I debated on the title of this article, whether it should be “Arts and Crafts Furniture” or “Arts and Crafts Movement.” But it was definitely more than a furniture style, it truly was a movement. It originated in England around 1860 but quickly spread to Europe and the States. It lasted until about 1910, but its influence went into the 1930s. There is still a strong influence even today. William Morris is often credited as being the father of the movement, along with John Ruskin. It was seen as almost a rebellion against the industrial state and a return to more simple styles and craftsmanship. It was also a social movement as well as the design aspects.
Arts and Crafts Movement Pioneers
Besides William Morris, there were many more proponents of the arts and crafts movement. John Ruskin was a contemporary of Morris and ,in fact, the term “arts and crafts” originated in a letter that Ruskin sent to Morris. In America, the Arts & Crafts Movement was also referred to as Mission style and the leading furniture designer was Gustav Stickley. His furniture is prized by collectors today and the company is still in existence producing fine reproductions of the original furniture. The Amish are also known for producing Mission style furniture. Frank Lloyd Wright also was known for his arts and crafts designs and outstanding architecture. Other countries also had their arts and crafts pioneers. There are whole books written on some of these people and their designs and philosophies. Many people have a favorite designer, but each contributed in their own special way. For a more complete history on the subject, you can check out Wikipedia’s Arts and Crafts Movement.
The Many Products of the Arts and Crafts Movement
Arts and crafts furniture is highly sought out by today’s collectors. The same holds true of the many accessories. There was art, pottery, wallpaper, fabric, metal ware, and much more. My favorites are the wonderful furniture designs and the copper accessories. Being a lover of English antiques. I tend to prefer their arts & crafts furniture over the mission style of the American designers, although many pieces are very similar.
One of my favorite arts and crafts designers was a lesser known designer, Robert “The Mouseman” Thompson. I will be writing a complete article on him at a later date and will try to remember to link to it here. We learned about him quite by accident when a customer who bought an arts and crafts piece of furniture from us told us to keep an eye out for anything made by him. So we did some research and started on the lookout for something made by him. It took about five years but we finally bought this neat table lamp made by one of his pupils. But that is enough, I don’t want to spoil the other article.
I love some of the simple designs of much of the furniture of the arts and crafts movement. Some of my favorite pieces either have copper hardware and /or copper accents. That probably also explains why I love the copper accessories. In the last ten years the prices of the furniture and accessories of the arts and crafts movement has really sky rocketed. When we first started importing containers from England in 1991, you could still find arts & crafts pieces at very reasonable prices. Unfortunately for us, that was before we fell in love with the style. The signed pieces are especially in high demand. Some simple copper chargers, if signed, can cost several hundred dollars. The sideboard in the photo is a classic example of a piece from the arts and crafts movement. The simple geometric shape with very simple decorative touches.
The arts and crafts movement led into the Art Nouveau style. There are overlapping characteristics of the two. Art Nouveau was most popular from about 1890-1905, towards the end of the arts and crafts movement. Many pieces of this era will have show design elements of both of these styles. To me, both of these styles are classic. I always wanted to do a whole booth in our store with these two styles, but could never find (or afford) that much at any one time.
The arts and crafts movement was more than just a style of furniture and art. It was also a social movement that stirred in the hearts of the men who founded it. They wanted to return to a simpler time, when things that were beautifully simple, were also simply beautiful. There are many more articles like this one on the arts and crafts movement that can be found at Buying and Selling Antiques.