What is the relationship between crafts and design?

Essay question nr.6:What is the relationship between crafts and design?

The relationship between crafts and design is difficult to define. You are faced with several issues as context and the definition of both: design and craft. According to the dictionary craft means- a special skill or ability. An occupation especially when that demands manual skills. And design means- a decorative or artistic work to plan by making preliminary sketches or outlines”.Intentionally the dictionary makes both: craft and design sound like the same thing but really they are not, and in my essay I would like to look at their relationship through their differences and the context in which they are interpreted.

Arts and craft movementLooking at the arts and crafts movement is an excellent way to see the relationship between craft and design because both were so integral to the core ideas of the movement. When the arts and crafts movement began in the second half of the eighteens hundreds the core characteristics were that of striping away banal decorative design and returning to simpler and more tastefully decorated hand craft design. Own Jones pin pointed this aspect of the movement in “Grammar of ornament” in 1856 by stating that “Construction should be decorates. Decoration should never be purposely constructed”¹. Which basically said that the industrial over decorated objects that had been mass produced in the past should be disregarded and that how things should be built with a useful purpose and should than be decorated. However the most important thing about the arts and crafts movement was the craftsman himself.William Morris along with Ruskin and the others contemporaries of the movement believed that the industrial of the 1750s and on words had of creating something skillfully with his own hands. They believed in the spiritual, moral and functional aspect of crafts and design. They wanted all people to have access to good, well handmade furniture and design and had a bit of a socialist approach feeling that all people despite class should be able to own good furniture and design. Unfortunately only very wealthy people and institutions like the church could really afford to commission William Morris and other arts and crafts designers. For example of this can be seen in how often W. Morris was commissioned to work for the church decorating, making stained glass windows, etc. St. Martin on the Hill (see below) in Scarborough, England is one of many examples of W. Morris is interior work for the church.

During that movement the importance of creating the furniture and design with their own hands or in a workshop environment was essential to a process and the creation of furniture in an industrial setting was frowned upon. An example of the importance of creating furniture with your own hands can be seen with the noted arts and crafts member Sid Barnsley who decided to move to the country as much of the arts and crafts movement is inspired by nature and there he made all of his own furniture in his workshop and a beautiful chest of drawers with his own hands. In away he was the embodiment of the ideal craftsman.

Modernism The arts and crafts movement in America is a good place to see how arts and crafts moved towards modernism for example the opening of interior and a beginning of sleek design. An excellent half way point between modernism and arts and crafts which in a building is Frank Lloyd Wraith to and the prairie schools, Robie house (see below).

In the Robie house both crafts and design are most importance. Design becomes more opened up to nature with strips of ribbon widows and a far more minimalist and opened plan attitudes towards interior. From an arts and crafts perspective the exterior attempts blend in with the surrounding environment and the sturdy materials comprising the building are exposed. Much like the arts and crafts designers F. L. Wraith wanted total control of the interior space and each of the furniture was practically designed and created with quality materials and workmanship. In a way F. L. Wraith has, in the way Robie house, embraced both the obsession with craft man ship as well as design. In the modernism as opposed to arts and crafts design became the most important thing instead of for example crafts since the designers did not necessarily make things by hand nor was the quality, which was so important to the arts and crafts movement guaranteed If we look at Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye (see below) it is obvious that it is a shining beacon of modernist design and open-plan living.

However it is often not mentioned that the Villa Savoye although functional from the design aspect was not functional all around. The Villa which was cold with failing central heating was proven almost unlivable as the family who lived there simply packed up their bags and left one day when the house had proved completely inconvenient by living standards. Le Corbusier did improve and kept these problems in mind for the future but this is however a good example of design taking the front seat over craftsmanship and quality. Although modernism mass-produced design, many designers took great care to maintain quality in the products as well as design for example Arne Jacobsen with his “bold yet refined simplicity of this Danish cutlery” ². (See below).

“It is an elegant reconsideration of everyday artifacts and typifies what has become known as Scandinavian modern design”³. Despite controversy, it became a design classic and has been made with excellent durability and quality.

ContextThe relationship between design and crafts has a tricky context. Can craft be a craft if it is not hands-on? From this it can be suggested that an object for that matter can be a craft if you do not make it with human hands. For example, William Morris would probably disagree, saying that craft is a skill acquired by man and not at all made by machines. However the modernists such as actors might say that design and acting are their crafts. In simpler terms one might say “I have mastered the craft of designing”. In this case the craft has taken on an entirely new meaning but essentially it stands for the same thing: a skill.

ConclusionSo what is the relationship between design and crafts? It seems that you cannot have a craft without design because in order for Sid Barnseley to have made his chest of drawers he would have had to have a design plan before he started to design. Whereas you can have design without craft depending on the context because with design so many plans get drawn up but do not necessarily get made. Another reason why design does not need craft is because it can be mass-produced industrially. On the contrary, when looking at craft as a skill, design and craft go hand in hand as basically the same thing since design would then be a craft in itself, a skill in itself. Conclusively the relationship between design and craft can be seen as a whole host of different things depending on several factors such as context and which definitions of craft you choose to interpret. Ultimately, the line between the two is blurred and like so many other things a matter of personal taste and a degree of bias.

References 1. Own Jones from the text “Grammar of ornament” published in London 1857, quote can be found on page 5.2. quote from Jonathan M. Woodham from the book “20th century design” thirst published 1997 by Oxford university press. Quote can be found on page 130, reconstruction and influence, next to the picture.

Information absorbed through reading pamphlets distributed during a tore of the V and A international arts and crafts exhibition.

Information on William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wraith as well as information on “St. Martin on the hill” church found in encyclopedia “Britanica” the cd computer deluxe edition.

Design and craft meanings are taken from “Reverside Webster’s 2 Dictionary” published 1996 Berkley books, New York.

All pictures are taken from internet “Google- images”