Foreword

Foreword

The foreword to the first edition of the Craftsman magazine, October 1901.

Craftsman Style

¶ In the initial number of "The Craftsman", The United Crafts of Eastwood, N. Y., enter upon a work for which they hope to gain the sympathy and the co-operation of a wide public. The new association is a guild of cabinet makers, metal and leather workers, which has been recently formed for the production of household furnishings. The Guild has had but one parallel in modern times, and this is found in the firm organized in London, in 1860, by the great decorator and socialist, William Morris, together with his not less distinguished friends, Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, all of Pre-Raphaelite fame.

¶ The United Crafts endeavor to promote and to extend the principles established by Morris, in both the artistic and the socialistic sense. In the interests of art, they seek to substitute the luxury of taste for the luxury of costliness; to teach that beauty does not imply elaboration or ornament; to employ only those forms and materials which make for simplicity, Individuality and dignity of effect.

Suggestions for a Dining Room
Suggestions for a Dining Room.

¶ In the interests of the workman, they accept without qualification the proposition formulated by the artist-socialist:

It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be pleasant to do; and which should be done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome, nor over-anxious.

¶ The great results accomplished by the Morris firm grew out of the decoration of a single house: the first family dwelling of the Master himself. Then, the work extended with its deep, restorative Influence, transforming the outward and decorative side of life, adorning the English home with the pleasures of art; until, In the opinion of a well-known critic, it had "changed the look of half the houses in London and substituted beauty for ugliness all over the kingdom."

Dining Room Chairs
Dining Room Chairs.

¶ With this example before them, The United Crafts will labor to produce in their workshops only those articles which shall justify their own creation; which shall serve some actual and important end in the household, either by adding to the ease and convenience of life; or yet by furthering the equally important object of providing agreeable, restful and invigorating effects of form and color, upon which the eye shall habitually fall, as the problems of daily existence present themselves for solution. Thus, it is hoped to co-operate with those many and earnest minds who are seeking to create a national, or rather a universal art, adjusted to the needs of the century: that is, an art developed by the people, for the people, as a reciprocal joy for the artist and the layman.

Billiard Room of Ernest White, Syracuse, New York
Billiard Room of Ernest White, Syracuse, New York.

¶ Another object which The United Crafts regard as desirable and possible of attainment is the union in one person of the designer and the workman. This principle, which "was personally put in practice by Morris, extended throughout his workshops; the Master executing with his own hands what his brain had conceived, and the apprentice following the example set before him as far as his powers permitted. The divorce between theory and practice was everywhere strenuously opposed, with the direct aim of creating and perfecting the art-artisan. In accepting the Morris principle, the United Crafts recognize all that it Implies: First: the raising of the general intelligence of the workman, by the increase of his leisure and the multiplication of his means of culture and pleasure. Second: a knowledge of drawing as a basis of all the manual arts and as one of the essentials of a primary education which shall be worthy of the name.

Billiard Room Armchairs
Billiard Room Armchairs.

¶ With this general intelligence as working capital, the United Crafts do not exact from their members an innate manual dexterity, but, strictly in accordance with the Morris principle, they employ the nearest available aid to accomplish the work at hand. In this way, interest and a pleasurable excitement are awakened in the workman, and the thing created by his brain and hands becomes the child of his- love which he seeks to develop and beautify to the extent of his own resources.

Corner from the Billiard Room of Ernest L. White
Corner from the Billiard Room of Ernest L. White.

¶ Again, as the tendency toward co-operation and constructive Socialism is one of the most marked signs of the times, the United Crafts purpose to extend their influence by forming groups of associates at numerous favorable points throughout the country; these associates being at will active workers and handicraftsmen; or. yet again, business firms or private individuals who desire to build up a national art based upon-sound aesthetic and economic principles. As the simplest means at their disposal of making known their existence and objects, the United Crafts have founded the monthly periodical of which the present number is the first issue. The position now taken by the publication will be maintained, and each successive number will deal with the relations of art to labor.

Chess Table
Chess Table.

¶ As is most fitting, the initial monograph is a criticism and study upon the life and work of William Morris, whose talents, time, energies and fortune were devoted to practical attempts toward peaceful revolution and reformation in popular art and in the condition of the workman. The article, based upon the two recognized authorities, Mackail and Aylmer Vallance, is a simple statement of fact, accompanied by Inferences and deductions which are natural and obvious.

¶ The second number of "The Craftsman" will follow with a similar monograph upon John Ruskin, whose influence was an important factor in the artistic and ethical development of William Morris, as is evidenced by the letters written during the latter's student days at Oxford. The phase of Ruskin to be considered, is his attitude toward the great building-art of the Middle Ages, which grew out of an intense civic and co-operative spirit, whose pulsations were felt until the negations of the Renascence period forever stilled and nullified them. The new subject will be another plea for an art developed by the people, for the people, and in which the craftsman and the citizen shall be intimately allied.

¶ In a subsequent issue, the "Rise of the Guild System in Europe" will be considered, with a maintenance of the same point of view, from which art will be regarded not as something apart from common and every-day existence, but rather as the very means of realizing life.



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