Arts and Craft movement

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement in the decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and flourished in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1910.

It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration.

The Arts and Crafts style emerged from the attempt to reform design and decoration in mid 19th century Britain. It was a reaction against a decline in standards that the reformers associated with machinery and factory production, and was in part a response to items shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851 that were ornate, artificial and ignored the qualities of the materials used.


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William Morris, a major figure in 19th century design reform, whose ideas inspired the Arts and Crafts Movement, advocated production by traditional craft methods but was inconsistent in his view of what place machinery should play.


Many of the leading of the Arts and Crafts movement were trained as architects and it was on building that the movement had its most visible and lasting influence.

Red House, in Bexleyheath, London, designed for Morris in 1859 by architect Philip Webb, exemplifies the early Arts and Crafts style, with its well-proportioned solid forms, wide porches, steep roof, pointed window arches, brick fireplaces and wooden fittings. Webb rejected classical and other revivals of historical styles based on grand buildings, and based his design on British vernacular architecture, expressing the texture of ordinary materials, such as stone and tiles, with an asymmetrical and picturesque building composition.

The London suburb of Bedford Park, built mainly in the 1880s and 1890s, has about 360 Arts and Crafts style houses and was once famous for its Aesthetic residents. Several Almshouses were built in the Arts and Crafts style, for example, Whiteley Village, Surrey, built between 1914 and 1917.




Architecture was also to be reformed through traditional building crafts, the use of local materials, and be free of any imposed style. Function, need and simplicity (without spurious ornament) were to inform design, encapsulated in the work of Philip Webb, Richard Lethaby and Charles Voysey. Although Morris’s decorative work was rich, intricate and colourful, he preferred plain and unadorned buildings; his favourite was Great Coxwell Barn which he described as ‘beautiful as a cathedral’.


The ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement are aesthetically expressed, in the past and present, in beautifully handcrafted household objects, useful and uncluttered home decor, homes and landscapes built with local materials, and home environments blended with nature.


  1. Clarity of form and structure
  2. Variety of materials
  3. Asymmetry
  4. Traditional construction
  5. Craftsmanship
  6. simple, refined aesthetics (beauty)
  7. simple, functional design (utility)
  8. living simply
  9. social reform (individuals more rational; society more harmonious)
  10. the virtue of a well decorated middle class home
  11. handcrafted objects
  12. high quality craftsmanship
  13. the joy of working and crafting with one’s own hands
  14. creating objects well designed and affordable to all
  15. creating harmony with nature
  16. using and sustaining natural materials
  17. maintaining a sense of space and environment
  18. staying spiritually connected to home and nature
  19. creating space for inner peace away from jobs and factories


The Arts and Crafts Movement Cast of Characters


  • John Ruskin (1819-1900)
  • William Morris (1834-1896)
  • Walter Crane (1845-1915)
  • Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1854-1923)
  • Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942)
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928)


  • Charles Comfort Tiffany (1829–1907)
  • Charles Limbert (1854-1923)
  • Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)
  • Gustav Stickley (1858-1942)
  • Charles Fletcher Lummis (1859-1928)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
  • Dard Hunter (1883–1966)

The Arts and Crafts Movement revived traditional artistic craftsmanship with themes of simplicity, honesty, function, harmony, nature and social reform. The movement promoted moral and social health through quality of architecture and design executed by skilled creative workers, and was a revolt against the poor quality of industrialized mass production.

Many of the work went unsigned, as well. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact style indicative of Arts and Crafts jewelry, there were common themes used by most, if not all, of the jewelers associated with the movement. Influenced by John Ruskin, a great deal of the jewelry was inspired by nature and organic forms. Leaves, flowers and birds were common motifs.

Unlike the diamond-
encrusted gold and pewter designs most popular in Victorian jewelry during the latter half of the nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts jewelers chose to use less precious metals like copper,
brass, aluminum, and silver that revealed the hammer marks of the jeweler. Gemstones were primarily used just as accents rather than focal points and stones were often chosen for their colors, not for their monetary value. The stones, translucent moonstones or opals.


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