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The Arts and Crafts Style: A Philosophy You Can Live With

If you've done your homework and read the history of the Arts and Crafts Movement, then you know why it came to be, what it's aims were, and how its ideals manifested itself in the physical world of art, design and architecture. If you've read about how the style evolved, then you know that Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the Movement's greatest architects, that the ranch style home is a decendant of the bungalow, and that today's popular "great room" is a Craftsman Style invention.

The designs still work. Now it's time to see if A&C ideals still apply in today's world. The answer is, of course they do. Many people follow the ideals of the Movement without even realizing it. Some ingrained American values are, in fact, based on the Movement, but few people ever stop to think about it. Here are three examples:

If you believe that there is something special about an object being handcrafted, then you're espousing the Arts and Crafts philosophy. Why? Because before the Industrial Revolution of the 1840s, everything was handcrafted so there was no choosing between whether man-made or machine-made was better. The idea that handcrafted things were inherently better is a direct result of Arts and Crafts philosophers rejection of the Industrial Revolution. If these philosophers had come out in favor of mass production, today, Americans might quite possibly hold no special value in clothing, furniture or decorative arts made by hand. Luckily, the idea caught on, and Americans chose machine-made items for affordability, and hand-crafted for items they valued.

If you have a job or a hobby that involves hand-craftsmanship, whether it's sewing, woodworking, or pottery making, then you are a torch-bearer for the Arts and Crafts philosophy. Why? Can it really be coincidence that the name of a philosophical movement and a term meaning "hand-crafted decorative objects" are not related? Of course not. To enjoy the act of creation something from start to finish is to experience the "joy in labor", which is an idea that was lost with mass production, and was one of the main principles of A&C philosophy.

If you think that a great room or combined kitchen/family room is a great invention because it lets everyone congregate in the same space, then you're living the Arts and Crafts lifestyle. Why? Because before the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Victorian way of life dictated that rooms be separated so that kitchen servants would be segregated from the family, and men and women could retired to their respective smoking/drawing rooms. The A&C philosophy hated this disconnect and isolation and sought to remedy it by removing the walls in a house to create more open space, and placed the focus of family around a fireplace in the living room...a reflection of their yearnings for a past way of life.

Of course, most people who buy newer houses think that this open-space concept is a contemporary innovation. What they don't realize is that Frank Lloyd Wright had been designing houses like that since the 1920s based on Arts and Crafts principles.

As you can see, the Arts and Crafts Philosophy runs from monumental ideas to everyday appreciations. And although many other trains of thought have contributed to our shared values, the Arts and Crafts philosophy is one that we follow unconsciously, and can incorporate into our lives with little effort.

Respect the earth, live in harmony with nature, spend time with your family, be good to your neighbor, and value the dedication, skill and care of the craftsman.