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Walt Caza

Who planted the seed which bloomed into Arts & Crafts?

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The Arts & Crafts movement was started independantly by two Englishmen in the late 1800’s.

John Ruskin was an author, poet, social critic and an art professor at Oxford.
He put forth the idea that it would benefit society to move away from factory sweatshops and their mass produced shoddy goods, towards hand crafted high quality goods. His philosophy expressed a desire to return to craftsman working within the medieval guild system for the benefit of workers and society.

This Gothic Revival advocated simple beauty, utility and honest treatment of natural materials.
The pre-Raphaelite painters joined in seeking simpler lives among well crafted products that were produced by hand.
The movement was a backlash against the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850)
which was spurred on by the steam engine, cotton spinning frame and the power loom.
This pushed the world of the day into worldwide trade of material goods and changed economies irreversibly.
(echoes can still be heard ringing today…wc)

Ruskin saw no way to separate his socialist politics from his sage philosophy.
I aim to do just that… and focus only on the philosophy.
(some might say his politics bordered on communism)

He wrote over 50 volumes, but his two books: The Seven Lamps of Architecture(1849) and The Stones of Venice(1851)
which applied his principles to design and architecture, would influence Morris and Stickley profoundly.

John Ruskin (1819-1900)
“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts:
the book of their words, the book of their deeds and the book of their art.”.

John Ruskin never built any furniture, but his romantic idealization of the craftsman taking pride in his personal handiwork
inspired the entire English and American Arts & Crafts aesthetic movement.
He planted the seed that started it all.

"When we build, let us think that we build forever." --- Ruskin (borrowed from Steve Wargo's signature ... thanks)
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Updated 06-07-2008 at 9:35 PM by Walt Caza



  1. Jim Rimmer's Avatar
    Nice blog. I just received the June issue of Wodworker's Journal and it has an article on the A&C movement.

    I haven't checked your other blogs. Are you going to post more about A&C?