I have to admit I’m about 27 years late coming to this dance, but this book is fast becoming one of my favorite on the American Arts and Crafts movement. Edited in 1987 by Wendy Kaplan, this 400 page book focuses on placing the movement in a social and intellectual context. The four major sections of this book discuss the Search for an American Identity- a discussion of forms and styles; Reforms in Craftsmanship-which examines the various methods of making objects; Spreading the Reform Ideal-focusing on the organizations, communities, and schools that spread the idea; and Reform of the Home- a look at the movements impact on domestic life and Craftsman interiors.
Deferring to my furnituremaker bias, I found the most interesting essay to be Robert Edwards’ The Art of Work. Mr. Edwards provides an excellent narrative on how Arts and Crafts furniture was made in its hay-day. From Stickley and Roycroft to Rose Valley and Rohlfs, he provides insight to their choice of material and joinery; along with their thoughts on work force skills. Whether via hand work or machinery, he gives insight into the manufacturers’ thought processes, including how they reconciled their manufacturing methods with the tenants of the movement (i.e.: that “work should be the creative and joyful essence of daily life rather than a mere act of sustenance.”) and the claims made by their marketing materials. It’s an excellent read for anyone interested in understanding how the largely factory produced Arts and Crafts furniture was made, and how these processes were reconciled with the cry to abandon the working environments that evolved from the industrial revolution.