Part 4:-- The Arts and Crafts Movement's Longest Run, From 1970 Into the 21st Century

Boston's Central Role in the Arts and Crafts Movement(s)

(In the 1980s, at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Kaplan organized a large exhibit on Arts and Crafts -- cited below -- and for posterity, published photos and other illustrations in a book about the exhibit. The collection was also exhibited in Los Angeles.  Several chapters by authorities survey the background of this broad topic, using such titles as: "origins of the movement; "reform in aesthetics: the search for an American identity"; reform in craftsmanship; spreading the reform ideal; and reform of the home".

The first American Arts and Crafts Exhibition opened on April 5, 1897, at Copley Hall featuring over 1000 objects made by 160 craftsmen, half of whom were women. Supporters of this exhibit included such luminaries as Langford Warren -- founder of Harvard's School of Architecture -- the social reformers, Arthur Astor Carey and Edwin Mead, and Will Bradley, graphic designer.

The huge success of this exhibition led to the incorporation of The Society of Arts and Crafts, on June 28, 1897, with a mandate to "develop and encourage higher standards in the handicrafts." The 21 founders were interested in more than sales, and focused on the relationship of designers within the commercial world, encouraging artists to produce work with the highest quality of workmanship and design.

This mission statement was expanded into a credo:

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, or 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.

The membership of the Society is divided into three classes: Craftsmen, Masters and Associates. The grade of Craftsmen is held to include designers, as well as those practising some branch of applied decorative art. The title and privilege of Master lie within the grant of the Council alone, and are conferred only upon a person previously admitted to membership as a Craftsman, who shall have clearly established by contributions to the Society's exhibitions, or otherwise, a standard of excellence approved by the Council. Finally, persons interested in the aims of the Society, but not habitually employed as designers or craftsmen, may join the Society as Associates.

Many of the pieces exhibited Kaplan's concern is interest by the public in styles, such as the Arts and Crafts styles, and only to a lesser degree in what amateur woodworkers were making in their home workshops. Nonetheless, as several documents I have collected show, at the time, the 1900s, considerable interest in woodworking existed, especially interest in creatingsomething like a Morris chair in a home workshop.)