker, and
editor Gustav Stickley. The magazine featured original house and furniture
designs by Harvey Ellis, the Greene and Greene company, and others. The
designs, while influenced by the ideals of the British movement, found
inspiration in specifically American antecedents such as Shaker furniture and
the Mission Revival Style, and the Anglo-Japanese style. Emphasis on the
originality of the artist/craftsman led to the later design concepts of the
1930s Art Deco movement.

Wikipedia - American Craftsman