In mountain communities of Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas and New Hampshire, old crafts which had almost disappeared have been nourished and given new life, and delightful products of the loom, also pottery and baskets, find their way into our homes through the Arts and Crafts shops. This development of the mountain industries has meant a broadening of the lives of the mountain people, has brought them in contact with the outside world, of which they know but little, and has added to their meager incomes. At Berea College in Kentucky, which is a center for the mountain industries, a carefully woven blue and white "kiver" or coverlet often pays part of the school bill of a mountain boy or girl.
Not only in the remote parts of our country may these old industries be found dormant, but in the heart of the most crowded parts of our cities as well. Many of the foreigners who come to us have great skill in handcrafts, but have no opportunity to make use of this skill. They must earn a living, and they have not the opportunity to earn it through this sort of work. At some of the social centers in the large cities opportunity has been given for men or women to work at those crafts in which they are skilled. Hull House in Chicago, for example, has looms and wheels on which these foreigners may spin and weave, and the exhibitions held show the products to be well worth encouragement. Lace making and embroidery by foreign girls have been developed in some cases, and the skill and artistic ability discovered are sometimes remarkable.
A different sort of community work has been developed by the Roycrofters in East Aurora, New York. Though more fully developed here, the idea is the same. A band of workers is collected under pleasant living conditions, working cooperatively. Each individual is given opportunity for the best expression of his ideas in the production of beautiful objects. The Roycrofters are best known for their bookbinding, which was the first undertaking; but later cabinet work, clay modeling, terra cotta work, and ornamental black printing have been developed.
The Stickley United Crafts in Syracuse, New York, do cabinet making, furniture, leather, metal, glass work and textiles, and also publish The Craftsman magazine. The "Craftsman houses" mission furniture and hangings, metal work and ornaments adapted to these houses, have been their chief work.
A number of potteries have sprung up in recent years, with simplicity, beauty in color and texture, and appropriateness of decoration, true Arts and Crafts principles, as their guiding rules. The Rookwood Pottery, which was the first, has grown into a large business enterprise, still true, however, to its original ideals and increasing the beauty of its products yearly. Grueby, Teco, Dedham, and other potteries are outgrowths of the same movement. Newcomb College in New Orleans has combined the school and the workshop in its art department, and produces beautiful needlework, textile fabrics, pottery, etc., in sufficient quantity to put upon the market. These different enterprises carry out the idea of Morris, that, when the individual worker takes pleasure in his work, beauty will result. They are attempts to reconstruct the workshop in such a way that the workman may really "live" and that the product may give pleasure to the worker as well as to the buyer.
To realize more fully the ideals of the Arts and Crafts we must go to the schools and see what change has taken place there. What is the meaning of manual arts which has taken such a hold in the last few years?
Why has art teaching changed from painting of still life and impossible landscapes, "gardening," one prominent educator called it, to wood carving, block printing, metal work, and designing? The doctrine of work as an educational factor is spreading. The child is to be trained to use his hand and his brain together, to take pleasure in his work, and to appreciate the fact that beauty may exist in the simplest things, if only he has eyes to see it.
The Industrial Era of which Carlyle wrote is surely with us, and man has awakened to the fact that in industry is the hope of the future. He is also fast awakening to the necessity "to civilize out of its utter savagery the world of industry."
From the purely commercial standpoint the Arts and Crafts shops and communities have little strength. Compared with the great factory industries they are nothing, but the influence of their ideals is far spread. Possibly it is not as Ruskin and Morris hoped it would be, a means of solving the industrial problems of the age; but the same general movement which insists on better art in our homes is awakening the public to the need of civic beauty, and is perhaps caused by the same spirit which is arousing the industrial magnate to the need of more humane factories and factory surroundings.
The demand for greater beauty in every-day things has influenced not only the hand-made, but also the machine products. Furniture, rugs, textiles, ornaments of various kinds have felt the move toward simplicity. True, the result obtained by the machine product is often but a poor imitation of the hand-made, but often it is excellent in itself. Where absolute perfection of detail is required the machine is marvelous, but where individuality is desired it is helpless. The machine-made must, however, fill the needs of the multitudes, but any addition of art to it must be encouraged.
Training in the school will develop a love of the beautiful in the child, and in time possibly we shall reach the state when a few good things will be more highly prized than many cheap things. The tendency of the age is toward buying the many things which show expenditure of money, but, as has been seen, there is a considerable force in society working against this tendency through a quiet appreciation of higher values.
Whether the result is shown in products of handicraft or in effort for greater civic beauty, the greatest accomplishment of the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements, and the outgrowth from these, has been the sending of man to Nature. By opening men's eyes to the beauty of natural things they have been made to realize the hideousness of artificiality. Their lives have been enriched by the spirit of outdoors, and that spirit is leading to beauty in many lines.
Vallance, Aymer. William Morris. His Art, His Writings, and His Public Life.
Triggs, Oscar Lovell. Chapters in the History of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Morris, William. Hopes and Fears for Art.
Ruskin, John. Pre-Raphaelitism.